After over two years of internet-fueled hype and fast-paced construction, erratic billionaire Elon Musk has unveiled a prototype tunnel outside Los Angeles that aims to test his far-fetched vision for a new urban transportation network below the region’s notoriously traffic-choked streets. The so-called Loop project is envisioned as a series of tunnels that could ferry private automobiles, and pods carrying pedestrians and bicyclists at speeds approaching 150 miles per hour. The tunnels, accessible from a network of parking spot-sized lifts, could eventually connect the city’s major landmarks and neighborhoods, according to a preliminary map unveiled last year. https://twitter.com/boringcompany/status/1075318894871470081?s=21 The Boring Company–backed test tunnel took shape beneath a neighborhood sandwiched between a municipal airport and Interstate 110 in Hawthrone, California, where several of Musk’s companies are headquartered. Although the test tunnel debuted with several key design changes—including the elimination of so-called “skate” platforms that private automobiles would ride on and actual travel speeds that barely approached 50 miles per hour—the bumpy debut was met with cautious optimism by observers, according to The Los Angeles Times. With a reported cost of about $40 million, the roughly mile-long test tunnel was built for a fraction of the cost of conventional subway technologies, though that is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, given the tube’s diminutive size relative to conventional transit routes, the fact that it was not built with unionized labor, and its overall reduced passenger capacity. According to The New York Times, Musk referred to the tunnel as “a real solution to the traffic problem we have on earth,” adding, “It’s much more like an underground highway.” The opening of the test tunnel follows the high-profile setback for Musk’s plan to build a second tube underneath the streets of the City of Los Angeles that came last month. The Boring Company is also working on a tunnel that would connect downtown Chicago with O’Hare Airport as well as a more modest loop that could potentially link L.A.’s existing subway system with Dodger Stadium.
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After settling a lawsuit with community groups in Los Angeles this week, Elon Musk’s Boring Company has agreed to halt its plan to build a 2.7-mile test tunnel underneath the city’s Westside. The lawsuit was filed following a preliminary approval from the Los Angeles City Council that would have shielded the project from stringent environmental review. After the approval, community groups began to fight the project, arguing that rather than building a test tunnel, Boring Company was actually pursuing “piecemeal” approval of a larger transportation project in an effort to minimize the appearance of its impact. The group argued that the City of Los Angeles violated California law in its initial approval. The terms of the now-settled lawsuit are confidential, The Los Angeles Times reported but the parties involved issued a joint statement saying they had “amicably settled” the matter. The Boring Company has agreed to cease planning on its test tunnel and will instead, according to the statement, focus on a recently-proposed plan that would link Dodger Stadium with regional transit via a scheme similar to the one proposed for the Westside. The so-called Dugout Loop would link the isolated stadium to the regional Red Line subway. The plan is supported by Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and comes as a separate group works to create a gondola line connecting the stadium to Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. Boring Company has been busy working on another test tunnel in the City of Hawthorne, where the company is headquartered. Musk recently announced that the test tunnel was complete and would open to the public in December. Musk also announced that he would be making good on an earlier promise to use excavated dirt from the tunnel to fabricate bricks for affordable housing projects. To push the initiative forward, Musk launched the so-called Brick Store where blocks will be available for 10 cents apiece to the public. The bricks will be free for affordable housing builders, according to Musk.
Rethinking the streetscape will be the priority at the Los Angeles Planning Department, revealed newly appointed Planning Director Michael LoGrande in a conversation with LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne. “We’re getting people out of their cars and thinking differently about transit,” said LoGrande, who chatted with Hawthorne on Wednesday night at Occidental College. Confirmed August 4 after the resignation of his predecessor, Gail Goldberg, LoGrande has faced significant staff and budget cuts, which he’s responded to by re-focusing long-term planning on transit projects rather than just catering to a constant stream of ad hoc requests. One way LoGrande sees the Planning Department making headway is through partnership with the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) to ensure that community plans are part of the conversation for the city's several upcoming transit projects. “Partnering with METRO is huge,” said LoGrande, “Rather than be flatfooted like what we saw when the Blue Line came, we really want to make sure that the land-use plans around those projects encourage ridership.” Approved by county voters in November 2008, Measure R has committed a projected $40 billion for traffic relief and transportation upgrades throughout LA county over the next thirty years. LoGrande also championed the use of pilot programs to change the planning status quo. “The best way to move the city forward is to show a small success,” he told Hawthorne. The Planning Department will be selecting eight areas around the city for various pilot programs and is already aggressively seeking grants for transit planning, according to LoGrande. “We’re looking at programs to try and utilize the street for diagonal parking, dedicated bike lines, even some sidewalk dining. So you’re taking that traffic away, temporarily letting the public get used to it. Then you study the traffic patterns and see what happens.” Despite a rosy picture of more walkable streets and more effective transit systems, one audience member saliently questioned Planning’s relevance as anything other than facilitator without a lot of power. LoGrande and his planning colleagues have recently been charged with being a mere rubber stamp in the mayor's effort to raise more city funds through more development. To which LoGrande replied, “I think in the absence of good planning, what you see is sprawl. What we’re doing now is kind of rolling back the clock, getting us on the right track to fix the wrongs of the past. Rather than plan the city project by project, [we] actually have plans that guide development and that connect to what people like about a community to try and preserve it.”
The AIA/LA, which just hosted its lavish awards ceremony at the Egyptian Theater last night (more on that soon..) on Monday sent out a call for entries for its new ARCH IS___ Competition, set to pick 2 standout young LA architects or firms, who will win a $500 cash prize, give a lecture at the Pacific Design Center, and be featured on the AIA/LA chapter website. Competitors must have graduated from architecture school in the last 5 to 12 years, so sorry Mssrs. Mayne and Gehry. The jury will include UCLA Architecture Dean Hitoshi Abe, LA Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne, curator Brooke Hodge, and architects Scott Johnson and just-awarded AIA/LA Gold Medalist (and outed newlywed) Michael Rotondi. Registration must be completed by December 8, and 20 page digital portfolios must be submitted to the AIA by January 8. The winners will be announced on February 16. Good luck young ones! Any more questions? Email Carlo Caccavale at email@example.com.