Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Businesses

Elon Musk's Boring Company Bids On Chicago Airport Transit Link (arstechnica.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, the city of Chicago opened a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for an express train that would take passengers from the city's O'Hare airport to downtown. The system would have to be completely privately funded -- Chicago says no taxpayer money would be used for it. Elon Musk's Boring Company -- a tunneling company that the SpaceX and Tesla CEO started last year -- will respond to the request. Musk hopes to get to the second round when bidding will take place. On Wednesday evening, he tweeted that his company "will compete to fund, build & operate a high-speed Loop connecting Chicago O'Hare Airport to downtown."

Musk's reference to a "Loop" is explained more clearly on The Boring Company's FAQ page: "Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers (mass transit), or a single passenger vehicle." Unlike Musk's idea for a Hyperloop, a Loop won't draw a vacuum. "For shorter routes, there is no technical need to eliminate air friction," The Boring Company states. The company also clarifies the concept of an "electric skate:" that is "a platform on wheels propelled by multiple electric motors." The platform would operate autonomously without a rail or rails to which the skate would connect. The skate would operate in the tunnel's main artery, and it would enter and exit from side tunnels. With this system, The Boring Company says, the skate's average speed would theoretically be able to operate close to maximum speed.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Elon Musk's Boring Company Bids On Chicago Airport Transit Link

Comments Filter:
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:23PM (#55654041)

    For all of the people out there who have concerns about the Boring Company and tunnels they are planning to build, you really need to read the Boring Company FAQ [boringcompany.com].

    Worried about earthquakes? They talk about it.

    Wondering what the heck an electric skate is exactly? They talk about it.

    Wondering how they can do tunnels economically? They talk about it.

    The starting point of the discussions about using tunnels should be based on the claims they have there, not worries that have already been addressed...

    I personally do not see how any surface based approach can possibly cost less than the tunnel approach or be put in as quickly given the huge amount of problems it takes to put in a new rail line over long existing areas.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:39PM (#55654121) Journal

      I personally do not see how any surface based approach can possibly cost less than the tunnel approach or be put in as quickly given the huge amount of problems it takes to put in a new rail line over long existing areas.

      Well, you wouldn't have the expense of digging a goddamn tunnel.

      Further, there are existing rail right-of-ways that are unused or underused all along the route from O'Hare to downtown Chicago. The city doesn't even know what to do with them. They've turned some into bike paths, but they hardly get used because you can safely bike anywhere in Chicago.

      I'm sure it's good PR for Elon to be bidding on these contracts, but he's not going to get one in Chicago. Maybe it would make sense in a place like Houston, but there are so few people riding existing public transportation there, that I'm not sure anyone would use it. People love their cars in Houston, because for 10 months out of the year the weather is so bad you really can't go outside even for a walk from the parking lot to the Metro trains.

      • Well, you wouldn't have the expense of digging a goddamn tunnel.

        You only say that because you have not read the FAQ as I mentioned, because they talk about very reasonable ways in which the cost of "digging a goddam tunnel" is greatly reduced.

        Further, there are existing rail right-of-ways that are unused or underused all along the route from O'Hare to downtown Chicago.

        Ask the people that live along them if rail lines of any sort should be put in. Now remember that any of them can sue to stop your project.

        • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @08:53PM (#55654947) Journal

          Holy mackerel have you BEEN to Houston recently?

          I lived there, until immediately after Hurricane Harvey. And I lived in the Museum District, one block from the Metro going downtown. Houston has several times the population of Chicago, but they can barely fill a four-car Metro train during rush hour.

          There's basically one real Metro line for a metropolitan area of 8.5 million people that's almost as big as the state of Delaware. And the Metro doesn't even go to Minutemaid Park or NRG stadium or the Toyota center. So if you wanna go to a Texans, Astros or Rockets game, it's automobile or no deal.

          • Houston has several times the population of Chicago

            That's not actually correct...whether speaking of the cities proper or metro areas. Chicago is larger in population and has a larger metro population, IJS.

