roads? boring.
August 16, 2018 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Elon Musk's Boring Company is "proposing to build Dugout Loop, a zero-emissions, high-speed, underground public transportation system from the Los Feliz, East Hollywood, or Rampart Village neighborhoods ("western terminus") to Dodger Stadium in the City of Los Angeles." posted by the man of twists and turns (112 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't trust this Adrian Veidt fellow. A little out of touch.
posted by Glomar response at 8:55 AM on August 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


Totally unfair comparison. Veidt was legitimately a genius.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:58 AM on August 16, 2018 [29 favorites]


I cannot see the word Rampart without instantly turning into an 8 year old watching Emergency!
posted by humboldt32 at 9:00 AM on August 16, 2018 [25 favorites]


I cannot see the word Rampart without thinking about CRASH.
posted by box at 9:06 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Maybe if some of these parts of LA didn’t fight transit as much as they can they’d have less traffic? The 405 is certainly not going to be fixed by more expansion -they tried that and know it doesn’t work.

Ugh.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 9:06 AM on August 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


So a system that will serve only 1800 passengers an event for a solid whole dollar a trip is not even real. First, that sort of number is how many people fit on a single unit of the regular mass transit system you might be familiar with: a train. Build a damn train.

Second, they estimate that it will serve 250 000 people annually. Even if we double them for a return trip that's only 500 000 dollars in total revenue a year. Consider that a regular underground metro is about 1/4 billion per KM, so for the 5.7 km this project spans it would normally cost about 1.4 billion. Even if the Boring company is able to do this for 1/4 the price, which is widely unrealistic- that's still over 350 million. From fare revenue alone it would take over 700 years to fund this project.

Seriously - the budget doesn't work for this even if they increase the fair to 10$ a ride and are able to build the thing for less than a 1/10 - we are talking a full magnitude less than the Japanese or the Germans or even Boston have been able to make these.

And they've yet to build a working prototype.
posted by zenon at 9:08 AM on August 16, 2018 [43 favorites]


I can't help but feel like having every wild utterance treated like a major news story about something that's definitely going to happen has been a major part of Musk's downward spiral into The Billionaire Who's Letting Twitter Ruin His Life. It sure seems like he's incapable of doing anything except desperately making sure that absolutely everyone on Earth pronounces him a world historical genius who is deserving of total admiration.
posted by Copronymus at 9:10 AM on August 16, 2018 [42 favorites]


Despite their prototyping, do they ever intend to build these things, or is it all just some kind of investment pyramid scheme that I don't understand?
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:14 AM on August 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


The Musk of Success, Choking Our Cities

Buses are so romanticized. As someone who spent two decades of his life catching the bus, the bus sucks. It's slow, they're diesel behemoths that are woefully inefficient if you and the bus driver are the only passengers, and they waste ridiculous amounts of time even when you show up in timely manners to stations and stops. Often the stops aren't sheltered meaning they're not fun to use in inclement weather and you're often still stuck in the same stupid traffic as everyone else anyway.

If we can get massively efficient routing of autonomous vehicles on autonomous roadways powered by clean energy it would be a massive increase for the quality of life for everyone involved. Our focus should be on making sure we can have a system that works for everyone not on "WUT ABOUT THE BUS?". If you can walk less than a mile to a pod, go E-W, jump out, jump in another pod, and go N-S to less than a mile to your destination, and it's all reasonably priced, or could be subsidized by the government for poor people, do you really need a bus? If you're Mr Moneybags and can afford the Telsa rental for the last mile is it still a tragedy of inequality? When I look at the overlay of bus routes on my town in Greater Boston people have walked far longer to be transported far less distances by diesel.

It's almost like the article is written from a complete utopia fallacy.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 9:21 AM on August 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


or is it all just some kind of investment pyramid scheme that I don't understand?

No, no, not at all... It sounds as though you understand it perfectly.
posted by Room 101 at 9:23 AM on August 16, 2018 [35 favorites]


A lot of the problems you list with buses are money problems, problems that could be solved by investing in bus systems instead of all these other shenanigans.

I'm not sure riding in an individual car will be as pleasant when there are no buses and all those folks riding on buses are now also on the road in individual cars.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:29 AM on August 16, 2018 [28 favorites]


I'm not sure riding in an individual car will be as pleasant when there are no buses and all those folks riding on buses are now also on the road in individual cars.

What's being proposed isn't roads though. They're autonomous roadways. It's not going to be millions of new jackasses driving on a freeway, they're going to be walking into a pod, dropped down onto the autonomous roadway, and zoomed to where they need to be.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 9:31 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Correction: My claim underestimated the average cost per km for underground metro - from the projects listed in the first table in this article in the US the average cost was around 375 million per km for all types of metro and about 2.1 billion per km for underground.
posted by zenon at 9:36 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


The Craziest Thing About Elon Musk's 'Express Loop' Is the Price
Currently, it takes $5 and 45 minutes to travel to downtown Chicago from O’Hare on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line “L” train, which is often faster than driving.* A ticket for top-speed travel on the Express Loop would cost an estimated $25, according to the proposal. Most deliciously for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who approved the deal, the Boring Company has agreed to pay upfront costs for the construction of the project, which it estimates will cost less than $1 billion, according to reports.

Whether any city should be encouraging Musk’s anti-transit-”transit” proposals, which by nature favor expensive, low-capacity modes over more utilitarian approaches, is up for the debate. The Musk “Loop” would have a capacity of 2,000 passengers per hour in each direction, which is about 60 percent of the Blue Line’s current, mostly-under-capacity average hourly ridership. Debatable too are the merits of this particular project for airport-bound Chicagoans—the Blue Line works pretty darn well, and airport express lines in other cities, appealing mostly for business travelers, haven’t panned out so well. In Toronto, where the subway system doesn’t reach the international airport, a brand-new airport express line has fallen seriously short of ridership expectations, even with its one-way fare of $12.35.
...
But at least one aspect of the proposed Loop concept would be incredibly valuable if Musk actually pulled it off, and not just to Chicago. That’s the cost of the tunneling itself. Digging the big hole might be the most mundane element of the project, but it’s probably the most difficult to do affordably. If the Boring Company’s cost projection of $1 billion is anywhere near accurate, that pencils out to $55.5 million per mile—far and away, the cheapest construction cost for any subterranean transit line in the U.S.
Emphasis mine, to stress that he's trying to replace something that already works -- with something that will cost at least ONE BILLION DOLLARS to construct and won't have the capacity of the existing non-road system.

On one hand, let's let Musk burn cash and help some others get paid along the way. On the other hand, what happens with the tunnel when it's no longer in use because it's not financially viable? I hope they have a solid mitigation plan in place, because otherwise that would be akin to a mining operation where the mining company goes belly up, or extracts all they want from the land, and leaves a dangerous, waste-filled pit behind.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:43 AM on August 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


I suspect this is how you get ghoul invasions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:52 AM on August 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


A lot of the problems you list with buses are money problems, problems that could be solved by investing in bus systems instead of all these other shenanigans.

