We are a little bit late to this party as I was in Europe on bikes and transit, but now I can drill down and discuss why Elon Musk’s Boring idea is probably not one of his best, but is nonetheless a logical extension. Musk’s first preoccupation was building cars. They are wonderful, emission free cars, but they share the problem that every car has- they need roads to run on, and roads get crowded.
Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging...— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 17, 2016
Poor Elon Musk didn’t like this, and came up with a solution. Not mass transit or a great electric bike, not flying cars, but tunnels, as discussed previously here in Elon Musk gets stuck in traffic.
This is not a new idea; we showed PLP Architecture’s Totally tubular solution proposed for putting cars underground last year, which was considerably more resolved. It didn’t require the silly skates that Musk has put his cars on; that’s needless duplication when you have electric cars that are capable of talking to each other and linking into “virtual trains.”
Planner and consultant Brent Toderian took to twitter to point out the two words that are the biggest flaw in the plan: Induced Demand, also known as The Law of Congestion. That’s the principle, proven many times, that when you build a highway or add lanes to an existing highway, they fill up real fast with more cars.
Toderian is interviewed by the CBC on the subject:
Toderian argued that even if the tunnels could be built, they would be no more successful at solving traffic congestion than building more highways. More roads just encourage more people to drive, he said. "It shows a lack of understanding about how transportation congestion actually works," Toderian said. Toderian advises cities around the world on congestion problems and advocates for tolls, better land use, reduced car dependency and adding infrastructure for transit, walking and biking.
Brent is not alone; Jennifer Keesmaat, who knows something about the subject concurs.
Also, as I asked about in my post on the PLP architecture proposal, who is this helping? Private cars take up a lot of space, in the road, in a tunnel or in the parking garage. Private cars cost a lot of money. A tunnel is going to cost even more money, all to fill the need for rich people to be able to sit in a private little bubble. And as Brent notes, this is a whole lot of energy and carbon to more someone in a big metal box sitting on a big metal skate in a big concrete tunnel.
Then the cars have to surface at some point, where they end up taking up as much room as any other car. It really doesn't really address the problems of congestion at all. This isn’t Musk’s usual out-of-the-box thinking, but is really just more of the same. And always remember: