Monday, March 25, 2019

“It’s a car in a very small tunnel”

Via Aaron Gordon of Jalopnik.

Late last year we commented on the strangely positive reaction of  Chicago delegation to the underwhelming debut of the Boring Company's first project. It is with considerable relief (and more than a touch of amusement) that not all of the transit officials who came by helped themselves to the Flavor-aid.

This Virginia Mercury report by Ned Oliver is a study in brutal understatement. [emphasis added]

“It’s a car in a very small tunnel,” Michael McLaughlin, Virginia’s chief of rail transportation, told members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s public transit subcommittee on Wednesday.

“If one day we decide it’s feasible, we’ll obviously come back to you.”

The board has been discussing high-dollar investments in the state’s rail infrastructure, including a $1.3 billion bridge between Virginia and Washington. But board members say those conversations have been clouded by questions about whether such upgrades might be rendered obsolete before they’re even completed if Musk’s much-hyped tunneling and hyperloop technology advances beyond its current experimental stage. [And remember, these are the non-gullible ones. -- MP]

At this stage, all Musk has to show for his work is a Tesla Model 3 running on guard rails through a bumpy, 1.14-mile long demonstration tunnel under an industrial park in Hawthorne, California. (Musk said employees ran out of time to smooth the road bed, and the Los Angeles Times reports it was “so uneven in places that it felt like riding on a dirt road.”)

Tunneling isn’t a new technology. The innovation Musk hopes to bring to it is a drastic reduction in costs. And on that front, he claims he’s been successful, saying the project cost about $10 million. That’s significantly less than the $170 million to $920 million per mile cost of recent subway projects around the country, according to CityLab, which notes Musk’s figure doesn’t include research, development, equipment and, possibly, labor.

The officials from Virginia who met with company leaders and took a drive through the tunnel in January say nothing they saw would lead them to change their approach to transit in the near term.

“I think there’s a lot of show going on here,” said Scott Kasprowicz, a Commonwealth Transportation Board member who made the trip with McLaughlin and public transit chief Jennifer Mitchell.

“I don’t mean to suggest that they don’t have a serious plan in mind, but I don’t consider the steps they’ve taken to date to be substantive. They’ve purchased a used boring machine. They’ve put a bore in the neighborhood where they developed the SpaceX product, and they’ve taken a Model 3 and put guidewheels on it and they’re running it through the tunnel at 60 miles per hour.

No comments:

Post a Comment