That, yes. There are certainly plenty of real problems with public transit systems as they current exist, but there are problems with all transit systems; you can replace diesel buses with electric ones, you can build shelters at stops that don't have them, you can improve real-time reporting to give passengers better expectations (and ability to manage) wait times, you can cancel routes that only run one passenger and put those buses on other lines (or decide that the inefficiency is worthwhile), you can try different stop/start patterns (eg, alternate-road stops only in dense urban cities, rather than stopping at every intersections -- there are pros and cons to that), you can build out dedicated bus lanes to avoid mingling with regular traffic, and you can supplement all of that with rail or subways as part of an integrated system.

The existence of electric buses doesn't make diesel buses great, but if we're hypothesizing some kind of future autonomous-car future -- with all sorts of concomitant costs, both financial and political, to make that happen -- we should at least draw a comparison to a hypothetical, improved public transit system (which has its own costs, certainly) rather than to transit-systems-as-currently-implemented. I can't speak to Boston, but I know here in Philadelphia our public transit agency has an extensive, multi-year list of 'things we need to improve and fix but can't because we don't have the money to improve them or fix them.' We're in the process of transitioning from diesel buses to a mix of hybrids and pure-electric busing, thanks to federal funding, and given more funding those diesels (to pick one example) could all be phased out.

It would be cool if Musk's project could bring down up-front costs of tunneling, but the major problem facing most public transit agencies isn't the high cost of building out new infrastructure projects, it's the high cost of maintaining and renovating their existing infrastructure.
posted by cjelli at 9:58 AM on August 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


If the Boring Company’s cost projection of $1 billion is anywhere near accurate, that pencils out to $55.5 million per mile—far and away, the cheapest construction cost for any subterranean transit line in the U.S.

I wish I could remember it, but someone on Twitter broke down the costs of the new underground rail line in NYC, and the actual cost of tunneling was like #3 on the list behind land acquisition costs and engineering costs, both of which dwarfed the actual construction costs.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:59 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


What's being proposed isn't roads though. They're autonomous roadways. It's not going to be millions of new jackasses driving on a freeway, they're going to be walking into a pod, dropped down onto the autonomous roadway, and zoomed to where they need to be.

Even on autonomous roadways, the same matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
posted by praemunire at 9:59 AM on August 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


The advantage of buses (and autonomous cars I guess) is that they can adjust to a changing city. You can reroute, add buses, remove buses etc. Trains and tunneling projects are static so you had better be very sure that you are making good decisions upfront... Which doesn't seem to be the case here.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:04 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


St Paul has created some really good connector buses for the light rail - I was amazed. Light rail integrated with improved buses is a little bit like magic, and I'd take it over herds of autonomous cars clogging the roads any day.

So what happens is this: You get off the light rail, and you walk up to a new bus stop that has electronic billboards giving transit times/wait times. You swipe your transit card at the stop, then stroll onto the bus. It is so low-friction and effective, I was amazed.

Actually, the main problem with the city buses is not a problem of people or slowness or whatever, it's a problem of poverty. The only reason I am not always wild about the bus is that certain routes are just concentrators of social problems - full of people who are homeless, mentally ill, grievously disabled and not receiving enough support, drunk or high, or just having these terrible phone conversations that are basically, "I'm helpless and broke, I'm on the bus, please be there to help me when I arrive". (Seriously, there are a couple of routes where I overhear one of these every time. ) And those are bus problems that don't need to happen - they are problems because we are too fucking cheap and heartless to provide housing and healthcare to our citizens.

Elon Musk could house and feed all the homeless in Seattle and not even ding his net worth. Elon Musk is a monster and a wannabe tyrant whose name belongs on the list with the Kochs, Mercers and Trumps.
posted by Frowner at 10:12 AM on August 16, 2018 [57 favorites]


Every time, I see "Elon Musk proposing...", my brain automatically reads it as "Elon Mush threatening..." and my brain has yet to be proven wrong.

I will not comment on his O'Hare-to-Loop fiasco because "endless cursing" isn't really a comment.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:14 AM on August 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


Even on autonomous roadways, the same matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

That's just quitter talk, by gum!
posted by Kyol at 10:14 AM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Even on autonomous roadways, the same matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

The point is the throughput can be faster. Look at California for instance which has ramp lights to limit oncoming traffic to a steady trickle instead of wave after wave of cars coming after a green light on the on ramp's intersection. Even a crude way of adapting the system to people being really shitty at driving and interacting with each other greatly improves performance.

Imagine when we remove people out of the equation altogether. You won't have jackasses weaving through traffic creating shock waves. You won't have idiotic fights at merge points over single car lengths.

I think the majority of the problem with this is Musk being a giant tool while not considering what's possible by removing messy meatbags from piloting thousands of pounds of metal at lethal speeds.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 10:16 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


the bus sucks

The bus system you use sucks. Others do it right. F'rinstance, Ottawa (though kind of hacked about/upgraded to light rail in places) had buses that were the fastest and cheapest way around town. Ran in dedicated ROWs downtown. Stops were covered, and had good arrival signs.
posted by scruss at 10:33 AM on August 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


I can't help but feel like having every wild utterance treated like a major news story about something that's definitely going to happen has been a major part of Musk's downward spiral into The Billionaire Who's Letting Twitter Ruin His Life.

I think it's the opposite. Breathless media reporting is how he gets free PR and elevates himself from luxury car salesman to supposed genius. Agreed on Musk's narcissism though. Reminds me of a certain luxury hotel salesman...
I wonder if the media love affair with Musk is ending, given he's just been subpoenaed by the SEC (lol)
posted by cricketcello at 10:36 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


The bus system you use sucks.

And it doesn't even suck that bad. I take the bus in Boston pretty much every day for work, and it gets me there around the same time every day. Delays happen, but they're the exception. The Red Line has more delays than my bus line does.

And even within that framework and the MBTA's shitty budget crunch (most of their expenditures go to debt servicing, last I checked), there are improvements happening. MassDOT is doing pilots on some roadways to establish dedicated lanes for buses and bikes. And a lot of the problems the buses get into are, in fact, traffic problems, not bus problems, largely caused by the really shitty traffic design practices of the decades when most of the road system around here was built.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:47 AM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


→ the bus sucks

The bus system you use sucks.


Bus Rapid Transit systems are pretty efficient and better in just about every way than normal buses. And cheaper and easier to manage for existing cities than light rail. We should definitely ignore Musk and just build more BRT systems.
posted by dis_integration at 10:49 AM on August 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


Currently, it takes $5 and 45 minutes to travel to downtown Chicago from O’Hare on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line “L” train, which is often faster than driving.* A ticket for top-speed travel on the Express Loop would cost an estimated $25, according to the proposal.

Unless things have changed in the three years since I left Chicago, it's closer to 55 minutes to an hour on the train, plus 5-15 minutes of waiting depending on the time of day. So you really have to budget between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on your risk tolerance. There's no ability to have express trains or pass other trains, so you're stopping at every stop. Plus you have all your luggage on a potentially packed train that's not meant for it - trying to get on at any stop in the loop in rush hour just doesn't happen.

