Elon Musk to build high speed train from downtown Chicago to O’Hare Airport

Well, weigh your time versus your money. Elon Musk’s Boring Company (that’s “boring” as in “drilling”, not “ennui”) has been tapped by the Mayor to build a high-speed rail system between downtown Chicago (“the Loop”) and O’Hare Airport. It will be a short but expensive ride. As the Chicago Tribune reports:

In choosing Boring, [Mayor Rahm] 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 as the answer to speeding up the commute between the city’s central business district and one of the world’s busiest airports.

Emanuel and Boring officials said it’s too early to provide a timeline for the project’s completion or its estimated cost, but they said Boring would pay for the entire project. That would include the construction of a new station at O’Hare and the completion of the mothballed superstation built at Block 37 under previous Mayor Richard M. Daley, who like Emanuel pushed for high-speed rail access to O’Hare.

Musk and Emanuel are expected to formally announce the proposal Thursday afternoon at that long-dormant underground station.

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. A final route for the high-speed tunnels is still subject to negotiations, and a Boring official and Deputy Mayor Robert Rivkin declined to identify where it might run.

Traffic to O’Hare is dicey at best: taking a cab from where I live to O’Hare would cost about $75 with tip, and there are frequent traffic jams on the freeway there. I never take a cab because if there’s congestion I might miss my plane. Instead, I take the Metrarail electric train downtown from Hyde Park (about 10 minutes) and walk to the Blue Line subway station to O’Hare, which takes about 10 minutes. Trains come frequently, and it takes about 40 minutes to get to the airport. Total time: about an hour and 30 minutes including waiting time. Were I to use the MuskTrain, I’d still have to take the Metra downtown and walk to the station, and even residents of downtown would have to get to Musk’s Loop terminus.

For me, then I’d have to weigh my regular 1.5 hour commute to O’Hare against the 50-55 minute commute using the proposed MuskRail. Right now, with my senior discount, I pay a total of about $3 to get to O’Hare. Is a half hour of my time worth $17-22? Given that I use the travel time to read, I doubt it. And remember that because there are many poor people in Chicago, this would be a luxury train for the well off, not a “people’s train.”

It sounds like a losing proposition to me, but Musk has not been unsuccessful in his ventures.


  1. BobTerrace
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that riding on a musk train would be a smelly proposition. But to be fair, I will air it out.

    • loren russell
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      If, when completed, the service doesn’t take off, the idle Bore will likely house myriads of Musk rats.

  2. JezGrove
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    High speed “rain”? Very innovative.

  3. GBJames
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I think the jury is still out on Musk’s ventures. Tesla’s not profitable yet and today announced a 9% employee layoff. But I have to admit that his self-landing rocket boosters are way cool.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      I hope Tesla makes it. Their biggest problem in my opinion is that they don’t follow the rules, don’t fit the mold and because of that many of the big players that mold the markets don’t like them. And that can kill a start-up like Tesla.

      If Tesla can get the Model 3 production up to target without too much additional delay I think they’ll be all right. Though there are many harsh critics of electric cars in general and Tesla in particular, Tesla cars are very well liked by their owners and there is a high demand for them. I have personal experience with a Model X and my opinion is that it is awesome.

      It’s hard to tell for sure what the concensus of experts is, or if there even is one. Some engineering outfits and at least one German car company have taken the Model 3 apart for analysis. Here are a few quotes from an article, Tesla Model 3 Stuns German Engineers With Its Wonders
      at Clean Technica.

      “In an article published on February 16, he reports that no fewer than a dozen Tesla Model 3 automobiles are in Germany and being torn apart to learn their secrets.”

      “We reported recently on another Model 3 that was dismantled and studied by Munro and Associates in Michigan (an engineering firm).”

      “Kacher says the powertrain and electronic controls systems of the Model 3 really knocked the socks off the German engineers. He reports they were astonished by how “compact, expandable, fully integrated, modular, easily accessible, well protected, low priced, and astonishingly clever” the Model 3 is in so many ways.”

      “Not every aspect of the Model 3 got high praise, however. In particular, the overly fussy door handles came in for a fair amount of criticism, as did the clunky locking/unlocking system, which produced a number of “time out” events.”

      “When Munro tore down the Model 3, owner Sandy Munro was harshly critical of the build quality of the Model 3, calling it nearly as bad as a ’90s era Kia. There were no such complaints from the folks in Germany. What they saw was world-class engineering and imaginative solutions to common design and manufacturing issues.”

      • Posted June 15, 2018 at 6:54 am | Permalink

        I fear for Tesla because they don’t follow the rules. It’s clear that they skimp on testing of their cars (e.g. recent brake fiasco) and production lines. Musk seemed to think he could get away without going through quite a lot of the stuff that other manufacturers do in the run up to launching a new car. Result: model 3 production nowhere near where it needs be.

        Furthermore there was a bait and switch thing going on. When the Model 3 was announced, we were told there would be a $35k version. Hundreds of thousands people rushed to put down their deposits, and now two years later, it still isn’t here and won’t be until next year at the earliest. Not to mention that Musk says he can’t sell the £35k version at a profit’s it may never happen.

        Musk is a charlatan. He does enough cool things to keep the faithful happy but so far he’s only really delivered with SpaceX.

        • darrelle
          Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:14 am | Permalink

          I disagree with that interpretation.

          • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink

            Good for you.

            The only subjective point in my post was my assessment that he is a charlatan. That may be a bit harsh, but it’s in the ballpark.

            • darrelle
              Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:47 am | Permalink

              Not that I’m offended, but I am curious. Why the dickish attitude towards me? What about “I disagree with you” warrants you being a dick?

              • Posted June 15, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

                What dickish attitude towards you?

                You posted a comment and I responded. What was dickish about my response?

              • darrelle
                Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

                Was I mistaken? Wouldn’t be the first time.

                It could be down to cultural or language use differences, but I’m pretty sure that most people would interpret “Good for you.” in response to a neutral comment like mine as dickish.

        • Posted June 15, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

          What about PayPal? I am sure Musk considers it a success, though I personally steer clear of it. I disagree with you on Tesla. People love their cars, including independent car industry reviewers. He’s having some trouble scaling up production but I haven’t heard of any fundamental barriers to fixing it. The recent Model 3 braking incident was a small fiasco but was fixed quickly. I see no basis for calling Musk a charlatan.

          • Posted June 15, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

            I didn’t say he doesn’t have some successes. Paypal is undeniably successful and SpaceX also (although the thing with putting the Tesla in space was a pointless bit of showboating).

            The quality of Tesla’s cars is only tangentially relevant to their financial situation. The incidents with the brakes and the production line point to Tesla not really being ready for the mass market but having some mass market success is vital to Tesla’s future.

          • Posted June 29, 2018 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

            Exactly, people can be so negative and focus on the small things that go wrong rather than the positive aspects of it. You could easily spot an unsuccessful person if he says something like “oh that’s not gonna work. This is bs” vs a person says “oh I think he/she should do these changes and it’ll be great”. There won’t be perfect things in this world, if someone want to point faults, at least come up with solutions.

      • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        Model 3 production is doing very well. That’s why Tesla stock has spiked up recently.


    • BJ
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Hell, if that’s the only thing he ever does, he’ll still be aces. I had tears in my eyes when I watched that whole shebang live. It was the first time I felt that sense of wonder about where space travel/exploration might go in the future, being younger than many people here.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Oh, you romantic kids!

      • mikeyc
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        “Hell, if that’s the only thing he ever does…”

        um….Paypal? It’s been mildly successful.

        But, yeah, the Tesla in space was not only a PR coup for his company, it re-ignited a passion for space exploration in ways NASA can not do.

        • Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          Paypal was not profitable until years after he was fired as CEO.

          • mikeyc
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

            Are you suggesting it hasn’t been a success? Like him or not, he founded the company. As I recall, he was fired as CEO (but I don’t recall why) but remained on the board of the company and was the principle stock holder when it sold.

          • BJ
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

            Tons of companies, especially in the tech/internet sector, aren’t profitable for several years at the start. Twitter only just recently reached profitability.

