Chicago Transportation Chief’s Pitch for Elon Musk’s O’Hare Express, Annotated

CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. Image: Chicago Sun-Times
CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. Image: Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld has overseen the completion of several good projects during her four years on the job, including the Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor, the Bloomingdale Trail, the Chicago Riverwalk, and 100 miles of new and upgraded bike lanes. (However, it’s worth noting all of these initiatives were launched by her higher-profile predecessor, Gabe Klein.)

Since Scheinfeld’s boss Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn’t running for reelection, it’s likely her tenure will end in a few months. So it’s a head-scratcher why the commissioner recently gave a full-throated endorsement of tech guru Elon Musk’s proposal to dig a tunnel from the Chicago Loop to O’Hare Airport and whisk travelers there at 125-150 mph in 8-16-person pods using “electric skate” technology. Actual transit experts have almost universally dismissed Musk’s plan as a fantasy based on nonexistent tech.

Last week Musk held a press event to unveil a new 6,000-foot-long, 12-foot-wide tunnel in Hawthorn, California, in which attendees were taken on bumpy rides in a Tesla Model X through the passageway. In the wake of the demo, Scheinfeld gave an interview to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman in which she expressed full confidence in the O’Hare Express proposal. Moreover, she urged local alderman to promptly approve the project’s contract for fear of missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let’s take a closer look at some of Scheinfeld’s key statements from the interview.

The "Tesla in a tunnel" demo that Scheinfeld says "all Chicagoans can... be excited about." Photo: The Boring Company
The “Tesla in a tunnel” demo that Scheinfeld says “all Chicagoans can… be excited about.” Photo: The Boring Company

On the California presser: “It was a great example of a step forward. As [Chicago deputy mayor Bob] Rivkin said, this isn’t radical new technology, it’s a Tesla in a tunnel. It’s a very basic thing that all Chicagoans can understand and be excited about… [It was] showing proof of concept, essentially.”

What exactly is the step forward here? Musk has previously claimed that his Boring Company’s proprietary digging technology would speed up the digging process 14-fold compared to conventional methods and cut costs by up to 90 percent. But for this tunnel he simply purchased a pre-owned tunneling machine, previously used for digging sewers in Oakland, California, and renamed it “Godot.”

Musk claimed that the 1.14-mile project cost $10 million per mile to build, boasting that this was exponentially cheaper than other tunnels of similar lengths. (It’s worth noting that his track record for truthfulness is not the greatest.) Some media outlets have compared the new tunnel to subway projects that cost hundreds of millions per mile.

But other folks have pointed out that, even if Musk’s $10 million figure is accurate, that isn’t necessarily impressive since the passageway is a fraction of the width of a subway tunnel, only allows travel in one direction, and has no stations or emergency exits. Moreover, the $10 million number reportedly excludes research, design, and equipment, and may not include the cost of labor and property acquisition.

So, yes, Scheinfeld is correct that this isn’t radical new technology, and it’s a very basic thing that’s easy to understand. But what exactly about driving a car though a small tunnel are Chicagoans supposed to get exited about?

Spielman asked Scheinfeld if there’s actually a market for $25 rides to get to the airport a few minutes faster. “I think there’s a huge market of people who are paying much more than that to get frustrated sitting in traffic in a vehicle on the Kennedy Expressway because of the congestion on the Kennedy,” the commissioner responded.

Musk has claimed that, using his hypothetical technology (the LA event was supposed to feature “autonomous electric skates” carrying 16-20 people, but so far Musk has yet to produce such a pod) he can reduce the transit trip from O’Hare from the current 40-45 minutes on the CTA Blue Line to only 12 minutes. When you’re talking about nonexistent tech, you can pretty much make up whatever time estimates you like but, sure, a theoretical 12-minute, $25 ride would likely attract many well-heeled travelers to make the switch from taxi, ride-share, or livery service.

