Last night, Shepard Smith ran a segment on his CNBC show revealing Elon Musk's Boring Campany's new Las Vegas car tunnel, which was paid for by $50 million in taxpayer dollars. It is one of the most bizarre and embarrassing television segments in American transportation history, a perfect cap for one of the most bizarre and embarrassing transportation projects in American history.
"Who doesn't hate being stuck in traffic?" Smith asks at the beginning of the segment. "Come to the rescue, Elon Musk, who thinks he has a solution for cities across the country."
"The concept is simple," Smith continues. "Take traffic underground into giant tunnels that, in the future, could stretch for miles across Sin City."
You really have to watch the clip to appreciate how Smith tries his hardest to make the concept of car tunnels, which have existed for decades, sound innovative. I regret to inform Smith and any other curious parties there can be, and often still is, traffic in underground car tunnels.
Moving on, Shep then kicks it to Contessa Brewer who was on the scene in the Musk tunnel.
"Now, you might think, alright it's like a subway," Brewer says for some reason. "But, this is more like a highway underground."
It goes on like this for several more minutes. You can watch the rest of the clip for yourself, featuring Teslas moving comically slowly through a small tunnel and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill saying some truly bizarre shit about the Teslas being like Ubers but better and how in the future there will be multiple exits which will change everything. It is a tour de force of Silicon Valley pitching—and the media credulously reporting on—concepts and technologies that are already commonplace like buses and airport taxi lines.
To be sure, building tunnels for transportation purposes, especially in the United States of America, is expensive. And $50 million for two miles of tunnel sounds much cheaper than the, say, the $2.5 billion per mile New Yorkers paid for the Second Avenue Subway. It is imperative we as a country build mass transportation projects more cheaply.
But The Boring Company’s cost per mile isn’t as impressive as it sounds. This project avoided all the expensive parts of a mass transportation tunnelling project. The station is a big hole in the ground with a flat parking lot and doesn't have pedestrian entrances, walkways, platforms, mezzanines, etc. The tunnel itself is also very skinny. But most importantly, tunnelling itself is never the part of American mass transit projects that create the cost overruns, which is why on-street and elevated rail projects also cost way more in the United States than elsewhere. In other words, The Boring Company avoided the most complex and costly aspects of transportation projects, shrunk it in both scale and the number of people it will supposedly serve, then bragged about how little it cost to build.
In one sense, I am embarrassed for everyone involved. I am embarrassed for Shepard Smith and Contessa Brewer, who yes are just doing their jobs but surely their jobs are not to be shameless shills for a pathetic attempt to reinvent car tunnels as the "Future of Transportation." I am embarrassed for Steve Hill, who has to go on TV to justify his authority spending $50 million on this bad joke of a transportation project that ought to be a point of ridicule for his authority and his city for decades to come. I am embarrassed for anyone who tries to defend this project either out of deference to Elon Musk's cult of personality or having some financial stake in this or future Boring Company projects. And finally, I'm embarrassed for everyone who believes more lanes for more cars above, below, or on the surface of the Earth will lead to any better traffic outcomes than the first 100 years we spent trying that.
Despite how embarrassing this all is, I'm glad this clip exists. This is the last time I have to spend a single ounce of energy pointing out how stupid this tunnel is, because in the future I can simply link to this clip. I could never do as good of a job as Smith and Brewer did. Even when you say it very excitedly and with a big smile on your face for the cameras, there is no better punchline for this joke of a project than "a highway underground."