Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!
This post originally appeared in the Jan. 28 Politics Report as “Elon Musk Responded to Jim Desmond!” The Politics Report is our guide to San Diego politics and policy news.
County Supervisor Jim Desmond tweeted at Elon Musk Friday asking for the billionaire’s input on San Diego’s transportation system. Musk said “sure” and then cc’d his Boring Company, which invented tunnels.
Bipartisan aficionados: Ironically, seeing Musk as a potential partner to unlock a futuristic transportation system in San Diego is a perspective Desmond borrowed from SANDAG CEO Hasan Ikhrata. Desmond and Ikhrata are not exactly aligned on transportation policy these days.
What tech though? From the day he arrived as the new leader of the agency, Ikhrata floated some of Musk’s projects as potentially vital to the region. He first proposed the region embrace the hyperloop technology Musk elevated – the hyperloop guys, however, came to town and said their largely still theoretical airtight super-tubes, though, would only be worth doing over much longer distances than even the widest stretch of the county. Think San Diego to Vegas not San Diego to Escondido.
The other transportation tech Musk has, besides his electric cars, is the Boring Company, which digs tunnels through which his Tesla cars are allowed to drive. Ikhrata and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria recently toured the Boring Company’s Las Vegas project.
It’s a 1.7-mile tunnel they let a fleet of Tesla cars drive through. There’s an unintentionally hilarious video about it as the “future of transport” you can enjoy here. It features such quotes as “But building a massive tunnel system has its challenges.”
Ikhrata was pretty enthusiastic about it a few years ago. He told us this:
“The Boring Company, that Elon Musk did – I’m not crazy about Elon Musk per se, but I think his company, his ideas, are being adopted by people who want to do stuff,” he said.
Now, after touring the project in Vegas, Ikhrata is less optimistic.
“If you can use it and your commute went from 40 mins to five minutes, I’m sure you’d like it. But you have to have a Tesla to use it. In my view, it’s not a transit project,” Ikhrata told us.
Right now, the Boring Company is only capable of making a tunnel wide enough (12 feet) for a car, not for trains or other systems. And it’s having a little trouble delivering on its promises.
SANDAG’s taking innovative proposals but not from Musk. The agency recently put out a request for innovative or experimental ideas for transportation improvements. It got proposals from 13 companies, including Musk’s Boring Company. However, Boring did not make the cut for the final three companies with which SANDAG is going to continue discussions.