Virgin Hyperloop One officials and test pod set for appearance in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Virgin's Hyperloop One XP-1 test pod will make its first appearance on a college campus when it goes on display at the south end of MU’s Francis Quadrangle Thursday and Friday.

The public will be able to view the XP-1 from noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Friday before the pod moves on to St. Louis this weekend.

"The University of Missouri could potentially be a critical partner for Hyperloop," Virgin Hyperloop One Head of Marketing and Communications Ryan Kelly said. “We’re exited about being in Columbia."

"The people that are there now taking classes could be riding this thing in the next decade," he continued. "Or could be a part of its creation, which I think is pretty cool and exciting."

At 2 p.m. on Thursday, the MU College of Engineering will host a lecture in Lafferre Hall's Ketcham Auditorium to discuss the science and engineering behind Hyperloop technology.

Speakers include MU Vice Chancellor for Strategic Partnerships Elizabeth Loboa, MU Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Development Bill Turpin and Virgin Hyperloop One official Kristen Hammer.

The lecture is open to the public and concludes at 3 p.m.

Following the lecture, from 4-5 p.m. the Virgin Hyperloop One team will continue to answer questions during an ice cream social on the Francis Quadrangle.

The Kansas City-St. Louis route is a finalist for Virgin Hyperloop One’s first installment in the United States.

It’s not the first time the two cities have been qualifiers for a new form of transportation.

According to MoDot, Missouri became “the first state to award an Interstate construction contract" after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act into law in 1956.

Eisenhower's action led to the creation of Interstate 70 which linked Kansas City and St. Louis.

Virgin Hyperloop One officials said a Hyperloop between Kansas City and St. Louis could accommodate up to 16,000 passengers an hour. By expediting what is usually a three hour and 40-minute drive, it could bring the cities closer.

“[But] if I can do that in a half hour with Hyperloop, how would that induce my demand to go from one city to the other?” Kelly asked. “It’s about inducing that demand because you're giving optionality in a way that wasn't the case before.”

He said the Hyperloop could turn Columbia into somewhat of a Kansas City and St. Louis suburb since travel to either end of the state from Boone County would only take 15 minutes.

“You want to keep the individuality of the city, it actually allows almost these mega regions to form,” he said. “Connecting cities like metro stops is really the valued proposition that were talking about here that no other transportation can do at this point.”

When asked if the Hyperloop's historical significance to transportation is on par with the Wright Brothers in 1903, Charles Lindberg in 1927 and Neil Armstrong in 1969, Kelly agreed.

"This is the actual vehicle that did the tests," Kelly said. "Basically, it’s the Kittyhawk vehicle of Hyperloop."

"We want to make it more real for people that they can say they saw this before it ends up in a museum somewhere."

The decision to bring the XP-1 to Columbia and four other U.S. cities followed what Virgin Hyperloop One called "successful visits" at stops in Ohio, Texas and Kansas.

“The level of enthusiasm we saw in Columbus, Arlington, and Kansas City shows that there is a real demand for this technology from the very people who would be passengers using the system,” Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Jay Walder said in a press release. “Based on the overwhelming response, we are adding New York, Columbia, St. Louis, Raleigh, and Washington D.C. as stops on our American roadshow.”

The press release also says the purpose of the roadshow is to give "local communities a first-hand look at the historic test pod and showcases the science and promise of this futuristic transit technology."