Elon Musk’s Boring Company claims that it will start building a Hyperloop subway between Downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport.
Drilling on the subway, which will connect Downtown Chicago’s Loop elevated rail system and O’Hare might begin within three to four months, Curbed Chicago reported. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) claimed the system would make the run between O’Hare and the Block 37 Loop station in 12 minutes, Crain’s Chicago “reported.”
One has to wonder who is the bigger snake-oil salesman: Musk or Emanuel? As far as I know, Musk has no working Hyperloop Pod technology. Nor is there any evidence that any actual human being as ridden in a Hyperloop pod. To make matters worse, there is no evidence Musk is working with either of the two companies actually building Hyperloop pods; Virgin Hyperloop One, and HyperloopTT.
Despite Emanuel’s boasts, the city of Chicago has no permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation to build the system or environmental clearance. Musk claimed that the system can be built in Chicago because Emanuel can cut through regulations. That sounds like a recipe for a lawsuit.
All Emanuel can do is ignore regulations and get the city sued. The only people who will make money will be lawyers.
Is Musk’s Hyperloop Subway Racist?
The Chicago Hyperloop subway would consist of two 17-mile long tunnels. Passengers pay would pay $20 to $25 to ride the system, which would be four times faster than the existing Blue Line subway, Curbed Chicago claimed.
The system is likely to generate controversy fast because it would serve mostly affluent white people. Most Chicagoans would still be stuck in traffic, or riding the Blue Line. Another major grumble will come from all the Chicagoland commuters whose trip to work will not be any faster.
A smart move for Musk would be to allow holders of passes on Chicago’s existing Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) rail system to ride the Hyperloop for free. Another would be to allow free transfers to the Hyperloop from all MTA buses and trains, and commuter trains.
Emanuel is setting himself up for trouble because some politician is likely to challenge him, claiming he wants a Chicago for rich white people. A probable claim is that the subway will only serve wealthy white people, which should play well in the city’s African American neighborhoods. Somebody needs to figure out how to keep Musk away from politicians.
Elon Musk is a Sucker for Politicians
Despite his brilliance, Elon seems to fall for every fast-talking politico he meets. First, he fell for President Donald J. Trump’s (R-New York) line of bullshit, now Musk is falling prey to Emanuel’s stupidity.
A greater problem is figuring out how the Hyperloop Subway would pay for itself. One has to wonder why anybody would pay extra to ride it. Affluent riders are likely to say no the Hyperloop Subway, because they can get a driver to carry their bags if they take Uber or Lyft downtown.
My prediction the Hyperloop subway will attract few riders if it costs more than $10 a trip. This service will need massive amounts of taxpayer support to work.
How the Hyperloop Subway can pay for itself
A smarter move would be to use the subway to haul mail, packages, and other air freight downtown from O’Hare. An added service might be hauling airline passengers’ luggage to and from downtown hotels. That might may pay for it; and allow for low-cost passenger service, because freight can subsidize passenger service.
Musk needs to add some other lines to his Chicago subway and fast. Smart moves will be a line connecting O’Hare and Midway Airport and lines to Gary, Indiana, Joliet, Illinois, Aurora, Illinois, and Waukegan.
A really smart move will be to build some Hyperloop lines between Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and other fulfillment centers in the Chicago suburbs and the two airports. That way the system would generate revenue by hauling packages.
It would benefit Chicagoland residents by taking large numbers of trucks off streets and highways, which would ease congestion and speed up traffic. Reducing traffic; and creating jobs at fulfillment centers, might generate political support for the project.
My prediction is that Musk’s Chicago subway will quickly become a boondoggle that will go nowhere; attract few passengers, waste money, and generate political controversy. Perhaps, it is time for Elon Musk to go back to school and study political science.
Those who expect to ride a Hyperloop Subway in Chicago by 2022 as Musk and Emanuel are promising are going to be sadly disappointed.