Elon Musk-backed startup The Boring Company, which was partially funded by the sale of baseball caps and novelty flamethrowers, has been chosen by the city of Chicago to build a high-speed underground transportation system linking O'Hare International Airport with downtown. "That's where you'd want to make use of the Hyperloop", Musk said, according to a Bloomberg report.
Rush hour gridlock in downtown Chicago could be set to ease thanks to an underground express transportation system that will ferry passengers to the city's O'Hare Airport. It would utilize a mothballed station under Block 37, the launching spot in the Loop for the line that would be known as the Chicago Express. Another factor behind the cost reduction would be the use of a new type of tunnel boring machine that moves at least an order of magnitude more quickly than the machines now in use.
If successful, it would be a significant step forward for Musk's The Boring Company, which until now had yet to convince any American city to deploy its new transportation technology.
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"This is a difficult thing that we're doing, it's a hard thing, it's a new thing", Musk said. The final route of the new transit system is still being finalized, but Musk estimates that these vehicles could transport passengers downtown in only 12 minutes - a dramatic decrease from the usual 30- to 40-minute taxi ride - and for just $20-$25. But insiders say its plan ran into the same problems as the previous Blue Line proposals: cost (likely in the billions of dollars) and the length of time a trip would take. As noted by Chicago Tribune reporter Bill Ruthart on Twitter, Emanuel was very optimistic about the Boring Company's project, stating that the high-speed tunnels would "not cost the city a penny" and that it builds on Chicago's "legacy of innovation". It has raised only a fraction of that amount to date.
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The planned Chicago system will feature what the company calls "electric skates", which are vehicles based on Tesla's Model X SUV.
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Two elements distinguish Musk's vision. But the Chicago Tribune cited comments from Mayor Rahm Emanuel about the decision to go with Musk's bid. After 40 years of incremental innovation in transportation, most of it from outside the USA, "I'm all for it", he said. "We get the upside with no financial risk at all".
Loop is untested at scale, and Musk's Boring Company is still new to the business of high-speed public transit. The Loop system would transport 16 passengers.
Others are also working on the idea.
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For the Chicago project, Boring Company beat out a consortium that included Mott MacDonald, JLC Infrastructure, Meridiam, Antarctica Capital and First Transit.