If anything, this seems like a comparable proposal to London. You can get to Heathrow via the regular Underground - I think it's about an hour plus maybe 15 minutes for waiting? Or you can take the Heathrow Express, which is about 20 minutes and costs about $25. And that seems to have been quite successful. Not saying that their proposal is realistic or should be the one chosen, but it's unacceptable at this point for any city that thinks it's world class to not have high speed airport-connecting public transit.
posted by true at 10:52 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Los Angeles' transportation problems are unsolvable. We're a ridiculous city with a giant mountain in the middle of it in the most populous county in the US. If a transportation plan had been built 120 years ago with a population of 13 million in mind, it might have worked. Now, we all just sit on the freeway.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:53 AM on August 16, 2018


I can't help but feel like having every wild utterance treated like a major news story about something that's definitely going to happen has been a major part of Musk's downward spiral into The Billionaire Who's Letting Twitter Ruin His Life.

I feel like it's cocaine. He's definitely entered the Rock Opera part of his career and that's always a bad sign
posted by fshgrl at 10:58 AM on August 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


The bus system you use sucks. Others do it right. F'rinstance, Ottawa (though kind of hacked about/upgraded to light rail in places) had buses that were the fastest and cheapest way around town. Ran in dedicated ROWs downtown. Stops were covered, and had good arrival signs.

Yeah and if I go back to Perth central they have a CAT system that is just like that and was a dream to use but it only takes me a couple of km from one side of the CBD to the other. The Perth metro area on the other hand was 6,418 km2. You can't cover that as well with buses. The only thing that made it even roughly tolerable was that if you were along the four metro corridors you could train it in between buses on a *really* nice electric commuter rail system. When I went to uni every day I walked to my station half a km away, I got a train into the city and I hopped a bus back out to Mount Lawley. Getting back on the bus after the train ride? Blech. At least it went from the terminal that was undercover when it rained.

And it doesn't even suck that bad. I take the bus in Boston pretty much every day for work, and it gets me there around the same time every day. Delays happen, but they're the exception. The Red Line has more delays than my bus line does.

Which is great if you're a commuter on a single bus that gets you from A to B. We specifically bought a house close to the town center in Chelmsford (my wife works in Westford and I wanted her to have a really short commute) and I'm lucky to be only a quarter mile away from the bus stop to Lowell multimodal. The rest of the town south of me? Your walk to the bus is however long your walk to the library is. Plus it doesn't even work. Like if I want to go from here to Belmont I have to take the bus to Lowell multimodal, then I take a train to North Station, then I take a train back out to Belmont. It's literally an hour and a half even if I drive and park at Lowell and there's no bus alternative that I can even take from town line to town line all the way to Belmont through Billerica and Bedford. Why? Because it would be ridiculously stupid to do it. But if someone made a tunnel that ran under Route 4 that could take me on a skid at 125mph from somewhere roughly in Chelmsford to somewhere roughly in Belmont? Anyone with a car could use that. And they probably would if it meant skipping afternoon traffic on Route 3.

The. Bus. Sucks.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 11:09 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


The bus doesn't suck. You live in an incredibly poorly designed greater urban area with a stupidly designed transit system. The bus as a general concept is fine. In Chicago I've only ridden the El once or twice and I get around very well without a car. I could happily commute every day.

It is really kind of living in a fantasyland to claim that the form of transit itself sucks and that some kind of future skid tunnel in which everyone basically gets places by magic via their car (they still have to use a car for some reason?! cars are such a pain in the ass) is better.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:19 AM on August 16, 2018 [19 favorites]


OK. I magically now live in Central Boston. My wife works in Westford. We have the bus to the station, the train to Lowell, now we have to deal with getting her to work in Westford. Catching the bus still sucks. Commuting with bus is sucktitude that is a function of distance traveled on the bus squared.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 11:24 AM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


This looks cool. I’d love to see Musk work out how to retrofit more cities with clean energy subways cheaply and quickly. Clearly this is the pilot scheme for that.
posted by w0mbat at 11:25 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Like every reply to me is "The bus is great! All you have to do is live in a densely populated urban area on the same line as where you work!"

If you want to go more than a few miles it instantly becomes the second shittiest method of transportation in America.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 11:27 AM on August 16, 2018 [10 favorites]


Two things on the private tunnel for Musk's commute:
-The video reminded me of an old Apple IIgs game "Tunnels of Armageddon". A propos nothing, mind you.
-Augustus Busch did the same thing for half of his commute in St. Louis: from Grant's Farm to Bevo Mill above ground.
From Bevo Mill to the brewery downtown, CAVES!
posted by notsnot at 11:32 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Like every reply to me is "The bus is great! All you have to do is live in a densely populated urban area on the same line as where you work!"

My reply is that you don't seem to have any kind of grasp on the magnitude of traffic increase you'd be causing by dumping tens to hundreds of thousands of current transit passengers onto individual vehicles on roadways, and your belief that coordination will magic the resulting problems away is, well, magical thinking.

Also, to take your example, even in your dream N-S, E-W pod vision, you are transferring lines. To make this possible without running into the drawbacks of bus traffic, you would basically need a system where you can simply hop onto a pod without waiting. I don't think you have grappled at all with the density of traffic this would require, or its consequences. If you're in a low-density area, you're either going to be running a ton of empty pods or you're going to be waiting, only on the side of an "autonomous roadway," which doesn't sound any more pleasant to me.

I used to do a nearly three-hour round-trip commute in a particularly transit-hostile city, so there is zero danger of my romanticizing intracity buses. But most strong advocates of autonomous driving or similar to solve all our transit problems don't seem to actually understand the underlying issues all transit must address. Yes, a system where you could just step out of your house, wherever it is, onto a pod without waiting and be whisked away to your destination without traffic difficulties would be great. That it doesn't exist right now is not just a function of lack of technology.
posted by praemunire at 11:44 AM on August 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


His musky bonafides well on display, what could go wrong?
(great place to farm mushrooms after the proverbial fork gets stuck)
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:45 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


This seems unnecessary, and the aerial tram project seems much better. I guess you could do both, but that one can carry far more people (5,000 per hour) and is significantly cheaper.

That said, the bus in LA does suck. I assume its mostly a question of money/resources. It often takes 3-4x longer to go somewhere on the bus than by car. In the future when all the subway expansions are done, its possible a subway+bus combo will be more reasonable, but thats 20 years away.

My wife takes the bus downtown, for example, which is over an hour each way at a time when it would be 20-25 min by car, so thats adding close to 1.5 hrs to a roundtrip. If we lived in a different direction from downtown, the subway would be an option.

My real wish would be to just snap my fingers and make LA like Tokyo, which in my opinion has largely solved the public transit problem (there are certainly routes / times that are annoying, but in general its pretty nice). Thats never going to happen here (not _can't_, just _won't_ as I cannot currently conceive of people funding such a system).