But it’s still worth noting that, unlike the Blue Line, which makes multiple stops between O’Hare and the Loop, including several stations on Dearborn Street within walking distance of Michigan Avenue hotels, the O’Hare Express would pretty much be a one-trick pony. Once you’re dropped off at the single downtown station at Block 37, you’d likely need to catch a taxi, Uber, or the CTA to your final destination, which would add to the cost and duration of your trip, reducing the convenience.

Rendering of the O'Hare station. Image: The Boring Company
Rendering of the O’Hare station with “electric skate” pods. Image: The Boring Company

Spielman asked whether the O’Hare express project would make financial sense for Chicago taxpayers. “It would be totally at the risk of the Boring Company,” Scheinfeld replied. “It’s not too often when you have a private partner coming forward offering to make a major, upwards of a billion-dollar infrastructure investment that could have a real catalytic effect on our economy.”

In reality, the project would cost Chicago taxpayers money, potentially quite a lot of it. The project has already diverted significant city staff time and attention from more pressing neighborhood transportation needs. Former Chicago Aviation chief Ginger Evans previously stated that public money would likely be used for building the stations. And then there’s the cautionary tale of Toronto’s Union Pearson Express airport service, which saw dismal ridership until fares were slashed, which is requiring a public subsidy of $8 U.S. per ride, likely adding up to tens of millions of dollars per year in taxpayer funds.

The O'Hare express project is a distraction from using proven technology to improve transit access for Chicagoans.

The reporter asked if it wouldn’t make sense to wait until Chicago’s next mayor takes office before moving forward with the O’Hare express contract. “Our task…is to hammer out this deal,” Scheinfeld said. “This is an example of a project that’s been called for decades. Mayor Daley tried several times to take a cut at this. It was never successful.”

Yeah, you could say that. Daley’s last effort resulted in the $250 million unfinished O’Hare express station below Block 37, which has been a white elephant for the last decade.

Scheinfeld emphasized that it’s going to be necessary for aldermen to strike while the iron is hot by approving the (not-yet-finalized) contract swiftly. “We are very close here. That’s what we have to keep in mind. We have a great opportunity. We would not like to see this go to waste. Ultimately, this is going to be up for approval of City Council and I hope they don’t let it sit idle and risk that that partner would walk away if it’s not approved in a timely manner.”

Spielman then asked whether Scheinfeld truly believed there’s a danger that “the mercurial Mr. Musk” might walk away from the negotiating table.

“Mercurial” is correct, although “dangerously erratic” might be more apt. Here’s just a partial list of loose-cannon behavior by Musk in 2018 alone, which he called the most “excruciating and painful” year of his career.

Musk's since-deleted Twitter attack on a Thai cave rescuer.
Musk’s since-deleted Twitter attack on a Thai cave rescuer.

“I can’t speak for him,” Scheinfeld responded.

That was probably the wisest thing the commissioner said during the entire interview.

The reporter asked how Scheinfeld would respond to the naysayers who say that Musk’s plan involves unproven technology. “I would go back and say it’s a Tesla in a tunnel,” the commissioner responded. “We build tunnels all over the world on a regular basis.”

No, Musk’s O’Hare express proposal does not involve driving cars in tunnels. It calls for using autonomous “electric skate” pods that don’t exist.

Watching the interview, it really is puzzling why Commissioner Scheinfeld opted to compromise her legacy by shilling for a scheme that is most likely snake oil.

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  • Excellent, excellent, excellent.

    Is Scheinfeld modifying Musk’s original “express bus tunnel” (with “pods” that can hold more than 4 people) proposal to one featuring “Tesla in a bumpy tunnel”?

  • Jasin

    She has no legacy. As you pointed out, nothing was her idea. She just blindly defends what the mayor tells her to do. Her legacy will be bus rapid transit that is slower than previous bus speeds, and a speed camera program that tickets parked cars. Quite a lot to be proud of.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Loop Link has generally yielded modest bus speed improvements. But with the rise in downtown car traffic due to ride-share use, Bus speeds probably would have gotten worse if the system wasn’t built. https://chi.streetsblog.org/2018/10/17/foia-ed-documents-show-loop-link-has-provided-only-modest-speed-gains/

  • Guest

    Loop Link was designed without adequate space for taxis, ride share cars, delivery drivers, or other vehicles to pick up and drop off passengers or packages. This is a large part of why it hasn’t moved the needle on bus speeds.

