QOTD: What's Your Ridiculous Solution to Our Traffic Woes?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Sitting motionless in traffic can be almost as painful as slogging through a live feed of one of Elon Musk’s futuristic transportation reveals. In a desperate bid to eliminate daily blood pressure spikes, some of us stagger our commute times (a rare option), some take public transit (often, a grim compromise), others car-pool (like it’s WW2), and those living close enough to their jobs swap the car for a bike and the often insufferable lifestyle that comes with it.

Others dream of something better. You’ve dreamed of something better, and it probably wasn’t any dumber than the lackluster tunnel The Boring Company showed off this week.

If you weren’t around for all the fanfare and resulting hot takes Tuesday night, Musk, who also does some work at Tesla and SpaceX, opened a narrow “proof of concept” tunnel between the rocketship company’s HQ, just outside of L.A., and a parking lot just over a mile distant. Journalists were invited to go down into the eccentric billionaire’s experimental tunnel. No, they weren’t all enslaved or hunted for sport, but the setup sure makes it seem like a possible outcome.

Instead, the assembled participants were taken on underground trips in a Tesla Model X at speeds reaching a blistering 40 mph. Musk envisions 150 mph travel, with cars driving onto a streetside elevator platform, lowered down into the tunnel, then whisked along, single file, at breakneck speed. Lowly motorists on the country’s packed freeways can only envision their underground superiors’ bliss and weep silently to AM talk radio, trying not to let nearby motorists see their tears.

The Boring Company Loop system pic.twitter.com/xVpDHzZKXB

— The Boring Company (@boringcompany) December 19, 2018

The Tesla testbed vehicle deployed tracking wheels just ahead of the front tires, and Musk says all vehicles using the tunnels will be required to have these little outriggers. (They’ll also have to be electric.) Clearly, his electric skate idea is dead. These tracking wheels keep the vehicle (note: only vehicles with some type of autonomous control apply to this futuristic concept) centered within the narrow concrete track at the bottom of the tunnel. At certain points along the track, short pull-outs (ramps, spur tracks, whatever) would allow drivers to leave the underground single-lane expressway and reach street level. Other drivers would be allowed to enter at these points, as well.

Of course, none of these things occurred during the mile-long media drive, but Musk’s only existing track is purely for testing. Well, PR, really. Reporters complained of a bumpy ride.

Is this the solution to congested freeways? Boring holes beneath the city so that certain expensive vehicle owners can pay an undetermined (though likely quite high) fee to ride single-file in their own cars to work? It’s like the movie Metropolis, only reversed. In this futuristic vision, the teeming, impoverished masses now live above ground while their hedonistic, elite rulers sequester themselves below the city. I use the word masses because, unless Musk builds thousands of miles of said tunnels, freeway traffic will not ebb (even if the “Loop” employs transportation pods containing a dozen people or so). New users will rush to fill the freeway gap.

Another thing: Surely, there’s still much work to be done in preventing, say, a speeding Tesla from colliding with the rear of another Tesla that just entered the stream. One wonders how those tracking wheels hold up at speeds of 150 mph. Or even 100 mph, over a long time frame. Hopefully they’re more durable than a Tesla control arm.

To this writer, the only upside to Musk’s system is that, presumably, long-suffering taxpayers who struggle to make payments on their ’14 Corolla loan wouldn’t have to foot part of the bill, with the cost of construction recouped through those willing to use the damn thing. That’s right, Chicagoans — your link to O’Hare won’t cost a dime. Trust your elected officials.

Well, that’s Musk’s plan to take some of the heat off commuters. What’s yours?

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • AtoB AtoB on Dec 22, 2018

    QOTD: What’s Your Ridiculous Solution to Our Traffic Woes? Since you asked... 1) Quit your job. Boom, no more commuting. Short of that demand to telecommute a few days a week. 2) Don't have kids. Boom, no more school runs, no field trips, fewer people on the roads in 20 years. If your religion pressures you to procreate remember there are already 7.6 BILLION people on this planet, more than at any time in history and your kids will demand a resource intensive first world lifestyle. The world will do better without your progeny. If you really feel the need to have kids adopt or foster instead. 3) Don't buy so much crap. Boom, fewer delivery trucks on the road, less junk weighing down your life. 4) Go out less, stay home more. Your couch, refrigerator and TV miss you. 5) STOP RUBBERNECKING!!! Yes I am talking to you! As you pass a misfortune do your best to clear the area as quickly and safely as possible. Slow down to "see whats going on" and YOU are now the problem. 6) Retire to a rural area, preferably in a country where your retirement will go further and healthcare is much more affordable. 7) If you buy a vehicle buy one for 95% of your actual lifestyle, not the lifestyle you want others to imagine you have. Rent appropriate vehicles for the other 5%. Don't buy a Ford F150 because you *might* need to move a refrigerator someday.

  • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Feb 04, 2019

    How to solve traffic: don't force every person in America to carry a two-ton metal box, which takes up 200 square feet of land, just to leave their house. There just isn't room for everyone to take up 200 square feet at all times while traveling among major destinations. We try anyway, and congestion is the result. Many of America's central cities were denser and busier in 1910 than they are today, and yet traffic was a non-issue. In the intervening century, everything we've built has been under the expectation that everyone outside of a building is always in a car. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy, because car-centered infrastructure makes existing outside of a car dangerous and scary. Adding more lanes just makes it worse, and doesn't solve congestion either, as even the widest highway just can't hold very many people at 200 sq ft/person. Those bike lanes people are complaining about in NYC are underused because they aren't connected to anything. Biking outside of them is terrifying, entirely because of motor vehicles, and you can't get anywhere only using the bike lanes. Where a comprehensive bike network that is safe from cars exists, people bike in overwhelming numbers in all weather. You can fit about 5 bikers in the space required by one car, and you can put bike infra much closer to pedestrians because light, slow bikes are much less deadly. But bikes aren't the only thing that are unlocked when you stop designing for cars first. Transit becomes fast and effective in a way that no one in America understands. Walking for transportation stops being scary and deadly, and starts being a great way to connect with places and people around you. It's a long, long, long way to get from the built form of America today to a place where people can exist outside cars. But it's the only way to ameliorate traffic -- doubling down on car-only existence, where everyone always takes up a bedroom's worth of space while in transit, will just make it worse as the population grows. I own three cars. But I'm also fortunate enough to be in a city where I don't have to use them for everything. I walk, bike, and take transit on an everyday basis, and I would do those things more -- and take up even less roadway space -- if they were safer on more trips.

  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.
  • Akear What an absurd strategy. They are basically giving up after all these years. When a company drinks the EV hemlock failure is just around the corner.
  • Graham The answer to a question that shouldn't have been asked LOL