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Eller College Home > Our Stories > Governance and Social Responsibility > Grad Students Investigate Solar Train

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Governance and Social Responsibility : Grad Students Partner on MBA Field Project to Investigate Solar Train

Rendering of proposed solar-powered Tucson-Phoenix train
An artist's rendering of the proposed solar-powered bullet train between Phoenix and Tucson. UA students are analyzing the conditions under which very high-speed, solar-powered rail between the cities would make economic sense.

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March 2011

By Liz Warren-Pederson

A multifaceted team of graduate students from disciplines across the UA climbed aboard a solar-powered bullet train between Tucson and Phoenix this semester—metaphorically, that is.

The team is analyzing the conditions under which very high-speed, solar-powered rail between the two cities would make economic sense. The project blends solar energy and green technologies with high-speed trains and public transit, giving the students a chance to research several fields that are creating headlines today in science, technology, and public policy.

The team consists of Eller MBA students along with master’s students in planning, civil engineering and materials science engineering, with economist and energy expert Paul Portney, economics professor and former dean of the Eller College, as faculty advisor. This multidisciplinary collaboration is intended to bring a range of skills and perspectives together in examining a compelling business case.

Over the course of the semester, the team will produce a spreadsheet model that can be used by SolarBullet.org, the citizens’ group leading the campaign to build a sun-powered bullet train that could link Tucson and Phoenix in as little as 33 minutes. When this tool is complete, the campaign will be able to generate and compare different scenarios as they build the business and technical case for the train.

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