          • BJ
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

            To clarify, I don’t think Twitter’s a success, but that’s not because of its profitability. I just don’t think Twitter provides a useful service to anyone, or at least not nearly as useful to outweigh its negative effects.

            • Posted June 15, 2018 at 12:41 am | Permalink

              Twitter is not as bad as all that if you stay away from the politics or can ignore the crazies. Many companies use it in order to give their customers and fans up-to-date info. Research teams use it to disseminate certain kinds of info. To name one example, SpaceX uses it to update their launch schedule and such. This kind of information can be disseminated via web pages but it is hard to push information to the masses. Twitter does a good job of that.

              Twitter is an interesting medium that people are still learning how to use. I just watched an interview with Sam Harris in which he described his trials and tribulations with Twitter. In general, people like him start out spending way too much time on it, get discouraged and cut way back or even quit entirely, but eventually they come back to it with a new understanding that lets them keep things under control.

              • BJ
                Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:57 am | Permalink

                Oh, I know. My measure of Twitter is in no way objective. I just think that it, like all social media, has had a large negative effect on social cohesion and caused further political division. Not to mention the increase in narcissism; causing people to post things they will later regret; forming harassment mobs; making a whole new class of journalists; making both young and old journalists less interested in journalism and more in themselves; and on and on.

                It’s just my personal opinion that Twitter, and social media generally, have been an enormous net negative for society and humanity.

              • Posted June 15, 2018 at 9:56 am | Permalink

                I don’t disagree with your overall sentiment though I really blame the people than Twitter. There are many ways in which we are finding out, at least in the US, how many bad ideas are held by a significant fraction of the general public. A reaction against Obama’s election was inevitable but how could so many people not see that Trump is an ignorant charlatan? Or if they did see it, that they would want an ignorant charlatan for president? Most of the problem with social media is that every idiot now has a way to voice their idiocy. I’m a supporter of the first amendment but perhaps not every day.

              • BJ
                Posted June 15, 2018 at 10:06 am | Permalink

                Of course it’s the people that are the root of the problem; that’s the case with any utility or object used to cause harm, either directly or indirectly. Twitter and social media have merely given the populace a means to unwittingly exacerbate many problems (problems that have likely existed throughout human history, or, at the least, since the advent of civilization).

                Hell, I’m not just talking about politics. Atomization, alienation, etc. So many issues have arisen from online/social media life, and it will only get worse from here. It’s like guns: once the tool exists and is accessible to nearly everyone, you can’t really stop the damage from continuing unless you eliminate the access, and that will never happen (until there’s a world war and the internet is destroyed).

                Probably 90% of the population holds mostly bad ideas. Most people have an IQ of 100 or below in the US; of those who don’t, most of them don’t get above 110. Less than 10% of the population has an IQ at or above 120. So, most people, no matter their political persuasion, have and advocate for bad ideas. What I believe is more important is that most people don’t even know how to argue for ideas or why they hold them, so they end up in constant verbal, intellectual, and memetic warfare. Social media has made all of this so much worse.

              • GBJames
                Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

                “like all social media”

                And yet here you are, BJ.

        • BJ
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

          I meant in terms of his current endeavors.

  4. Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Typo in title.

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Pittsburgh has a history of such things that never got off the ground.

    And then there’s the subway in Cincinnati – moribund for over a century.

  6. Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    “It sounds like a losing proposition to me, but Musk has not been unsuccessful in his ventures.l

    He is a billionaire who has yet to turn a profit. He has been successful at tapping the public purse and in convincing people to give him their hard earned money in exchange for promises.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      That’s pure crap.

      • mikeyc
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        It sure is. When eBay bought Paypal, which was bought from Confinity and developed by Musk, they paid 1.5 billion dollars for it.

    • BJ
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      This is an extremely reductive view. I know there have been many articles saying this in the last few months, but take a closer look.

      First, I know of no business as large as Musk’s that does not take advantage of subsidies and other forms of government funding. If a business wishes to survive, it must take the same advantages that competitors do.

      Second, for all the government money Musk’s ventures have taken, it has all been worth it because of SpaceX. SpaceX has delivered >50 payloads to orbit, including communications satellites, earth observation satellites, cargo to the ISS, and NASA deep space telescopes. They’ve recovered 25 boosters, reused many of them, and offer the cheapest $ per kg ride into space. They’ve successfully created the first reusable rockets with landing systems. And many other benefits.

      Meanwhile, Tesla might not be a success, but, like Musk’s other ventures, it is working toward a specific goal: to reduce humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels and, ultimately, reduce the threat of global warming. Same with Musk’s foray into solar technology, which includes trying to make solar energy affordable and efficient for individuals.

      I’m not saying that Musk isn’t someone we can criticize, but much of the criticism I see really simplifies the situation and/or betrays a misapprehension of what Musk’s ventures are doing.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Of course it is not likely that everyone’s experience/situation in Chicago is the same as yours. Maybe worse or better. The biggest issue sounds like ability to get to the Downtown entrance. For many who may not be far away, a short cab ride might take care of it. If you needed to drive and park, not likely. That was always part of the problem with BART in the Bay Area. They attempted to have parking around the terminals so you could drive and leave your car. It takes lots of parking. In fact, BART was working for many years before it was ever connect to the airport.

  8. Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Apropos the difference in cost, I’m reminded that if you fly into London Heathrow airport, and use the Heathrow Express train to reach central London, it will cost you £22 one way, or £25 at peak times, compared to £6 if you take the Tube. On the plus side, the Heathrow Express journey takes 15 minutes, whereas it’s a half hour ride to the west side of the central zone of the Tube system. On the minus side, the Heathrow Express terminates at Paddington railway station, so if your destination is anywhere else in central London, you still need to take the Tube, at extra expense.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      … all of which is why I haven’t taken the Hellrow express a second time. And I still prefer taking the overnight train, because you get a reasonably comfortable bed and are in Euston just after 07:00 in time for a comfortable breakfast and going to the client’s office.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Overnight train from where?

        (I usually arrive in St Pancras off Eurostar, since I usually fly into Charles de Gaulle. Just ‘cos I like Paris. Also I am not fond of Heathrow.)

        I assume if you’re arriving at Euston you’d be coming from somewhere Caledonian? I agree, if I was coming from there I would much prefer train travel to the inconveniences inflicted on us by airlines.


        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          Inverness or points south.
          Actually, I think there’s a connection from Thurso which will get you into Inversneck in time to get the sleeper. So points south of Thurso. There are feeder trains from Fort William and Aberdeen which get assembled at about 01:00 at Edinburgh while most passengers are asleep.

          • Reggie Cormack
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

            Excellent. You must be a local lad, Gravelinspector-Aiden.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted June 14, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

              Not personally, but I’ve friends and family there.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      The cost seems in line with other big cities – Heathrow express was one that came to mind, and I spent 14 euro last summer in Rome to get a packed train to the airport. Again, plenty of cheaper, but less convenient options. So I don’t think the issue would be ridership. Technical issues with building the thing, however, might end up being the dealbreaker.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

        10 euros from Gare du Nord to Aeroport Charles de Gaulle. Takes half an hour on RER line B. Packed in the rush hour.

        Interestingly, CDG also has a main-line station, with TGV (Train Grande Vitesse) connections to many parts of France and adjoining countries. (Not that I’ve used the direct connections yet, I like a few days’ stop in Paris before continuing).


  9. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    That’s about 18 miles in 12 minutes, so, about 90mph overall.

    Reasonably quick for a medium-short distance.

    Not sure how Musk’s tunnelling technology affects the finished rail line though. A tunnel is a tunnel, however it’s constructed.

    (Googles). Oh, I see, he’s proposing not to run trains but some sort of ‘autonomous vehicles’ through his tunnels. Exactly what the advantage of that is over an electric train is not immediately obvious.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      This is the killer:

      “The economic feasibility of Boring’s project relies on Musk’s confidence that it can build tunnels at least 14 times faster than previous efforts”

      It’s not a question of what runs in the tunnels, it’s a question of how quickly he can dig them. Frankly, I’m sceptical. Tunnel boring machinery is a highly specialised field but one in which many companies compete, the economic returns for digging faster are huge, and I’m certain that if there was any way to dig tunnels even 20 per cent quicker than the fastest current machines, the existing TBM manufacturers would be all over it.