  • Drivers, hailers, deliveriers can have curb space or travel lane space. But not both. Just like the bus. Indeed really what is needed is a bus only passing lane in addition to the lane they have.

    But it’s the loop. Nobody gets it all even as cars steal way more than their fair share. The loop link only fails where it does not exist not where it does. It essentially needs to be about ten times bigger.

  • Looper

    “Drivers, hailers, deliveriers can have curb space or travel lane space. But not both.”

    So drivers, hailers, delivery vehicles can drive through the Loop as long as they don’t stop? Really?

    This is basically a proposal to make the Loop a vehicle free zone, which would create the problem of how deliveries could ever be made to Loop residents and businesses. Can’t deliver a sofa on a cargo bike.

  • lykorian

    “several good projects … including the Loop Link bus rapid transit corridor”

    Sorry, but no. Her endorsement of Tunnel Musk is further evidence that she is deeply unqualified for her current position. We deserve so much better.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e718c5fdb2203e2b42b124239e94051f571ee0bd6b512859e6a044a22e8a9060.jpg The needle has generally moved in the right direction, just not by much. Purple on this chart represents time improvements. The main reason why Loop Link’s performance has been underwhelming is the lack of prepaid boarding and camera-enforced bus lanes.

  • planetshwoop

    The significant frustrations fro m traveling in the Loop are from delivery vehicles blocking lanes and simply too many cars period. The restaurant, FedEx, post office trucks etc etc are what block cats and buses and make comdicondi much more dangerous for cyclists.

    Jeff isn’t arguing for no delivery, but it is well understood that the increased amount of “on-demand” delivery–people or stuff– is a significant contributor to bus delays.

    Many of us find it deeply frustrating because the needs of a few people–Uber passengers–delay the needs of so so many who take the bus. It’s selfish.

  • That’s an interesting idea you have, “make the Loop a vehicle free zone”. I see a lot of difficulties with that idea. I assume you exclude buses, ambulances and fire trucks even bikes. Some provisions would need to be made for disabled people too, I suppose. Deliveries could always be pushed to lighter traffic hours. So maybe it is doable with those important exceptions. It would in some ways be like O’Hare airport terminals.

    Probably the best way to pursue your idea is to start with a few streets at a time. I suppose the existing Loop Link streets could be a first test. Then create some more Loop Link streets to prepare for other zones. I have a friend who said they were already under the impression that all the loop streets had exclusive bus lanes. So heck, a lot of people might not even notice.

  • leo from chicago

    Excellent post. Public transit is not rocket science. Good examples exist all over the world. You don’t build city-wide infrastructure based on some guy’s guess-work. It’s a recipe for disaster.

  • Leo Klein

    Excellent post. Public transit is not rocket science. Good examples exist all over the world. You don’t build city-wide infrastructure projects based on some guy’s guess-work. It’s a recipe for disaster.

  • bettorworse

    I don’t get the anti-Musk tunnel argument. Why wouldn’t it work?

    There’s been several projects planned and even started to get express service to O’Hare, so there seems to be a need for it. And now Musk says he can do it and have it pay for itself?? That sounds like a “GO!” to me.

    And electric skate pods are somehow impossible to build?? Have you seen Musk’s electric semi-truck?? Most of the largest companies in the country, like Amazon, have invested in that truck.

    You might not like Musk because he comes off as being brash or something, but he gets shit done.

    /And stop with “THIS WILL STEAL FROM THE NEIGHBORHOODS” crap – that’s “WON’T SOMEBODY THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!!” level of discourse.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Here’s what the Active Transportation Alliance has said about the O’Hare express diverting resources from neighborhood transportation.
    http://www.activetrans.org/blog/ohare-express-should-not-be-regions-top-transit-priority

    “The idea of an O’Hare Express has been around for decades and Active Trans has consistently said no public transportation dollars should be spent on the project. Public funds should be spent on higher priority projects that benefit the many Chicagoans who lack access to jobs and other critical destinations.

