Nuggets of Wisdom

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Elon Musk’s Tunnel Blocked By Government Bureaucracy


About a week ago, I discussed Elon Musk’s crazy cool idea to dig a tunnel under L.A. to help alleviate traffic. As can be expected, many skeptics came out of the woodwork to mock his idea, and I told those critics to shove it because I thought his idea was super cool.

Of course, there’s a good chance Musk won’t be able to move forward with his underground tunnel, and it won’t be because he lacks funding, or lacks the technological capability, or even lacks public interest.

No, if Elon finds himself unable to build his tunnel, it’ll be because of the one thing that always gets in the way of innovation: government bureaucracy:

Though the capacity to build tunnels faster and for less money is no doubt a victory for construction, Los Angeles and other American cities don't just lack reliable public transportation because they can't move dirt. Such urban planning requires navigating an incredible amount of bureaucracy, funding and political cooperation, plus it may demand near-perfect alignment with the city's already existing infrastructure. Even with a fancy hole-digger, it takes time to jump through each of those hoops.

"The problem is not lack of technology, or even lack of capital resource. I mean, we could have flying cars, we could dig underground — all of that is irrelevant, really," Roger Valdez, Director of Smart Growth Seattle and a land-use expert, said in an interview. "The problem is getting collective officials and politicians to do the thing that is most efficient."

Simply put, there's a bigger reason American development is so slow: politics

These type of construction projects are often bogged down by bureaucratic culture on top of the actual logistics of funding and construction. Extending Los Angeles' Purple Line is just one contemporary example: Voters first approved the subway extension in 2008, but the first phase of construction didn't start until 2014. A few lawsuits against the construction project may have slowed things down, and ultimately, the whole project is set to be done by 2035 at the latest — all for a stretch of subway stops that covers less than 10 miles. That's more than 20 years since the start of construction.
This wouldn’t be the first time that government bureaucracy has stifled Musk’s plans. His proposed Hyperloop may not be built here in the States because, according to the people behind it, "the regulatory environment in the U.S. isn't friendly."

Sigh. The free market wants to move forward into the future, and the government always gets in its way!