1/Recently, there's been another surge of "Elon Musk is Trying to Kill Public Transit" on Twitter (thanks, @doctorow!). Pointing out that Musk *literally runs a public transit company* ( @boringcompany) just brings us to the "volumes are too low, so it can't work" line.

Pop quiz:
1) Station A has 720-person subway every 180 seconds. Station B has 20-person capsules, loaded in parallel, leave every 5 seconds. Which has more capacity?

2) Station A has 3x the capacity of Station B - but passengers on trains from A average going to two intermediary...
... stations before reaching their destination (3 total), while passengers in capsules at Station B go directly to their destinations. Which has more capacity?

3) City A spends $1B on stations and connecting lines at $1B each. City B spends $1B on 1/10th capacity stations and...
connecting lines at $100M each. Which gets more capacity?


1) They're the same
2) They're the same
3) They're bloody the same

Getting the picture? Public is not about "how many people you can fit onto a train at once"; it's about how much money you have to spend...
... per unit passenger capacity (we'll set aside all issues of comfort and convenience for now). Which means that *you cannot eliminate departure rates, how direct routes are, and construction costs from the picture*; they're an integral part.

So how what about Boring Company?
First off, Boring Company is Personal Rapid Transit:


While this is normally focused on for comfort and convenience, it's also about capacity: everyone goes directly to their destination; nobody heads in the wrong direction.
Secondly, it's focused on *radical* cost reductions for tunneling, particular to its design elements.

First off, the tunnels are *small*. Tunneling costs are roughly proportional to the diameter squared, so this matters a *lot*.

Secondly, the tunnels are EV-only, *including...
... in the boring stage***. There are *never* any oxygen-gulping diesel exhaust-belching devices in the tunnel - even mining equipment. This allows them to avoid having to build expensive high-capacity exhaust ventilation systems, and focus only on humans and fire suppression.
Third, the average TBM spends the vast majority of its time stationary - for disc swapping, for casing (and then relocating its thrust structure to the end of the new casing, and a while host of other things). TBC is redesigning TBMs to have near-100% uptime.
Fourth, another huge cost beyond exhaust is laying the extremely high power cabling for the TBMs. TBC is focused on using hot-swapped battery packs (e.g. charged outside the tunnel), entirely eliminating this cost.
Fifth, traditional tunneling has *massive* personnel costs. TBC is focused heavily on automating nearly everything - even the navigation of the TBMs (regardless of changes in strata). This will leave costs overwhelmingly as capital.
Sixth, TBC plans to *mass produce its standardized TBMs in a factory setting* - thus heavily slashing the capital costs.

Seventh, TBC is even focused on nearly eliminating the costs to start and stop new tunnels. While normally one has to dig deep pits and lower the TBM in, ...
TBC's latest design involves angled cradle - carried and set down by a semi truck, with the TBM in it - allowing the TBM to start boring straight from it, diving, then resurfacing at the exit (porpoising), straight onto an exit cradle.
In terms of system designs, while subways are bottlenecked by having small numbers of large lines and a linear flow pattern, TBC's Loop is structured like a highway, with onramps, offramps, lanes of different speeds, etc. The accel / decel of one vehicle does not slow others.
And, of course, having many routes allows for far more direct travel, with numerous smaller stations, far closer to the desired start and end point of the journey.

Is TBC "there" already? Of course not; it takes years to decades to radically transform any given type of...
... technology. But the simple fact is that there's been very little innovation in tunnel boring in the past decades, as there's been very little competition. I encourage anyone to read the scientific literature on the topic - the answer to any questions on "how fast could one...
do X, Y, and Z?" is always along the lines of, "Probably far faster than we do so today, but we really don't know how fast, because nobody has tried.

Well, guess what. Somebody is now.

Like *all* technologies, you start out small and simple. TBC started with Godot, a...
... bog-standard TBM. They've been steadily modifying it to test new technologies; what's now boring in Vegas is "Godot+", a heavily modified version. Their most advanced one (Prufrock) just started testing in the desert outside Adelanto. This from-scratch TBM will be the...
... prototype for mass-production of future TBMs at TBC. In much the same way, Vegas is a small, low-capacity, simplified testbed for what will eventually become a full-fledged Loop system.

Want to be dubious about TBC's prospects? By all means, go right ahead!
But what's concern-trolling BS is pretending that because you don't believe it, TBC *isn't actually working on public mass transit*. That absolutely ***IS*** their goal, and they're working to revolutionize it.

So by all means, be dubious, but don't spread BS.
You can follow @enn_nafnlaus.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled:

By continuing to use the site, you are consenting to the use of cookies as explained in our Cookie Policy to improve your experience.