Like most of Musk's suggestions, though, this reeks of engineer's disease. (He _can_ come up with reasonable things --- Tesla and SpaceX achieved some real things -- but this feels closer to the Thai submarine thing).
posted by thefoxgod at 11:48 AM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


At least the name of the company shows some self-awareness. Maybe if Musk changed his name to "Tedious Rich Guy" he'd be more appealing?
posted by howfar at 11:48 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Also, to take your example, even in your dream N-S, E-W pod vision, you are transferring lines. To make this possible without running into the drawbacks of bus traffic, you would basically need a system where you can simply hop onto a pod without waiting. I don't think you have grappled at all with the density of traffic this would require, or its consequences. If you're in a low-density area, you're either going to be running a ton of empty pods or you're going to be waiting, only on the side of an "autonomous roadway," which doesn't sound any more pleasant to me.

Except the pods don't necessarily need to be on the roadway. Look at the video. The pods just wait around until someone needs to use them, drops down, merges into the roadway. Hell, if you want to use them as public transport you can have walk in pods wait five minutes from the person stepping on until departing to get a few people on the same pod. You won't need to build the pods out of heavy metal and steel and instead you can build them out of lightweight composites because you don't need to worry about crashes. This will make them even easier to reposition them if it becomes necessary. Cars are just on skids which are easy to store and will take next to no energy to reposition if need be.

Freeways suck because we can't get people onto and then off of arterials fast enough and because we can't put them every mile or half mile like we can a criss-crossing network of tunnels. If you solve the problem of tunnels being ridiculously expensive all of a sudden that network of tunnels becomes within the grasp of a ridiculously wealthy megalomaniac.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 11:53 AM on August 16, 2018


There's also absolutely no way that this is worth the carbon output of construction. It simply doesn't have the capacity to justify it. It's an ecological white elephant.
posted by howfar at 11:53 AM on August 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


DNSS, it sounds like you live in the suburbs, which were specifically designed for cars and for which available public transit like regional rail generally centers around ferrying residents to and from dense urban centers. So the buses you hate so much in all likelihood suck precisely because of America's focus on individual automobiles. Complaining about buses in the suburbs is like complaining about the sushi in Oklahoma. And, spoiler alert, Musk et al have no interest in the suburbs.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:56 AM on August 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


In Chicago I've only ridden the El once or twice and I get around very well without a car. I could happily commute every day.

I've visited Chicago a few times and honestly consider it travel hell. The roads are full of potholes and generally suck. The people drive like it's a Mad Max movie. One emergency vehicle is going to shut the whole thing down for a while. Parking is expensive and probably not all that close to where you're going. Riding a bus sucks because it's in that same traffic. The El is okay if you happen to be going someplace in easy walking distance of an El station, but probably you're not.
posted by Foosnark at 11:57 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


And, spoiler alert, Musk et al have no interest in the suburbs.

The first tunnel that he's proposing is literally next to the 405 which runs right through LA's suburbs.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 11:58 AM on August 16, 2018


Daddy Musk will save the 'burbs with his magical podcars that materialise out of nowhere when you need them and then vanish when you don't and never ever need to share space with other podcars or other types of vehicles. All hail Daddy Musk!
posted by tobascodagama at 11:59 AM on August 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


"the practice of putting transportation underground sounds too good to be true" -@shit_hn_says
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:04 PM on August 16, 2018


The other major factor, besides money, is a lack of commitment. Bus Rapid Transit can be great, but every BRT project in this country is watered down and watered down until it's a regular bus line with minor improvements, because we can't take away from cars. One of the major virtues of trains is that they can't be watered down as much, and it's politically easier to hold the line on grade separation.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:06 PM on August 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


Until Feb, I lived a 2 walk from where this thing is supposed to go (Sunset and Alavarado represent!) and I walked to Dodger Stadium probably 20 times while I lived there.

The fact that 100% of the replies to this bullshit isn’t “lay off the fucking cocaine, Elon!” makes me increadly angry.

People who want to get off the subway at Sunset/Vermont early can take the 2 or 4 bus to the game that starts this evening. Or they can stay on until Union Station and take the Dodger Express. Like 20k of them can do this. Right now. Tonight.
posted by sideshow at 12:33 PM on August 16, 2018 [19 favorites]


Like every reply to me is "The bus is great! All you have to do is live in a densely populated urban area on the same line as where you work!"

Boston as a whole sucks for transit.

More generally, if you live in a not-dense area it quickly becomes very wasteful for there to be some kind of collectively subsidized transit that is convenient for you, personally.

Americans are weirdly spoiled by intense subsidies for rurally-living people. These subsidies make sense in some settings. (Mail and electricity go out to far-flung houses so that the residents of those homes can engage in farming, mining and similar.) But there's basically no reason to invest in some kind of hard-core system that will ensure that...people can keep conveniently living in suburbs? It's just not sustainable or a smart way to spend money.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:37 PM on August 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


It's funny how conventional internet wisdom is that "conventional mass transit construction is hilariously too expensive in the US" (i.e.) and also that a proposal to do it much cheaper must be a scam/white elephant/impossible/etc.

A few cities seem to be able to build subway tunnels for about $100 million/km so it's not like there isn't already significant spread in costs without adding a new technology.
posted by Skorgu at 12:37 PM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


that a proposal to do it much cheaper must be a scam/white elephant/impossible/etc.

If someone tells you that they can make massive changes to the physical world much more cheaply than anyone in history has ever been able to do it, and well beyond the state of the art, without any explanation as to how (if Musk has some astonishing, and I mean astonishing, advancements in boring technology, nobody seems to have actually seen them), then it's perfectly reasonable to be sceptical of their claims, even if they are really rich. It's not "a proposal" people are sceptical of, it's this proposal, because it's a really implausible proposal.
posted by howfar at 12:45 PM on August 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


On the other hand, what happens with the tunnel when it's no longer in use because it's not financially viable?

I don't want to give too much away just yet, but "Elon Musk Hyperloop con" is an anagram of "Elon? Nope! Pushy Morlock."
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 12:52 PM on August 16, 2018 [17 favorites]


Musk's LA people-mover isn't primarily about moving people. It's another iteration of the SpaceX/Tesla way of development - get paid while learning how to do it better, use that learning get so good that you can change the game.

Look, building rockets has always been really capital heavy, with huge amounts of spending up front. That's risky, so risky that only governments have done it, because governments can take huge losses with no chance of a profit at the end (*cough* the Japanese rocket programme). Private rocketry was a fool's game, until SpaceX. They launched a minimal rocket to prove they could, then used the learning from that to get paid launches. They used the paid launches to learn how to land rockets. Now they're the world's largest launch company and no-one else can come close on cost.

Tesla again didn't start buy building cheap cars. They started with a very expensive car (Roadster) for a market that would buy very expensive cars. They used that to learn how to build a cheaper car (Model S). They used that to learn how to build a cheaper car (Model 3 performance). They're using that to learn how to build a cheaper car (actual Model 3). Right now, they're building the best electric car in the world, for the fourth time in a row. No-one else is close.

The Dugout Loop is just the same. It's the Roadster/Falcon 1/MVP of new transit. The Boring Company gets real-world experience not just of tunneling, but of providing a commercial service. Yes, they get a (small) income stream, but the really valuable stuff is that they learn. They validate their key value proposition and they learn how to do this cheaper and better next time.

