The maddening commute for many city denizens may about to be eliminated forever.
Elon Musk is never boring, but his latest venture proposes to utilizes the Boring Company to drill into the earth to create a high-speed loop in Chicago, cutting travel time for people in Chicago’s downtown area to the O’Hare airport in half. On a good day, without traffic, the commute can take 45 minutes to an hour. Current above-ground trains take at least 40 minutes. Taxi rides can take up to 70 minutes.
How many people could a high-speed loop service? Overall, Chicago’s estimated 2,707,120 population has recently grown by 362,789 people with downtown gains and similar increases on the outskirts of the city. Chicago’s downtown has seen one of the largest influxes of residents in the entire country. Though they aren’t all clamoring to catch a plane to NYC, hundreds of thousands of people make this commute daily.
Musk’s SpaceX years ago proposed a Hyperloop system that would travel even faster. A real hyperloop has since been developed, intended for use in Las Vegas, but it is slower, and bigger, with top travel speeds reaching only 200 miles per hour. (Musk’s Hyperloop could go as fast as 700 mph.)
The Boring Company’s website states their aim is to build “fast to dig, low-cost tunnels” with the goal of solving “the problem of soul-destroying traffic” through a “large network of tunnels many levels deep below cities.
The current proposed loop would shuttle Chicago residents between downtown and O’Hare in less than 20 minutes. Chicago’s former Mayor, Richard M. Daley, tried to convince Chinese investors to build the railway system stemming from the Block 37 super-station years ago, but he was turned down, or red-tape got in the way, or both. The lofty hope was tabled, until Musk, and others took up the bid.
Though Musk has not yet won the bid, he and his competitors for the Chicago contract will have to include both a downtown and airport station, as well as a maintenance facility, and have a plan in place to minimize “potential conflicts or impacts on existing transportation systems and the environment.”
Chicago’s mayor sent out a request for bids to build an express train. Musk has clarified that the Chicago system would not actually be a hyperloop. He explained the distinction on Twitter, saying that “A Loop is like a Hyperloop, but without drawing a vacuum inside the tube. Don’t need to get rid of air friction for short routes.” Instead of vacuum pods, the Chicago loop would use electric cars; however, Musk didn’t say if the proposal will feature an underground system or one that’s above ground. Musk did confirm that electric pods will be part of the system, though he added that rails may or may not be part of the proposal.
Few details of the plan have been released, but it seems Musk is trying to capture the attention of another city with a similar plan to build alternative transportation.
A map of another proposed system in Los Angeles, CA was just released. The underground system would travel at 150 miles per hour beneath Interstate 105. The tunnels could also one day be used for Hyperloop, a high-speed rail system that would allow passengers to travel at speeds up to 700 mph (1,125 km/h).
While Musk’s proposed super-loop isn’t a hyperloop, it would be a welcome improvement for hundreds of thousands of commuters in Chicago – and possibly many additional large cities, soon.