The Boring Company Secures Tunneling Permits

The Boring Company


The Boring Company

Entrance to The Boring Company tunnel in Hawthorne, California.

Even though Santa Monica’s city manager is not keen on Elon Musk’s tunneling concept, The Boring Company has already secured the necessary permits to begin digging in Hawthorne, California.

The Los Angeles Business Journal Tweeted out a link to its recent article stating that Los Angeles city officials were not “digging Elon Musk’s plan for underground tunnels to L.A.”, and Musk responded that the company already has approval near SpaceX in Hawthorne. He also was kind to publicly admit that the project may have low odds for success, but it’s worth a try.

The Boring Company

The Boring Company multi-passenger electric skate concept.

Rick Cole, Santa Monica city manager told LA Business times that if The Boring Company wanted to dig in his city:

“We would laugh them out of our office. It’s a completely absurd pipe dream.”

“The level of complexity and permitting and environmental review – and opportunity for environmental litigation – would stretch this out for decades.”

As expected, Cole is not alone with these beliefs. The amount of regulatory approvals needed to complete such a monumental task would be ridiculous. This would prove even more true in cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco. Hawthorne, and the property surrounding SpaceX, is obviously a very different story.

Nonetheless, Musk added an additional comment, perhaps in part to save face and show that he too is somewhat skeptical. But there’s still always a glimmer of hope. Musk comes off as an honest guy, and surely doesn’t give up or give in.

Musk is known for proposing crazy ideas, and creating disruption. Too often, he has surprised people with his ability to follow through. Take for instance the reuse of rockets, or of course, long-range electric cars that will potentially drive themselves.

We too believe that it is fair to call The Boring Company a bit of a stretch, but who knows how far the idea may progress, or what shape its adaptations may take?

Source: Los Angeles Business Journal

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46 Comments on "The Boring Company Secures Tunneling Permits"

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“What’s that rumbling I hear?”
“That, Dear, is the Future, Clawing and Digging its way Forward!”

I think the ideas of tunnels is a good one. Not sure if their method of moving people and vehicles through the tunnels is the best. If electric vehicles were more ubiquitous, I’d like to see more tunnels that you could just drive through. But with current gas-mobiles it becomes very complex to ventilate them the amount needed.

For example, if we had a network tunnels that took us to and from major points in a large city, bypassing all of the congested highways and city streets, that would be fantastic. They would have no onramps or off ramps, nothing to congest the traffic.

Sure, the idea of moving people via tunnels under congested cities is a very good one. It’s called a “subway”.

Subways and other mass transit systems replace travel by automobile. They don’t stupidly use expensive tunnels to move even more cars into urban centers, which would add even more to existing traffic congestion there!

Elon clearly doesn’t take this idea seriously; why would you?

“I’d like to see more tunnels that you could just drive through. But with current gas-mobiles it becomes very complex to ventilate them the amount needed.”

Factually incorrect. The ventilation systems used in modern traffic tunnels are perfectly adequate, even when such tunnels stretch for miles.

On top of that, even with all EVs ventilation would still be an issue. It’s not just about getting fumes out, but also making sure adequate oxygen is in. If you dig a deep enough tunnel or mine that can be a problem.

BEV only tunnels would be an interesting concept to try to sell to a city. Not sure the sleds/elevators will fly though.
“Boring Company will pay for the land we need for the entry and exit ramps and we will charge a toll on the BEV’s that use it for the next 25 years. The jurisdiction gets 25% of the proceeds.”
Build them in the areas with the slowest commutes. They would be a short term answer due to induced demand but doing nothing isn’t an answer either.
I don’t know if it will fly, but it will be interesting.
I think it would actually work better for high speed rail on the NEC than for automobiles. Straighten out some of the low speed kinks by going underground.

“Boring Company will pay for the land we need for the entry and exit ramp…”

What ramps? The video demonstrating The Boring Company concept didn’t show any ramps at all. It showed elevators the size of a parking space carrying individual cars up and down from the street level in a downtown area, which would of course steal parking spaces from the area… while simultaneously increasing the need for more parking spaces!. I pointed out the need for entrance and exit ramps, rather than small elevators, in an Inside EVs comment threat weeks ago. Maybe Elon read my comment! 😀

Using entrance and exit ramps, instead of stupidly limiting throughput by using elevators which carry only one car at a time, would eliminate one (but only one) of the many things wrong with this concept. Now, why didn’t Elon run this idea past some engineers and get such obviously needed improvements to the concept made before the concept video was commissioned?

