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“A narrow, jagged death-tunnel”

Thursday, Dec 20, 2018

* Background is here if you need it. While there’s some NSFW language in here, Albert Burneko at a DeadSpin publication has a brutal take on Elon Musk’s “loop” idea that Chicago wants to run between downtown and O’Hare

Okay so wait, I think I’m explaining it wrong. Picture this! It’s, it’s, you see, it’s a subway, only instead of trains filled with many dozens or hundreds of people at a time, riding through a grid of large tunnels, in a grand choreographed underground ballet capable of moving tens or hundreds of thousands of riders per hour, it’s … Tesla-brand cars … with their owners and maybe a couple other people … driving at moderate speed … through narrow, bumpy tunnels with no emergency exits. […]

People invented subway trains like 150 years ago, man, you’re saying now. This guy just invented a comically slow-moving conveyor belt for his other company’s cars. Literally the only innovation here is that it’s a worse version of both driving and riding the subway, and only available to people who’ve bought one brand of car. Yes. True. Wait. No. It’s innovative! It’s a solution to the problem of traffic, because now, merely by purchasing a Tesla-brand autonomous electric vehicle and outfitting it with special retractable side-wheels, Tesla owners can bypass gridlock and choose instead to spend their time sitting in the insanely slow-moving line outside of this dumb tunnel, waiting for their turn to go through it, one car at a time.

This isn’t even a good idea for Tesla drivers, you’re saying now. Why would anyone want to make use of this dumb tunnel. We haven’t even really gotten into how even in the press demonstration, it was such an uncomfortable ride that the Washington Post reporter described, in an otherwise not particularly hostile article, as not “an experience you’d tolerate from a public subway service” and which the Los Angeles Times likened to “driving on a dirt road.” Or the danger the stupid aftermarket retractable sideways wheels could pose to other drivers and their ordinary cars if they malfunction. Or the fact that Tesla cars are infamously prone to bursting into flames, which makes them uniquely unsuited to being driven through narrow bumpy tunnels with no room for fire trucks or emergency exits. Or how the planned tunnels are so narrow that even opening a car door inside one looks like a dodgy proposition. Or how even just at the highest conceptual level this is an obviously dumb and pointless idea that even in the absolute best case—which it isn’t presently aiming for—would be redundant to and/or worse than existing rapid-transit rail systems that do not require their riders to own Tesla cars. You’re being a little bit of a jerk right now, to be honest. Why can’t you just get on board with innovation?

* Slate’s Henry Grabar

As hard as it is to imagine such a system in operation, it’s even harder to imagine the network of light-speed elevator shafts that would be required to lift and let down a vehicle every second. Or the ramps required to allow those vehicles to accelerate to join the flow of traffic … or the means of egress in case of an accident … or, or, or. Why are we still talking about this?

There is one arena in which to hold out hope, however: that Musk has made a substantial advance in tunnel technology. He has not fulfilled his promise to tunnel faster—the 6,000-foot tunnel took 18 months to dig, a distance that a state-of-the-art tunnel-boring machine could clear in eight.

But he may have done so at a bargain price: a measly $10 million, he says. But that doesn’t include research, development, or equipment, according to the Los Angeles Times, and it’s not clear if it includes land acquisition or labor. (Musk has been using SpaceX to fund the Boring Company, to the consternation of some of the former company’s investors, according to the Wall Street Journal.)

* My favorite tweet on this topic…



- Posted by Rich Miller        

15 Comments
  1. - A Jack - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 2:27 pm:

    What is the solution if the Tesla owner forgets to charge up the car that morning and it dies right in the middle of the tunnel? It didn’t look like there was any room to move it to the side and let others pass. Do you just push the car nine miles to the exit? And what kind of gridlock would that cause if you are waiting for an out of shape person to push his car nine miles?


  2. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 2:28 pm:

    This feels like Ralphie from A Christmas Story when he realizes the truth about the Decoder Ring.


  3. - Huh? - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 2:28 pm:

    Loop - another rich boy’s toy to stroke his vanity.


  4. - lakeside - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 2:29 pm:

    Sure this is trash, but think about a few years from now when we’ll look back fondly on the time when the $400m Block 37 station simply did *nothing*, rather than *something worse* that cost us an extra billion or so.


  5. - BC - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 2:47 pm:

    Am I missing something, but aren’t two different concepts being conflated here? One being the concept that Musk previewed yesterday — the “Tesla in a tunnel” for drivers to avoid surface traffic. That idea seems wacky for all the reasons mentioned above.

    But the downtown-to-O’Hare loop concept is different. It’s a high-speed, multi-passagener, express “train” between two stops. That’s much more likely to work. The question that didn’t get addressed in any of the media coverage I saw, is whether or not Musk’s new tunneling technology can work as quickly and cheaply as he claims.


  6. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 3:09 pm:

    ===But the downtown-to-O’Hare loop concept is different===

    Nope. “Anyway, the skates have been canceled. The car is the skate” https://capitolfax.com/2018/12/19/what-could-possibly-go-wrong-with-elon-musks-loop/

    ===whether or not Musk’s new tunneling technology can work as quickly and cheaply as he claims. ===

    It’s in the post. His process is much slower and nobody knows what his real costs are.


  7. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 3:18 pm:

    Seems like in the free style hash-it-out “what are some of the potential problems we might face doing this project” meeting Musk and Company had too much ‘hash’ and too little critical thinking. Wizard of Oz and Flim-Flam man meld.


  8. - Lil Squeezy - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 3:26 pm:

    Tech bro drills poorly made tunnel in more than twice the amount of time that a tunnel drilling company takes. I am impressed.


  9. - Actual Red - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 3:35 pm:

    Elon Musk is a con artist. Paypal made money because it was an early entry into the field, but it is far from the best option out there today. Electric cars are a good idea that other people had before Musk, but Tesla has consistently failed to deliver the way musk claims it will. This new idea is all talk, no substance yet again. Why do people like this guy?


  10. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 3:45 pm:

    Meanwhile his idea for a large number of satellites providing broadband has stopped many state legislatures from investing in rural broadband and faces just as many hurdles. Stop listening to the doofus.


  11. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 3:48 pm:

    Ohm my goodness. This project will meet some resistance. I wonder watt the solution will be.


  12. - dbk - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 3:59 pm:

    Hope some reporter gets explicit statements (in writing, quoted live) from all the mayoral candidates on what they plan to do about this.

    S/he who responds “Fund those major upgrades to the Blue Line” should get bonus % points.

    I watched Musk on “60 Minutes” a couple of weeks ago (interviewed by Leslie Stahl) and he was … different. Some would justify his behavior as “genius,” others would suggest he’s losing touch with reality. Or it could be both.

    In any case he and the Boring Co. aren’t in sufficiently good shape to complete such a public works mega-project.


  13. - Montrose - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 4:03 pm:

    So, will Rahm call it off with Elon or will he let that be an early win for the next mayor?


  14. - City Zen - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 4:04 pm:

    Years ago, I saw Jagged Death-Tunnel at The Vic when they opened up for Cannibal Corpse.


  15. - A Jack - Thursday, Dec 20, 18 @ 4:23 pm:

    Chicago does have an existing tunnel system that was used for moving coal and ash around the loop area. The tunnel system flooded in 1992 and the results were not good.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-chicago-flood-25th-anniversary-met-20170412-story.html

    This new tunnel would have to go under the Des Plaines river to link up Chicago to O’Hare and possibly under the Chicago River depending on where the entrance is located.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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