Not so boring

Elon Musk tweeted this rendering of what looks to be a Boring Co station in Las Vegas, where the company is working on “a Loop system for the Las Vegas Convention Center”.

Many urbanists (planners, mostly) have since responded by criticizing the project as appearing to be little more than a radically less efficient subway system.

I think they’re missing the promise.

The idea of moving some individualized transportation — which, let’s face it, people love — below grade seems like a good one, if it can be done cost-effectively. This would increase the amount of space available to pedestrians and cyclists at grade while still allowing for a massively scalable transportation network.

Whereas we’re mostly limited to the two dimensions of ground level space for roads, below grade, we’re provided with a whole new axis to work with.

You can imagine a city of the future with many levels of below grade tunnels well out of eyesight.

That seems to me to be the alternative to our current sub-optimal transportation options for large and growing cities moving into the future, which are:

  1. Decreased mobility generally, as a function of network capacity or, in a scenario with congestion pricing, individual budget constraints;
  2. Increased reliance on mass transit at the cost of individualized options (i.e., bus-only lanes); or
  3. This sort of thing:

Put differently, our current options are:

  1. Fewer people moving around, across shorter distances, and less frequently;
  2. Fewer people moving around in their own vehicles, with their own space, on their own routes; or
  3. Scaling the network along the y-axis above grade.

I like the idea of adding to that set, 4. Scaling the network along the y-axis below grade.

I just wish I could buy some Boring Co stock instead of arguing about this online.