Elon Musk is keen to build a Hyperloop connection from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to downtown. In a tweet earlier tonight Musk announced that The Boring Company will be one of the contenders for the project as the city opened the initial phase of the infrastructure project. Potential vendors must submit their qualifications by January 24, 2018; only those who pass muster will then be invited to formally bid to complete the project.
The Boring Company will compete to fund, build & operate a high-speed Loop connecting Chicago O’Hare Airport to downtown https://t.co/bRqKpzSJjz
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 30, 2017
One unique aspect of this infrastructure project is that it must be built and operated 100% with private funds. The project spec’s as announced are clear that all construction and operating costs must be borne by the the winning party.
Service is expected to operate with a maximum of 15 minute headways for the majority of the day. That level of connectivity would match or exceed some of the best airport-city connections globally today. But that connectivity will come at a price to passengers. The RFQ notes an expected price range less than a taxi or ride-hailing service. That puts the fare cap somewhere in the $40 range.
A winning bid priced at the top of the permissible range would likely be a losing proposition, however. That price point is higher than nearly every other other express transit option in service today. Even the Heathrow Express train, generally the high-end barometer against which other such services are measured, is only £25 (~$33). Not only does a $40 car get a traveler directly to their end destination rather than to a train station but it also can carry more than one traveler.
Other airport/city rapid mass transit systems charge 25% to 50% of taxi (OSL, HKG, PVG, …).
— Steven Cuypers (@stevencuypers) November 30, 2017
The train will almost certainly be faster and time is valuable. But pricing at the top end of what consumers typically pay, particularly in a US market where rail services are not as well accepted, could prove a fatal decision for any such system. Then again, these things aren’t cheap to build.
The City identified three potential routes for the service to take – the MTA Blue Line, the Metra North Central Line or along freight rights-of-way. The system can operate on the surface or underground, depending on the winning bid.
If this happens it would take less time to get from the airport to downtown than it does to get from 9L/27R to the gate. https://t.co/aKHblx36Aq
— Ian Petchenik (@petchmo) November 30, 2017
With the construction costs almost certain to be ridiculously high it is also possible that the only viable option for this project is a company that can use the effort as an R&D investment and marketing towards similar future projects. Combine that with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s apparent love for the Hyperloop project and, well, it might actually happen.
At least this time we’re not hearing of “verbal govt approval” for a service that likely didn’t really happen.
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