            • That's not actually correct...whether speaking of the cities proper or metro areas. Chicago is larger in population and has a larger metro population, IJS.

              You are correct. I made a mistake. I looked up Chicago city population and compared it to Houston metro population.

              I also forgot to add that Chicago is a beautiful, world-class city and Houston is a horrible place to live.

              • Lol, I lived in Houston for two years, didn't think it was too bad. I'm from (and currently still live in after moving back to) Orlando, FL, so I'm used to 8-10 months of heat and humidity you alluded to earlier, heh.

                I've always wanted to visit Chicago, actually. Along with New York and a few other places I've failed to travel to, thus far.

        • by jbengt ( 874751 )

          I've biked quite a few places around Chicago, well at least around downtown... they even have a nice bike sharing system. I have to admit if I lived there weather would limit my use though.

          Based on my observations, at least after they put in dedicated bike lanes separated from the traffic a few years go, the weather doesn't seem to stop many downtown Chicago bike riders, unless the snow hasn't yet been plowed.

          • I've biked quite a few places around the weather doesn't seem to stop many downtown Chicago bike riders, unless the snow hasn't yet been plowed.

            Laws don't seem to affect them either.. Nor do they seem to care about land direction, streets being one-way, active pedestrian cross walks, red lights, yields, stop signs, etc..

            In the 12 years I've lived here and been daily in the downtown area, I've had far more occurrences of incident with a cyclist than with any other form of transport we have.

        • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

          they talk about very reasonable ways in which the cost of "digging a goddam tunnel" is greatly reduced.

          How many tunnels have they dug? Their FAQ seems to be full of handwaving and not much thought. Have they considered how small a train would be that could fit into a 14 foot tunnel? It certainly couldn't be anywhere near 14 foot in diameter. Then they also talk about the problems of existing TBMs that make tunnelling expensive, like not being able to tunnel continuously and going very slowly. It's not like

          • by Pulzar ( 81031 )

            Have they considered how small a train would be that could fit into a 14 foot tunnel? It certainly couldn't be anywhere near 14 foot in diameter.

            I'm sure they have.

            London has several subway lines with 12 foot diameter tunnels. Being 6'5", I don't enjoy riding in them, but they do the job. Add 2+ feet and they'll be fine for just about everyone.

          • They're not talking about trains, they're talking about cars. Or at most flatbed "skates" sized to carry a car. Those don't *need* to be 14 foot in diameter, even 8 is probably overkill for anything except larger SUVs.

            • This makes perfect sense as there's an untapped market for people who want to take their cars to the airport, presumably wanting to make use of those "Fly your car to LA for just $69" offers United is always advertising.

              Also why has Slashdot changed their colors from blue to green? Ever since Hillary Clinton won the election, I've noticed things are really odd, like the office lunatic who keeps banging on about alternative universes and promised me if I don't shut up about how wonderful it is we finally

      • Well, you wouldn't have the expense of digging a goddamn tunnel.

        In urban areas, the expense of laying a dedicated through-way for express buses is also extremely high. The land between O'Hare & DT Chicago is very built up; there would be few ways to put in an express lane for a bus without major disruption.

        Tunnels dodge a lot of concerns about traffic, safety, land rights, etc. that can add up to big headaches for urban public transit.

        • In urban areas, the expense of laying a dedicated through-way for express buses is also extremely high. The land between O'Hare & DT Chicago is very built up; there would be few ways to put in an express lane for a bus without major disruption.

          There's already a dedicated through-way in Chicago from O'Hare to Downtown. More than one in fact.

    • by dcooper_db9 ( 1044858 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:41PM (#55654135)

      I personally do not see how any surface based approach can possibly cost less than the tunnel approach or be put in as quickly given the huge amount of problems it takes to put in a new rail line over long existing areas.

      You might want to look at what happened with the DC Metro. The Red Line started leaking before they even finished it. It ended up costing more to repair the tunnel than it cost to build the entire system. They diverted money from maintenance for so long that the entire system is failing. And the Red Line is still leaking.

