Revitalizing the Forgotten Interior: The Case for a Hyperloop from Boston to New York via Hartford
Following the American Civil War, Hartford was the second richest city in the United States, and was known to be a hotbed of innovation. Mark Twain once said of Hartford “you do not know what beauty is if you have not been here” after traveling through Europe and the Middle East. Today, Hartford suffers from the lowest median household income when adjusted to cost of living, highest unemployment rate, highest percentage of residents below poverty level of any state capital in the United States. While recent efforts in the early 21st century have aimed at revitalizing the city, the capital city and the state of Connecticut (as well as the interior region as a whole) lack any compelling incentives for young entrepreneurs or new businesses to set up shop. The result is the well documented brain-drain and population exodus out of the region known as the Knowledge Corridor which stretches from Middletown, CT to Amherst, MA. A Hyperloop which runs from Boston to New York via Hartford would shave the commute time between cities down to a mere 12 minutes. Tickets for the Hyperloop have been estimated to cost only $20, making it an affordable, sustainable, and rapid connection between two major cities.
The Hartford-Springfield region possesses many of the key environmental factors in attracting the booming knowledge economy, namely, its geographic location, dense urban structrure, tolerance, and exceptional concentration of well-respected universities (hence the region’s nickname). Due to years of disinvestment, the region is suffering from underperformance. Hartford lacks the diverse workforce, venture capital, and general desirability of a modern urban space.
However, the Hyperloop looks to be the exact investment needed to shore up the region’s deficencies by taking advantage of Hartford’s strategic geographic location as a half way point between Boston and New York. Hartford would become the only place in the world to offer an such an affordable yet rapid connection to both Boston and New York, the realization of which would be radically transformative.
A Hyperloop that runs from Boston to New York via Hartford would instantly turn Hartford into a prime housing market. Eager to take advantage of Hartford’s newfound strategic position, a flurry of real-estate investments would flood the city following the securing of funding for the project. In recent years the city has focused on redeveloping its housing stock to attract people back into the city. The advent of the Hyperloop would serve as a major catalyst to the government’s efforts. The combination of Hartford’s newfound accessability to Boston and New York, paired with the city’s revitalization, would effectively transform Hartford into the desirable urban space needed to attract top talent. Moreover, Hartford’s newfound desirability would entice many of the area’s students to stay in the broader region after graduation.
Hartford’s location between New York and Boston is even more advantageous than orignally meets the eye. While New York and Boston are both exciting and bustling cities on their own right, they contain a resource which has thus-far eluded most secondary cities in their quest “become the next silicon valley”: venture capital. Venture capital has been called “uneven and spikey” due to its concentration around “a small number of leading cities and metros around the world”. As luck would have it, Hartford’s location between Boston and New York literally puts it in the middle of the two of the biggest concentrations of venture capital in the world. On the world stage, Boston comes in third with 7.5% of all global venture capital, while New York comes in at fourth place with 5% of global venture capital. On a national level, New York and Boston are effectively tied for third place with 9.95% and 9.54% of all venture capital, respectively. With both regions combined, Hartford would soon have unparaleled access to a whopping 19.49% of all national venture capital. Access to such a commanding share of venture capital would make Hartford the number 2 city in the nation behind San Francisco in the city for concentration of venture capital, outranking San Jose. A high concentration of prestigious universities with Silicon Valley levels of venture capital has the potential to bring red-hot growth to the area.
While comparing the impoverished city of Hartford to San Francisco may seem outlandish, it’s not without precedent. The only city that outranked Hartford for wealth following the Civil War, a time period which was also filled with innovation, was San Francisco. History shows that Hartford’s growth potential is quite large.
The Hyperloop has the capacity to massively transform the languishing capital city and deliver the booming knowledge economy of the 21st century to an area which has been increasingly left behind following the exodus of manufacturing in the post-war years. The assertion that Hartford needs to be revitalized is news to just about nobody, however, having grown up 20 minutes outside of Hartford, the story of the city’s decline always captured my imagination.
There is currently a proposal being spearheaded by Holly McNamara, selectwoman of Somerset, MA to build the first Hyperloop between Boston and Providence with a stops in Somerset and Fall River. If Hartford lets this historic opportunity pass by, its revival will surely face greater difficulty. If the state of Connecticut is serious about revitalizing its capital city and bringing back jobs, this is the path forward.