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“It’s a car in a very small tunnel”

Friday, Mar 22, 2019

* The Tribune editorial board recently expressed some disappointment that Elon Musk’s O’Hare to downtown tunnel project appeared doomed

From the start, skepticism has hounded Elon Musk’s bid to build a subterranean superhighway that would connect downtown Chicago with O’Hare International Airport. A vision dismissed by many as a pipe dream now appears to be a dashed dream.

Neither contender in the April 2 mayoral runoff election, former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot nor Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, is a fan of Musk’s $1 billion plan to create a high-speed transit link between the Loop and O’Hare. We’ll admit, the idea has some eye-catching sparkle. The billionaire innovator said he could develop technology that would send passenger pods zooming through tunnels at speeds of up to 150 mph. A one-way trip would take as little as 12 minutes. […]

The ride, which would be called “the X,” would be pitched to business travelers willing to pay a bit more to get to O’Hare faster and more comfortably. The anticipated price would be $20 to $25, about the cost of a ride-share cab. The Blue Line gets you from downtown to O’Hare on a $2.50 fare, and from O’Hare to downtown for $5. Would enough travelers switch over to “the X” to make it worthwhile?

With Mayor Lightfoot or Mayor Preckwinkle, maybe we’ll never know. We like the bold spirit of innovation that suffuses Musk’s vision. In this cutthroat global economy, cities that distinguish themselves by making business easier to conduct — travel improvements included — stand to profit.

* Virginia Mercury

Virginia transit officials flew out to California earlier this year to check out a tunnel dug by Elon Musk’s Boring Company and, well, they think the state should stick with traditional railways and roads for now.

“It’s a car in a very small tunnel,” Michael McLaughlin, Virginia’s chief of rail transportation, told members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s public transit subcommittee on Wednesday. […]

“I think there’s a lot of show going on here,” said Scott Kasprowicz, a Commonwealth Transportation Board member who made the trip with McLaughlin and public transit chief Jennifer Mitchell.

“I don’t mean to suggest that they don’t have a serious plan in mind, but I don’t consider the steps they’ve taken to date to be substantive. They’ve purchased a used boring machine. They’ve put a bore in the neighborhood where they developed the SpaceX product, and they’ve taken a Model 3 and put guidewheels on it and they’re running it through the tunnel at 60 miles per hour.

“None of that, I think, is really significant from a standpoint of moving this process forward.”

* Jalopnik’s Aaron Gordon

It’s a car in a very small tunnel is both a rote, factually accurate description of what the tunnel is and also one of the sickest burns of the entire Boring Company hubris to date.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

19 Comments
  1. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 2:25 pm:

    We all know you were already shopping for the specialized, optional side-wheels, Rich.


  2. - A Jack - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 2:29 pm:

    An elevated go-kart track would be cheaper to build and be more fun. And it would pair up nicely with the JRTC water slide.


  3. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 2:35 pm:

    Let some other city be the expensive guinea pig for this stuff.


  4. - Cheryl44 - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 2:36 pm:

    If you don’t want to take a train with the hoi polloi, take an Uber.


  5. - Anon E Moose - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 2:37 pm:

    Couldn’t we just make the Blue Line faster and more comfortable?


  6. - Anonymous - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 2:38 pm:

    I suggest we apply thrusters to the JRTC itself. It could actually fly it to OHare and back. With a water park and elevated go kart track inside. And that giant slide from the fairgrounds.

    It would be safer than Elon Musk’s tunnel.


  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 2:41 pm:

    ===already shopping for the specialized, optional side-wheels===

    I do not own a Tesla. I lease an ELR.


  8. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 2:43 pm:

    –With Mayor Lightfoot or Mayor Preckwinkle, maybe we’ll never know. We like the bold spirit of innovation that suffuses Musk’s vision.–

    I think the bold musk of Elon’s snake oil has suffused the troncs’ frontal lobes.


  9. - Amalia - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 3:01 pm:

    laugh all you want at ideas like this one. there are other ideas that might make you pause but which are worth exploring too. Illinois is behind other states when it comes to innovations in transportation. get ready for the future or get left behind.


  10. - OneMan - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 3:16 pm:

    I think it would be wort waiting to see how much they end up changing tunnel boring, that was supposed to be the big change, tunnel boring faster and cheaper. Once they have that figured out (if they figure it out), then lets take a closer look.

    Having taken both the Tube and the Heathrow express multiple times in London, it isn’t who you take the trip with, it is how long the trip takes. If they figure out how to make the tunnel quicker and likely cheaper, the faster trip to the loop is a big win.


  11. - Anon - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 3:30 pm:

    And noteworthy that Mike McLaughlin was formerly at CTA


  12. - Actual Red - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 3:32 pm:

    So, so, so many better ways to spend $1 billion on transit in Chicago. Not as flashy, but how about updating and increasing the speed and capacity of existing lines, or how about adding wheelchair accessibility to more stations.

    If you want to get whackier, how about a new line connecting some of the “spokes” so folks in the neighborhoods outside the loop could get to other neighborhoods faster? Have Elon bore a hole under Western or California that links the Brown, Blue, Green, Pink, and Orange lines together. But with trains instead of a Tesla with extra wheels.

    I respect the desire to pursue bold projects, but why do those bold projects only ever seem to benefit “business travelers willing to pay a bit more?”


  13. - a drop in - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 3:40 pm:

    I would advise everyone to watch HBO’s documentary about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes. It’s a warning about following blindly anyone’s claim without some deep verification.


  14. - TunnelDream - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 3:57 pm:

    ==So, so, so many better ways to spend $1 billion on transit in Chicago. Not as flashy, but how about updating and increasing the speed and capacity of existing lines, or how about adding wheelchair accessibility to more stations.==

    Why on earth would The Boring Company pay $1B to improve CTA trains or add wheelchair accessibility to stations? TBC wasn’t looking to donate $1B to the city, it was an investment in exchange for the right to dig and charge fares.


  15. - Huh? - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 4:01 pm:

    “Illinois is behind other states when it comes to innovations in transportation.”

    What is the innovation of the tunnel? Musk claims to be able to bore tunnels faster and cheaper than the mainstream construction companies with tunneling experience. It is obvious that boring a smaller diameter tunnel is faster and cheaper than a large diameter tunnel. Where is the innovation? There is none.

    Musk has no experience with tunneling. What makes him think he has the answers to the technology? His arrogance is all he has when making claims to innovation. He purchased his first tunneling machine. He didn’t build it from scratch. So there is nothing new that musk has brought to the project.

    Using tesla as the exemplar, musk has continuously over promised and under performed. Extending the example, the $1 billion tunnels to O’Hare will be a losing proposition for the city and musk.


  16. - NoGifts - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 4:02 pm:

    Remember that RTA had a contract with Raytheon to build a “personal rapid transit” service?


  17. - Blue Dog Dem - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 4:51 pm:

    An ELR? All along I thought you were a truck guy.


  18. - Rich Miller - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 6:28 pm:

    ===see how much they end up changing tunnel boring===

    LOL

    He bought a used boring machine from China.


  19. - wordslinger - Friday, Mar 22, 19 @ 7:25 pm:

    Hilarious.

    The “Illinois Exodus” dingbats in troncslyvania — who moan and groan every day about taxes and spending — are sad that Musk’s ridiculous-on-its-face, billion-dollar grift isn’t going forward?

    You know what a billion could do for those who ride the rails and buses every day? The 24-hour, lifeblood system?

    The lack of self-awareness in that crew is astounding.


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