      Unless he’s proposing to dig faster simply by making the tunnels (and vehicles) much smaller diameter, but that is a dead end. Undersize tunnels are always a massive headache for operating authorities.


      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        Tunnelling is a pretty mature technology, and people have, as you say, been trying all sorts of ways to optimise it for nearly two centuries. I can’t think what he’s up to, but I suspect that he’s doing some like looking at typical top-hole drilling rates (for 26 to 42 inch hole) and simply assuming that he’ll be able to achieve those penetration rates continuously with his magic sauce. But he’s not reading the reports properly because he’s not noticing that such hole sections are (1) drilled in very soft sediment, and (2) are almost always plagued by the problems of getting the spoil out of the hole.
        He’s not getting any of my money, cool landing rockets or no.

      • Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

        It is my understanding that Boring has already tested their technology on a short tunnel at the SpaceX headquarters here in Los Angeles. They explain how they plan to beat traditional tunnelling machines by a factor of 10 in cost. See https://www.boringcompany.com/faq/. Biggest thing is halving the tunnel diameter from 28′ to 14′ which requires that the cars be a lot thinner than standard subway cars. I don’t really see anything technically wrong with his approach. Of course such things can be derailed by the details.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

          Is that for a single-track or a two-track tunnel? 14 feet is quite adequate for a single-track tunnel (the oldest lines on the London Underground, which are admittedly about as small as is practically possible, are 11’8″.
          If you look at the interior of a London Tube train, any smaller would start to get quite uncomfortable.)


          • Posted June 15, 2018 at 12:26 am | Permalink

            I think you are right. Perhaps they normally create one big tunnel holding two tracks whereas Boring Co. would make two smaller tunnels. If so, that would take away some of their advantage.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 15, 2018 at 1:44 am | Permalink

              Whether a rail tunnel is two-track or two separate single-track bores is often a matter of local circumstances. Generally very long and/or deep rail tunnels are twin single bores.
              Shallow transit tunnels are often twin-track (most of the Paris Metro lines for example).

              It appears that Boring is contemplating a 14-foot tunnel with, presumably, smaller vehicles in order to maintain good clearances (needed for high speed) around them. And almost certainly one direction only. In high-speed use, the effect of trains crossing at speed has to be taken into account, and two trains passing at 150mph in a 14-foot tunnel would be – alarming.

              (In the French TGV, in the open air, the biggest lurch you ever feel is the hefty ‘thump’ you get when passing another train at 300 kph each)


          • Michael Fisher
            Posted June 15, 2018 at 4:21 am | Permalink

            It’s running 14′ tunnels to match demand
            x number of tunnels out & y number of tunnels back. That’s taken from the FAQs & MY impression of the artist’s impression of the terminal.

            I assume x = y = 1 to begin with

            The capacity [people/hr/tube] ought to be superior to the CTA Blue Line because of the mechanical/architectural/electrical limitations of the blue line:

            ** It uses a “fixed-length block signal” that means each train virtually occupies what can be a very long section of track, sometimes putting two train lengths in between two trains. But CTA is changing that by switching to a “moving block signal” each train occupies a shorter section of track making it possible to run more trains.

            ** The CTA is underpowered [restricts numbers of cars or trains]

            ** Long delays at the stations from people getting on while other people are getting off [AND the cars aren’t connected by doors! People can’t redistribute between cars].

            ** 30 stations!

            I can’t find an official Musk figure for maximum capacity [people/hr] for one 14′ tunnel running skates, but it can be estimated from statements:
            16 passengers/skate & one skate/30 seconds = 16 x 120 = 1,920 passengers/hour. This is nothing at all – definitely an uneconomic capacity. It looks to me that at peak hours the 198″ long [Model X chassis] will have to be running with a tail to nose gap of only say 30′ – on a normal road with human drivers that would mean driving at only 20 mph…

            Will people accept being transported in modified model Xs, by robots [it has to be robot drivers for reaction times], nearly nose-to-tail at 150 mph in a 14′ tunnel?
            I would want a smoke & fire proof escape route every 300′ & a big improvement in battery fire safety [or no batteries at all!]

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted June 15, 2018 at 5:20 am | Permalink

            An attempt to calculate Blue Line MAX capacity coming into O’Hare [passengers/hr]

            Looking at the last station before O’Hare, Rosemont Station the schedule PDF HERE in the peak weekday period [5 am to 11 am] calls for a train every 4 to 10 minutes ~ right now at 5 am Chicago time there’s a train every 6 minutes. Let’s suppose…


            I looked at the rolling stock going into O’Hare & it appears to be approx 6 cars per train of the oldish designs [Not the new Bombardier cars that I can see as of yet]. I looked at photos of these old cars with crowded compartments & there looks to be around 70 heads per car [very poor design – narrow aisle with two forward-facing seats each side of the aisle].



        • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink

          I’d be sceptical of that FAQ. They seem to be double counting some of the improvements. For instance, they say halving the diameter reduces the costs three to four times. They don’t say how the costs are so reduced. The reasons are probably that you can go faster, automate the TBM’s and also there is less spoil to dispose of and less lining required.

          Then they go on to say some other ways of reducing the cost including faster machines, more automation, non stop etc. But they’ve probably already counted some of those improvements in the first part.

          Finally, they say they are going to do R&D because no R&D has been done in the USA for ages. This is just hand waving, not least because R&D is not moribund everywhere in the World and there’s no guarantee that their own R&D will lead anywhere.

          So the plan is:

          – smaller tunnels
          – go faster
          – automate
          – use electric power
          – magic

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Musk seems to be integrating:
      – Tesla, private owned or dedicated “train cars”, having high velocity routes that compete with trains.
      – SpaceX point-to-point plans, where the travel time will be decided by access to the rocketship pads (re sonic booms), tunnels being a preferred option.
      – SpaceX Mars plans, underground habitation being the preferred option.

      The advantage with his cars is that the Boring tunnels will be 1/4th the regular size to decrease boring time and cost with almost an order of magnitude. Regular trains won’t fit, and Tesla can provide independent “cars”, not “trains”.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        Oh, he also has twittered that Boring company will drill at the thermal limit, which with the reduced area will sum to the order of magnitude limit. Apparently current large bores are operated far from that limit.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        “the order of magnitude limit” – the order of magnitude improvement.

      • Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        It has always seemed to me that train cars are way bigger and heavier than they need to be given modern materials and technologies. Musk’s modus operandi is to go into areas where the technology is relatively stagnant and reboot it. He can easily exploit synergies. Making the train car smaller makes the tunnel smaller which makes the tunnel cheaper. A lighter train car saves in energy and is cheaper to make. The savings add up and, in some cases, multiply quickly.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

          Modern railway carriages are comfortable in a way that airliners are not. It’s all about giving the passenger adequate space. And this applies to rapid transit cars too, when they’re not overloaded in the rush hour.

          And at capacity, bigger cross-section carriages allow more passengers per lineal foot of train, hence more carrying capacity.

          So undersizing the tunnels is just short-sighted. If the line or service proves popular then it will quickly become overloaded.

          I don’t think rail passenger technology is stagnant except, possibly, in the US.


          • Posted June 15, 2018 at 12:30 am | Permalink

            I’m sure you are right about the stagnation here in the US. I was thinking about the light rail cars we have here in Long Beach, CA. They are still quite bulky though I don’t know their measurements. I know they can’t stop very fast and people get killed every year by getting hit by them, either walking across the tracks or in their cars at level crossings.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 15, 2018 at 2:52 am | Permalink

              I’m sorry if that sounded slightly snarky. In terms of innovation I was thinking of high speed rail in Europe and the Far East, which certainly doesn’t show signs of stagnation.

