Elon Musk has announced that the test tunnel for his high-speed subway concept will officially open in Los Angeles on December 10. Musk, who made the promise on Twitter last night, said that the public will even get free rides on the roughly 2-mile test route the following day, Tuesday, December 11.
Officially called The Loop (not to be confused with the still-imaginary Hyperloop), Musk received approval to construct the 2-mile route in the city of Hawthorne, California along 120th Street. Hawthorne, situated near LAX airport, is technically independent of Los Angeles, but most locals just think of it as another part of L.A.’s sprawling city.
Musk’s experiment, constructed by his endeavour The Boring Company, is advertised as having a top speed of 155mph (250kph) but it’s not clear yet how quickly passengers will get from Point A to Point B. Details about how fast it accelerates to that top speed have not been made public. The existing Los Angeles subway has an average operating speed of just over 25 mph.
Photos on the company website show the Hawthorne tunnel, which appears identical to any other underground train system in the world.
The Hawthorne test tunnel in the Los Angeles area (Photo: The Boring Company)
The Boring Company won a bid back in June to build a high-speed underground system for Chicago that will travel the 18 miles between downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport in about 12 minutes. Existing Chicago trains take about 40-45 minutes to travel that same route. But construction on Chicago’s tunnel has not yet started.
“The purpose is to demonstrate that a lift can be built in very small footprints and within existing buildings, whether they are houses, office buildings, or retail parking lots,” the Boring Company explained on its website about the Hawthorne test tunnel. “Looking forward, one could have a lift in the basement of every office building, allowing extremely convenient commutes.”
Musk’s many fans on Twitter ribbed him after the announcement that the L.A. tunnel would soon be opened. Some asked if the December 10 date was real, hinting at Musk’s many delays for other projects, including his Tesla cars.
“Dec 10 in real time or Elon time?” one person tweeted jokingly with a winking emoticon. Musk replied, “I think real.”
The Boring Company produced a concept video for the service earlier this year which shows passengers entering an open-space concept on street level and being taken to an underground system of railways. The concept video doesn’t show how passengers will pay for the service, but Musk has previously said that rides will be just $1 (about 75p).
Musk has been a lightning rod for controversy this year. The billionaire has been engaging in union-busting and was slapped with a libel suit after baselessly calling someone a paedophile on Twitter. Musk is also in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after he announced that he might take Tesla private at $420 per share. The price is a reference to marijuana-drugs, which was yet another controversy for Musk after he smoked the devil’s tobacco on a video podcast with Joe Rogan last month. Shareholders weren’t too happy about that.
The long and the short of it? Musk needs a public relations win. And not just a gag-inducing profile in a magazine like Popular Mechanics. He needs a real win. Like an exciting transportation project that makes getting around Los Angeles easier. Could this be it? We might get the answer in just a couple of months.