Elon Musk unveils the first Boring Company tunnel under Los Angeles

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Like a character from Shakespeare, Elon Musk is larger than life, so here’s a look at his tunnel in iambic pentameter.

People underestimate Elon Musk at their peril; he has accomplished amazing things. From rockets to electric cars to flamethrowers, he has changed the world. And unlike normal people, when he gets stuck in traffic, he doesn’t sit and swear or look at his giant TV dashboard or get a bike, he has bigger visions. Voila: The Boring Company, which just unveiled its first tunnel. He said at the launch: “Traffic is soul-destroying. It’s like acid on the soul.” Previously he had noted:

© Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images

To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won’t fall on your head. A large network of road tunnels many levels deep would fix congestion in any city, no matter how large it grew (just keep adding levels). The key to making this work is increasing tunneling speed and dropping costs by a factor of 10 or more – this is the goal of The Boring Company.

Musk has dropped the cost of tunnelling primarily by dropping the diameter of the tunnel to slightly larger than the width of his car. In the latest iteration, he has even dropped the “skate” that the car sat on in favour of retractible curb guide wheels like those used on buses. This makes a lot of sense, given that his electric cars have the motors and brains to drive themselves, and it takes up less space.

retractible wheels© Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images

But it does limit the market to smart electric cars that have been outfitted with guide wheels, which will add weight and cost to the cars. And that’s a pretty small market.

Laura Nelson of the Los Angeles Times says the ride was a bit bumpy. Musk explains:

“We kind of ran out of time,” Musk said, attributing the rough ride to problems with a paving machine. “The bumpiness will not be there down the road. It will be as smooth as glass. This is just a prototype. That’s why it’s just a little rough around the edges.”

Musk acknowledges that there are other people who do not own Teslas who need to get around, but his solution for them is not realistic; he would need a lot of cars to make a difference.

There are many people who think that the whole idea is silly, and that it doesn’t scale. One critic is transportation consultant Jarrett Walker, who got into a spat with Musk a year ago, which we covered on TreeHugger earlier. Another is playwright Joe Bagel, who tells Cult#MTL:

Elon called Jarrett an “idiot” and brought up dirt about Jarrett having gotten a PhD in Shakespeare Studies before he became a transit expert. Low blow! Such a jackass! So what better way to respond to Elon’s anti-Shakespeare tweet than a 17,000-word clapback in iambic pentameter?

Joe Bagel© Diving Bell Social Club

Which is how we got Trapped in Elon’s Mansion, which recently premiered in Montreal. Act 1.0.2 discusses the Boring Company, tunnels and Jarrett Walker, which we publish portions of with permission from the author. First, the Mayor of Los Angeles introduces our hero Musk:

Tonight ’tis my duty—nay, privilege,
Honour, blessing—nay, nay, benedictus
To introduce to you, my city’s yawns,
L.A.’s celibated entrepreneur,
Maverick, mover, shaker, guru, tweeter,
Engineer, icon, designer, rock star,
A “disruptor” in not only one field,
Like pizza directions, or rocket ships,
Email bank transfers, or polar sandals,
Or near-cypersonic vacuum car pods,
Or an underground car conveyor belt,
Or the cheapest-seeming car belt tunnels,
Or the first long-range electric sports cart—
Not Musk! He has disrespected them all!

Musk explains why he hates being stuck in traffic.

Fie! Fie! On with it! For time is like oil:
Our reserves are finite, we think it cheap
Then we awake, one day, cloaked in its fumes
Choking back its fetid blackfoot’s breath.
Citizens of Los Angeles! Hear ye:
Tonight I beseech you to help me build
A gold ring to band our city’s jewels.
Why? As getting around Los Angeles
Feels, on good days, like Dante’s seventh rung.
And a bad day? An eight-deep inferno.

Musk then tells how he would solve the problem:

Thousands of tunnels, bored below our feet
Such will make L.A.’s underground replete
Tunnels, tunnels, tunnels, all the way down
Eastward, westward, northward, and south-veering
With my boring machines we’ll make a clearing
We’ll spare the spades of yore, their bright-edged blades
And bore down deep beneath each beach and glade.
Imagine thus: your car, but down a shaft
Into a car pod, shuttled like a raft
On a great car-conveying skate, hands-free,
Zipped from point to any point, a-to-b,
And since our pods will be robotic-steered
There’s no risk of catching one from the rear.

But Jarrett Walker notes that these tunnels are a bit elitist. I leave the rest to the playwright:

Mr. Musk: what improvement seekest thee?
Is it an abatement of our traffic?
Or is it merely a thinning of thine?
For at a first glance of this proposal,
(And I admit, it was a nauseous one),
I saw naught within extraordinary
Save the marketing slickness of thine brand.

ELON MUSK
Chill that tongue, cow, lest I brand it myself!

JARRETT WALKER
I would rather thou bore my mooing cheeks
And then brand my grass-fed tongue to cinders
Than stamp my brand on thine boring blueprints
For a second asshole’s punctured purpose.

ELON MUSK
He makes an ingrate of the ungulates!

JARRETT WALKER
If only, and I would be most grateful.
Call me a hippo, a cow, a camel,
It doesn’t warp the math of bulbous truth—
Elephants do not fit in a wineglass
Just as L.A.’s space-wracked metropolis
Has no room for personal parking spots
For single-occupant automobiles,
Nor will another car-bridge or -tunnel
Amend this-here city’s traffic deathtrap.
Public transit, not tunnels, are the way!

ELON MUSK
Go on, wiggling Walker, tell us more!
I am transportation’s visionary,
Thou wouldst rather me ride a dirty bus.

JARRETT WALKER
A bus can be tidied, but not math, man.
For one subway tunnel’s capacity
L.A. would need a thousand thine bore holes. Thou’d do well to recall what Plato said—
Inscribed on his Academy’s entrance:
“Let no one ignorant of geometry enter.”

ELON MUSK
He knows his “Plato”: it packs his belly
If only engines could burn its jelly
Then we’d have no need for a powertrain! Forget Tesla. Let’s all ride… what’s his name.

JARRETT WALKER
The tunnels thou proposes are fanciful
Yet fancy’s the only thing they’re full of.
Never before has the phrase “mass transit”
Been wasted on cars so sparsely ridden.
Couple-person car pods? Is air thine mass?
Buses and trains can fit a hundred-plus.
Thou art short on pros—but long on the cons.

green tunnel© Robyn Beck-Pool/Getty Images

Like a character from Shakespeare, Elon Musk is larger than life, so here’s a look at his tunnel in iambic pentameter.

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