Not only taking on a mass transportation system rooted in the 19th century but also but the devil itself, The Boring Company and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced yesterday that Elon Musk’s tunneling venture has won the competition for the contract to build and operate an underground passageway that will use autonomous high-speed vehicles to shuttle passengers between downtown Chicago and O’Hare airport.
“The Boring Company aims to alleviate soul-destroying traffic by constructing safe, affordable, and environmentally friendly public transportation systems,” the company states in the lede of its FAQ explaining the project.
“Each vehicle will carry up to 16 passengers, plus their luggage, and will depart from O’Hare and from Block 37 as frequently as every 30 seconds. The Boring Company plans to charge fares below the RFP requirement that this premium service should cost less than current taxi and ride-share services,” the city’s press release about The Chicago Express Loop states.
No taxpayer funding is involved — a sales proposition that’s difficult to resist. Boring will finance the project 100% in return for pocketing the fares and collecting on marketing opportunities.
“All told, Boring has estimated the project will cost less than $1 billion, according to a source familiar with the company’s proposal but not authorized to speak publicly because of ongoing negotiations,” Bill Ruthhart and John Byrne reported for the Chicago Tribune in breaking the news early yesterday.
“In exchange for paying to build the new transit system, Boring would keep the revenue from the system’s transit fees and any money generated by advertisements, branding and in-vehicle sales, [Deputy Mayor Robert] Rivkin and the company said. Ownership of the twin tunnels has not been determined, but the Emanuel administration plans to seek a long-term lease to Musk’s company, a source familiar with the proposal said,” Ruthhart and Byrne continue.
At a joint press conference with Emanuel, “Musk said he envisions no problem at all attracting enough riders to have a one-way fare of $20 to $25 cover daily operating costs. The only question is how high the return on investment will be,” Fran Spielman writes for the Chicago Sun-Times.
“‘I don’t really have much trouble raising money historically. So, I don’t anticipate too much trouble doing so in this situation. Cumulatively, between my … companies … we’ve probably raised on the order of $23 billion, all things included,’ he said to nervous laughter from the crowd of movers-and-shakers gathered to get a look at him,” Spielman continues.
“Unlike Musk’s much-hyped plan for a Hyperloop, this new proposal is for a slower system that Musk is simply calling Loop. If it’s actually built, Chicago’s Express Loop (not to be confused with the neighborhood of the same name) will take passengers the roughly 18 miles between downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport in about 12 minutes. The existing above-ground Blue Line trains currently take about 40-45 minutes to travel that route,” writes Matt Novak for Gizmodo.
The Boring Company says that vehicles “will leave each station as frequently as every 30 seconds. The Chicago Express Loop will operate 20 hours per day, every day of the week.” It will contain concrete tracks on which “autonomous electric skates” — individual vehicles built on a modified Tesla X chassis — will travel at 125-150 miles per hour carrying between 8 and 16 passengers (mass transit), or a single passenger.
“The deal puts Musk a step closer to making his Boring Company’s vision a reality. Mass transit advocates have expressed skepticism about the viability of a vast network of underground tunnels due to high costs and bureaucratic hurdles. But Musk’s tentative deal with Chicago suggests that his company may be making progress in its goal to reduce the price of tunnel digging while increasing the speed of the notoriously slow process,” observes Aamer Madhani for USA Today.
“Chicago was at least the third city to enter negotiations with The Boring Company to build subterranean transit. Los Angeles is exploring a 6.5-mile proof-of-concept tunnel and a Phase 2 expansion that would stretch for more than 50 miles along major arteries,” Michael J. Coren reports for Quartz. “Last year, Musk won permission from Maryland officials to dig a 10.1-mile tunnel beneath the state-owned portion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, according to the Baltimore Sun.”