LIMA — It might be closer to a decade before Lima gets a hyperloop, but local residents got a chance to check out a pod Tuesday as part of a cross-country tour of the new technology.
Similar to a giant pneumatic tube, hyperloops combine air pressure, advanced computer systems and a magnetic track to create a low-friction environment allowing specially made pods to travel at speeds above 600 miles per hour, in theory.
“What you’re about to see today is the Kitty Hawk vehicle moving to commercialization,” Ryan Kelly, Virgin Hyperloop One’s marketing director, said before the XP-1 pod arrived downtown.
By 11:30 a.m., the 30-foot long vehicle had been parked across the street from Veterans Memorial Civic Center, drawing a small crowd that had come out for the visit.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission initially began plans to apply for a hyperloop route in 2017, and since grabbing Virgin Hyperloop One’s attention last year, the agency has been working to move the project to connect Pittsburgh and Chicago through the necessary legal steps to make the route a reality.
But before that can happen, a few more kinks need to be worked out. First, the technology itself needs to be improved. The pod that visited Lima had been the first hyperloop pod in history to ever travel down the tracks reaching over 200 miles per hour, but that trip is a far cry from traveling to Chicago at 600+ miles per hour.
“It combines together the speed of a plane, but the ease of a metro,” Kelly said.
And then there’s the legal issues. Kelly said the company is currently working on creating certification infrastructure in order to establish faster implementation of the new technology.
For MORPC, initialization of the project includes finalizing feasibility and environmental studies. The next step, MORPC transportation director Thea Walsh said, is a local information session — scheduled for October — to lay out the finer details affecting Lima and its residents. At that time, Walsh said MORPC will provide how much it may cost to book a trip, the cost to build and build-out scenarios.
“You can’t not plan for it. You got to get ahead of the technology,” Walsh said.
While some have expressed trepidation around going 600+ miles in a windowless airtight tube, Lima resident Chuck Schierloh embraced the idea for its larger impact that it could have on his own life.
“I’m in my 70s. It’s getting harder to drive to Chicago. If I can get there in 40 minutes, I can see my grandkids a few times a month,” Schierloh said. “My daughter could live in Lima.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.