March 14, 2018

Elon Musk~Boring Across America

It’s no surprise to see that Elon Musk is getting a flat review for his concept of tunnelling across North America as this article from Fast Company discusses. There is a growing uneasiness of someone trying to solve a problem that never really exists. The aptly named Boring Company plans  a transcontinental tunnel to make personal cars go faster and quicker, so named by transportation writer  Jarrett Walker as “elite projection, the belief among relatively fortunate and influential people who what those people find convenient or attractive is good for the society as a whole.”
When Culver City’s city council heard a 45 minute presentation on the first leg of the tunnel between Hawthorne California to West Los Angeles, it may have dawned on them that this new tunnel proposal replicates Musk’s own personal journey to work from Los Angeles to Hawthorne. “Conceived by Musk in 2016 in an effort to circumvent traffic, Boring Company’s putative purpose is to construct networks of subterranean tunnels in California, Chicago, and the East Coast, through which personal cars and multi-passenger “pods” would travel on electric skates at speeds hovering around 125 to 150 miles per hour, with no stops between origin and destination. Beneath the veneer of its otherworldly grandeur, however, the company has had little to show for itself, investing far more in publicity gambits—namely, its buzzing campaign to sell branded flamethrowers—than in its own blueprint.”
But what is the problem that Musk and his boring tunnel was trying to solve? And why does the Boring company not want any governmental subsidies or public investment? Is it to completely control the “boring ground” space?  “The evidence that the Boring Company will deliver on its central promise of mitigating traffic appears to be sparse. Theoretically, one or more additional layers of roads would reduce the number of cars on surface streets, thereby decongesting them. The company, however, has neglected to address the mechanics of the surface-level points of entry and exit above the tunnel—on-ramps, of sorts, that could far too easily cause jams.”
The way to reduce traffic is to reduce cars on the road, not to offer cars the chance to burrow below where they will still emerge into traffic once they pop up to the surface like prairie gophers. Relieving congestion means moving away from the use of the personal automobile, not  burrowing it. There are also suggestions that this private tunnel network will serve only the wealthy Los Angeles West Side, and include a tiered pricing model. Instead of connecting neighbourhoods that use transportation for shops and services, the Boring tunnel threatens to exclude  the poor neighbourhoods that will have no access to the tunnel. While the Boring Company continues to take up the time on the plan to privatize a car burrow below ground, municipal organizations should consider whether the private car is part of any answer to future smart movement and congestion.

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  2. Many ideas are just that .. good ideas. Like a claustrophobic low passenger hyperloop or this tunnel for the very rich.
    Even Tesla is able to produce only 1500 cars a week .. 70% off its target Massive production problems .. only 1500 vehicles a week, well below target of 5000.
    It’s also blowing through cash like there is no tomorrow ..
    As such, a good idea is just that .. a good idea.
    Making money in the real world off a good idea is very very hard .. and hasn’t been proven even with Tesla yet !
    Maybe he’ll bore the Broadway subway tunnel to UBC for free ??

    1. For once Thomas, I think we’re all going to agree with you on this one. This is a solution in search of a problem.
      We’ve already tried this. PRT’s had mixed results because it doesn’t offer the flexibility of a car OR the capacity of a train. Now Musk wants to do the exact same thing, but several times more expensive??

      1. What PRTs are the most useful for, (and maybe the Boring Company’s true motive is the same), is to derail plans for LRT so that people keep buying cars. A proven technology like LRT (and high speed rail) gets proposed and then the PRT people come along and declare it to be old fashioned because PRT is just around the corner. Then nothing happens and things stay the same and they widen some highways.

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