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Hyperloop And Bullet Trains Aside, The Future in North Texas Still Belongs to Cars

Now in this century, the future is going to be based on advances in these technologies that take us the rest of the way

People tour the site after a test of a Hyperloop One propulsion system. The startup company opened its test site outside of Las Vegas for the first public demonstration of technology for a super-speed, tube based transportation system.

The future of transportation seems jam-packed with high-tech gizmos, like bullet trains, self-driving cars, flying taxis and Hyperloop.

And yet, the future in North Texas still belongs to cars, at least if you dig into “Mobility 2045,” the long-term transportation roadmap for the area.

The plan was just approved by the North Texas Council of Governments. Michael Morris is director of transportation for the agency, and KERA’s Rick Holter caught up with him in his Arlington office.

On the future of transportation

Our desire is to help lead the state and the nation in technology transfer when it comes to transportation. We’ve got autonomous vehicles now being tested in Frisco. We had the first autonomous transit vehicle tested in Arlington over a year ago. We visited Hyperloop. We think it’s real. They’re looking for their next initiative to move from a test track; already have gotten vehicles up to 260 mph. We’re looking at potentially being the next section of that certification facility connecting Dallas to Fort Worth. 

On connecting the region and state

There’s no reason why we can’t be making improvements to the Trinity Railway Express. In fact, we have a $100 million application that just went to Washington. The Hyperloop situation is really an intercity movement on top of a “within region” movement.

We’re talking to Texas Central Partners about bringing the bullet train over to Fort Worth. We’ve been long interested in getting Houston to Dallas to Arlington to Fort Worth. They’re focused on the Houston-to-Dallas piece. The state’s plan is an upside down “u” — Houston, Dallas to Fort Worth, all the way to Laredo.

If Texas Central Partners doesn’t want to come all the way across, then we need to build high-speed rail from Dallas with a cross platform transfer that goes to Fort Worth, Waco, Temple/Killeen, Austin, San Antonio and Laredo. That could be a bullet type train or the Hyperloop. The Dallas-to-Fort Worth section, whatever technology is used, is on its way to Laredo.

On the growth of transportation in North Texas

When I started we were the 16th largest region in the United States. We’re now fourth; we’ll soon be third, ahead of Chicago. We’re an accident of history because we don’t have access to the sea, so we’re this century’s transportation system. We were built with interstate highways and Class I railroads and blessed with great air carrier airports.

Now in this century, the future is going to be based on advances in these technologies that take us the rest of the way. We’re not going to get there on your grandpa’s pickup truck. It’s going to take all these investments and insights into different modes of transportation. I think we’re going to be judged by the degree and the diversity of transportation options we give our citizens, and I think technology is going to play a very big role in that. 

These interview highlights were lightly edited for clarity.

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