      Chicago already has a very good alternative to tunnels: elevated tracks. I've only visited a couple of times but their system seems to work quite well.

      • You might want to look at what happened with the DC Metro. The Red Line started leaking before they even finished it.

        It's not like there are not a lot of tunnels all around the world that go under water and handle leaks just fine. Just because the DC government is notorious for poor choices in construction quality does not mean Musk will be.

        Did you know that all through the recent hurricane Harvey, most of the Houston underground tunnels did not flood at all?

        Chicago already has a very good alternative to

        • Elevated tracks can be close to noise less.

      • by RickRussellTX ( 755670 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @08:43PM (#55654891)

        Chicago already has a very good alternative to tunnels: elevated tracks

        That is not a good alternative. The elevated trains are *bone-shatteringly* noisy. I was posted on the 4th floor of a building on Wabash and the effect on productivity was MASSIVE. People think it's no big deal because they're "used to it", but having to mute your conference call every 2 minutes due to train noise is a massive inconvenience. And forget walking! After months of nearly losing my mind walking under those tracks, I finally started hunting down hotels that were far enough away from the tracks that I didn't have to walk parallel to them.

        Half a year of working in Chicago and I was ready to murder somebody. It was unbelievably unpleasant.

        • Old tech -- elevated trains on a concrete elevated viaduct with rails bolted to the concrete (with rubber pads) would be much quieter.
        • > That is not a good alternative. The elevated trains are *bone-shatteringly* noisy

          Not as a rule. In Bangkok there's Skytrain, while it does make noise... nobody blinks an eye.. especially in surrounding buildings.
        • t having to mute your conference call every 2 minutes due to train noise is a massive inconvenience

          If you're on a conference call, you should only be unmuting to talk, and then remuting anyway.

      • I'm not saying I'm an expert on the subject - but I do live in the DC metro area and take the red line metro regularly.

        As far as I'm able to determine, the maintenance issues they're experiencing are primarily the result of mismanagement and possible corruption. Whatever issues they had addressing water leaks in the tunnels should have LONG since been taken care of as an expected complication of building the tunnels. And yes, they "still leak" in the sense that when we've had a few instances where there was

        • by b0bby ( 201198 )

          Part of the issue is that NYC's system relies heavily on a dedicated tax, where DC's is mostly dependent on subsidies from DC, MD, VA and the Federal government. That leads to a fractured, undependable revenue source, and led to underfunding of maintenance for years. Like most transit systems, only about half the revenue is from fares in either one.

          https://ggwash.org/view/41125/... [ggwash.org]

    • no I have concern with complete disregard for where the water table is here in the chicago area in the proposed path, the thing will often be submerged. weather proof is one thing, making a tunnel under water is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. even the kennedy expressway along which the current Blue Line electric train runs has parts that turn into a lake in five inches or more of rainfall as do parts of the highways it joins.

      so for passengers that are amphibians, this will be a great system.

      And note the

      • by Vulch ( 221502 )

        The oldest tunnel still in use under the Thames in London is coming up to its 175th birthday, half of them are over a century old and still dry. It's not that hard.

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          It's also pretty short. Contrast with the TransBay Tube [cbslocal.com] in San Francisco, which is having a bit of a mid-life crisis at only 43 years of age.

          This is not to say that the problems aren't solvable, just that they have to be thought through.

      • That is a solved problem.

        The benefit Musk brings is the ability to use small diameter tunnels with less infrastructure than a train tunnel. Specific to ORD, his system {c|w}ould stop at all terminals and have multiple drop-off points within and around the Loop. Rail is much harder to make that work, at least cost-effectively. The solution could also economically be expanded to serve areas north and south.

        The only real questions are: could it provide the needed level of service, and can he deliver?

        Undergr

        • it is not a trivially nor cheaply solved problem, and let's just say those of us in the Chicago area know of important train tunnels that have flooded, even recently.

