Elon Digs Deeper

Written By David Roberts

Posted June 14, 2018

Elon just keeps on digging… Digging tunnels, that is.

Billionaire Elon Musk’s underground transportation business, The Boring Company, has won a major bid. The bid is to create an underground high-speed rail line from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport.

The company beat out at least four other developers for this project.

“We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago!” The Boring Company said in a tweet shortly after it won the job.

Unlike Musk’s much-hyped plan for a Hyperloop, this new proposal is for a slower system that Musk simpler refers to as a “Loop.”

If it were actually built, Chicago’s Express Loop, as it would be called, would take passengers roughly 18 miles between downtown Chicago to the airport within 12 minutes.

The existing aboveground Blue Line trains take about 45 minutes to travel that same route.

The Boring Company says its special underground vehicles would leave each station every 30 seconds. The Chicago Express Loop would operate 20 hours per day, every day of the week.

Both the mayor’s office and Musk’s company have declined to comment on how much this project would cost to build. But according to the Chicago Tribune, The Boring Company will foot the entire bill.

For users, the rides are expected to cost anywhere between $20 and $25, according to the earliest estimates. That would be roughly half the cost of an Uber for the same trip.

Musk has said similar underground trips in Los Angeles with his new system could cost only $1. It’s not clear why Chicago’s estimates are so much higher.

With all that said, everything could change in an instant.

It’s still too early to nail down the exact prices and travel times because everything is still pretty much conceptual. The Boring Company hasn’t built a full-scale model of its Loop system yet.

So far, the company has only been digging tunnels under Los Angeles. And they’re apparently smaller than tunnels that are usually used for underground transportation. The smaller tunnels are said to cut down on costs.

But The Boring Company did produce a concept video three months ago of what its underground Loop train service might look like.

The concept animation showcased a 16-passenger vehicle that travels at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. But industry experts warn that things could change as the company gets down to the nitty-gritty of building the system.

“I suspect it’s going to evolve a few times before anything concrete gets done,” Hani Mahmassani, a professor of engineering at Northwestern University, told Bloomberg.

The current concept vehicles are zero-emission, would run on Tesla batteries, and would slide on some sort of rail system. Musk used the term “skate” to describe how the new underground vehicles would move:

Electric skates are based on the Tesla Model X, recently named the first and only SUV to achieve a NHTSA 5-Star safety rating in every category and subcategory. The Chicago Express Loop’s skates will be mechanically confined to a concrete track within the tunnel and operate under safety approvals issued by both federal and state agencies.

The company says each vehicle would be equipped with ample storage space and a climate-controlled cabin. The climate control would be essential for Chicago’s harsh cold winters and muggy summers. The vehicles might even be equipped with Wi-Fi.

The Boring Company hasn’t released any additional information about how big the stations for Chicago’s Loop system would have to be. But judging by the concept art, they would each have to be considerably larger than a single parking space.

Reportedly, the site where the first Loop station is to be built is near Block 37, a failed transit superstation that was foreclosed on back in 2011.

The site currently has residential apartments, retail stores, and an AMC movie theater. But its transportation areas are completely dormant.

As mentioned, things are still completely conceptual. And there are significant doubts about whether or not Musk’s Loop system will actually come to fruition.

Industry experts have shared their concerns over the financial viability of Loop transportation systems. This is in addition to concerns over potential environmental and legal challenges, too.

The Boring Company is said to be completely funding this project. But early estimations project that the project would cost less than $1 billion to complete.

The Boring Company financed its Los Angeles underground transportation system through the sale of its merchandise. This merchandise includes its controversial flamethrowers, which are ironically named “Not a Flamethrower.”

The flamethrowers are said to have already caused three major fires in Orange County within the last few weeks, according to Orange County Fire Captain Tony Bommarito.

Speaking to Fortune magazine, he said:

Everything’s ready to go. We just didn’t get the rain again this year, so it’s already brown, the moisture’s very low, so anytime you have somebody or kids even playing with these flamethrowers, it’s going to be a recipe for disaster.

Back in March, Musk tweeted about a new iteration of merchandise: “Lego-like interlocking” hollow bricks made from the rock beneath Los Angeles. This is where The Boring Company is currently tunneling.

This new nonflammable merchandise could help finance the Chicago Express Loop. But there’s been no confirmation of how the company plans to fund this latest project.

But Musk’s latest ideas are no doubt an effort to change the company’s negative fundraising image into one of an altruistic capitalist trying to bring efficient transportation to a city that’s plagued by traffic congestion.

Musk has sparred with the press a lot lately about these issues. But the billionaire tech titan should expect an influx of positive news as his concept for urban transportation gets one step closer to reality.

That’s all for now.

Until next time,

John Peterson
Pro Trader Today