    The RFQ says there would be no taxpayer funding for the project and the service would be paid for with project-specific revenues. Still, it’s clear time and attention are being commanded by this project and these resources could be directed to more efficient and equitable transit solutions.

    City and county leaders should focus on connecting the spokes in our hub-and-spoke transit system to better serve neighborhoods outside the Loop. Extending existing rail lines and giving buses priority on our streets with dedicated lanes would be more efficient investments that carry greater benefits for residents.”

  • Ethan

    Roughly what percentage of time and money is the O’Hare express taking from the traditional projects you champion? Are you making a mountain out of a molehill?

    Clearly the RFQ itself was incorrect saying “no” taxpayer money would be involved since paid city employees are spending some hours on the project. Never-the-less if the actual cost to the city is low, especially as a percentage of the relevant department’s resources, this is a molehill.

  • Ethan

    The first tunnel was a first attempt and a learning project. If the company didn’t think they could make smoother concrete in the next tunnel, they wouldn’t keep going with that plan.

    The Boring Company is also working on the next two iterations of their machines. So what they did this tunnel with may not be what the Chicago tunnel is bored with.

    Constructing elevated or underground stations is really expensive in the USA, as you probably know. Like crazy-what-the-hell expensive. On the other hand, private companies seem to dig shallow holes relatively cheaply. Relatively tiny combination ventilation shafts and emergency stairwells don’t need hundreds of feet of contiguous empty soil free of utilities the way a station does. That gives The Boring Company much more flexibility in placing their vent/stairs where it’s less expensive. They might even be able to add future stations along the route. In Los Angeles they bought a house, dug an elevator shaft and connected to the tunnel. In Chicago they’ll want underground off-and-on ramps connecting stations to the main tunnel, but it’s doable. Similarly if TBC wants to extend the line to new stops around the Loop and beyond, that’s a future option too.

    TBC or Elon directly said the skate pods will use Tesla Model X platform. Adding different passenger compartments to a platform has been done for decades by automakers. It’s not rocket science. The pod may not exist yet, but that’s a terrible argument against the project considering how ordinary it is adding a passenger compartment, and TBC has ties to the CEO’s own automaking company.

  • Leo Klein

    I don’t get the pro-Musk tunnel argument. Why would it work? There are no examples up to now. Let him prove himself on some smaller project. I mean, public transportation is a big deal.

    And stop with: “HE’S GONE TO SPACE SO SURE HE CAN PERFORM MIRACLES” level of discourse.

    P.S. And for those interested in history, private hands in public transportation has quite a poor record here in Chicago. Robert Loerzel concludes his history of mass transit privatization with the following observation:

    Yerkes’s biographer, John Franch, says the story of Chicago’s traction wars shows that government need to be cautious whenever it decides to put a public service into private hands. “It has to be very tight regulation,” he says…. “It’s just outrageous that all these advances that reformers in the early 20th century made are all being thrown out the window now. We’re moving in a reverse direction. It’s a shame. There’s a historical amnesia in this country where we absolutely forget the past. We forget why these reformers were so up in arms.

    https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/chicago-privatization-public-transportation-cta-el/Content?oid=1955350&showFullText=true

  • Leo Klein

    “if the actual cost to the city is low” — ha ha! Don’t believe it.

  • Ethan

    If only there were reporters and spokespersons who could ask questions and reply with answers, figures, and numbers telling us roughly what percentage of department time and money has been spent on this…

  • Ethan

    It doesn’t take a miracle to have rubber tires on a smooth concrete surface. They exist today. They’re called runways. This first tunnel was a learning experience. For the next tunnel they can get the surface smooth for high speeds. TBC also is working on their next two iterations of tunnel boring machine to achieve their stated goals for speed and cost.