And yes, it may be a failure, but it's a 3 mile, few hundred million failure, not a ten billion 400 mile LA-SF failure. Coz that's the eventual goal; this is the minimum viable product.

(Your bus system may suck, mine is the best way to get around town, coz I don't live in America.)
posted by happyinmotion at 12:56 PM on August 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


SpaceX. They launched a minimal rocket to prove they could, then used the learning from that to get paid launches. They used the paid launches to learn how to land rockets. Now they're the world's largest launch company and no-one else can come close on cost.

Given that SpaceX is losing money hand over fist, I'd suggest we need more evidence that this approach works before allowing it to be any significant part of a mass transit strategy.
posted by howfar at 1:12 PM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Given that SpaceX is losing money hand over fist

SpaceX makes 40% profit on each launch and has 65% of the launch market this year. They have a huge income stream and a mature product. If they didn't want to spend all their profit on going to Mars, then they'd be generating a few billion in cash per year.

You're thinking of Tesla.
posted by happyinmotion at 1:26 PM on August 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


New plan: flood the globe, midget submarines for everyone.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:35 PM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


cool, a shiny bullshit thing the city'll be on the hook to keep up, this is definitely a great idea. fuck
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 1:36 PM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


SpaceX makes 40% profit on each launch and has 65% of the launch market this year.

So that means that...if NASA were adequately funded and had an external sales arm, either launches would be a lot cheaper or the government would make several billion or we could split the difference and have cheaper launches and revenue for the government?
posted by Frowner at 1:36 PM on August 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


Every time, I see "Elon Musk proposing...", my brain automatically reads it as "Elon Mush threatening..." and my brain has yet to be proven wrong.

Yep, I'm with ya'.

Every time I see the name Elon Musk, I automatically read it as Elon Musk, con artist.
Why is it that all his greatest ideas never seem to quite come to fruition, any yet he keeps making money?
posted by BlueHorse at 2:01 PM on August 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Does it bother anyone else that they're calling a point-to-point system a Loop?
posted by "mad dan" eccles at 2:16 PM on August 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


People who want to get off the subway at Sunset/Vermont early can take the 2 or 4 bus to the game that starts this evening. Or they can stay on until Union Station and take the Dodger Express

The 2 and 4 are local lines that carry commuters going home on regular roads with cars also commuting home. Unlike the Red Line, saturation can happen pretty fast for those buses if everyone started taking them; more people ought to, but not all. Same for the Dodger Express, being a bus that still needs to take local roads to get to the stadium from Downtown LA.

These roads are already congested when there isn't a game. An undeground train similar to the S train in Manhattan sounds like a good idea; and if Boring wants to lose money building this to gain experience, then I'm all for it.

They should next focus on connecting LAX to the Purple Line at Westwood, maybe get it all done before the 2028 Olympics (the Purple purportedly gets to Westwood by 2026). That connects the airport via underground transit to Westwood, Century City, Beverly Hills, and Downtown. If it had a stop to connect to the Expo Line, that would provide underground to light rail connections to Santa Monica and Culver City.

That would be glorious.
posted by linux at 2:21 PM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I realize Metro has plans for this too in what they are calling the Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project, but that sucker is so ambitious (it includes connecting the Valley) I don't know if they can do it by 2028 like they plan.

Regardless, Los Angeles has woken up. We passed Measure R and we passed Measure M. The bus system has improved so much in the past 20 years my stories of riding the RTD in the 80s are looked upon by younger friends as tall tales.

LA's transportation woes are solvable, and if Boring accelerates the solution, then count me a fan (and who wasn't a fan of SpaceX when they landed those Falcons?).
posted by linux at 2:26 PM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


SpaceX makes 40% profit on each launch and has 65% of the launch market this year.

Given that SpaceX is a private company which does not publish its financial statements and that Elon Musk is a well known bullshitter, I would take any declarations of its profitability with a grain of salt.
posted by JackFlash at 2:40 PM on August 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


40% profit on each launch

That phrasing suggests that they're not net profitable overall, to me (but you're right I am thinking of Tesla).
posted by howfar at 3:37 PM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Read the wiki on the Chicago Tunneling Company. There are already around 60 miles of mostly unused tunnel connecting the buildings of downtown Chicago. They are not large, but they are already there.
posted by thefileclerk at 6:09 PM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


FWIW, bus drivers of my personal acquaintance tend to be selfless and idealistic public servants that find themselves ground down by the job over time. Take a moment to thank your bus driver next time you board. It's a tough gig.
posted by mwhybark at 8:00 PM on August 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


the majority of the problem with this is Musk being a giant tool while not considering what's possible by removing messy meatbags

Based on what we've seen from early free range trials of autonomous cars, they absolutely appear to be all about removing messy meatbags, so I guess I agree!
posted by mwhybark at 8:11 PM on August 16, 2018


Every time I see the name Elon Musk, I automatically read it as Elon Musk, con artist.
Why is it that all his greatest ideas never seem to quite come to fruition, any yet he keeps making money?


You mean, apart from:
PayPal
The first privately funded rocket to reach orbit
The first rocket to return from orbit
The world's current largest launch vehicle
The first privately funded spacecraft to leave Earth orbit
The fastest production electric car (Roadster)
The fastest production electric car, again (Model S)

Ok, the guy's likely an arsehole and hopelessly optimistic about timelines, but he's brought several of his ideas to reality while building several billion-dollar companies. That's quite a bit more fruition than most people.
posted by happyinmotion at 8:19 PM on August 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I want to emphasise here, because I don't think it's been spelled out plainly enough, that a comfortable, individual vehicle is by far the least space-efficient mode of transport per person, and on an urban street, space is at a premium. Pods won't do it, unless those pods are approximately person-sized, and that's going to be a problem for claustrophobic people and the disabled. Trains, light rail and buses are simply far more space-efficient; light rail seems to be a good solution because you can use the space left behind for a turning space, or for pedestrian malls.

One of the reasons why public transport in the US is so fucked is because they were encouraged to tear up their substantial streetcar network in favour of cars and buses. You want a mix.
posted by Merus at 8:29 PM on August 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


So are the tunnels they want to build unuseable for regular metro style trains? Is there any reason not to pay the cheap tunnel cost and then tell him to scram?
posted by Slackermagee at 8:49 PM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


Boring Company wants to make tunnels cheaper by narrowing them to just 14', so probably too tight for for metro trains. It’s the bus-blocking low overpasses of Robert Moses’s Southern State Parkway all over again.
posted by migurski at 8:56 PM on August 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


Cutting a hole in the ground with a big machine isn't that expensive. Making sure you don't ruin the foundations of the buildings you're tunneling under, keeping methane out of the system, not hitting existing underground utilities that were constructed in the early '20s and are poorly marked on faded as-built plans that use a coordinate system that was deprecated in 1983, preventing hydrogen sulfide from corroding your concrete lining, building emergency egress shafts, and developing ventilation systems is.