      • by jbengt ( 874751 )
        Currently, Google maps lists the blue line as 39 minutes between O'Hare and Clark & Lake (downtown station closest to O'Hare). I've taken it many times, and you have to allow an hour, including walking to the station.
        The blue line and red line already go under the Chicago River in a couple of places, and are undoubtedly under the water table for most of the time they're underground, so why should the water table be considered as so much of a problem for a new tunnel?
    • For one thing, there are a ton of old disused tunnels under Chicago. [dnainfo.com] I'd imagine they're poorly annotated given that many of them were completed over a hundred years ago. [wbez.org]

      If they unexpectedly run into one of those water-filled tunnels, I'd imagine that would be pretty bad.

      Plus it's Chicago, so there's going to be major costs of bribery. That goes on the surface of course, but I'm sure local government will work overtime on how to wring more money out boring under, then bill someone for that overtime.
      • All they need to do is stick a ground penetrating radar unit on the boring machine that they fire up every 100 yards of digging or so.

      • It seems like if pilings can pierce a tunnel, they aren't all that deep - if you would just read the FAQ you'd note the tunnels Musk has in mind are over 28 feet deep. The Chicago tunnels also are not all that large, so even if they ran across one it would hardly be a big deal.

        • by jbengt ( 874751 )
          A 28 foot deep piling is not all that deep. A 28 feet deep tunnel won't even get safely below all the basements, foundations, & sewers.
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Asking people to learn about a subject before writing uninformed rants against it? You act like you're new here ;)

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I read their FAQ. It's a bit hand-wavey in places but basically sound. I'm interested to see how reliable and efficient their skates prove to be though. They say they are better than trains, but without rails the friction is higher and they need steering. There is also the issue of tyre ware and failure, which is going to happen much faster than with train wheels. A blow out at 150 MPH doesn't sound like fun.

      Has anyone simulated this? I'm just a little skeptical about their claim that skates will be better

  • by dcooper_db9 ( 1044858 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:34PM (#55654093)

    Normally in procurement RFQ is the acronym for a Request for Quote. For a large contract like this vendors would be qualified with an RFI (Request for Information). When you actually bid you'd use a Request for Proposal (RFP). This is too large a contract to use quotes's on the primary contract.

    This matters because RFI's are used early in the process. At those stages the agency may be able or willing to consider more creative approaches.

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )
      An RFQ is typically a Request For Qualifications. A "Request for Quote" would typically be an "RFP", as in a Request For Proposal. Also, this is not something that can be "quoted", as they appear to be taking some sort of "Design-Build" approach.
  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:36PM (#55654101) Homepage Journal

    When I went to school RFQ stood for Request For Quotation.

    Oh, wait. Looks like it still does [google.com].

  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:37PM (#55654107)

    we already have an electric train from o'hare to downtown in 40 minutes, and by the way the realistic time without the marketing hype for this proposed thing is 25 minutes.....so for $33 more than the current price you save a whopping 15 minutes. whoop de fucking do.

    • by Afty0r ( 263037 )
      In London the Heathrow Express is £25 which is almost exactly $33. It takes either 15 or 21 minutes depending which part of the airport it is connecting to.

      The alternative is £5 and takes around 50 minutes, but can actually get you more central.

      It makes a profit - or at least it did a few years ago (67 million in fares, 60 million costs to run)
      • yes but doesn't that show a standard electric train can do the job? we could build another standard electric train line to be "express" with few stops, and the current 50 MPH speed governor limit can be raised to the 70 MPH the units are capable of. that seems like a more reasonable solution to me for business travelers that are in hurry and don't care about cost

        • The vast majority of the Heathrow express runs on preexisting railway lines. The new sections are mostly tunnels.

          • ah but we have space to put additional express tracks next to existing runs, that's part of existing CTA plans already. That's *much* cheaper than putting track on new right-of-way or tunneling, no need for an exotic expensive contraption

    • Eh the blue line takes a good hour. Also, no homeless.
    • You have 18-20 minutes of stops along the blue line, plus a lengthy walk to the station (at least from Terminal 1).

