To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won't fall on your head. A large network of tunnels many levels deep would help alleviate congestion in any city, no matter how large it grew (just keep adding levels). The key to making this work is increasing tunneling speed and dropping costs by a factor of 10 or more – this is the goal of The Boring Company. Fast to dig, low cost tunnels would also make Hyperloop adoption viable and enable rapid transit across densely populated regions, enabling travel from New York to Washington DC in less than 30 minutes.

 

Why tunnels?

To alleviate traffic, transportation corridors, like the buildings that feed into them, must expand into three dimensions. One option is to “go up” with flying cars. However, flying cars have issues with weather, noise, and generally increase anxiety levels of those below them. The other option is to “go down” and build tunnels. The benefits are:

  • There is no practical limit to how many layers of tunnels can be built, so any level of traffic can be addressed.

  • Tunnels are weatherproof.

  • Tunnel construction and operation are silent and invisible to anyone on the surface.

  • Tunnels don’t divide communities with lanes and barriers.

 

Why hasn't this been done before?

Currently, tunnels are really expensive to dig, with some projects costing as much as $1 billion per mile. In order to make a tunnel network feasible, tunneling costs must be reduced by a factor of more than 10. 

 

How are we reducing the cost of tunneling?

First, we reduced the tunnel diameter. The current standard for a one-lane tunnel is approximately 28 feet. By using electric autonomous vehicles with alignment wheels, the diameter can be reduced to less than 14 feet. Reducing the diameter in half reduces tunneling costs by 3-4 times. 

Second, we’re working to significantly increase the speed of the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). TBMs are super slow. A snail is effectively 14 times faster than a soft-soil TBM.  Our goal is to defeat the snail in a race. Ways to increase TBM speed:

  • Increase TBM power. The machine’s power output can be tripled (while coupled with the appropriate upgrades in cooling systems).

  • Continuously tunnel. When building a tunnel, current soft-soil machines tunnel for 50% of the time and erect tunnel support structures the other 50%. This is inefficient. Existing technology can be modified to support continuous tunneling activity.

  • Automate the TBM. While smaller diameter tunneling machines are automated, larger ones currently require multiple human operators. By automating the larger TBMs, both safety and efficiency are increased.

  • Go electric. Current tunnel operations often include diesel locomotives. These have been replaced by electric locomotives.

  • Tunneling R&D. In the United States, there is virtually no investment in tunneling Research and Development (and in many other forms of construction). Thus, the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.

 

What about earthquakes?

Tunnels, when designed properly, are some of the safest places to be during an earthquake. From a structural safety standpoint, the tunnel moves uniformly with the ground, in contrast to surface structures.  Additionally, a large amount of earthquake damage is caused by falling debris, which does not apply inside tunnels. Some examples:

  • 1994 Northridge Earthquake: no damage to LA Subway tunnels

  • 1989 Loma Prieta (Northern California) Earthquake: no damage to tunnels, which were then used to transport rescue personnel

  • 1985 Mexico City Earthquake: no damage to tunnels, which were then used to transport rescue personnel

 

What about utilities?

With a typical minimum depth of 30 feet, The Boring Company tunnels are well beneath most utilities, which are typically less than 10 feet below the surface. In circumstances where a utility is located deeper, the tunnel depth is increased accordingly. 

 

Is there disruptive surface vibration or noise during tunneling?

No. Once a tunnel boring machine is below a certain depth (approximately two tunnel diameters – or 28 feet in this case), the tunneling process is almost impossible to detect, especially in soft soil. The tunnel operation is inaudible, and there is typically more surface vibration felt from a pedestrian walking nearby than from the TBM operating 30+ feet below.

 

What do you do with all that dirt?

In typical tunneling projects, excavated dirt is shipped offsite to disposal locations. This process is costly, time-consuming, noisy, and can be environmentally hazardous. The Boring Company has developed technologies to recycle the earth into useful bricks to be used to build structures and into paves (great for patios!)  This is not a new concept, as buildings have been constructed from Earth for thousands of years including, according to recent evidence, the Pyramids.  These bricks can potentially be used as a portion of the tunnel lining itself, which is typically built from concrete. Since concrete production accounts for 4.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, earth bricks would reduce both environmental impact and tunneling costs.

 

What's Loop?

Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported via compatible autonomous electric vehicles at up to 150 miles per hour. TBC currently uses Tesla Model X’s, modified with alignment wheels.

 

What's Hyperloop?

Hyperloop is an ultra high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric pods traveling at 600+ miles per hour in a pressurized cabin. Similar to Loop, Hyperloop pods will transport between 8 and 16 passengers (mass transit), or a single passenger vehicle.

 

What's the difference between Loop and Hyperloop?

Loop and Hyperloop are similar, with the major difference being that Hyperloop draws a vacuum inside the tube to eliminate air friction. Loop is used for shorter routes, when there is no technical need to eliminate air friction.

 

What is the ridership capacity of Loop?

Loop is targeting 4,000 vehicles/hour at 155mph (250km/h) for each Main Artery Tunnel.  If a second tunnel is added below the first, this value doubles. 

 

Is this public or private transportation?

Both. Within Loop, there will be a large quantity of autonomous electric vehicles dedicated solely to public transportation. In addition, privately owned compatible vehicles can access Loop. Accommodating pedestrians and cyclists will be prioritized over accommodating private vehicles.

 

How much would a trip cost?

Fare prices are not finalized but will be comparable to or lower than current public transportation fares for pedestrians.

 

How is Loop different from a subway?

Loop is an “express” public transportation system and more resembles an underground highway than a subway system. Through the use of a Main Artery Tunnel with side tunnels for entry/exit, passengers travel directly to their final destination without stopping. 

As an example, if a train-line had 100 stops, the train would typically stop at each one, so the trip from Stop 1 to Stop 100 would be long. For Loop, passengers would travel directly from Stop 1 to Stop 100 without stopping at the intermediate stations.

Equivalently, a Loop vehicle’s average speed is close to its maximum speed, while a train’s average speed is much less than its maximum speed. A subway car might be capable of traveling 65 mph, but its average speed might be 20 mph, decreasing further as more intermediate stations are added.

Additionally, autonomous electric vehicles are generally faster than conventional subway cars (150 mph vs. 65 mph), and, because of Loop’s architecture of high-quantity, small-footprint stations (see next question), Loop can get passengers physically closer to their final desired destination.

 

How does Loop avoid congestion at entry/exit points?

Unlike a subway, there is no practical upper limit to the number of stations that can be built along the tunnel route, as stations can be as small as two parking spaces.

The electric vehicles descend into a "spur" or side tunnel before quickly merging into a Main Artery Tunnel. Since stations require such a small footprint, they can be easily integrated in busy city-centers, parking garages, and residential communities. The high density of stations will help reduce congestion by distributing traffic across many access points and by providing more convenient entry and exit locations. At the same time, larger stations can be built to increase ridership capacity to a specific central location.

There is also no practical upper limit on the number of layers of tunnels, allowing the Loop system itself to always have capacity available to service each station.

 

Are you seeking public funding?

No, The Boring Company is privately funded and our individual projects are privately funded as well. 

 

How do I get a tunnel in my city?

While a tunnel project is a complex multi-step process, the first step is finding two great endpoints and an alignment between them!

 

What does the inside of the tunnel look like?

See graphic below. The tunnel has concrete horizontal and vertical “shelves” to accommodate the vehicles’ tires and horizontal alignment wheels. There is a steel grating in the center, which primarily serves as a walkway for maintenance and emergency exit scenarios.

Inside Tunnel.JPG
 

How do people evacuate? 

Just like subways, Loop will have emergency exits along the tunnel route. Unlike most subway systems, Loop does not have internal hazards (e.g. a 600-V third rail), and the egress path is thus safer and wider (despite the reduced tunnel diameter).

 

What if there's a fire? 

The risk of fire is very low in the Loop system, as the tunnel lining is non-flammable (concrete) and no flammable materials (like asphalt) are added.  Additionally, there is no live electric third rail, minimizing potential fire sources and limiting the fire’s main energy source to that of the vehicle’s battery. Additionally, unlike a live rail system, the effects of {unlikely} water intrusion are minimal, as autonomous electric vehicles can safely “handle some rain.”

In the unlikely case that a fire does occur, the tunnel’s ventilation system will remove the smoke to allow passengers to safely evacuate.

 

How can I share feedback?

We welcome comments and questions about the company, TBM technology, the California tunnel, and the East Coast project. Please email communityfeedback@boringcompany.com to share your feedback.