Elon Musk promises $1 rides in LA transit tunnels

Elon Musk is pushing for public support of his tunneling endeavor as questions swirl about the merits of the project.

The Boring Company founder shared more details Thursday night in Los Angeles about his project to cure the city’s traffic congestion with hundreds of tunnels. He said rides on the subway-like rail service — dubbed “Loop” — would cost one dollar. Musk spoke of above-ground roads being converted to park space, as commuters gravitate to the personalized mass transit in his tunnels.

Musk described the tunnels as “almost like an autonomous, underground multi-level car system,” which may eventually number in the thousands.

“It’s one [solution for LA traffic] we think could work and is worth trying,” he said.

The SpaceX and Tesla CEO said his tunneling startup is designing its own tunneling machine, which Musk said will be 10 times as fast as existing machines. Tunnels from Los Angeles to San Francisco could be done in a few weeks, Boring Company executive Steve Davis said.

For now, the Boring Company is starting small, seeking permits for a 2.7-mile tunnel under Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles. It’s the first step toward a 60-mile tunnel network across the city.

The city government has been receptive. A city council committee granted the Boring Company an exemption to a state environmental review — a review that can be a very long process.

Two Los Angeles groups — Brentwood Residents Coalition and the Sunset Coalition — sued the city this month, saying the Boring Company shouldn’t be able to bypass an environmental review.

“It’s really sketchy the way this whole process happened,” said Wendy-Sue Rosen, president of Brentwood Residents Coalition. “Musk has not done it the right way, and he’s standing there saying, ‘Don’t worry.’ That doesn’t assure me.”

The government of neighboring Culver City has also expressed concern about how Los Angeles’ government handled the project.

But supporters of the endeavor have said they don’t want to hold up an innovative project that could bring many benefits.

Some transportation experts have cautioned that Musk’s plans could cause congestion at entry and exit points to the system, undermining the benefits.

To rally support, Musk has promised free rides for the public.

“Once we’re done, in order to get public feedback, we want to offer free rides sort of like a weird little Disney ride in the middle of LA,” Musk said. “Bring your flamethrower.”

In January, the Boring Company offered flamethrowers for sale on its website for $500.