Totally tubular solution proposed for putting cars underground

London view
© PLP Architecture

UPDATE: More information and a bit less skepticism in a new post here.

PLP/Architecture is a talented gang, but they do like to see their names in the paper; hence their proposal for an 80 storey plyscraper and now this, a proposal for a CarTube, a sort of underground moving sidewalk for cars. In tubes. On massive conveyor belts. It is a lovely vision, shown in the rendering above, with the roadway turned into grass and bike lanes, and trees planted on the Westminster Bridge; There is no question that it is much improved over the same view today on Google:

enbankmentGoogle street view/Screen capture

Francesca Perry of the Guardian
points out some of the problems with the idea, noting that it is expensive, and that the real estate underground is rather crowded with sewers, subway infrastructure and foundations. It is also technically a challenge, with cars “spaced at two-metre gaps and locked into position on constantly moving tracks, so accidents and delays are also prevented.” She quotes architect Lars Hesselgren:

“The real issue is control,” Hesselgren explains. “Trains and tubes have controls; cars don’t. Autonomous cars do, but they don’t work well with pedestrians, cyclists and other unexpected elements. The only way you can have a high-capacity car network in a city is to have a dedicated track.”

He is probably right about that; we have noted before the worry that autonomous cars might not play well with people. But why do we need a high capacity car network in a city in the first place? As Francesca notes, the big question is,

…shouldn’t we be thinking about moving away from car-based city transport altogether, rather than simply building expensive alternative infrastructure for it? What about promoting cycling and public transport? “This is public transport,” insists Hesselgren, adding that because cars on the CarTube can be continuous and closely spaced, moving at a speed of 50 miles per hour (80kmh), capacity for transporting people is higher than packed trains that come every five minutes.

tubes© PLP Architecture

Really, it is not public transport any more than a private car on a public road is public transport. And if you could get those cars going 80 kmh with two meter headway It would carry more people than a London train which carries about 860, but that is in a thousand cars in five minutes, stretching five kilometres. How high is this “car stack” where they are parked? (at 2 meters per car vertically, that is a 2 kilometer tall tower of cars).

Francesca concludes:

…some cities are tackling street-level car congestion with approaches far simpler, and cheaper, than an entirely new automated underground transport system: building safe segregated bike lanes, controlling car access to urban cores, and increasing the capacity on public transport. Taking cars off the road is a noble idea indeed, but putting them underground may not solve the transport challenges our cities currently face.

As we have noted before, 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. This isn't creative outside the box thinking from PLP architecture, but just more of the same. Francesca is right; get a bike.

Here is a video that PLP put out, showing something related to the Car Tube:

Car Tube Simulation from PLP Architecture on Vimeo.

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