Planning to do it with elevators is ridiculous. First of all throughput is seriously limited. Secondly it’s a complex piece of machinery that can easily break down. If elevators are the planned entry method then the idea is even stupider than I thought.

That was my point, Push. The elevators look overly complex and unnecessary. There is a reason ramps are so common, they got no moving parts and nothing can go wrong.
Did you see the safety rails pop up when then elevator with the sled started to drop down? Well, it wasn’t in the video but they would need them to be 100% perfect and to move without hitting or hurting stupid pedestrians or vehicles.
Easy to make a preliminary plan for, but tough to make it perfect.

Actually, I figured they were not shown for reasons of clarity. A car elevator, just like a freight elevator, would have walls enclosing the shaft, so that would prevent a pedestrian who was looking at his smartphone instead of where he was walking from walking into the open elevator shaft from the sides. I suppose the front and back would also have vertically rising doors, like the elevator in a loft, for reasons of safety.

I’m surprised at all the comments about lack of walls or safety rails on the elevators. There are some very fundamental things wrong with this concept; the need for safety rails or walls on the elevators are a trivial and easily fixable detail.

Anything outside of EVs is ridiculous to report about on a website named “InsideEVs”. What does this have to do with EVs?

You guys are literally only reporting this because it has something to do with Elon Musk.

Musks idea was that the Boring Company would build tunnels that would be used just by BEV’s riding BEV sleds traveling at very high speeds, so it is definitely news related to EV’s

I would love for the author to state that. As I responded to SparkEV, the tunnel demo video showed only a Model S but there has to be air down there so there should be an escape for gasses.

He did state that. Just curious, did you read the article?

Neither the author of this InsideEVs article, nor the author of the original article at the Los Angeles Business Journal, said anything even remotely like that.

Did you read the article?

You can’t have ICE running in long stretches of underground tunnels, only EV is possible.

Why not, there will be air down there so an exchange of gasses is possible. From the demo video Elon showed, he only used a Model S for reference and personal shameless plug. I’m sure it’s entirely vehicle agnostic.

To be honest, I’d love for the author to give a response with their reasoning.

If I’m not mistaken, you sold InsideEVs to a bigger online magazine right? Do you sell your journalism along with it?

***mod edit (Jay Cole) ***
Congrats on taking it too far…you found the line to get banned at InsideEVs, and that isn’t easy. Welcome to the club, you are member #14.

Sidenote (not that it matters, but I feel like now you have accused us of something I should re-iterate things): Yes, we did partner with Motorsport Network/Formula E ~six months ago. I am still an equity partner, still Editor-in-Chief – as always since Day 1.

And as anyone who has been around here can tell you, nothing changed last January, other than we added some new faces/writers…and Steven, the author on this piece, was not one of them.

We do everything as we always have…perhaps you don’t care for how we do that, or for a particular story, and that’s totally fine to express (we encourage open dialog), but you don’t get to tell a false narrative to intentionally slander us because your badgering didn’t get what you wanted.
***mod edit***

Not the author, but here’s the reason: cost.

ICE run in long underground tunnels just fine with adequate ventilation. Here is a long list of existing tunnels:

The longest road one is Lærdal Tunnel, 25 km.

If you throw enough money at the problem, anything’s possible. But you have to compare equivalent cost. This is why you can’t have ICE in long tunnels, and why FCEV doesn’t work when cheaper ICE cars have the same user experience.

Even a very brief and casually conducted cost/benefit analysis would easily conclude that it would be far less costly on a per-car basis to build and maintain large, multi-lane traffic tunnels with ventilation systems, usable by gasmobiles, than to build and maintain a much more numerous series of single-lane tunnels that require electrified skateboards to carry individual cars.

Heck, even BEV-only traffic tunnels would require ventilation, for the same reason mines require ventilation: to prevent buildup of toxic underground gasses. Regular traffic tunnels merely need larger capacity ventilation to deal with gasoline/diesel exhaust, so restricting the tunnels to BEVs only would save very little money on a per-car basis.

Very little? Do the math. A car traveling at 55 MPH would require how much air? Multiply that by number of cars expected in the tunnel. Then consider the continual need for energy and maintenance to move this much air all the time.

