Elon Musk's The Boring Company Building Fast Underground Transit in Chicago

Ann Santiago
June 17, 2018

Boring Company says it will pay the entire cost of building the system.

The transport time will take 12 minutes, compared to 40 minutes by train and around 80 minutes by auto.

The Boring Company's high-speed Chicago tunnel system is expected to accommodate nearly 2,000 passengers per direction every hour, with pods leaving every 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Now, it looks like the Boring Co. could be on the way toward breaking ground in another location: Chicago.

Musk, who started The Boring Company in 2016 with the goal of combatting LA's "soul-destroying" traffic, is promising to make tunneling cheaper and faster, and to radically rethink the vehicles carrying passengers.

Musk's company was selected out of four other bidders. Unlike the Hyperloop, a vacuum-sealed tube being built out by companies such as Virgin Hyperloop One and theoretically capable of speeds up to 600 miles per hour, the Chicago project will be designed with conventional tunnels at much slower speeds. Maryland's Department of Transportation gave conditional approval to the construction of a tunnel from Baltimore to Washington for a super-high-speed transportation system, The Washington Post reported in October.

"This is a difficult thing that we're doing, it's a hard thing, it's a new thing", Musk said. "You know I'd hope that you'd cheer us on for this".

"Mayor Emanuel is prioritizing the interests of billionaires and big corporations ahead of the very real and immediate needs of Chicago's taxpayers and neighborhoods", he said in a statement. The Chicago Express Loop service will operate for 20 hours per day, seven days a week, and it's expected that a skate will depart from each station every 30 seconds.

If this tunnel is actually built, which Musk refers to as "loop", it'll be a significant achievement for the city of Chicago.

The 12-minute ride - which Emanuel equated to "three songs on your iPod" - compares to the roughly 40 minutes it now takes to make it from O'Hare to the city via the Chicago Transportation Authority's Blue Line train. The mayor pointed out it will take longer to get through security at O'Hare than it will to get there. It will be more than a ticket on the Blue Line, but predicted to be about half of what it cost to get to O'Hare by taxi or ride-share.

Some critics already have emerged. Chicago is bearing no financial responsibility for the project, Emanuel said. He said the caucus is demanding hearings on the "potential boondoggle". The Boring Company will fund the project in its entirety.

Loop is untested at scale, and Musk's Boring Company is still new to the business of high-speed public transit.

Musk's flagship electric auto company Tesla Inc. struggled last year to turn an annual profit for the first time in its 15 years of doing business.

The project, announced Thursday, would employ underground tunnels and autonomous electric vehicles called "skates". Last year, Gregory Hauser, a civil engineer at Dragados who recently managed the replacement of Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct-the largest underground highway project in the US-said what The Boring Company attempting is on par with the challenge faced by SpaceX.

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