Dear Mr. Musk,

As if space travel, solar power, and futuristic transportation weren’t enough, Elon Musk has decided to tackle the LA traffic problem. Using the Tunnel Boring Machine, or TBM, Musk wants to dig miles of tunnels underground that can transport cars, goods, and people faster.

TBM: Tunnels

However, one thing about this scares me: where are the people? It looks like some robotic future where objects go from point A to do work at point B. Which raises the question, what problem is this trying to solve? (Yes, I know it’s harder to CGI in some person walking a dog.)

But still, how are people’s lives enriched by this? While all these ideas of electric sleds and tunnel networks is fascinating in and of itself, and Elon Musk probably has our best interests in mind, I don’t think this is what people really want.

The issue isn’t about traffic, it’s about connectivity. We’re social creatures who need social experiences and to be surrounded by others. So yes, we want to get to places faster, but only because we want to be with our colleagues and friends and family. More roadways built for cars isn’t the answer. It’s a cycle that we’re stuck in; We keep building roads because we keep making cars. We keep making cars because we keep building roads. We’ve become trapped in this idea that we have to drive everywhere and it’s the most convenient way to get around. But check out these places.

Race Street Pier in Philadelphia
Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston
The High Line in New York
Amsterdam, Netherlands

None of these places are perfect, and there’s plenty of infrastructure improvements to be made. But if you’ve ever visited any of these places, think about how easy it was to get around, to get to your destination. No doubling back looking for parking, no aggravation switching lanes, no rush to reach your destination, just the journey itself. Can’t we extend that into our own lives and hometowns?

There are ideas of urban spaces, walkable cities, sustainable sites, that are happening in the world today. These places see higher levels of happiness and productivity and it’s not because they have less traffic. It’s because traffic has been designed out.

Jeff Speck: The Walkable City

When I picture the future, I don’t see the gray slab city in the tunnel video. People don’t have to look both ways when crossing the street and people travel around on cool scooters. I imagine green walkways dotted with trees and sunshine and children playing on the walkways because the entire city is their playground. So Mr. Musk, please consider where your new companies take us. Because more doesn’t necessarily mean better. Plus like… parking still sucks.

I know I’m super late with this, sorry. I’ve actually just taken a job at The Cadmus Group in the Renewable Energy team! Hope to keep you all updated on the world of distributed energy and any other ideas that pop into my head. If you have thoughts on how we can build a better city, system, or future, please share them!

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.