Now do the same except taking 100 watts per person (or 2 ppl per EV). The volume of air isn’t even remotely close.

Tell you what, Sparky:

Look at the cost for building and maintaining the Lærdal Tunnel, subtract out the difference in cost between ventilation systems for gasmobiles and diesel trucks vs. just providing air for breathing and to make sure there is no buildup of underground gases… and tell us what the difference in cost is per car going thru the tunnel in a given period of time (day, week, month, whatever). If the difference is more than 5¢ per car, I’ll eat my hat.

“You can’t have ICE running in long stretches of underground tunnels, only EV is possible.”

I’m sure this is will come as a great surprise to people who regularly drive their cars thru the 15.23 mile long Lærdal Tunnel in Norway. /snark

It’s just a matter of installing adequate ventilation tubes to the surface, and fans in those tubes, at regular points along the tunnel.

And how much would it cost if the tunnel is only for EV? Don’t tell me “very little”. Show me the money.

Depending on speed, I estimate about 20% extra energy spent in moving the air in/out of the tunnel compared to EV. That means 30 MPG gas car would be like 27 MPG gas car. That is HUGE.

20% more for energy, as compared to what? Obviously it would take a lot more than 20% more energy to run ventilation fans if it has to deal with ICEngine exhaust than just to maintain breathable air.

But compared to overall costs for building, running, and maintaining the tunnel? Don’t be absurd! The extra cost for bigger and more frequent vent fans would be a drop in the bucket. Surely the energy cost for lighting would be greater than running the ventilation fans. Fans don’t take much energy to run. Just like EVs, they’re quite efficient as they’re powered by electric motors.

Musk is more interesting than EV’s are.

The “giant slot car” skateboards used to carry individual cars in the tunnels, in The Boring Company concept, are themselves EVs.

Please note there is nothing in the term “electric vehicle” which indicates a battery-powered car. Some EV purists want to limit the term “EV” to only “BEV”, but that’s not what it means.

Oh, and I absolutely do not agree that The Boring Company concept would limit carrying cars to only BEVs. Just because the Model S was the car used in the demo video doesn’t mean those skateboards couldn’t just as easily carry gasmobiles.

“You guys are literally only reporting this because it has something to do with Elon Musk.”

I think you are mostly right. The idea deserved at most one or two articles at InsideEVs, and only because Elon is tweeting about it. The amount of coverage this galactically stupid idea is getting, is ridiculous. The “About” page at InsideEVs says “If It Doesn’t Have A Plug, It Doesn’t Appear At InsideEVs!”

The giant slot car skateboards don’t have a plug. They are powered by an electrified rail under the roadway, much like slot cars and subway trains. According to InsideEVs’ stated purpose, there is no reason for coverage here.

You are, possibly, the only person that agrees with my opinion and actually defended my case about this being inappropriate for InsideEVs.

I don’t know if you read my responses to others but we’re in agreement about The Boring Company essentially being car agnostic. It doesn’t have to be solely an EV at all. I don’t don’t think the cost of ventilation would be high because it is necessary for a tunnel to begin with.

Hawthorn may be on thin ice, right of way must be obtained.


So basically the trick is to reinvent the technology to make the economics work which they wouldn’t with current tunnelling tech.

Great endeavour but Elon Musk has yet to prove that the economics of his carcompany work so maybe he should keep focussed on that. Once he does I’m policymakers will be inclined to take this tunnelling project a bit more seriously.

The Hyperloop concept, which was intended to take an impractical idea and made it practical, uses “tunnels”, or rather tubes, elevated on pylons, precisely because the cost and permitting of building an elevated road system is so much easier than digging a tunnel the same distance. Especially the permitting in a dense urban area.

Hyperloop even includes a proposal for carrying automobiles, like the Channel Tunnel does.

Why Elon would choose to ignore his Hyperloop concept, which several companies are already working to make a reality, in favor of an almost infinitely less practical and horrendously more expensive idea… Well, as I said, it must be nice to be rich enough to throw away this kind of money on something that is no more than wishful thinking, or at best a useless hobby.

Government stretching private innovation out for decades? Yup, typical.

