Los Angeles is the worst city for traffic jams in the world, with drivers wasting an average of 102 hours on the road each year. A recent study found that congestion cost drivers in the city more than USD 2,828 each in the past year – the equivalent of a whopping USD 19.2 billion for the city. It is no coincidence then, that Elon Musk’s Boring Company has chosen the City of Angels as the site for its first ‘Loop.’ 

There are over 164,000 miles of highways in the U.S. – part of a four million mile public road network that covers the country. Today, those highways have lost their allure, and city officials are looking to alternative solutions like hyperloop systems and expanding public transport to ease congestion on the roads. 

The Boring Company's test tunnel in Los Angeles opened last week. Photo courtesy of the Boring Company.
Photo by the Boring Company.

Enter Elon Musk and his Boring Company, which is promising to make subterranean transport the preferred mode of transport in the future. Two years ago, Musk took to Twitter to share his woes about Los Angeles’ congestion problem, vowing to build tunnels to solve the problem. 

The Boring Company first began digging the USD 10 million tunnel in Los Angeles in 2017 (the USD 10 million excludes the cost of the machine used for tunneling and research and development). The tunnel runs from a parking lot east of Crenshaw Boulevard and turns west under 120th Street, ending at the corner of Prairie Avenue and 120th Street, running 1.14 miles (1.83 kilometers). 

Last week, the company announced that its Test Tunnel in Hawthorne, California, was open for research and development. The Boring Company is using it as a prototype to test it tunnelling technology, as well as to experiment with the potential of using Loops for public transport. 

According to their website, the Boring Company is also building an elevator or loop lift in a garage in a house in Hawthorne, with the objective of demonstrating how lifts with small footprints can be built in existing buildings. In the future, the company foresees that lifts could be built in the basement of every office building to ease commutes. 

To be clear, the current project, better known as ‘The Loop,’ is different from Musk’s vision for the Hyperloop, which he foresees will be able to move people at supersonic speeds. The Loop, which is what the tunnel prototype is for, is a network of underground tunnels that will function within a city as an alternative to highways (or public transport), transporting people practically door-to-door – provided that lifts are installed at convenient locations – at up to 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour). Musk’s ambition is to build a network of tunnels to connect Los Angeles. 

Although the Loop was unveiled and test drives are all being done with Teslas, all private vehicles fitted with wheels to hold them in place as they travel through the tunnel will be able to use the Loop. 

In August 2013, Musk published a 57-page white paper outlining his ideas about the Hyperloop, giving birth to a wave of Hyperloop companies – all of which have yet to develop the tech to make supersonic speed a reality. Musk conceived of the Hyperloop as an innovative mode of transport for the future that reduce air resistance and friction to enable “pods” to travel through vacuum-sealed tubes through a network of tunnels.