It’s been reported that The Boring Company has won a bid, which will see the creation of a tunnel underneath the city of Chicago. The tunnel will go from the downtown core, out to O’Hare International Airport. The Boring Company beat out at least four other developers for this project. The Boring Company took to Twitter to make the unofficial announcement – “We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago!”. The big question I’d like to explore is whether or not these tunnels are beneficial.
This particular proposal is different than the Hyperloop as it would be slower, and simply known as the Loop. If it actually gets built, Chicago’s Express Loop will take passengers between downtown Chicago and the O’Hare Airport. The total trip is about 18 miles, but will only take about 12 minutes. That’s impressive, even if it’s “slower”. The existing above-ground Blue Line trains, currently take about 45 minutes to travel that same distance. Which means, if The Boring Company can deliver, this will be a big boost for the city.
Here’s what might be the most interesting thing – The Boring Company is indicating that the vehicles would leave once every 30 seconds. But is that too often? I guess, if you only had a few trains going, then maybe this makes sense. But it certainly seems like they’re traveling very frequently. Not only that, but the company has indicated that the trains will operate 20 hours per day, every day of the week. I guess I just wonder how many people are going to the airport every day. Yes, I know it’s an extremely busy airport, and city, but how many people will actually be going to and from the airport in a given day?
The mayor’s office isn’t saying how much this is going to cost, but according to the Chicago Tribune, the city won’t be paying for it. I mean, I can’t imagine a city like Chicago has the ability to fork out the kind of money that is expected to go into this. Sure, The Boring Company will be able to make their money back once they’ve got everything up and running, but they will have to foot the bill for the upfront costs, and that could be a lot. Users should expect to pay $20 – $25, which is about half the cost of an Uber for the same distance. The L-Train only costs about $5 for that same trip, but if you’re in a hurry, it’s not your best bet.
Musk has recently gone on record indicating that trips in Los Angeles could cost as little as $1. So why are Chicago’s costs so much higher? Honestly, no one knows. Maybe someone is subsidizing the cost in LA? I think, however, that we’re jumping the gun a bit with this one. The cost of the project and the rides could change 100 times between now and when these tunnels actually get built. I think there are too many possibilities and variables, and that we should just focus on the fact that this is happening. More details to follow once the project starts moving.