He may even invent revolutionary concept of electric cars traveling underground and seating multiple people at once, not just few gated community residents. Imagine how many subsidies it may attract!
Oh wait a moment, subway is already invented 🙁

“Musk is known for proposing crazy ideas, and creating disruption. Too often, he has surprised people with his ability to follow through. Take for instance the reuse of rockets, or of course, long-range electric cars that will potentially drive themselves.” But neither of those are “crazy ideas”, nor did he originate either one. They are well established ideas. Reusable orbital rockets is the idea behind the “spaceplane” concept, including NASA’s X-33 project. Or read LEO on the Cheap, a 1994 detailed analysis of how to bring down orbital launch costs, one that reads like a blueprint for what SpaceX is doing (link below). Self-driving cars? Well heck, that idea has been around pretty much as long as the concept of autonomous machines. Many companies are working on fully autonomous cars; Google’s self-driving car project (now Waymo) was started before Tesla started working on its development. Writer Steven Loveday would have been better off comparing The Boring Company concept to Hyperloop. Now there is a crazy idea from the fertile imagination of Elon Musk. And unlike The Boring Company concept, it’s one that just might become reality! So far as I can see, The Boring Company is just an expression of… Read more »

Part of an earlier Boring Company video was interesting in that Musk talked mostly about reducing the cost of boring a tunnel by 90%+ and less about electric sleds. What if the sleds and elevators don’t pan out, but Musk can reduce the cost of boring a tunnel by 50%? Musk tosses the idea aside but sets up a team to run the company. Can you imagine what cities would be able to do with regards to expanding their conventional subway systems if boring was as inexpensive as cut and cover. Boring is a lot less intrusive and can be done in areas that cut and cover are simply not possible. Doubling the amount of subway lines in DC and Los Angeles would be huge.
And what would trip times be on the NEC between Boston, NY and DC if most of the slow parts of the trackage were rerouted through relatively inexpensive but straight and high speed tunnels?
I am not sure that Musks idea will work as it is now, but if he can reduce the price of boring a tunnel, it will still be a huge achievement.

“…if he [Musk] can reduce the price of boring a tunnel, it will still be a huge achievement.”

Yes indeed. I think I said much the same in my very first comment about The Boring Co., some weeks ago, or maybe a few months by now.

Sadly, the possibility of significant reduction in the cost of boring large-scale tunnels seems to have gotten lost in discussion of the details of Elon’s whimsical fantasy. 🙁

However, the cost of boring the tunnel is only part of the enormous cost of digging a new subway tunnel under a densely populated city. The buildings above the dig must be closely monitored for settling, and in some cases the ground must be stabilized by squirting material into holes dug from above.

Those interested in the subject should watch “Super Tunnel”, an episode of PBS’s “Nova” series, about the Crossrail expansion of London’s Underground subway system. I found it pretty interesting. The boring machine used for that project actually did install a tunnel liner as it progressed, which I thought was an improvement which The Boring Co. might introduce. Imagine my delight in learning somebody already invented that! 🙂

I really hope Elon Musk is successful with digging tunnels under urban areas. In they could build new freeways parallel to existing ones under ground and use it to bypass the hideous bottle necks in areas.

Think of how much traffic would be lowered if they had five Washington Beltways or ten Interstate 5’s going up and down California.

Did Elon invent some super cheap tunnel boring technique or is it still the most expensive and slowest way to add routes? Here in Seattle our new high tech tunnel was delayed for years and cost a lot. Filling out our subway systems will be done 30 years from now. I don’t think the weakest part of this plan is electric skateboards and elevators.

Their primary aim is to work on making tunnels cheaper.
Change the economics, change the possibilities.
Just like cheap rockets would change telecoms, and cheap batteries would change transportation and electricity generation and distribution.

Plenty of people have been working on that for decades and there’s no reason to believe Musk has any particular insight into the solution.

Colonisation of Mars is crazy too. Reusable rocket however is not.

Tunnels need to be large enough to allow ventilation from car exhausts.

But electric cars don’t have car exhausts. ICE cars may not be allowed in, but oh well, also you can’t smoke in the buildings.

We would laugh them out of our office. It’s a completely absurd pipe dream.”

“The level of complexity and permitting and environmental review – and opportunity for environmental litigation – would stretch this out for decades.”

Yeah, right. Dealers were laughing too ten years ago. They don’t laugh any more.

A completely absurd pipe dream. That’s hyperloop. Also aviation.