              Wikipedia-ing, your Long Beach light rail, if that’s the Metro Blue Line, e.g. the Siemens P2000 trains weigh 50 tons for 100 passengers per car, with a top speed of 70mph. Any conveyance, the faster it goes, the more dangerous it is to get in the way of it, whether it weighs 50 tons or 5. If I’m riding in one, and some car is going to get in the way at a level crossing, then from my point of view the heavier my train is, the better. A lighter train would not necessarily slow down any quicker anyway, since it’s limited by the coefficient of friction of steel wheels on rail.

              (Any time I drive across a railway crossing I keep this video in mind:
              Top Gear parked a new Renault on a crossing and British rail obliged by whacking it with an old Class 31 diesel at 75mph. Nothing bigger than a rat in the Renault would remain unsquished. The Class 31 does not appear to be scratched).


              • Posted June 15, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

                Yes, it is that Blue Line. I don’t believe it ever gets close to going 70 but I’m sure it can. You are right that they don’t engineer trains to slow down quickly. Yes, I’ve seen plenty of videos of what happens when a train hits a car or truck. They are reduced to piles of trash.

  10. Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    It’s a puzzle to me that so many people are reflexively hostile to Elon Musk. Tesla hasn’t been profitable because it’s on a growth curve. The strategy is to get big fast. You may have heard of a little online bookseller called Amazon that did that. (Amazon STILL isn’t consistently profitable.)

    Doesn’t Musk get some credit for making EV technology serious business? Virtually every other major auto manufacturer is chasing Tesla.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Not sure who you’ve directed that at, Stephen, but there’s a difference between “reflexively hostile” and saying “the jury is out”.

      • Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        I don’t think you’re reflexively hostile, but your original post showed a misunderstanding of Musk’s Tesla strategy. Tesla may succeed or fail (although it’s looking very good right now), but the jury is not out on EV technology. It’s here to stay, and in my opinion will eventually take over from ICE technology. That’s a good thing for the environment and Musk deserves the credit.

        By the way, the whole point of the recent 9% layoff is to achieve profitability, now that the production hell of the Model 3 ramp up is over and they’re being made in quantity. Tesla’s problem has been that they can’t make cars fast enough. That’s why they burn capital to scale up.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

          You misread my original comment. The jury is out on on Musk’s ventures. Electric vehicles are the future and I’m a great fan of them. Hell, I’m headed up to the MREA Energy fair tomorrow morning!

          Elan Musk is not an industry. And layoffs are not generally a sign of a growing business.

          • mikeyc
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            One thing is for sure, layoffs are a GREAT way to get your stock price up without necessarily doing anything which might improve the company’s profitability. Improves your debt/price ratio. I think that was the objective here (makes going to the financial markets for loans cheaper). This was the reason Amgen recently abandoned its Seattle site, costing more than 900 people their jobs.

            Capitalism at work.

        • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink

          Tesla may succeed or fail (although it’s looking very good right now)

          Manufacturing delays

          Running at a huge loss

          Shedding staff

          Selling vapourware ($35k model 3, full autonomy) to get your money

          I would hate to see the company that you think looks bad.

          • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:34 am | Permalink

            The stock is on a tear in the past month because the Model 3 production is way up — well ahead of estimates.

            • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

              So people have bought into the Musk myth. The stock is way overvalued considering Tesla’s revenue and would be even if it was showing a profit.

              And no Model 3 production is not way ahead of estimates, it’s where it was promised it would be about 6 months ago.

              Tesla just fired 9% of its staff. Either they are in desperate straits or they are so poorly managed that they allowed themselves to unnecessarily bloat the headcount by more than 10%.

              • Posted June 15, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

                In fact, the market hasn’t “bought into the Musk myth”. Tesla is the most shorted stock in the US stock market, and the shorts have been getting killed, losing billions, because the stock is up more than 20% in June alone. It’s up because the Model 3s are rolling off the line.

              • Posted June 15, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

                But any sane evaluation of the company would conclude that Tesla’s stock is overpriced. That’s why people are shorting the stock. If they are losing money doing it, it means that more people are buying the stock.

                Also I’d be interested to see the citation for “the most shorted stock in the US stock market”.

                Look at Tesla’s financials, compare them and their market capitalisation to General Motors which has much more revenue. The stocks are overpriced.

              • Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

                Sure, by all standards Tesla stock is overpriced. But as we know price is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t know about you but I would much prefer a Tesla over any GM model.

                Lately, Musk has been seeking more and more opportunities for Tesla outside of cars such as trucks, household power, and electrical grid components. He is also seeking synergies between his various companies. He is responding to the challenge. I have a lot of faith in Musk’s ability to pull it off.

              • Posted June 15, 2018 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

                Comparing Tesla to General Motors is like comparing Amazon to Sears.

              • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

                “Also I’d be interested to see the citation for “the most shorted stock in the US stock market”.”

                Just google “Tesla most shorted stock” and click on the first hit. Sheesh!

                You pretend to be an expert on Musk and Tesla. I’m not impressed.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      In addition to that, troubles he is going through with the car business has little or nothing to do with this. I believe I heard in the posting that the boring company was going to pay for the project, so would assume they are going to collect the tolls. How exactly this is bad for Chicago, I don’t know.

      • Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

        Precisely. I doubt that Chicago is planning to tear down the light rail.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Same. What’s funny to me is that in my experience a disproportionate number of those hostile to Musk are self proclaimed libertarians to one degree or another. That’s as bizarre as women voting for Trump.

      • BJ
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        Most of the articles I’ve seen in the last few months have been on far-left sites, but that’s probably because there are many more of those than there are libertarian ones.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Tesla growth is not the reason for their unprofitability. TSLA is also nothing like Amazon. TSLA losses money from Operations. They lose money even if you exclude R&D. Their losing money has nothing to do with growth. They have a bad business model from selling direct. Its bad because a traditional dealer makes only a couple of percent in profits from new car sales with the rest coming from service, backroom and used cars/trade in. Tesla is attempting to make all of the profits from new car sales and taking losses or breaking even on service, backroom and used cars/trade in.

      BEV are not currently a serious business. They make up less than 1 percent of the market. California and China along with Diesel-gate have much more to do with the investment into BEV cars.

  11. DrBrydon
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I think Musk’s trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and I think you’ve identified the problem. Anyone would like a twelve minute ride to O’Hare, but how much work does it take to get to the start of that ride? Suddenly, a twelve minute ride becomes two or three times that, and if he’s only got one loading point, it really only serves a minority of passengers. (And let’s not forget that a lot of downtown travelers go through Midway.) The other thing to take into account is how often this service will run. He’s going to have to allow for the disabled people to get on, as well as folks with bags. Frankly, with the possible exception of Denver, every major airport I can think of already has train service to its city.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      He’s going to have to allow for the disabled people to get on,

      Thats a law of legislatures, which can be got around. Existing legislation doesn’t apply to “disruptive technology startups” because if it did, they wouldn’t be disruptive.

      as well as folks with bags.

      Musk is a businessman – he probably hands his baggage to a secretary (or other minion) to deal with and travels with a briefcase, a credit card and a spare tie. The minion with the baggage has the joys of shepherding someone else’s freight through security.
      Needing to carry PPE, tools, office, three laptops and clothes for up to three climate zones, I normally have long bruises from the baggage straps over my shoulders when I travel.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      This doesn’t seem like the best idea to me either, namely because of the short distance. The hyperloop concept, and similar concepts, are really intended as solutions for long range transportation. You can’t get the advantages of the design on such a short route. The advantages are being able to efficiently achieve very high speed and be able to maintain it with relatively low energy input. But it takes time & distance to get the benefit out of that.

      • mikeyc
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        So maybe the O’Hare project is a “see, we CAN do it” venture.

        • darrelle
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:41 am | Permalink

          Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too. A proof of concept. The small (relatively) scale limits risk, but I wonder if the small scale also will be a negative because it might be too small to really prove the design or be able to demonstrate any advantage to conventional transports at that scale. But, you do have to built something a 1st time.

