Ex-Amazonian: Hyperloop and other next-gen transportation planning could bring ‘HQ2’ to Texas

Ex-Amazonian: Hyperloop and other next-gen transportation planning could bring ‘HQ2’ to Texas

An artist’s conception shows a Hyperloop transit tube heading toward a city skyline. (Hyperloop One Illustration)

One of Amazon’s leadership principles is to think big, and that’s exactly what a former Amazon employee is encouraging cities to do if they want to land the retail giant’s second headquarters.

Brittain Ladd, who worked on the global expansion of Amazon’s grocery arm AmazonFresh and is now a supply chain consultant, said cities need to look beyond just finding somewhere for Amazon to set up a campus. He said cities in the same state shouldn’t compete with each other, and instead they should come together with regional plans that address transportation and other big-picture issues that could pique Amazon’s interest.

Brittain Ladd.

“It doesn’t do Amazon any good to merely build another headquarters. Instead, Amazon should select a state that will collaborate with Amazon on designing and building the transportation systems of the future,” Ladd told GeekWire in an email. “This means fast-tracking the use of drones for package delivery; fast-tracking the use of autonomous vehicles beginning with Amazon associates who can be picked up and dropped off from work; leveraging airports for Amazon Prime; and my favorite, fast-tracking the use of the Hyperloop.”

Of the more than 100 cities that say they will bid for the massive HQ project, which could bring a $5 billion investment from Amazon and 50,000 jobs, one darkhorse stands out to Ladd, and that is Frisco, Texas. It is about 30 miles from Dallas, with plenty of room to build.

Frisco doesn’t look like a viable candidate today, as its population falls well below Amazon’s threshold of 1 million, and its transportation options aren’t up to par. But Ladd, who said he has made his thoughts known to Frisco but isn’t working with the city on a bid, believes that if the state can plan holistically for a huge research campus connected to cities like Dallas and Austin via next generation transit options like Hyperloop could help Texas land the coveted HQ2 project.

“If Amazon selects Frisco, they can build a massive campus/research center with a Hyperloop station, room to test unmanned drones for flying people, autonomous vehicles, and more easily use drones to deliver packages,” Ladd said. “Long-term, if Texas provides the support, Amazon could have Hyperloop lines running from their headquarters to Austin; to DFW Airport; and to Dallas.”

Whether HQ2 ends up somewhere in Texas, or Atlanta or Boston or Toronto or somewhere completely different, Ladd says long-term thinking could make the difference for the winning bid. Though the concept of cities duking it out through tax breaks and incentives to land big companies is decidedly a 20th century concept, the winning bidder will be the group that looks at current conditions as well as the future.

“I believe Amazon needs to select a location that will help them better compete in the 21st century while exploring and testing future technology and transportation that may not become a reality 10 or 20 years from now,” Ladd said.

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