What does community acceptance of the hyperloop infrastructure entail, considering the likely first alignment, characteristics, and regulations? For the full report, click the button below!

The hyperloop is a possible solution to reduce greenhouse gasses emerging from transportation as it combines sustainability with both high speed and great travel distance. However, the implementation of such a large system is difficult as its execution needs to find a place in already existing technical infrastructures, institutional settings, and living environments. Due to the diverse interests of the many actors involved, it is crucial to address their varying interests and concerns in order to enhance the project’s overall success. Past experiences have highlighted the significance of social acceptance in technological and infrastructural endeavors. Disregarding this importance can create barriers to implementation. When individuals align their behaviors with their non-accepting attitudes, it can result in increased implementation costs, prolonged timelines, or even project cancellations. Therefore, prioritizing social acceptance becomes necessary for ensuring a smoother implementation process.

Social acceptance is a complex concept involving many different actors. It illustrates the positions of stakeholders across three interrelated dimensions; socio-political, community, and market acceptance. Although the environmental impact of the implementation of the hyperloop is recognized, the literature lacks coverage of community acceptance specifically. Nevertheless, it is crucial to consider community acceptance from the early stages of system development, particularly for a novel concept like the hyperloop, which entails unknown consequences. The primary objective of this research is to take the initial step in understanding the implications of community acceptance for the first hyperloop infrastructure.


Project’s Scope

As the research focuses on the first implementation, the essential civil engineering elements of the infrastructure are determined. The hyperloop involves recurring components that form part of a larger system. The infrastructure consists of two major parts: the superstructure, represented by the steel tube segments connected with frequent expansion joints, and the concrete substructure, comprising the saddle, pillar, and foundation tailored to the specific soil conditions. These two are attached through steel bracing to provide additional support. It is important to note that certain critical components, such as communication systems, vacuum pumps, levitation mechanisms, propulsion systems, and thermal control structures, are essential for the functioning of the hyperloop but are not within the scope of this research due to minimal visual impact or low frequency. 

The definition of these essential elements represents the initial phase in the examination of the legal requirements and the establishment of the project’s scope. In a European context, the first hyperloop corridor is expected to primarily serve cargo transportation purposes. The potential route between Amsterdam Schiphol and Dusseldorf Airport demonstrates a high likelihood of being selected for implementation. Despite the absence of established laws exclusively made for the hyperloop, the development of European standards is crucial in defining the necessary safeguards for the protection of both human beings and the environment at various levels. Several existing regulations can serve as initial references. Additionally, certain fundamental rules and regulations already apply by default. These include guidelines protecting natural areas, such as the Natura 2000 areas, regulations addressing the safety of passengers and staff by ensuring accessibility for first responders and establishing appropriate evacuation measures, as well as procedural laws such as the Environmental and Planning Act (specifc for the Netherlands).


Community Acceptance Attributes

The identities of each region within the route and the implications of the infrastructure for that specific location must be considered. Particular attention must be paid to challenging moments when the impact of the infrastructure is greatest and opposition is anticipated to be significant. The challenge lies in understanding the main factors affecting this local resistance as 50 different attributes influence the community’s acceptance. These attributes are categorized in the model of Hübner (2020), which states that community acceptance exists out of economic impacts, attitude, planning process, impacts on nature & residents, and social norms. Based on clarifying requirements which state that the attribute was often cited; was appointed by experts; was referenced in hyperloop context; and should be able to be influenced by the project owner, the key factors for community acceptance of the hyperloop infrastructure are determined. Familiarity, obtrusiveness, design, integration, multi-use, and place seem to have the most potential to influence community acceptance of the hyperloop infrastructure.


Level of Importance Infrastructure Attributes

It was discovered through a choice experiment conducted on citizens from the Netherlands and part of Germany that these key factors explain around 11% of the variance of accepting the hyperloop infrastructure. The most utilitarian version of the infrastructure would be accepted by about half of the local residents, regardless of location context. Over both environments, integration seems to be the most important attribute, followed by multi-use, material, and color. Last of which is only significant in the urban environment, where it has a negative effect on acceptance. When adding all of the positive effects together, the acceptance rate of the hyperloop infrastructure would rise to the vast majority of the population. 

The background variables of socio-demographic characteristics and familiarity with the hyperloop have different effects both location contexts. In the urban environment, age, gender, and nationality have the highest relative importance while working status has the lowest. In the rural environment, the weight of gender is similar while the weight of age drops and nationality grows. Here, not being familiarity with the hyperloop takes the bottom spot. 

Overall, nationality is the background variable with the highest relative importance on acceptance. Dutch people accept the hyperloop infrastructure less then Germans, which is also reflected in the attitude towards the concept itself and construction nearby Dutchmen have. Dutchmen also place more value on the integration and multi-use of the infrastructure. This could very well have a basis in population density, which is more then twice as large in the Netherlands compared to Germany, were there is less competition for land. Gender is the second most defining background variable. Women tent to be less accepting of the hyperloop infrastructure then men. However, when looking at the attitude towards nearby construction, men have a more negative attitude compared to woman. It can be speculated that men have a need to protect ’their’ territory and therefore have a more negative look towards the construction of the hyperloop nearby.

Familiarity with the hyperloop concept can be enlarged by showing the broader goal of the hyperloop, like sustainability, trough its infrastructure. This is important since not being familiar with the hyperloop has a negative effect on the acceptance of the infrastructure in the rural environment. At the same time, by adding for example green walls to the infrastructure, it ties into the association that people who are not familiar with the hyperloop concept, attach more value to the integration and multi-use of the infrastructure in a rural environment compared to those who have a neutral familiarity.


Opposing Behaviour

The results indicate that people are generally quite positive about the hyperloop. The general attitude towards construction nearby, however, was not as bright; almost a quarter of respondents has a negative attitude. This non-acceptance can become a problem for implementation when people behave according to this attitude. The actions people were most likely to take to vent their emotions were active actions like supporting a petition, voting for a certain political party, and protesting. The passive actions of supporting a letter to the parliament and sharing their opinion on social media were both less likely to happen than the action of doing nothing. 

The results confirm to the difference between non-acceptance itself, and taking the decision to act upon it. As stated before, Germans are more accepting of the hyperloop infrastructure then Dutch people. However, Germans are more likely to protest against the construction of the hyperloop nearby. So while Germans generally have a higher acceptance rate of the hyperloop infrastructure, the ones that are against it try to resist the implementation in the most active way possible; protesting.


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