          • mikeyc
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

            I watched a documentary on the making of the first subway line in the US, the Tremont Street subway in Boston. What a bureaucratic and political clusterfuck to get it approved, few believed it would work and most dismissed it as a way forward to counter the horrific traffic in Boston in the late 1800s (we th8ink we have bad traffic today – whooweee you should see some of the photos from that time) because it was such a limited run. Frank Sprague – the mind behind the subway, also had many detractors.

            History is full of successes like this, but also many more failures. But neither is possible if no one attempts them.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:57 pm | Permalink


        “…The hyperloop concept, and similar concepts, are really intended as solutions for long range transportation. You can’t get the advantages of the design on such a short route. The advantages are being able to efficiently achieve very high speed and be able to maintain it with relatively low energy input. But it takes time & distance to get the benefit out of that”

        This proposed Chicago “loop” project isn’t a hyperloop concept with all the extra complexity of operating a near vacuum in the two 14′ diameter tubes.

        London Underground trains reach a max speed of around 40 mph on most lines because of the stops – the Metropolitan line reaches 60 mph because there’s less stops. The Chicago Loop is aiming for 150 mph on an 18 mile run without stops using lighter vehicles [skates]. If we assume there’s standing passengers [as per the Musk pictures] then we can safely** reach that speed in 67 seconds at 0.1 g acceleration – thus we have 2.5 miles approx of acceleration + de-acceleration & 15.5 miles travel at top speed

        My main objections to the concept is why are the skates battery powered? Why carry the weight of batteries when there could easily be a live rail above or below?

        ** This is slightly less than the acceleration on The Tube’s jerky trains so I assume it’s a safe value on a straight[ish] line without jerks for nearly all passengers

        • darrelle
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          That makes much more sense.

          I don’t see how the batteries make sense either. Seems more expensive for no significant advantages that I can think of.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            The other thing is as mentioned by Gravel – clearing the spoil [if that’s the term!]. The ten-times faster than normal boring relies on smaller diameter tube [3 to 4 times faster] & no boring downtime at all – it’s always moving forward with no stops for various contingencies. I’d be interested in knowing how the spoil reaches the surface – I assume there’s a point where one has to make a vertical tube to lift the spoil rather than it going miles back to the start.

            Musk has said that getting the spoil from the face to the disposal sites will be very expensive [he also speculated on turning it into construction bricks – which is him in Mars-style whimsy I reckon]

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

              The feasibility of making bricks from the spoil would depend critically on the nature of the ‘rock’ being dug. Almost any material could be made into some sort of brick if you put enough cement in it, but of course then the economics goes out the window. The range of material which is suitable for economically competitive brick (or concrete) making is relatively limited.

              Concrete production these days is normally a highly controlled process with close limits on the allowable materials.

              So – it’s not impossible but the chances of the spoil being suitable are not high.


        • Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          I agree. A live rail seems like a much better choice. On the other hand, having cars with their own batteries does allow the system to scale up smoothly. I know nothing about the costs of electricity distribution on a rail line. All the insulators and safety equipment for a third rail might be expensive.

          Perhaps the cars could be the same as road-ready electric buses but with different wheels. This would allow tremendous economies of scale. In fact, why even bother with rails at all?

          • Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            Hah! It’s as if Elon heard me!

            Watch a Tesla Model X accelerate on rails inside Elon Musk’s Boring Company tunnel

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

            Because rails are a built-in guidance system, and allow vehicles to operate safely with much closer clearances to the tunnel walls (hence, larger cars in the same tunnel, or a smaller tunnel for the specified size of cars).

            Now I’ve seen tour buses operate with that sort of clearance in tunnels – but at 10 mph only.

            And – relative to the costs of building the tunnel – the third rail is not expensive (it’s just a big steel bar) and the insulators are cheap.


    • Jon Gallant
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      ” Frankly, with the possible exception of Denver, every major airport I can think of already has train service to its city.” Aren’t you forgetting a little place called New York City? Its high-tech light rail to Kennedy Airport connects only to Jamaica in the wilds of Queens, and someplace in Bkln at the end of a 3-day subway safari.

  12. Mike Cracraft
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    There’s probably going to be all kinds of problems with this. First of all he’s got to get some kind of eminent domain authority to get access to the land. Then there will, no doubt, be plenty of disruption to business even though the work will proceed underground.

    • GBJames
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure eminent domain is relevant to tunneling operations which aren’t governed by the ownership of property “upstairs”. We have huge deep tunnels here in Milwaukee (for rainwater handling) that didn’t require property owners to be involved at all, except where vertical access gets involved. (The analog for the Chicago situation would be the stations at O’Hare and downtown, neither of which would pose a problem.)

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      The cutting face may be underground. The spoil is going to come to surface somewhere and be carted away. The faster you bore your hole, the faster you need to fill trucks with spoil and drive them away.
      [Elon]But that’s an impediment to a disruptive technology company!
      [Rest-of-the-world in Mr Scott voice] Ye canna change the laws of physics!

    • mikeyc
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      As GBJames said, no domain issues unless they plan to go through a place with mining or drilling rights. Also, I’m not sure about the disruption to businesses. A tunnel was just dug here in Seattle, directly under downtown, that didn’t affect any businesses except at one end (the other end went through an existing tunnel).

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

        I think this depends a lot on current law and local regulations. This is why a lot of the older underground lines in London and Paris follow the streets (not just the shallow cut-and-cover sections which do so for obvious reasons, but the deeper bits too).

        I think in general that property rights are normally considered to extend from the surface to the centre of the earth, and you need either the owner’s permission or some sort of enabling legislation to dig under any property.

        Obviously, the deeper the tunnel, the less the practical or potential physical effect on that property.

        (I recall the procedural strife we had, here in NZ, in directionally drilling a deep sewer line under a building with an officious and awkward property manager even though it was certain to have no detectable effect whatever at ground level).


        • GBJames
          Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

          I don’t think you are right about “normally considered to extend from the surface to the centre of the earth” bit, at least around here. Mineral rights and surface property rights are quite distinct and the former supersedes the latter in a dispute.

          Nor do we own the sky above our homes infinitely into space.

    • GBJames
      Posted July 10, 2018 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      The Guardian has an interesting new article on the subject: Who owns the space under cities? The attempt to map the ground beneath us”

  13. Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    There’s a narrow east-west strip of Chicago, south of Rosemont, that connects the airport to the city, almost like an umbilical cord. During my one and only trip to Chicago many years ago I was told that it exists so that the airport can legally be part of the city. I wonder if the tunnel will be restricted to that zone.

  14. kieran
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    “I’ve sold monorails to Brockway, Augdenville n North Haberbrook n by gum it put them on the map!” Sometimes the simpler solution is better.

    • BJ
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      I was waiting for someone to make this reference!

    • koseighty
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      🚇 😎

    • freiner
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink


  15. koseighty
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Musk has yet to build any kind of transport.

    Boring Co. has only dug one small tunnel — with a tunneling machine it bought from someone else.

    But he’s selling the hell out of his hyperlooops and not subway tunnels.

  16. mikeyc
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I think the real reason Musk is doing this is not because there is a pressing need for a fast link to O’Hare or that it will make a profit for Boring company. I think the real reason he’s doing it is to show they can do what they claim they can do. If successful in making this tunnel in the way they say they can, it will open the doors up for more ambitious and more profitable tunneling work.

  17. Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I had no idea the City of Chicago was still entertaining this idea. I think it’s going to be a massive waste of space and time. Of all the places in the city and surrounding area that need better access to O’Hare, downtown is probably the last one.

  18. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Until Elon Musk cares as much about the health and welfare of his grunt workers as he does about his dreams for transforming the world, I consider him scum.

    • nicky
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      No Jenny, Mr Trump and his cronies and enablers are scum. Mr Musk is in a totally different category.
      I think the ‘not caring about the health and welfare of grunt workers’ is built into the US system, I’d not blame Mr Musk for that.

      • Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        He has an injury rate problem but it is only something like 30% above the industry standard. Most of this is probably due to them being new to the industry and having a lot of upheaval on the factory floor. I don’t really see how this makes Musk “scum”. His workers are doing lots of overtime also but they also seem to love working there because they feel part of something big. There are trade-offs. He has revolutionized several industries so he’s a hero in my book. That said, I wouldn’t want to work in his factory. 😉

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

          Reply to both “Nicky” and “Paul Topping”: For me, to inculpate ‘the system’ or cite “industry standards” (or Silicon Valley culture) is not to exculpate an individual who consciously profits from that system and replicates any or all of the sins of that system to whatever degree, especially in this day and age.* I have no problem with people acquiring wealth, as long as it’s not ill-gotten gains and as long as they use it ethically;, and with the kind of wealth that Elon Musk has accrued and the technology companies he’s founded to reify his bold dreams, I say that he has a moral responsibility not to exploit his workers, and there’s no excuse not to treat his employees fairly and provide them with a safe workplace. He seems to think that giving the workers fluff like massages and movies (bread and circuses) is sufficient to divert them, especially since so many of them are jazzed at being able to work for a cutting edge rocket company.

          This article gives the pros and cons of the situation https://www.thedailybeast.com/workers-say-tesla-is-trying-to-scare-them-out-of-a-union. It was written close to a year ago, and I haven’t yet investigated how the changes he promised are being implemented. I hope things have changed for the better.

          * in that regard, Elizabeth Holmes wouldn’t be culpable, she was just a product of the system, the culture, and putting beta versions of products in commercial play was just another industry standard.

          • Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think you’ve justified the “scum” slur against about Musk as you admit you are not sure of the situation. I am in favor of unions but I don’t see much sign of scummy behavior in that article.

            Holmes may not be culpable in the failure of her company in the way you mean, but she is most definitely culpable for the lies she told to get them there. She ought to be in jail and if I were a Thearnos investor, I might call HER “scum”.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted June 14, 2018 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

              Yes, you’re right. I shouldn’t have called him “scum,” and I really don’t think that way about him, either. I also think he’s a true visionary and an incredible inventory. I was angry that he was getting such praise in the comments and no one brought up these problems. One can’t just be enthralled with his undeniably ground-breaking visions and how he’s able to reify them without taking these, shall I say more mundane considerations into consideration. without the people putting the things together, his ideas would still be on paper. A week or so ago, I heard a radio program on work conditions at his factories, so the matter was fresh in my mind. I’ll have to go back and listen to refresh my recollection about what it says is going on now. I hope he does something; with all that inventive skill in his ventures, one would think that at the very least, in this day and age, out of all the tech companies, somebody working at one of his companies could develop ergonomically correct machines so the workers wouldn’t suffer the kinds of injuries people in manufacturing were incurring at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

          • BJ
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

            Certainly, Musk and his ventures are not perfect, but I tend to take an overall utilitarian view. In the areas of advancing useful technologies that few others seem interested in attempting, and of working on technologies that have the potential to make the world better, I can’t come up with another person who is doing more.

            The man himself may or may not be a complete jerk (I personally lean toward “likely somewhat of a jerk, but not terrible” based on available information), but there’s no question in my mind that he’s an incredibly important person who I’m happy is alive and doing what he’s doing.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted June 14, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

              Please see my most recent comment above to “Nicky.” I do think his vision and talents are astounding. I just want him to take the initiative and look out for his workers. There could (and should) be a revolution in that area, too. So many there become drunk with hubris.

              • BJ
                Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

                I agree.

          • Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

            Sounds like the classic case of a company fighting unionization. I think unions can be both good and bad. My father was a member of the IBEW union and was always complaining about them around the dinner table. I encountered ridiculous union behavior at trade shows where an employee of my company was cited by the decorators union for using his handkerchief to wipe fingerprints off a computer screen. They said that we were required to issue a work order with a $45 minimum to have someone come out and do that for us. On the other hand, I’m fine with unions negotiating better salary and working conditions.

            I think it is worth taking seriously the suggestion that the UAW is more motivated to go after Tesla because it is doing the bidding of the big car companies. The big car companies are deathly afraid of Tesla. It would not surprise me if they put some pressure or carrots out for the UAW to blow everything at Tesla out of proportion.

            Finally, any company with thousands of workers who are under the gun for the company’s survival and you will find people willing to gripe. I am not saying they have nothing to gripe about. Just that it may not be all it seems from the outside.

            • Jenny Haniver
              Posted June 14, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

              Please see my comments above. I agree with you for the most part, but when I hear about certain work-related injuries, I don’t consider these things acceptable, whether or not there’s a union.

  19. rickflick
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    A problem with major airports is that they lack the capacity to handle all the planes and passengers that already want to fly. They are short of runways and expansion, in most cases, is difficult because the surrounding terrain is already occupied. By increasing the ease of getting to O’Hare it increases the pressure to fly more planes, thus kicking the bottleneck down the road. What ever happened to the flying car? Come on Elon, get with it. Chop chop!

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Musk has come out against flying cars. Perhaps it is just because they compete with his technology but I must admit that he makes some good arguments. I find it hard to believe we’re really going to have flying vehicles of the kind being worked on by several companies buzzing above our heads any time soon. For one thing, they are quite noisy and put out a huge blast of air downwards. They are also very expensive though their price would surely drop over time.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        The main issue is energy density. As usual. Energy production methods are given much more attention but I think it would be for more revolutionary to discover a way to store energy that is, for example, several orders of magnitude beyond current best battery technology. Unfortunately our current understanding of physics and chemistry make that seem improbable.

        But, it looks like we are right on the threshold of batteries good enough for short range “flying cars,” and there is still some evident room for improvement.

        • Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          One thing that will keep me out of them – their inherent lethality. Flying cars controlled by computers will be very safe, with relatively few accidents than if the typical human numbskull was flying it. But most of the accidents that do occur will be quite lethal.

          • darrelle
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, failure modes of drone style flying cars are . . . , well, scary. But they may turn out to be manageable. A few points.

            1) They are mechanically simple. Electric motors and batteries.

            2) Multiple motors can be used to give you redundancy. If something happens to one the controller adjusts the others to take up the slack while maintaining stability.

            3) A rocket launched steerable parachute emergency back up might be feasible, though there would be a minimum altitude necessary for it to work.

            Autorotation, a technique helicopters use to make emergency landings during loss of power incidents, doesn’t seem like it would work for drone type vehicles. But I’m not sure. You have to decouple the propeller shaft from the motor (the propeller needs to be allowed to spin freely) and I’m not sure if that is possible with electric motors without the addition of a transmission which would add mechanical complexity and, even worse, weight. You would need to also have variable pitch propellers which again add complexity and weight.

            I’m sure there will be a learning curve. That does usually entail some pretty awful accidents.

            • Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

              The safety issues don’t worry me too much for the reasons you mention. I don’t see how they are going to solve the noise and wind issues. Of course, they can land on existing helipads but then they won’t be much of an improvement over helicopters which are expensive and limited.

              • Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

                Maybe so, but you’re not getting me into one of those new-fangled things.

                Get off my lawn!

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

                Considering the noise nuisance caused by the occasional helicopter that flies over, just imagine if all the traffic on the roads (which is, 99% of it, pretty darn quiet) were converted to rotors generating a wide path of loud noise beneath them.

                It would make most suburbs uninhabitable. Like living underneath the end of a major airport runway, everywhere.

                To hell with flying cars.


              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink


                “Get off my lawn”

                If one of them flies over my lawn, am I allowed to shoot it down?

                (IIRC there was a court case because someone did just that to a drone)


        • nicky
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          Tu quoque, Darelle? What is this thing about flying cars?

          • darrelle
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink


            I’m often slow. Help me out.

      • Adam M.
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        They’re also terribly inefficient, having to oppose gravity constantly. You can’t just scale up a drone linearly to car size since the mass increases much faster than the blade area. If they had large non-rotary wings they could be relatively efficient – still far less efficient than cars – but that would limit their ability to land except at airports. The tilt-wing design gives VTOL ability but the wings still take up too much room for them to fit on roads, parking lots, and other spaces designed for cars.

        You’d want them to be drivable too, or else you’d be limited to the surface, which is a poor use of parking space.

