Elon Musk’s subterranean side project, the Boring Company, went before the Culver City Council last night with its proposal to dig a 6.5-mile “proof-of-concept” tunnelunderneath Los Angeles, with the goal of solving the region’s traffic woes.
The Boring Company has already received approval for and built a two-mile “test tunnel” underneath SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. This new, longer stretch would be used to perform verification tests of all the necessary systems, like the electric “skates” that will whisk riders in their cars to their destination, but also the equipment and processes being used to build the tunnels in the first place.
According to Wired, council members who oversee the fate of Musk’s tunneling venture were divided on its utility, especially in light of the billionaire’s recent controversial comments about public transportation:
The five City Council members met the presentation with mixed reactions. Meghan Sahli-Wells said she was worried the private transportation company would compete with public transit systems, which are charged with providing equitable transportation options for entire city. “I don’t really trust a private company to watch out for equity because I haven’t seen it happen,” she said. “It looks super sexy and super easy but it’s half-baked from a public perspective.”
Others like the idea of bringing some Musk magic to the city, home to 40,000 residents and famous for its movie and television studios. “I think there’s still so much to vet out and so much technology that’s going to move forward, but we’re a very forward thinking city,” said Mayor Jeffrey Cooper. “I think it would be foolhardy of us to just say no.” He said he hoped the company would bring a more solid proposal before the city council in the future.
Boring Company operations chief Jehn Balajadia framed her pitch around the idea that these tunnels could be used for a public transit system called a “Loop.” In documents it submitted to the council, the Boring Company describes the Loop as “a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers (mass transit), or a single passenger vehicle.” Tunnels can also be used for a hyperloop, which Musk originally envisioned as a levitating, near-supersonic transport system.
This was most likely intended to address any concerns about the controversy Musk stirred up in December when he described public transportation as “painful” and a “pain in the ass.” Transit advocates decried Musk’s comments as tone-deaf and elitist. Musk maintains that his comments were taken out of context.
Now that Musk needs government approval for his tunnel under LA, his surrogates are interested in talking up the Boring Company’s potential to supplement public transportation rather than serve as a private highway for Tesla-driving rich people. Of course, experts question whether tunnels are really an answer to the quandary of overcapacity, in addition to questioning Musk’s claims that he can dig tunnels faster and at a fraction of the cost of traditional boring technology. The Boring Company has yet to publicly prove its claims.