- Elon Musk founded the Boring Company to build underground tunnels that could create the infrastructure for new forms of transit, like Hyperloop.
- Boring Company operations chief Jehn Balajadia received a mixed response at a city council meeting for LA County’s Culver City when she argued for permission to build part of a 6.5-mile “proof of concept tunnel” beneath the city.
- The meeting showed that the Boring Company still has plenty of work to do persuading city governments before its dreams of revolutionising transportation can become a reality.
Elon Musk founded the Boring Company because he was frustrated with Los Angeles’ notorious traffic. By building a series of underground tunnels, Musk hopes the company will create the infrastructure for new forms of transit, like Hyperloop, that will allow people to travel faster and face less congestion.
But the Boring Company is still in the early stages of testing its tunnel-digging technology. While it received approval to dig a two-mile test tunnel beneath the headquarters of Musk’s space travel company, SpaceX, in Hawthorne, California, the Boring Company will have to convince a number of local governments that its tunnels will be useful in order to conduct enough research and development to make an operational tunnel network a reality.
City officials have questions about the plan
The problem is that city and local governments may be hesitant to accept liability for the risks the tunnels may pose to existing infrastructure or let private companies compete with public transit systems. These concerns were illustrated at a city council meeting on Monday in LA County’s Culver City. During the meeting, Jehn Balajadia, the Boring Company’s operations chief, argued for permission to put part of a 6.5 mile “proof of concept” tunnel beneath Culver City.
The city council members who listened to Balajadia expressed mixed feelings about the proposal, according to Wired.
“I don’t really trust a private company to watch out for equity because I haven’t seen it happen,” councilwoman Meghan Sahli-Wells reportedly said. “It looks super sexy and super easy but it’s half-baked from a public perspective.”
Mayor Jeffrey Cooper reportedly had a different perspective. “I think there’s still so much to vet out and so much technology that’s going to move forward, but we’re a very forward-thinking city,” he reportedly said. “I think it would be foolhardy of us to just say no.”
There’s a much larger debate going on
Musk found himself in the middle of a similar debate on Twitter in December 2017 after news outlets reported critical statements Musk made about public transportation at a tech conference. After public transportation advocate Jarrett Walker criticised what he characterised as Musk’s “hatred of sharing space with strangers,” Musk called Walker an “idiot.” Musk later explained that he likes many forms of public transportation but thought that major cities were not fully equipped to solve traffic and congestion issues.
The Boring Company has already received approval to dig a 10.3-mile tunnel in Baltimore beneath the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and has discussed constructing a tunnel between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Getting approval for the company’s first full tunnel system in a major city may be the Boring Company’s biggest hurdle, as being able to prove its ability to successfully build a tunnel network could make other cities less hesitant about the company’s plans.
“The Boring Company’s goal is to reduce urban congestion and further enable mass transit through the use of tunnels in Los Angeles, Hawthorne, and Culver City. We are collaborating with a number of stakeholders on a 6.5-mile proof-of-process tunnel and we are looking forward to working with Culver City to fight the soul-destroying traffic with which its citizens are all too familiar,” a company spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly used the pronoun “he” instead of “she” to refer to Jehn Balajadia.