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Joshua Manriquez

How about a commuter hyperloop?

This sure sounds interesting.

Navigating right-of-way for land development can be like drawing blood from fiercely independent landowners. But a San Antonio technology startup is banking that it has cracked the code to prying some surface rights from Texans by borrowing a concept familiar to them — royalties, not eminent domain.

Oil and gas companies routinely knock on doors of Texas ranchers and cattle owners to offer mineral royalties in exchange for leasing surface rights to conduct deep drilling operations. But instead of a heavy industry use, these surface rights would be for a clean technology powered bullet train that runs inside an above ground pipeline structure and offer profit dividends.

A bullet train building startup called Transonic Transportation LLC that recently relocated to San Antonio from its roots in Louisiana has its eye on an alternative to the Lone Star Rail project — a commuter train line that would connect downtown San Antonio to the urban core of Austin along the I-35 corridor that’s been abandoned by Union Pacific after a deal fell through.

The startup claims that eminent domain won’t be as much of an issue since the train platform is held up by concrete pylons rather than laid on the earth. So hypothetically, landowners could still have access to travel underneath the tracks, if necessary.

The company plans to use hyperloop technology, a trademark of SpaceX, a research and development firm. Hyperloop refers to a train inside a tube that glides on a magnetized track. But the California tech giant SpaceX, doesn’t have plans to commercialize it.

[…]

The prototype still in design phase could transport between 6,000 and 12,000 passengers per hour and cost between $8 to $12 per trip for consumers.The funding structure would be that of a public-private partnership rather than a bond supported or taxpayer-subsidized effort.

Transonic Transportation’s co-founder, Joshua Manriquez is a civil engineer by training and now has a team working on blueprints and patent pending technology for a Texas hyperloop train system.

Manriquez was part of the Louisiana State University team that made it through the design phase during the competition in early 2016 held by SpaceX. Since then, the startup has secured a 1-mile-long test track in Mississippi and aims to raise roughly $300,000 in a seed funding round within the next year. The company also has a testing facility in San Antonio.

“We’re getting closer to patent a lot of the designs that we have. We’ve been talking to a lot of big companies that are interested in the project but they are saying it’s all going to come down to economics,” Manriquez said in an exclusive interview. “As far as working with Lone Star Rail, it could be a beneficial relationship but that’s going to come down to whether or not they want to pursue anything like that.”

Manriquez said he’s reached out to Lone Star Rail and is waiting for a response but would move forward independently on a Texas hyperloop train system once the funding is secured.

“I have reached out to them about doing a feasibility study funded by TxDOT. There’s a research grant that’s available to transportation studies, but I’ve yet to hear back from them,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were sitting down to a set of plans 10 years from now and deciding on a contractor.”

Here’s their website, where they claim the trip time would be 15 minutes. I’ve blogged a few times about hyperloops – see here, here, and here for more on them. The Lone Star Rail proposal to connect Austin and San Antonio may or may not be dead, so if nothing else this is an intriguing possible alternative. It’s also a creative way around the possible eminent domain issues that Texas Central is facing, though there’s no guarantee of that. In any event, I look forward to seeing if this idea gets any traction. Link via Streetsblog, and Texas Monthly has more.