  • bettorworse

    So, he’s build a car company from nothing that competes with all the major automakers, he’s launched and landed rockets and he’s done a trial tunnel project, but he can’t POSSIBLY do this in Chicago?? Seems like a strange argument.

    Nobody is talking about replacing ALL of public transportation. Another strange argument.

    Do better.

  • what_eva

    I think a fairly easy step would be to ban all non-urgent deliveries from the Loop prior to 9:30 or 10 AM. ie, I would actually let FedEx/UPS/USPS go for packages where someone paid for 8am or 11am delivery, but get rid of the @#$%#@$ trucks delivering to the Walgreens at State/Madison at 8:45 AM blocking the lane multiple days a week. The Walgreens can wait to get coca-cola until after 10.

  • Carter O’Brien

    That’s the wrong comparison. The opportunity cost here can be measured in terms of more far-reaching projects that are lying dusty on the shelf for want of attention and champions in the Mayor’s office. If only Emanuel had made the Circle Line a priority…

  • Ethan

    “Projects” as in multiple. As in you’re making an assumption the O’Hare Express is consuming such a large percentage of department personnel hours and money that not just one other project, but multiple projects aren’t getting attended to. We simply don’t know that’s the real situation. Our Streetsblog reporter should try getting some answers from a city spokesperson so we can know the real extent.

    But keep in mind, although at least some city time and money is being spent on this, The Boring Company is going to spend far more of its own money. Meaning a completed project done for relatively little additional cost to the city. The next big transportation project the city handles itself will be paid for all by the city. So in that sense, the opportunity cost of the O’Hare Express is somewhat lower because the new financial cost to the city isn’t very much.

  • TRPCLRMNTCST

    Interesting to Note that there are freight tunnels underneath every downtown street that could provide deliveries. See the Great Flood of Chicago for some insight…

  • TRPCLRMNTCST

    Why has there been no talk of which route the tunnels will take? Will environmental studies or eminent domain not apply in these cases? I am a complete skeptic who believes that the city would be better served by X-town Rapid Transit of any form. However, the situation does compare somewhat with Charles Yerkes beginning the streetcar and elevated lines. I wish Elon Musk cared about poor people and how they were transported.

  • Carter O’Brien

    My point was that Musk could have been courted to show how his boring company could add subway infrastructure that actually benefitted everyday Chicagoans as well as patrons of the CBD. That opportunity was lost. As for transparency and journalism, you must not have a lot of experience with the FOIA if you think high level city employees are eager to share their emails and other documentation in cases like these, where private sector actors are involved and issues of bid rigging, insider access to information and so forth come into play. Can’t say I blame them for not wanting the microscope, but, that is the gig.

  • Carter O’Brien

    You can file a FOIA as a citizen, btw. Good luck.

  • Ethan

    John Greenfield is the reporter here, not me. He’s sowing doubt without having the facts. He should file the FOIA and report what he finds.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Doubt comes from the lack of transparency, and top-down approach, not people like John observing and reporting on the situation. This isn’t
    a problem unique to this project, this is a hallmark strategy from this adminstration.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    It would probably be difficult to determine exactly how much city staff time and and funding has been spent on the O’Hare express project, even via aggressive use of Freedom of Information Act requests (and I file FOIAs on a regular basis — see the article about Loop Link speeds linked below.)

    But we do know that about $250 million in public money was spent on the (so-far completely useless) Block 37 station project under Richard M. Daley.

    The former aviation chief indicated that public money would be used for the future O’Hare and downtown station. The Morgan Green/Pink ‘L’ station was considered a very cost-effective project at $38 million; The 95th Street Red Line stop rehab, a much more complex project, is costing $280 million. Those figures basically give us the lower and upper costs of CTA stations.

    But since Musk’s “electric skate” pods don’t actually exist, it’s nearly impossible to estimate how much public money would have to be spent to build stations for them. (So far the Block 37 station is basically just a concrete-lined hole in the ground, so considerably more money would surely be needed to be sunk into it.) It’s not clear which funding sources would be used these stations for affluent travelers, but it’s possible, if not likely, they would compete for funding with transit projects that would serve everyday Chicagoans.

