Billionaire visionary Elon Musk promised his proposed tunnel system will deliver travelers from downtown Los Angeles to LAX in 8 minutes for a $1 fare.
Musk extolled the benefits of what he calls "personalized mass transit" during a town hall presentation Thursday night at the Leo Baeck Temple in the Sepulveda Pass under which Musk wants to tunnel.
The presentation came as the Boring Company, which Musk founded, is seeking approval from the city of Los Angeles to proceed with excavation of a test tunnel that would run below ground for 2.7 miles between West Los Angeles and Culver City.
As sent to the council by its public works committee, approval would not require a full environmental impact report, which has drawn criticism from at least two neighborhood associations on the city's westside. They contend review of systems should not be done "piecemeal," but must consider the scope of the larger project.
At the Thursday night session, Musk and Project Leader Steve Davis said the Boring Company needs research information from the test tunnel in order to further develop plans for its system and prepare an EIR.
They insisted that boring the test tunnel would have no discernible effect above ground, apart from truck hauling the excavated dirt. The waiver was based on a 1,500 page report, they said.
The Boring Company streamed video of the "Information Session" on its website.
In person attendance was limited to those who registered online in advance, and there was a cutoff. The audience appeared to consist to a high degree of Musk boosters and employees of his companies. "We love you," many were heard to shout as he departed. Questions were not permitted directly from the audience, but instead curated from submitted cards, and read aloud by an employee of the Boring Company.
"There's no question the meeting is in response to the pushback," said Barbara Broide, president of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard Homeowners Association, in advance of the town hall. She did not attend, but said she and members of other HOAs expect to meet with the Boring Company in two weeks. They previously had been shown the Boring Company site in Hawthorne.
Terri Tipit of the Westwood Homeowners Association said the Boring Company is now "very cooperative," but should have reached out sooner to neighborhood groups. Tipit described feeling blindsided when she first heard of the westside boring plan at City Hall last month on the day it cleared the council's public works committee.
Whether to approve has yet to placed on the calendar of the full city council.
"If we can ask for your support, that would be great," Musk said to the audience at the end of the presentation. "We really appreciate it."
The boring machine would be deployed from a vacant lot on Sepulveda Blvd. just north of Pico Blvd.
The Boring Company previously has excavated another test tunnel in Hawthorne near the facility of sister company SpaceX. Musk has promised rides would be available in a few months.
How long it will take to get the actual tunnel transportation network up and running, Musk did not estimate. He did say that preparing the full EIR could take "a year of two."
The boring diameter of the tunnels is 14 feet, Davis said, much smaller than used for subways, opportunity for both cost savings and speeding the expansion of the network.
As one tunnel nears traffic capacity, system capacity could be scaled up by adding additional tunnels below, Musk said, envisioning a stack potentially as deep as a hundred tunnels.
An early animation conception depicted only Tesla cars being whisked through the tunnels on sled-like skates, leading to concern being voiced that the system would be traffic relief for the rich only. The revised animation released in March shows bus-like electric pods accommodating up to 16 passengers each. Musk now says the system will "prioritize" transporting pedestrians and cyclists.
Like any transportation infrastructure in LA County, Musk's system would have to be approved by Metro, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is already conducting a feasibility evaluation of alternatives for the voter-approved "Sepulveda Transit Corridor Project." It will connect LAX and the San Fernando Valley, and likely tunnel beneath the Sepulveda Pass as Musk would.
Both Musk and Metro confirmed they have had discussions and made commitments of cooperation. At this point, Metro sees its project as separate from Musk's vision.
Musk promised riding the tunnel system "fun" and in a lighter moment likened it to a "weird little Disney ride in the middle of LA."