Chicago's New Train to O'Hare Won't Be a Train—It's Elon Musk's 'Loop'

Loop, as in a derivation of Hyperloop, conceived by Elon Musk and to be built by his newest venture, The Boring Company, is the technology of choice for high-speed transit to O'Hare Airport.

3 minute read

June 16, 2018, 1:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Chicago Blue Line

Tripp / Flickr

"Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has selected Elon Musk’s company from four competing bids to provide high-speed transportation between downtown and the airport," report Bill Ruthhart and John Byrne for the Chicago Tribune on June 14. 

The billionaire entrepreneur and the mayor appeared together in the superstation under the Block 37 retail development, report Ruthart, Byrne and Gregory Pratt after the actual ceremony. [See the video of segments of the two speeches in the cavernous station.] "Almost 10 years to the day after the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) board suspended work on the station, Musk said his autonomous vehicles would eventually take off from there."

For those not familiar with Loop technology, it is "a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour," according to The Boring Company. "Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers (mass transit), or a single passenger vehicle."

Loop technology as applied for Los Angeles was panned by its critics here last month as "the latest manifestation of Elon Musk's transportation fantasies."

The Chicago Tribune has a video that offers a conceptual look at The Boring Company’s loop technology. Note the "LAX Terminal 2" destination on the skate.

To complicate the terminology, the Loop technology, which appears in a caption in the article as "Chicago Express Loop" rather than O'Hare Express, will transport passengers from the Chicago Loop, the city's central business district, which got its name in the late nineteenth century from cable car turnarounds and three elevated rail lines that encircled the area. The Loop refers to the 1.79-mile, elevated rail structure on which CTA trains operate.

Under the proposal, passengers would be able to travel from the Loop to O’Hare in just 12 minutes at an estimated cost of $20 to $25 per ride. 

In choosing Boring, Emanuel and senior City Hall officials are counting on Musk’s highly touted but still unproven tunneling technology over the more traditional high-speed rail option that until recently had been envisioned..

Ruthhart and Byrne indicate they expect the price tag to be about $1 billion. Mayor Emanuel's press release states that "[n]o taxpayer funding will go towards the project."


Past Planetizen posts on the O'Hare Express project

  • March 28, 2018 
    The announcement of the finalists to build the O'Hare Express has critics even more concerned about the project's viability.
    Streetsblog Chicago
  • December 5, 2017
    Express rail between the Loop and O'Hare moves a step closer to reality
    Progressive Railroading
  • March 10, 2016
    This month, the city of Chicago will choose a team of engineers to brainstorm an express rail line to O'Hare Airport. The plan has come under criticism for diverting future resources away from transit in low-income areas.
  • July 13, 2015
    Plans to construct a prestigious express line to O'Hare airport may be overkill. The existing Blue Line, which could benefit from some investment, already connects downtown Chicago and the airport.

See The Boring Company tag for posts on the company's activity in Los Angeles.

Thursday, June 14, 2018 in Chicago Tribune

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