Elon Musk awoke on Thursday with the intention of sending Twitter into a frenzy by declaring that he received “verbal govt approval” to build a Hyperloop in the densest part of the United States, between New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. This is dumb, it’s not how things work, and requires, uh, actual government approval. We reached out to the, uh, actual government to see if this is legit.
But who knows! Electrek already sort of declared this a done deal, so maybe I really am just a cynical hag. Maybe—maybe!!!!—Elon’s had this in the works for months, and this isn’t a literal pipe dream.
To be absolutely certain that he’s not blowing smoke, I reached out to spokespeople from every public agency I could think of that might have a hand in approving this sort of thing. Here’s what they said. (I’ll update the post if more comments come in.)
NY Metropolitan Transit Authority
Um, I can check on this for you.”
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Philly)
I don’t have anything on that. I’d have to check with somebody here.
U.S. Homeland Security
We don’t have a comment at this point. Do you know, or can you find out, from which agency in the US government Musk got his “verbal approval?”
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
No, we are not aware of it. And I don’t know if we have a comment on that. But I can check on that for you.
Update, 1:35 p.m.: Ron Holzer, a spokesperson for the WMATA, reached out to say the agency has nothing to do with this project:
This is not related to Metro, which provides local transportation services in the National Capital Region, not inter-city transportation. As such, we do not have a reaction for you.
Maryland Transit Administration
Thanks for your email. I will be out of the office on Thursday, July 20, returning on Monday, July 31. I will respond to your message at that time ... Thanks and enjoy your day!
U.S. Department of Transportation
(No response yet)
Update 1:46 p.m.: The DOT decided to refer comment to the White House on this one, which definitely signifies that this is moving at a rapid clip. In a statement, a spokesperson for the White House said:
We have had promising conversations to date, are committed to transformative infrastructure projects, and believe our greatest solutions have often come from the ingenuity and drive of the private sector.
Mayors For NY, Philly, Baltimore, and D.C.
Update, 1:42 p.m.: I reached out to the mayors of each community Musk mentioned, but none have responded just yet.
Update, 1:55 p.m.: NY’s mayor hasn’t responded yet, but his press secretary said this on Twitter:
Meanwhile, Mike Dunn, deputy communications director for Philadelphia’s mayor, had this to say:
- Elon Musk has had no contact with Philadelphia officials on this matter.
- We do not know what he means when he says he received ‘verbal government approval.’
- There are numerous hurdles for this unproven “hyperloop” technology before it can become reality.
Update, 2:07 p.m.: We now have word from NY City Hall, and it reaffirms what the press secretary said on social media. Ben Sarle, deputy press secretary for the mayor, said in an email:
“Nobody in City Hall, or any of our city agencies, has heard from Mr. Musk or any representatives of his company.”
Update, 3:30 p.m.: Susan Castillo, deputy press secretary for the D.C. mayor, said in an email:
This is the first we heard of it too, but we can’t wait to hear more.
A reporter for the BBC suggested to Musk that it would seem “premature to announce” the project with only a verbal agreement, which is how things normally work. Maybe, the reporter asked, you’re just trying to drum up support? Indeed!
We need better transit infrastructure in this country, no doubt. But using a bullhorn to suggest you’ve received approval—of some sort—to build a project that’s centered around a futuristic transit system that hasn’t even been tested at a large scale yet is insane.
Update: Sure thing: