(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk’s Boring Co. presented its plan to build an underground transportation tunnel through Culver City, California, at a well-attended council meeting Monday night, another sign that the entrepreneur is serious about pushing forward with his latest venture.
Musk, 46, is the chief executive officer of both Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. But he is a man of expanding interests and side projects, the future of transportation being top among them.
“The purpose of Boring Company is to alleviate soul-destroying traffic and augment public transit,” Jehn Balajadia, its operations coordinator, said at the beginning of her presentation. Balajadia stressed that the company isn’t seeking any public funding and that passenger trips would be comparable or cost less than existing forms of public transit in the region. Culver City made it clear that it would have to invest an enormous amount of staff time and hire consultants to properly evaluate the merits of the proposal and its impacts on the community.
Culver City is a five-square-mile municipality of roughly 39,000 residents surrounded mostly by the City of Los Angeles. Musk himself did not speak at Monday’s meeting, which was the first of what is likely to be several.
Musk first unveiled his idea for a “Hyperloop” -- a plan to move people from San Francisco to Los Angeles through a tube in half an hour -- in a 57-page white paper in August 2013 because he was frustrated with California’s plans for high-speed rail. His idea inspired a generation of college students and startups to work on the technology.
Musk, who lives in Bel Air, first floated plans for a tunnel system in December 2016, tweeting that he was fed up with L.A. traffic and would “build a tunnel boring machine.” Many thought he was joking, but he elaborated in a February cover story by Bloomberg Businessweek on plans to create roads that run through underground tunnels.
“To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels,” Boring says on its website. “Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won’t fall on your head.”
The proposed route from Hawthorne -- where SpaceX is headquartered -- to West Los Angeles passes underneath Sepulveda Boulevard through Culver City. The tunnel would contain a high-speed underground transportation system in which passengers are ferried on autonomous electric platforms, known as skates, traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. The skates are designed to carry between eight and 16 passengers on mass transit pods or to carry single-passenger vehicles.
Some members of the council expressed interest in the project as a potential solution to the sprawling region’s notoriously horrific traffic congestion. Council member Meghan Sahli-Wells expressed concern about a private company creating a system that would potentially compete with existing public transit agencies in Los Angeles County. She also raised concerns about Boring’s commitment to equity.
"This is really seductive," said Sahli-Wells. "It looks super sexy and super easy, but it’s half baked from a public perspective."
Musk has also expressed interest in building a hyperloop on the East Coast, tweeting in July that he’d received “verbal government approval” to build one capable of ferrying passengers from New York to Washington -- with stops in Philadelphia and Baltimore in between -- in 29 minutes.
By October, Boring had secured a utility permit to begin tunneling beneath a 10-mile stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, just one step in what would likely be a years-long, multi-billion-dollar project. Boring has also had talks with Chicago about a link between the city’s downtown and O’Hare International Airport.
Boring has begun work on a tunnel in Hawthorne. The city of Hawthorne structured its approval for the tunnel as an underground easement. Using an easement is also an option for Culver City, said city official Jesse Mays. Easements are typically used for underground cables -- such as those used for TV -- or for pipelines, including those used for oil.
In October, Boring submitted an application for permits to the city of Los Angeles for portions of the tunnel, but Los Angeles hasn’t yet granted approval. Boring has not yet applied to Culver City for a permit, said councilman Jim Clarke.
Boring has sold roughly 50,000 company hats, and one speaker at the city council meeting warned that Boring is a "thinly capitalized company that has made money selling hats." Boring representatives stressed that the company is being largely financed by Musk himself and is not dependent on hat sales for revenue.
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