        And of course they’re much more dangerous than cars, since a mechanical failure would cause it to fall from the sky, so the FAA would likely require a rigorous maintenance schedule similar to planes. If piloted by humans, the FAA would surely want them to be licensed pilots too. Autonomous, well-maintained ones could work.

        If they ever exist, I imagine they’ll be limited to rich people (who can afford such inefficient travel) flying between specialized landing points such as skyscraper roofs and perhaps purpose-built landing pads – a slightly less expensive replacement for the human-piloted helicopter.

        • nicky
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

          Indeed, the whole idea of flying cars appears a still-birth to me.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Urban flying cars are not the future, it’s an extension of the madness of the morning & evening commute – at a time when 21st century city planners are aiming for reduced travel per resident & a greater proportion of that reduced travel to be achieved by walking, cycling, light rail & ride-sharing.

        Amsterdam & Copenhagen are the models not NYC or Dallas – the latter being near impossible to live in [particularly parents & elderly/infirm] without a personally owned car.

      • BJ
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

        Even if they weren’t noisy, there are far too many problems. Aside from the energy issue, the biggest problem is likely that of figuring out how traffic would work. Are cars only allowed to take off and land in designated areas? Once they’re in the air, how do we make “lanes” for them? We would need both vertical and horizontal “lanes.” The only way I can see that happening is through an optical display, since an actual structure can’t be built. Even after overcoming all of that, and even if we assume that the manufacturer managed to make these cars silent (which is impossible, since, at the very least, they would still create sound via air displacement), what about all the “pollution” of their very presence above the streets and around people’s homes/buildings? Just think about one of those sci-fi movies where there are flying cars darkening the sky everywhere. It could never work.

        Of course, there are many other issues as well, but those are just the obvious and most prohibitive from an aesthetic/public opinion/logistical point of view.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

          Hasn’t the “lane” problem already been solved? After all, jet planes fly all over the place without running into each other.

          IMO that is the least of the problems for flying cars. GPS tech could pretty well guarantee that in-flight collisions were very rare.

          The basic energy issues are the main problem, I think. Gravity is a demanding force.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

            I agree about the energy problem, but I think navigation would be at least as great a problem.

            Jet aircraft are a quite different circumstance – far lower traffic density than cars would have to be, and they have a thousand feet vertical height separation and several miles horizontal separation allocated by air traffic control. The only way flying cars could be navigated around a city would be by full real-time computer control (and it would take a supercomputer to track them all, linked to individual autopilots in each car).

            Also, I think, the cars would have to be hover-capable (which is always the least efficient mode of flight) since trying to control that swarm of cars unable to slow down without stalling would be a nightmare.


            • GBJames
              Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

              You don’t need a computer to track them all, you just need to track nearby vehicles. (Similarly, nobody knows the locations, destinations, and trajectories of all of the cars on streets.) This is a problem that has been solved already, although at a smaller scale, by swarm robotics.

              Hover-capability gets to the energy problem which is the real problem.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:41 am | Permalink

                Yes, but the cars on streets travel relatively slowly (max 30mph), have vastly superior braking to that of any air vehicle, and are fairly precisely guided by marked lanes for drivers to follow.

                They are also controlled by intersections with clearly marked priority rules (‘Give Way’ and ‘Stop’ signs and traffic lights).

                The jet aircraft you mentioned are all controlled by external instructions (Air Traffic Control), so not really a good analogy for ‘flying car’ traffic.


              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink

                … although I do concede there wouldn’t be jaywalking pedestrians or cyclists in mid-air to screw things up 😉


              • GBJames
                Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

                Swarm robots don’t care if they are going fast

          • BJ
            Posted June 15, 2018 at 9:03 am | Permalink

            As infinite said, it’s entirely different from planes. These would be flying between and right above buildings and streets. In a city, you would be flying by another care to your side every tenth of a second, as well as on above and one below you. You would need to have that computer be connected to every other computer, or cars would constantly end up in traffic jams, not to mention crashing. And those are just the biggest problems with creating “lanes.” I mean, how will they take off and land with all the other cars in the air above them? That’s one example of the kind of situation every flying car in existence must account for every time it is used. Once you put together all of those situations, it simply doesn’t seem possible to make it work.

            And, regardless, the “presence pollution” (I don’t know what else to call it) means it will never happen anyway. Nobody wants cars zooming by and above their house and streets every second of every day.

            • GBJames
              Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

              “connected to every other computer”

              No you don’t. You just have to be aware of the vehicles in the vecinity. The robots all need to behave according to the same rules but the number of others you need to interact with is far lower than “every other one “. This is not an intractable problem.

  20. Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    So this would work with only one stop at each end?

    The special (costs extra) bus service to Montreal Trudeau has a few stops at the downtown end, to increase use. It is supposed to be stopgap until they can get LRT available from somewhere.

    In Ottawa, it is BRT that serves the airport now, as part of a regular BRT line that covers various areas. It will be on an LRT eventually, but not for a while.

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I was in Cleveland for a wedding recently, and the scuttlebutt there is all about a proposed bullet train that can make the trip between Cleveland and Chicago in under a half-hour (less time than it takes my brother to drive downtown from Des Plaines every morning). People there are all hepped up on the idea of working in Chicago, with its higher pay, while owning a home in Cleveland, with its lower cost of living.

    Not my brother, though; it’d take a helluva lot more than a bullet train to pry his ass outta the Windy City. Hell, the boy’s brought shame on the family by becoming a Cubs and Bulls fan. My sister and I had to disown him for the duration of the Cubs-Indians World Series season before last.

    • Craw
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Surely being a Cavaliers fan is no better!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        You Raptors fans still smartin’ from that four-game beat-down?

        • Craw
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

          That was … sad. They weren’t even swept by the whole team, just basically by one guy. One guy.

  22. ladyatheist
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    It will probably be cheaper than the cost of rebooking a flight you’ve missed!

  23. Jon Gallant
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    The Chicago plan is evidently meant to follow the example of London’s Heathrow Express. Many years ago, I had occasion to travel occasionally between the US and the National Institutes for Medical Research in Mill Hill, in north London. I discovered that there was a bus line that ran between Mill Hill and Heathrow. It followed an old stage coach route, cost 20 times less than a cab, and took about 3 hours—essentially a sight-seeing tour of the boroughs of Harrow, Brent, Barnet, etc. etc. I don’t think the line exists anymore.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      It’s possibly better now. A 140 bus from Mill Hill Broadway & then change to a 114 or 186 bus gets you to the airport in two hours for four squid! 🙂

      • Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Two hours still sounds painful.

        On the other hand, I have no idea what getting to Trudeau from (say) Terrebonne would be like in the Montreal area.

  24. nicky
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    I think Elon Musk is a visionary. And he’s brilliant, shrewd and courageous, a ‘rad’ man.
    He basically invented Paypal and by selling it he became a billionaire. Did he rest there and started ‘Buffeting’? No he started several projects, Electric cars (by calling it Tesla he’s honouring a Great Genius). Fisrst step show that electrical cars are not necessarly golf carts. Builds the X prototype and the 2. A sports car that would show Ferraris, Porches and Camaros its exhaust pipe if it had one. And with a serious range (400+ km and then the power charge, recharging for another 400+ km in about 20 min). And later going for cheaper middle of the range cars. An electrical car without a clean source of electricity and electrical storage is not much of an improvement, hence neat power banks (replacing the awkward ‘battery room’)and solar PV’s that look like real tiles. Comprehensive.
    And the SpaceX: the most successful launching enterprise (with re-usable launching vehicles) and by far the cheapest option, leaving NASA and ESA far behind.
    I gather that this hyperloop project is more of a feasability study.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      There are several hyperloop projects that appear to be pretty serious. The one in Dubai is not just a feasibility study though it will obviously be a platform on which to advance the technology. There is also one in Mumbai that is expected to be the first to carry passengers. It is expected to start construction next year.


    • Posted June 15, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      He didn’t start Tesla and he is not responsible for its name. He has, however, just fired 9% of the staff.