A geotech buddy of mine said he talked to the Boring guys once. They've got a handle on the first thing.
posted by hwyengr at 9:12 PM on August 16, 2018 [22 favorites]


Imagine when we remove people out of the equation altogether.

So what kind of places do these "autonomous roads" go through where there are no people? What city would improve quality of life for residents by turning the majority of public space over to high speed robot-only zones?

How come people obsessed with "autonomous" cars can only imagine a future where they are no people and they get to spend their time in hermetically sealed isolation pods?

It's telling that investing in obvious solutions like buses/trains is always a non-starter, so Boring even!
posted by bradbane at 9:27 PM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would like to publicly announce that I am no longer a Musk fanboy. He has lost it. (This isn't related to this particular fiasco, but his behavior in general in recent months)

Related to this particular fiasco, what a stupid idea. The cars can only move in one direction at a time because the tunnel is too narrow? Cars that only hold like ten people at a time? It makes no sense.

Also, I love the bus, but I live in Korea, so don't have the same problems people in the US have. The truth is that the US doesn't have the density to support a robust public transportation system outside of major urban areas. People need to give up their single family homes on half acre lots if they want to have good public transport.
posted by Literaryhero at 9:39 PM on August 16, 2018


How come people obsessed with "autonomous" cars can only imagine a future where they are no people and they get to spend their time in hermetically sealed isolation pods?

To be fair, I feel this way pretty much every time I have to commute by bus during rush hour*. My solution is to start bike commuting as soon as possible and an understanding that actual personal pods is in no way going to fix the problem, much as I might long for quiet solitude.

* The people who design these things do not strike me as people who have to rely on buses though, so I don't know what their excuse is?

Ugh. I hate to drive so I'm personally really excited about autonomous cars, but I'd be more excited about excellently-funded, extensive and multi-modal public transit projects, with the chance to jump in a self-piloting car for special trips, traveling to and within places that truly can't support a formal public transit system, etc.
posted by kalimac at 10:03 PM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


> Boring Company wants to make tunnels cheaper by narrowing them to just 14', so probably too tight for for metro trains. It’s the bus-blocking low overpasses of Robert Moses’s Southern State Parkway all over again.

London's deep level lines are mostly 12', and the Central line is 11' 6" (with its own trains), so 14' is just fine for a metro.

On the other hand, the Central line experience has taught us a few things:
- There's no room for an emergency walkway, so when something goes wrong you have to switch off the power and everyone has to walk along the tracks.
- There's no room to install Wi-Fi or mobile phone points.
- There's no room to install ducts to remove hot air, and the trains don't push enough air out of the tunnels by themselves, so you don't get AC, and over time the whole system heats up.
- When you want to increase capacity, you might as well dig a whole new line as increase the diameter of the existing tunnel.

Crossrail has a 20' diameter, which is enough to take European mainline trains, AC and an emergency walkway. (Not sure where the Boring Company's "current standard for a one-lane tunnel is approximately 28 feet." comes from)
posted by doiheartwentyone at 1:31 AM on August 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


This is like the 5th time I've rolled my eyes at Musk in the last month. The 4th time was the best time though because it was fun watching Azealia Banks' Instastory about being stuck at his mansion while he's high on acid while Grime's comforted him about his idiotic tweet about taking Tesla private. That sentence is so 2018.
posted by like_neon at 2:47 AM on August 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


In which I mutter angrily about share bikes/electric scooters, LPG-powered and electric rickshaws, and motorbike taxis. Yes I'm aware insurance, safety, and labor costs, but I mean, the Hyper Loop is a dumb solution in a world where I can cross the length and width of Jakarta/Beijing/Shanghai, cities of 30m+, in a rickshaw in an hour, or less on the back of a motorbike...or Phnom Penh in 30 minutes...or Tokyo on the subway in the same...also Beijing and Shanghai. At least three of these cities are far from tropical. Motorcycles are the fastest-moving element of the traffic in these cities, which is notoriously crappy in all of them because of cars. Rickshaws, often with 4 passengers or more, also get to use the bike lane.

We live in a world with vehicles that are not automobiles, and roads that are vastly overbuilt for vehicles that aren't automobiles. No transport solution is complete without factoring those as well. We can solve this by getting more cars off the road, darnit.

What is so hard about multi-modal transportation and technologies that we already have? Why isn't the improvement we could make NOW, without R & D, not enough for Musk?
posted by saysthis at 3:14 AM on August 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


What is so hard about multi-modal transportation and technologies that we already have? Why isn't the improvement we could make NOW, without R & D, not enough for Musk?

Because there isn’t enough money or glory to be made in the current situation?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:20 AM on August 17, 2018


Azealia Banks' Instastory about being stuck at his mansion while he's high on acid while Grime's comforted him about his idiotic tweet about taking Tesla private

I sought clarification on this, but I'm not sure it helped
posted by thelonius at 6:26 AM on August 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Musk's downward spiral into The Billionaire Who's Letting Twitter Ruin His Life.

In that respect, at least, he's no different than the rest of us commoners.

I feel like it's cocaine. He's definitely entered the Rock Opera part of his career and that's always a bad sign

According to Azealia Banks, it's acid, and in fact, most of Musk's ideas have a late-career-Timothy Leary feel to them. (Cf.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:44 AM on August 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Since the WEDWAY has been invoked, might I mention that the Morgantown PRT is still operating while school is in session, and it's pretty cool.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:14 AM on August 17, 2018


Thank you, thelonius. That was hilarious.
posted by Gotanda at 8:55 AM on August 17, 2018


One way or another, LA's light rail lines really need north/south connections at outward points. Everything is a spoke that radiates from downtown. The buses are better than they used to be but they're still at the mercy of traffic, and the bus has to make stops, which really detracts from the appeal of trying to rely entirely on transit. It might be short-sighted but there's a sense that once you're relying on the bus you might as well be in your car.

The 405 corridor is the most important, but it's frustrating that you can't get to/from the Expo mid-city and the Red Line in Hollywood. Or the Purple Line between them once it's built. The Crenshaw/LAX line will help with getting south, but in should keep running NW towards LaBrea & Pico and then north up So. LaBrea (or Fairfax, to be close to the museums and the Grove) to intersect the Purple Line and then veer back NE towards the Red Line terminus, with a couple stops in West Hollywood on Melrose and Santa Monica.

It might be easier to use San Vicente from a construction perspective,it has a median and may be a former rail easement, but that would just get you to the Purple Line around BH/WeHo so would do a lot less to link everything up. If you had an extension of the Inglewood/LAX line up LaBrea or Fairfax it would hit a lot most destinations before connecting to the Red Line in at Hollywood & Highland. An arriving tourist could take the train from the Airport to Universal with one transfer (and that transfer would itself be in the middle of a tourist attraction). In reverse, Valley residents could park at Universal and go to the airport. WeHo residents could take the train directly to the airport.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:30 AM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The buses are better than they used to be but they're still at the mercy of traffic, and the bus has to make stops, which really detracts from the appeal of trying to rely entirely on transit.