    And then there’s the potential for taxpayers to be on the hook for subsidizing a failed airport express system. In the Toronto example, that may add up to tens of million a year.

    So, yeah, we’re not talking about a molehill here, but potentially a major financial boondoggle.

  • Cameron

    The real question is did Musk come up with any cost saving breakthroughs in the tunnel boring. Everything else is window dressing. The dramatically cheaper tunnels is the only real game changer in what Musk was proposing. The electric sleds are just souped up people movers. A variety of techs for high speed transit vehicles in tunnels already exist. If the Boring Company really can build tunnels cheaper, then those tunnels can be outfitted with existing tech if the other pieces of Musk’s plan don’t pan out. If the Boring Company can’t build tunnels cheaper, then Musk hasn’t proposed anything close to a breakthrough.

  • outerloop

    A section of State Street in the Loop prohibited private motor vehicles for years but that experiment was considered a failure. I’m not fully familiar with opinions on this but do you have any thoughts on how restricting private car traffic on other downtown streets would have a different affect?

  • Cameron

    Smooth concrete in a tunnel is a problem that’s been solved for decades. Any tunnel contractor can give you smooth concrete. It sounds like the Boring Company ran out of time to pour the topping slab and the demo was running on the structural concrete. It’s not a fatal flaw, but it does call into question the schedule and budget data since it means the tunnel wasn’t complete.

  • Ethan

    That’s why I said roughly. Exact figures aren’t necessary if we can narrow it down to perhaps a tenth, a fifth, a quarter, a third of department resources.

    The pods don’t exist yet, but we can look around at examples of how much a bus stop or train platform with level boarding costs. The vehicles are likely to resemble’s Navya’s autonomous shuttle, but longer and on a Tesla Model X platform capable of high speeds.

    There’s already X demand for people taking Uber and taxis to and from O’Hare. That should be a baseline of demand because this line is expected to be quicker and a ticket will cost less or no more than a taxi. If that’s not enough demand to cover operations and maintenance, that should have been deduced before the city pushed the RFQ.

  • Cameron

    Leaving out key features resulting in underwhelming performance shows a lack of project leadership. After winning the hard fight of getting dedicated street space, giving up on prepaid boarding seems like a needless concession.

    Scheinfeld inherited a bunch of bold projects, and saw them to uninspired finishes. Miles of protected bike lane got curbs, but no pavement repair. The Flyover opened, but doesn’t cross the river. Loop Link rolled out, but without key features that would have sped up bus trips.

    Scheinfeld has been a competent bureaucrat who’s kept things on an even keel and allowed the mayor to claim victories on paper. However, she’s far from a visionary leader who’s rocked the boat or changed conditions on the ground.

  • stevevance more

  • I remember the “State Street Mall” as I think it was called then. I don’t have any facts as to why it was considered a failure. I’ll throw some stuff on the wall though.

    The concept of BRT, bus rapid transit, essentially did not exist. But pedestrian malls did exist. It was way to bussed up to be a good pedestrian shopping mall as I recall my own thoughts. It would be an odd street for BRT in any case as there was a subway line just beneath. It was likely too far ahead of its time. The other thing is that in the late 70s and early 80s U.S. urban downtowns were generally failing. Plus north Michigan Avenue was becoming the main shopping street beginning about then.

    I agree with the step by step approach for reducing car usage downtown. I love the loop link. Not that I use it. Well sort of, Some days I need to drop off a friend onto State Street driving my car from the NW via the Kennedy. I take Washington sometimes around 8am. I love it. It seems to flow in a much more orderly way than the other east bound loop streets

    That’s the next step for the loop. Many more bus only lanes. IMHO.

  • They are way too small and now filled with cables and other infrastructure stuff.

    I think the future of deliveries in downtown are off hours and smaller vehicles and even specialized carts that are shoved off of trucks within 30 seconds of quick stoppings.