      Go Musk

      • Posted June 15, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

        He’s taking the opportunity to clear out some dead wood. When a company like Tesla scales up, it hires many people in a short time. While Tesla probably has its pick of great employees, some hires are bound to turn out badly. Also, with a business evolving as fast as Tesla, undoubtedly gaps develop over time between what employees they thought they needed and those they really need. His investors are starting to clamor more loudly about making a profit someday. He has to be seen as responsive to them and a round of layoffs is a good way to do it.

        • Posted June 15, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          No, a round of layoffs is a bad way to do it. The problems should be corrected as and when they are discovered, not saved up and done in one fell swoop that looks like a panic measure to the outside World.

          • Posted June 15, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

            Not to business types. The title of this article tells it:

            Tesla’s Latest Layoffs: Can Musk Achieve Profitability?

            Also, they are not laying off production staff but hiring more there and in other areas of the company.

            A big layoff definitely has a negative impact on the entire company but laying people off one at a time makes things worse. Doing it all at once gives Musk the opportunity to explain it to his investors and remaining employees. Doing it gradually allows people to spread rumours. Denial of those rumours after the fact really doesn’t work as well as being up-front about it.

  25. JezGrove
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure something like the hyperloop appeared in one of Larry Niven’s books – perhaps A World Out of Time?

    • darrelle
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      I’ve read most Niven, but not that one. I don’t recall anything like a hyperloop in any of his other stories or novels, so it could be that one.

      The first time I ever came across the idea of a transport traveling in an evacuated tube at very high speeds was in Omni magazine back around 1980 (give or take), in an article about a concept for an undersea transcontinental transportation system.

      • JezGrove
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        I’ve just looked it up and the hyperloop arguably goes back a l-o-n-g way: http://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musks-hyperloop-science-fiction-2013-7?IR=T

        • darrelle
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

          That jogged some memories. I read Double Star as a kid but had forgotten about the vacutubes until reading that article.

          Also, I swear I’ve seen somewhere, perhaps a documentary, a late 19th or early 20th century pneumatic tube subway system. If I remember correctly it was in New York city and was a single short run, like a proof of concept that never took off. Well hell. Let me just take a minute to look it up.

          Yep, my memory ain’t so bad yet. It was New York city, 1869 to 1873, called The Beach Pneumatic Transit. The length was a mere 312 feet.

          But the English did it first. The Crystal Palace pneumatic railway in Crystal Palace Park in south London in 1864. It was 600 yards long.

          • JezGrove
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

            Sadly, we Brits couldn’t even get a 600 yard transport system to run on time these days.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

            Fundamental mechanical problems with that. If you try to extend it for any distance or accommodate more than one carriage or train.

            Also, the sheer volume of air requiring exhausting would impose massive penalties on power consumption at the ‘exhausting station’ and achievable speeds.

            That’s if using vacuum for propulsion. If you evacuate the tunnels (to save friction drag) then you have the problem that the cars all have to be pressurised, stations have to be air-locked, and any leak is likely to be fatal for the passengers.

            A more practical concept (in theory at least) is to use the vacuum to pull a piston along a tube, with a more conventional carriage running on e.g. rails above it. Brunel used this on the South Devon Railway (called the ‘atmospheric’ system). Problem is, how to seal the necessary slot in the tube. Brunel used a leather flap, with obvious consequences. And the development of electric traction was the nail in the coffin. That and the rapid improvement in power-weight ratio of steam locomotives of the day.
            (These days, I wonder if you could use a plastic tube and a piston with a rare earth super-magnet to drag the carriage along. No slot necessary).


            • darrelle
              Posted June 14, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

              The magnet solution has been used in a small scale system by some back yard inventors in California somewhere. Tomorrow I’ll try to find a link.

            • Posted June 15, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

              There are some Metro stops in Montreal that are so wind-prone they seal *the other way* …

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        It might be those crazy Moties. On a visit to Mote Prime didn’t humans encounter a seemingly incredibly dangerous transport system? ie no tolerance for user error

        • darrelle
          Posted June 14, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

          It’s been a while since I read it but I don’t recall any Motie mass transit systems. I do recall that driving on Motie streets was seemingly insane by human standards, with “no tolerance for user error.” It wasn’t evident during car travel as part of official functions because the Moties cleared the roads but when the midshipman were running for their lives they encountered normal Motie road conditions.

          Or, wasn’t there some kind of subway car system in the 2nd novel, The Gripping Hand? Some of the lead human characters used it to travel to the museum / technology repository? And Motie warriors then used the system to attack them there?

          • darrelle
            Posted June 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            Hmmm. Actually, I’m pretty sure the subway / museum scene was in the 1st novel. Also during the midshipman’s run for their lives.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      From Wikipedia:

      “The Roads Must Roll” is a 1940 science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein.”

      “The story is set in the near future, when “roadtowns” (wide rapidly moving passenger platforms similar to moving sidewalks, but reaching speeds of 100 mph) have replaced highways and railways as the dominant transportation method in the United States.”

      So, underground mass transit without vehicles. One of my favorite Heinlein stories.

  26. Andrew hobbs
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    ‘For me, then I’d have to weigh my regular 1.5 hour commute to O’Hare against the 50-55 minute commute using the proposed MuskRail. Right now, with my senior discount, I pay a total of about $3 to get to O’Hare. Is a half hour of my time worth $17-22? Given that I use the travel time to read, I doubt it.’
    Ha! Easy! Around here they would just decommission the alternatives. Profit locked in if you want to fly.

  27. Greg Geisler
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    “And remember that because there are many poor people in Chicago, this would be a luxury train for the well-off, not a “people’s train.””
    Precisely. Musk’s solutions appeal to the 1%. He’s taken heat for his comments on public transportation:

    Personally, I think your method is better and more affordable to the common folk. Thank you for your diligence.

    • Posted June 14, 2018 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      Clearly, as a matter of fairness and social justice, transportation to and from O’Hare should be free of charge for all.

  28. eric
    Posted June 14, 2018 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    because there are many poor people in Chicago, this would be a luxury train for the well off, not a “people’s train.”

    Downtown entrance and $20 for a half hour exttra speed to the airport…I don’t think his target market is the well off. I think it’s business travelers who can expense it. And I imagine there’s a whole lotta business travelers going in and out of downtown Chicago in any given week.

    Does that mean it’ll be successful? I have no idea. But my guess is the train will be well occupied on most days.

    • BJ
      Posted June 14, 2018 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Considering that O’Hare is the sixth busiest airport in the world you’re certainly right.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted June 15, 2018 at 3:15 am | Permalink

      Does that mean it’ll be successful? I have no idea. But my guess is the train will be well occupied on most days.

      I agree the Loop will be well used if it is as advertised. But it ain’t running trains – it’s running un-entrained individually powered, 4-wheeled ‘carriages’ that Musk calls skates. No hooking together in a train.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        I think he’s trying to find a word other than ‘carts’. But (from Boring’s page) they’d have rubber tires for support and side wheels for directional guidance. (Why this would be superior to steel wheels on rails is not immediately apparent to me, other than that he wants to be different).

        ‘Skates’ implies they would slide, which I imagine is quite incorrect.


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 15, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

          Oh, and in terms of maximum traffic capacity and propulsion power (air resistance), running trains would surely be better than individual ‘skates’ which would have to be separated by safe braking distance between each ‘skate’.


          • Posted June 15, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

            All the car companies are working on technology where each car communicates with the cars around it to maintain proper distances and to anticipate lane changes, etc. Cars running in a tunnel cooperatively would be no problem at all since no human drivers would be involved, everyone is going the same way, no lane changes, etc.

        • Posted June 15, 2018 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          I could be wrong but I thought his use of “skates” was meant to imply that the vehicle that sits on the tracks carries another vehicle on top of it. He has a CGI video showing how cars would get on top of such skates at designated locations and then be whisked to another designated location, at which point the car would roll off. I am not sure that applies to his Loop plan but I can see where the skates used in it might be similar to those in his conceptual video.

  29. Diane G
    Posted June 15, 2018 at 3:40 am | Permalink


  30. Posted June 16, 2018 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

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