Another day another seemingly madcap mission for Tesla and SpaceX co-founder and CEO Elon Musk to embark upon. Yesterday he described to L.A. residents his plan to build an underground rail network through the city that would transport passengers at over 100 mph and cost $1 a ride. In 2016, Musk founded the Boring Company. The long term plan for the new company was to lead the creation of more ‘3D’ transport networks in major cities to alleviate congestion. The ‘boring’ of Boring Company was a play on words, with the company’s activity envisioned to be boring underground tunnels and creating transport arteries within them.
Two years later and Musk has reached the point where he yesterday arranged a community event designed to win over approval from L.A. residents as part of the process of gaining the permissions necessary to get the project off the ground. Or under the ground, the more appropriate term may be in this case.
The Boring Company has a hearing with the L.A. city council scheduled for next month, the aim of which is to secure permission to bore a 2.7 mile ‘proof-of-concept’ tunnel on the west side of the city. If a permit is secured the ambition is for work on the tunnel to have begun by as soon as the first quarter of 2019. However, those with experience of Musk tend to take his timelines with a pinch of salt. He is gaining a reputation for setting highly ambitious deadlines which are then missed.
Yesterday’s community meeting was a charm offensive to convince residents high-speed underground trains would be both safe and lead to a better quality of life in the city. In the same way Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company’s philosophy is that traditional rivals are bloated and inefficient, the Boring Company believes it can challenge how expensive it really need be to create underground transport infrastructure. Musk believes that the Boring Company can apply expertise from building SpaceX to make boring tunnels far more efficient.
In his address to the audience gathered in a synagogue near the city’s upmarket Bel-Air neighbourhood, Trump rallied enthusiasm with the promise of a “personalised mass transit system” that would be a “major breakthrough”:
“We are going to figure out how to tunnel fast, safely and at a cost that’s not crazy….”But obviously that can only happen with public support.”
Musk and his team believe that most of the efficiencies that can be achieved in tunnelling are based on simple ideas such as removing earth more quickly, turning it into bricks instead of having to dispose of it and building concrete wall on-site. He pithily described them as ‘not rocket science’, in reference to his relative success to date with SpaceX.
As well as a cross-city train network, Musk said that his tunnels would initially prioritise cyclists and pedestrians ahead of cars. Among the more fantastical ideas put forward were small pods that would zoom through tunnels on skates, carrying groups of around 12 people at up to 150 mph. Tusk has also spoken about his ambition for inter-city tunnel transport using a ‘hyperloop’ system. This uses vacuum pressured tunnels and pressurised cabins, potentially transporting passengers at up to 700 mph. That would reduce the 6-hour drive between L.A. and San Francisco to 30 minutes.