  • Musk is very good at taking existing solutions and selling them as new. That’s Boring in a nutshell.

    As always the issues are political and economic. Venture capital wants monopolies. Their biggest competitor is the public commons. Once public transit is out of the way they can either run the system into the ground and make a bundle via private equity bankruptcies like they do with retail now or gouge the market like drug companies do now. Musk is a fellow traveler capitalist tycoon pirate. That’s his real forte.

  • Ethan

    Whoa, back up there a few steps and please explain with some details how does TBC get public transit out of the way?

    A big city has dozens of bus and rail lines moving hundreds of thousands or millions of people per day. The public transit agency wouldn’t shut down unless at least 90-99% of their routes and capacity were duplicated. They might start pulling back as tunnels covered some routes, but they don’t shut down completely. That means TBC has to dig dozens if not hundreds of tunnels in each and every city. An undertaking costing tens or hundred of billions of dollars per city, especially if they’re losing money on every tunnel. I don’t see that, and by extension your fear, happening.

    But suppose they’re not losing money on each tunnel because they’re actually boring them at a tiny fraction of the cost per rider transported compared to a tunnel today. That means TBC actually achieved what critics said it wouldn’t and couldn’t: much cheaper tunneling enabling a cost-effective transportation system. In that case we should celebrate the achievement! Then if TBC abuses their monopoly, go after them legislatively and with the courts.

  • R.A. Stewart

    Many good points raised here. Let me just add one thing:

    Scheinfeld emphasized that it’s going to be necessary for aldermen to strike while the iron is hot by approving the (not-yet-finalized) contract swiftly. “We are very close here. That’s what we have to keep in mind. We have a great opportunity. We would not like to see this go to waste. Ultimately, this is going to be up for approval of City Council and I hope they don’t let it sit idle and risk that that partner would walk away if it’s not approved in a timely manner.”

    Doesn’t this raise a red flag with anyone at City Hall? A fast-talking huckster says, “But you gotta act NOW or this once-in-a-lifetime deal will be gone forever.” Consumer Self-Protection 101: Somebody says that to you, you walk.

  • Techno-utopianism in action. Someone pointed out that his current scheme is pre-WWI roller coaster technology.

  • Greg

    “You know, a town with money’s a little like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it!”
    ―Lyle Lanley

  • Austin Busch

    I’ve sold loop systems to Hawthorne and, by gum, it put them on the map.

  • Austin Busch

    Considering the limited space and headway beneath the L’s tracks, it should be an easier lift to start with just Wabash and maybe Wells. You’d only lose two lanes, maintain all major thoroughfares, and very few bus routes would change. As a plus, there would be a slight reduction in on-street parking, reducing demand on those streets as well. Delivery bays can be slotted into the crossing of each E-W street.

  • Cameron

    Did we learn nothing from the parking meter debacle? Always review the contact before approving it.

  • outerloop

    Contingencies spelled out in the contracts are important. If city hall lawyers don’t let that slide then the deal will be more secure.

  • George Joseph Lane

    Given that Musk is proposing to build a train to O’Hare, surely he needs to prove that his train is better than off the shelf tech available from established, reputable, proven providers?

  • I see TBC as the least innovative of Musk’s ventures. Near as I can tell it appears to be accounting smoke and mirrors. The tunnel is the cheap part, the stations are the expensive park. I’m hearing that he will build the tunnel for free but likely wants to charge the public for the stations. Mind you I’m just guessing here.

    I assume Musk is counting on reinventing the GM wheel where they got the public streetcars out of the way in LA for their private cars.

    He is currently getting the public space program out of the way in order to sell his private rockets…to the public. NASA was one of our best government departments.

    It’s how inequality works. Get the government to turn over to the private sector profitable public stuff and the shovel public tax money to a few owners.

    And how’s that monopoly busting stuff going against Amazon, Google, Apple etc. Not very well when their PR guys sucker voters into sending their interns to lobbying school. You know U.S. house of representatives lobbying school. Ever heard of the “revolving door” system of hiring influencers.

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