Elon musk’s first la tunnel nears completion, with free rides to kick off this summer – slashdot gas finder map

It depends on what you mean by "this". This was their first prototype tunnel, working to develop their boring tech (the whole point of Boring Company is to get TBM speeds up and costs down by 1/2 to 1 order of magnitude). It’s just a tunnel. They’ll also be testing out their first Loop vehicles in it. Since it’s just one leg, they’ll just go from one end to the other.

Now, as mentioned, this tunnel is just a prototype. It’s to be extended to form an LA Loop system, they’re getting started on a NY/DC Loop system right now, bidding for a Chicago Loop system, and planning to start a LA/SF Hyperloop system later this year (confirmed by Musk last night – with the interesting addendum that they have a straightforward way to branch in and out of the Hyperloop tunnels to serve smaller cities en route).

Loop is underground PRT (Personal Rapid Transit). Relatively small vehicles take either people or cars. People generally – and cars always – go directly to their destination, rather than on fixed routes. At peak traffic times, passenger capsules get routed to optimal paths with a few stops on each end that group together people going from and to the same general areas (ala Uber Pool). Underground, the main routes are limited access (like highways); there’s never any stopping or significant slowing down / speeding up in them. Feeder tunnels branch on and off (again, akin to a highway system rather than a subway system). Control is 100% automated. Access to and from the surface is from numerous small pod elevator shafts rather than fewer, larger stations; the surface footprint is 1-2 parking spaces per shaft (the surface footprint use is justified by how many vehicles it takes off the roads – even when people travel by car, as they’re off all of the roads between the start and end of their journey).

Hyperloop is a low-pressure variant of Loop, designed for near-supersonic speeds (and with the potential to operate in environments with higher speeds of sound as well). Several orders of magnitude lower pressure than atmosphere, many orders of magnitude higher pressure than a hard vacuum (and thus several orders of magnitude easier to maintain the reduced pressure, per unit surface area). Some air in the tubes is essential, at least to the "true" Hyperloop proposal (Hyperloop Alpha; there are now lots of other things calling themselves "Hyperloop" that are just maglev vactrains). In the HA design, the vehicles are suspended by air bearings (like an air hockey puck or hard drive platter), which is comparable to maglev in terms of energy losses. The air bearings are fed by a battery powered, water-cooled compressor, which also shunts the air ahead of the vehicle past it (preventing it from building up a high pressure zone ahead of it). Acceleration is provided by short accelerator segments. Wheels propel the craft at low speeds (akin to Loop) and in emergencies. (And to head people off, yes, Thunderf00t the Biochemist-Pretending-To-Be-An-Engineer does not know what he’s talking about [youtube.com])

For anyone who’s curious as to what’s actually proposed in Hyperloop Alpha, and what’s been addressed, Link [spacex.com]. Note that this document is several years old, so there’s plenty of work that’s been done since then. This predated Boring Company, so boring costs were estimated at then-current (much higher) rates, and thus boring segments were minimized. They also had to stop the route on the edges of town (like an airport) to save money, as this also predated Loop.

Wednesday I attended IEEE-SCV CES meeting where Dennis Ratcliffe presented VTA/BART extension to and under downtown San Jose. The game changer is the single bore tunnel digging, a technique that is new for underground subways. Contrast to the cut-and-cover used for LA Metro and for BART on Market st in 1960s (Dennis said it took 35 years for SF to economically recover from that). They can proceed boring a tunnel under downtown SJ without disrupting downtown. This was done in Barcelona so SJ will not be the first, however, many other cities are looking at how this will proceed.

Another game changer is a single rich guy (single as in not slaved to stock market share holders) who can plunk down a billion dollars and say "build it." Musk still needs to comply with regulatory matters but he doesn’t have to deal with bureaucratic tussles to get money. Dennis Ratcliffe said in 2001 when extension was conceived, VTA had to come up with the money to pay for BART extension (guess all the politics in this one). There are funds from Federal Transit Administration but they delayed funding Phase 2 until VTA/BART completes Phase 1. And when this began economy took a dump so all that forecasted tax revenue decreased. But they slowly got moving and economy improved. However, it took a dump again in 2008 (but real estate got cheap so VTA bought property for stations). Elon simply tells his people to start digging on his property. I haven’t looked at details but he probably funded others to build smaller and more tailored boring machine than what VTA/BART is using.