When thinking of two LGBTQ hotspots, New York City and Washington, D.C. certainly come to mind, teeming with culture, art, food and entertainment. For many residents and visitors, a night out in either city is relegated to the surrounding neighborhoods or boroughs. But what if there was a way to connect these two iconic cities, making them more accessible than ever?
The advent of magnetic levitation may be that connection.
Magnetic levitation (or “maglev”) transportation uses the opposing power of magnets to lift and propel trains along a guideway without friction. It’s this frictionless quality that gives maglev trains their infamous speed. The current speed record holder is Japan’s L0 train, topping out at 375 miles per hour. At those speeds, you could easily go out to your favorite restaurant in NYC and be at your favorite D.C. bar well before they start charging cover.
And it’s not just the speed that makes these trains so attractive. They’re an incredibly energy efficient mode of transportation, too. In fact, one report claimed a maglev train uses more energy to power the air conditioning than to power the train itself.
The first commercial maglev transit system debuted in Birmingham, UK in 1984. It connected the Birmingham Airport with the Birmingham International railway station and the National Exhibition Centre. Fast forward to April 2004 and the introduction of the Shanghai Transrapid, which made China one of only three countries who currently operate maglev trains today. While all of this may seem relatively recent, the concept and technology for maglev transport has been evolving since 1912, when the first maglev patent was filed by Emile Bachelet of Mount Vernon, New York.
So when can we expect to hop on a maglev train at Dupont Circle, stream the latest episode of RuPaul's, and end up in Chelsea for happy hour? It may be longer than we’d like.
How would these systems improve (or disrupt) our daily routines? With more accessible public transit comes less need for personal vehicles. However, don’t expect that to change the demand for high-performance luxury vehicles. Whether sitting in a maglev train or driving a car, comfort and convenience will always rule the day. But as roads become more congested and traffic snarls play havoc with schedules, change is certainly on the horizon.
Elon Musk, technology mogul and visionary businessman, seems to agree. In 2016, Musk founded The Boring Company, an infrastructure and tunneling company. In a series of tweets, Musk talked about the need for “3D” transportation routes, stating, “If you think of tunnels going 10, 20, 30 layers deep (or more), it is obvious that going 3D down will encompass the needs of any city’s transport of arbitrary size.” In his vision, cars will attach themselves to electric elevators and skids, making below-city trips at speeds of 125 miles per hour. The Boring Company has already started digging test tunnels for the project.
While not directly connected to maglev transports, Musk recognizes the need for improved transportation options, offering a unique solution that could, one day, coexist with the future of transportation, one that will surely include maglev technology.
The ramifications of increased connectivity means more than simple weekend brunch plans. Urban centers continue to require highly skilled jobs, but increased costs of living remain burdensome for many. Think how the job and real estate markets will be disrupted if an employee can work in the heart of D.C. but live outside peak housing costs.
In a world that’s increasingly connected via digital channels, there’s still power in the physical connections created by communities that live, work, play (and commute) together. Fear of the unknown has always been a hurdle the LGBTQ community has been forced to overcome. As the future of transportation allows us to expand ourselves geographically, the impact LGBTQ people can have on their neighbors, coworkers and fellow commuters may seem small, but could be surprisingly significant. Greater physical connectivity could be the missing piece that allows us to bring the vibrancy and enduring spirit of LGBTQ meccas like New York City and Washington D.C. to the rest of the country.
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