NEW YORK — With a tweet and very little else by way of detail, entrepreneur Elon Musk on Thursday raised the prospect of speedy, hassle-free travel along the busy section of the Eastern Seaboard between New York and Washington.
On Twitter, Musk said that he had been given verbal government approval for his vision, in which one of his companies, The Boring Company, would build an underground transportation system connecting New York City to Philadelphia to Baltimore and on to the nation’s capital — all in the unheard-of time of 29 minutes.
It takes New Yorkers longer than that just to cross Manhattan by subway.
Musk’s tweet was enticing enough, even without details, that it prompted a bombardment of follow-up questions and a great deal of skepticism. Who would pay for it? How long would it take to build? How would it be built? There were no answers.
Nor was there any indication of just who in the government had given the plan the verbal green light. The Department of Transportation referred a query about the project to the White House, which said in an e-mailed reply through a spokesman: “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.”
In his replies, Musk let slip a few more thoughts.
“City center to city center in each case, with up to a dozen or more entry/exit elevators in each city,” he wrote.
Musk’s planned 29-minute trip is considerably shorter than the current options. A drive from Washington to New York can take about five hours. Amtrak’s Acela, its high-speed train service, cuts the time down to about two hours and 45 minutes. A nonstop flight from Kennedy Airport in New York to Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington is the fastest option, at one hour and 15 minutes.
Musk-watchers have heard this before. The ingenious inventor, a serial entrepreneur who was a cofounder of PayPal and the electric car company Tesla Motors, first unveiled his idea for a similar plan in 2013, when he unveiled a project called the Hyperloop, a high-speed system that would take people to San Francisco from Los Angeles in 30 minutes. That would take a speed of almost 800 miles per hour.
Reuters reported that engineers in the next few weeks will conduct a crucial test of the Hyperloop concept, an idea that would have passengers and cargo packed into pods and sent through an intercity system of vacuum tubes.
Hyperloop One, the Los-Angeles-based company developing the technology, is gearing up to send a 28-foot-long pod gliding across a set of tracks, Reuters quoted a spokeswoman as saying.