Elon Musk is an amazing, inspirational and fascinating genius. During his recent appearance on 60 Minutes, where correspondent Lesley Stahl fire off one when-did-you-stop-beating-your-dog question after another, you didn’t need to be a mind reader to figure out what Elon was thinking. “I’m wasting time. Not good.” I believe Elon miscalculated how jaded a news organization could be against the CEO of a company that refuses to advertise. Still, Lesley can do all the tongue clicking she wants because all it takes is one ride in a Tesla to convert the most adamant non-believer.
THE BORING COMPANY
I’ve been fascinated by Musk’s tunneling company, The Boring Company. The company specializes in three types of tunnels: water, conduit and loop transportation tunnels. His Loop Transportation Systems are primarily being pitched to accommodate passenger and cargo vehicles especially in heavily populated areas where automobile congestion is a political, environmental and social problem. The Boring Company completed a test tunnel in Hawthorne, California, recently and christened it by offering Tesla rides in the tunnel to VIPs (Jimmy Mac On Two Wheels was not enough of a VIP to warrant an invitation). Based on media accounts, everyone envisions a world where you speed through a tunnel while other poor saps are stuck in 405 traffic. I saw a different potential.
THE TERMINAL DILEMMA
It would be awesome to zoom in a tunnel under Los Angeles at 60 miles per hour during rush hour (which actually stretches all day long), but cars have to get into and out of those tunnels at terminals. It is tough to imagine how an automobile tunnel entrance wouldn’t develop a queue longer than at your average In-N-Out Burger. Way longer. And once you get to the exit terminal, you still have the same parking problems that plague every major city. Cars in the tunnels; great. Cars getting into and out of tunnels; not so great.
TUNNELS ARE FOR BIKES, NOT AUTOMOBILES
The Boring Company isn’t an automobile tunnel company. They construct tunnels for municipalities. It is up to city councils, mayors, city planners and transportation experts to decide what the tunnels should be used for. The answer is simple. Tunnels designed for bicycle, scooter and e-bike use makes more sense than building them for automobiles.
REMOVING THE OBJECTIONS
I don’t blame people for eschewing bike use in cities. The roads suck, the cars suck, the weather sucks, traffic lights suck, uphills suck and getting your bike stolen sucks. Bike tunnels remove all these obstacles. Elon and his Boring Company could engineer tunnels with pool-table smooth riding surfaces, 68-degree sunny weather (and maybe a tailwind!) and a pitch no greater than a rails-to-trails path. Bike (and scooter) sharing companies could offer vehicles at every tunnel entry substantially reducing the terminal problem. What’s not to love?
BETTER FOR EVERYONE
Moving bike (and scooter) usage underground benefits everyone. Pedestrians would only be sharing the sidewalks with other pedestrians. Car drivers wouldn’t be sharing the road with bicycles and above-ground bike lanes could be removed, giving more lanes to automobile operators. Car drivers would benefit from less congestion and improved parking availability as more people would inevitably choose the convenience of operating bikes in the underground utopia.
So Mr. Musk, please ask the Boring Company sales team to push the premise to city planners that tunnels are the answer to the prayers of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. That is, as long as the tunnels are used by cyclists.