      I think the interesting part of it is that it could be more than just an airport - Loop route; it could actually alleviate freeway traffic some as well.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      They did something similar in Tokyo. They had a line from the airport to the city, but built two more. The other ones serve some different stations along the way and shave 5-10 minutes off a 60 minute journey, and cost a little more.

      They are popular. People will pay more to go closer to where they want to be, to have a nicer train with in-seat power and a desk instead of a commuter style bench etc. It reduced the crowding on the slower trains that are used by commuters in the mornings and evenings.

      It's not

  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:42PM (#55654137)

    (1) There's already an electric train
    (2) Why NOT have rails in the tunnel? They add little to the cost compared to drilling a tunnel, they drastically simplify guidance at high speeds, and they act as an electric power return path.

    (Also, metal to metal friction is lower than metal to concrete.)

    This is basically an automated subway using single cars, without the rails and, thus, with more difficult guidance issues.

  • Ex-Chicagoan here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dripdry ( 1062282 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:58PM (#55654231) Journal

    First, after reading up on this it's practically unneeded. 20 minutes O'Hare to Downtown? The blue line El Train takes 45 minutes and costs hardly anything. If it took 5-10 minutes, maybe you'd have an argument.

    Second, a car leaves every 15 minutes? you're going to need a rather steep cost of tickets to ride this thing. The private sector isn't going to invest billions if they can't make it back. What about upkeep, too? Is the city going to oversee it? Hire a Union (you bet yer sa-sij inna frunchroom there'll be one involved if it's Chicago)?

    Third, above poster is correct: the actual cost of this will be about 3x the initial cost. Greasing palms in Chicago is how things get done, whether it's codified like a Union or not.

    Fourth... Can someone please explain how any of this makes sense? Maybe it's the start of something great, but Chicago is in a bad spot right now. I'd half guess this is all just Rahm Emanuel grandstanding for political points rather than anything that will ever actually happen.

    My one Chicago cent (the other gets taken by taxes and Union dues).

    • Oh! And I know i'm not supposed to reply to my own post, but Chicago used to have an airport almost downtown! For the millions of dollars of business lost because Daley bulldozed the thing illegally in the middle of the night, they could have modernized that airport and had the executives fly into downtown just like they used to and been at their office a lot faster than this hyperloop stuff.
      Armchair opinion, of course.

  • But somehow the other companies bidding on the project aren't equally newsworthy?

    Is this like all the "on the internet" patents that were granted in the 90s? Now we say "Bombardier is bidding on a people mover between O'Hare and downtown Chicago, meh"

    But Elon and Boring Company are bidding, so crank it up to 11, woohoo.

    And you thought the Apple fanbois were obnoxious.

    • 1 year ago: The Boring Company? This is just vaporware that won't go anywhere. Wake me up when it's a real company doing real projects. These Elon sycophants are intolerable.

      Today: The Boring Company is bidding on a real project? God, who cares. These Elon fanboys are obnoxious.

      10 years from now: Jesus, enough with the headlines about a new hyperloop tunnel opening. Nobody cares anymore. These Elon fanboys are obnoxious.

  • If it's successful all they have to do is break even, or at least not go bankrupt.

    If it works as promised there are many markets this can be brought to that don't have an alternative. They aren't going for this one because it's the best application, they are doing this as a proof of concept.

  • Even if the competition makes the CTA suck less, I'm for it.

    It's horrid taking the train from ORD to The Loop and back.

  • Since he's talking O'Hare, what reason does he have, other than for show? For those of you who don't know Chicago, the Blue Line subway GOES RIGHT FROM O'HARE TO DOWNTOWN, and has for decades.

    And I'll wager it will continue to cost less than Musk's fares.

    PS: Chicago's other airport, Midway, is at the end of the Orange line, which *also* goes downtown.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?

Working...