The buses have to make lots of stops because there aren't enough of them. If you double the frequency of buses, the less likely that anyone wants to get on or off at every stop. If you cram everyone into one bus, you are likely to have to make every stop. What you want are smaller buses that run every 5 minutes instead of big buses that run every 15 minutes.
posted by JackFlash at 9:43 AM on August 17, 2018


I can't really tell if this (Elon Musk Details ‘Excruciating’ Personal Toll of Tesla Turmoil) is a placed hit-piece or a placed apologetic but it's certainly something else
And some board members have expressed concern not only about Mr. Musk’s workload but also about his use of Ambien, two people familiar with the board said."

... In the interview on Thursday, Mr. Musk alternated between laughter and tears.

... “There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside,” he said. “This has really come at the expense of seeing my kids. And seeing friends.”

Mr. Musk stopped talking, seemingly overcome by emotion.

He turned 47 on June 28, and he said he spent the full 24 hours of his birthday at work. “All night — no friends, nothing,” he said, struggling to get the words out.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:12 AM on August 17, 2018


So are the tunnels they want to build unuseable for regular metro style trains? Is there any reason not to pay the cheap tunnel cost and then tell him to scram?

Boring is paying for the LA construction themselves. I feel that fact has been missed.

If someone tells you that they can make massive changes to the physical world much more cheaply than anyone in history has ever been able to do it, and well beyond the state of the art, without any explanation as to how...

There is no cost estimate for the LA tunnel. The only cost estimate for the Chicago tunnel I could find is an anonymous source. Musk is extremely not claiming he can "make massive changes ... much more cheaply" only that someday he expects to be able to do so.

Secondly, there are some big differences between what's being proposed and a 'normal' subway line that might, eventually, lead to lower costs. A huge chunk of the cost of building a subway is excavating and building the stations. Afaict, the 'per-mile' costs include these costs. Having the tunnel interface be a much smaller elevator or ramp means the station can be aboveground. Having a small max ridership means the station does not need to accommodate a massive rush hour crowd.

There's also the large difference in tube diameter that directly effects tunneling costs. It may be feasible to build a satisfying pod experience in a tunnel that is too small for traditional heavy rail. I don't know, the proof will be in the pudding as they say.

Finally, the skates are much smaller than trains and based on an existing mass-manufactured platform. I couldn't find a worldwide figure for train cars built per year but NYCTA ordered 1,662 + 212 train cars over 5 years and is about 2% of the worldwide subway system by miles so back of the envelope call it 7,000 train cars built per year. Telsa builds that many Model Xs in about 40 days. Ford sells that many F150s in three days. Experience curves are a pretty strong factor at those relative production rates (AIUI).

I don't think the rolling stock cost is included in the per-mile construction number but this is relevant for operating costs and the feasibility of $1 tickets of course.

What is so hard about multi-modal transportation and technologies that we already have? Why isn't the improvement we could make NOW, without R & D, not enough for Musk?

I don't think Musk is in charge of city planning anywhere. Perhaps you should direct that question to the people who are?


Look, this whole project might not work, might be the wrong transit choice for the area, might never make money. I don't know. Reading a thread where half the comments have decided it's a dumb idea because Musk proposed it and then use the now-obviously-dumb idea to recursively trash Musk is pretty frustrating.
posted by Skorgu at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2018


Lol at the idea that the frustrating thing is that people aren't giving Musk's undercooked transit ideas enough of a chance. At the first critical comment from a person who has actually spent literal decades successfully redesigning municipal transit networks, instead of offering an actual response or even just ignoring this person, Musk called him "an idiot" on Twitter and then went on a rant about how his interlocutor had a PhD in the Humanities and therefore was unqualified to criticize him.

Musk doesn't need people to "give him a chance," he needs to at the very least listen to some people with actual relevant expertise and not assume that his technical know-how automatically carries over into every domain. Until then, we absolutely should be skeptical.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:48 PM on August 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


What technical know-how? Musk got a BS is Physics and then devoted the rest of his life to business. I won't pretend he hasn't been vastly successful in his chosen field, but the idea that he has any kind of engineering expertise whatsoever, in any domain, is laughable. Elon the Engineer is a carefully crafted public persona, nothing more.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:55 PM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


haha, well, I am willing to grant him field expertise in, for example, aerospace engineering and business -- at the very least he has a legitimate record in those fields. (But I agree with the point about him manufacturing a kind of cult of personality. It reminds me a little of Craig Venter in the world of genomics.)
posted by en forme de poire at 1:27 PM on August 17, 2018


So basically, Elon Musk is using the fact that he has way too much money to get the city to allow him to build a specialized infrastructure project for the rich, something which will transport a very small number of people, will not bring in meaningful revenue and will still be accessible only to people who can afford to pay extra to travel - functionally, he is building a private transit system for the rich. A rich man is redesigning the city to his whim, based on his inexperience with and hatred for ordinary life.

This is part of what I object to about the super-wealthy and their undertaxed corporations - why should he get to do this? It's undemocratic, it's going to be useless for the majority, it relies on private transit when private transit needs to be declining and it's essentially hijacking a big footprint to serve the rich.

Whenever anyone is like "yeah it's cool that we have this express service to get to the airport super fast for $25 AND we have a $5 much slower route", I think about that whole majestic equality of the law thing, where the poor and the rich are equally free to sleep under bridges. Why should we be building super-fast transit for the affluent? Why can't we just improve service for everyone? If Elon Musk hates slow buses and crowded conditions, do you think ordinary people like them?

This whole thing is predicated, as usual, on the idea that the rich are more sensitive than the common herd - that it's some kind of huge wrong that a billionaire has to wait in traffic, but working class people are as the beasts who perish and they can wait all day.

If anything, someone like Musk, who has a well-paid job with no heavy lifting, should wait more than someone who works sixty hours a week at a fast food restaurant, because Musk hasn't spent all day doing something horrible and draining for low pay.

When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?
posted by Frowner at 1:37 PM on August 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


haha, well, I am willing to grant him field expertise in, for example, aerospace engineering and business -- at the very least he has a legitimate record in those fields.

Where aerospace is concerned, he has a legitimate record of hiring people who know what they're doing. I'll give him that much credit and not a jot more.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:24 PM on August 17, 2018


> What you want are smaller buses that run every 5 minutes instead of big buses that run every 15 minutes.

Except the buses that skipped stops catch up with the buses that didn't, find it difficult to overtake (or impossible, if they have a dedicated lane) then you end up with 3 buses every 15 minutes.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 3:50 PM on August 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


That is a theoretical problem no matter how many buses you have or how often they run. But it isn't difficult to solve. For one thing, why can't buses pass each other? These more frequent buses are presumably smaller. Cars certainly don't have a problem passing buses. Nobody sits behind a bus and follows it for five miles.

A better solution is intelligent scheduling. Most buses these days are connected by computer systems that track their locations. If two buses start to bunch up, you just send a signal to the front bus to skip their next three stops which will instead be serviced by the bus right behind them. That allows the bus in front to gain ground and keep the spacing closer to every 5 minutes.

Not difficult to solve. Can be done today and doesn't require unproven technology like self-driving cars.
posted by JackFlash at 4:44 PM on August 17, 2018


you just send a signal to the front bus to skip their next three stops which will instead be serviced by the bus right behind them

this signal is currently baked into any driver-controlled transit system that uses buses! Is your coach full and you have no exiting passengers at the next stop? Drive on by, driver!
posted by mwhybark at 5:13 PM on August 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


From David Roberts:
What percentage of Elon Musk's troubles could have been avoided if he'd just decided a few years ago to shut the F up and concentrate on making good cars?
There is seemingly no amount of blowback, no consequence, so severe that it will lead a powerful white man to conclude that he should just STFU. It is unfathomable to them.

1 2
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:54 PM on August 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


"mad dan" eccles: "Does it bother anyone else that they're calling a point-to-point system a Loop?"

Me too. And each end of the non-loop has a "loop" too and from what I can see those aren't loops either.

Literaryhero: "Related to this particular fiasco, what a stupid idea. The cars can only move in one direction at a time because the tunnel is too narrow? Cars that only hold like ten people at a time? It makes no sense.
"

It's a proof of concept/test bed. Larger systems would have at least two tunnels side by side with traffic going in opposite directions.
posted by Mitheral at 7:02 AM on August 18, 2018


It's a proof of concept/test bed.

If he wants to "proof" it, then let him do it on his own dime. If it's profitable, he can build lots of them and get even more rich. But the public shouldn't be spending money on this boondoggle. He's already getting the gift of free mining rights under private and public land. He should be paying for that as well.

By the way, who is paying for the land for the terminals on each end and the entrance and exit ramps to public highways?
posted by JackFlash at 9:37 AM on August 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


The article says he is paying for it and all the land where surface features are are either owned by the Boring Company or other private land owners. It doesn't need ramps to the highway because this is a strictly pedestrian project. I guess technically the city will pay/will have already paid for sidewalks to the private property.
Who is paying for this?

The Boring Company. This project will be 100% privately funded and will require zero taxpayer dollars.
What land will this be under?

The tunnel will run beneath public right-of-way and private land owned by The Boring Company. The western terminus will be located on property owned by The Boring Company, and the eastern stadium terminus will be located on privately owned property at or near the Dodger Stadium parking lot.
posted by Mitheral at 1:30 PM on August 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Fine if he wants to pay for it all, but I want to see the fine print first. Everything Musk has done in the last decade has been with billions in government money -- Tesla, Solar City, SpaceX, the battery factory. So I will believe this one when I see it.

The western terminus will be located on property owned by The Boring Company, and the eastern stadium terminus will be located on privately owned property at or near the Dodger Stadium parking lot.

The article says that the two terminal locations are not exactly known yet. That suggests he has "secured" the property the way he has "secured" funding for a Tesla buyout? How does he plan to get ownership of the "private property." Through government seizure by eminent domain?
posted by JackFlash at 8:01 PM on August 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Musk has provided a significant amount of comedy for me in the past couple of weeks, so I thank him for that. Anything beyond the comedy is almost entirely bluff and bluster. That New York Times piece is a hilariously inept attempt at damage control.

The Boring Company has yet to do anything other than make press and flamethrowers.
posted by graventy at 1:47 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


The Boring Company has yet to do anything other than make press and flamethrowers.

To be absolutely fair to ol' Elon, it seems as if his Boring Company has actually finished digging a test tunnel in Hawthorne (presumably near his company's HQ) back in May, although the length of this tunnel is really not clear to me. Also, he claimed back in May that this test tunnel would be open to the public "in a few months" "pending final regulatory approvals". Not sure what the current state of this tunnel is. Also, there's talk of "pods" and "skates" but has anyone actually seen one? Does such a thing even physically exist or is it still just CAD drawings at this point? Who knows?

What strikes me about the test tunnel is how narrow it is. Unless I'm missing something, it really seems only designed for one-way traffic. If it's going to be open to the public, I'm not sure exactly how it's supposed to work.
posted by mhum at 5:17 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


The skates are essentially a Tesla platform; very little actual engineering would be required for a test bed aside from coachwork (eventually you'd want to spend some money optimizing).

And yes it's a single one way tunnel for the test. Traffic is to or from the stadium as appropriate to service game day traffic. Presumably production versions would involve pairs to maximize throughput.
posted by Mitheral at 6:12 PM on August 20, 2018


The skates are essentially a Tesla platform; very little actual engineering would be required for a test bed aside from coachwork (eventually you'd want to spend some money optimizing).

Ok, it seems like they've posted a video on Twitter back in June of maybe a prototype skate? They have what looks like a regular Tesla car but it appears to be mounted on some kind of sled or platform with horizontal wheels, though I can't tell if the Tesla's wheels are driving the horizontal wheels or if something else is going on there. I'm not an automotive engineer so I guess I'm going to have to take your word for it that it'll require very little actual engineering to go from that to something like this.
posted by mhum at 6:44 PM on August 20, 2018


The horizontal wheels in that vid are just bolted to the frame of the car to provide guidance; propulsion is provided by the conventional vertical tires.
posted by Mitheral at 10:11 PM on August 20, 2018


Oh yeah. That makes more sense.
posted by mhum at 10:40 AM on August 21, 2018


mhum: "I'm not an automotive engineer so I guess I'm going to have to take your word for it that it'll require very little actual engineering to go from that to something like this."

The this is pretty much (or could be anyways) just coachwork (I mean not without cost but you'll have that cost regardless of what you use to move people). The expensive mechanical bits would all be production line Tesla bits possibly bolted to a new floor pan. IE: basically grab a sawzall; cut the body off a Tesla a few inches above the floor and weld on a new body. It can cost a billion dollars to design and tool a new car; not having to do anything mechanical wise is a huge saving especially in a tiny market like subways. Being able to leverage that is I'm sure one of the constraints that led to each skate having a pretty small passenger capacity (8-16). I guarantee if Tesla was shipping their promised heavy truck those skates would leverage that instead and be a lot bigger.
posted by Mitheral at 9:17 PM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


Musk's Boring Co. held a public meeting at Dodger Stadium last night to discuss the project with the "community." A local resident and baseball fan attended the meeting and tweeted about it.

The meeting... did not go well.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:53 AM on August 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm sure those Musk employees were there of their own volition as interested community members.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:39 AM on August 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


(Only half sarcastic, I'm sure at least some of Musk's employees have legitimately bought into his cult of personality.)
posted by tobascodagama at 10:40 AM on August 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Boring Company approved to build a tunnel entrance inside a residential garage -- The plans received initial approval from the Hawthorne City Council. (Megan Geuss for Ars Technica, Sept. 12, 2018)
Elon Musk's young tunneling company was granted approval from the Hawthorne City Council today to build a shaft on the property. The shaft would go down to a tunnel that The Boring Company had built as a sort of tunneling laboratory. The shaft would one day house an elevator that could lower a car down into the tunnel without leaving the garage.

Although The Boring Company still needs to provide more detailed plans to the city of Hawthorne before it can start building, the initial plans suggest that the company is seeking to test different ways that its tunnels could be accessed (and perhaps paid for).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:53 AM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


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