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Surprise! Elon Musk Is Revolted By Transit

Photo: JD Lasica/Flickr/CC

He owns a car company. And his favored solution for traffic in Los Angeles is to build tunnels for pod travel under the city.

So, really, no one should be surprised that Elon Musk thinks transit is beneath him. In fact, the tech billionaire hates rubbing elbows with scary commoners on buses and trains! He said this week in an exchange covered by Wired:

I think public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end? And it doesn’t go all the time.

It’s a pain in the ass. That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.

This is a guy who's theoretically competing for a project to build express transit to Chicago O'Hare.

Despite a lot of other good reporting at Wired, when it comes to Elon Musk, it's basically a fanzine, promoting his brand as a celebrity smart guy. When media outlets treat Musk's every utterance about transportation as a news event, the cumulative impact does real damage.

Actual city and state governments are granting permits and seeking partnerships with Musk and his affiliated transport ventures. But the whole Hyperloop concept would have been laughed into oblivion if not for the aura of genius that surrounds its chief promoter.

Listen to the words Musk says, and it's clear he has a very superficial understanding of the dynamics of transportation systems. "People like individualized transport," alright. Until they all want to go the same way at the same time in big clunky cars and get stuck in traffic. The frustration of a traffic jam is something Musk is quite familiar with, and yet he seems oblivious to the fact that his own individualized transport solutions will end in the same congestion.

Driving in Los Angeles (or any big city) will never be the effortless dream Musk would prefer, and neither will getting flung around in underground pods. People are looking for a smart guy savior, but the answers are already in front of us and they're aren't high-tech. Move large numbers of people around a big city is a geometry problem that only large shared vehicles, a.k.a. transit, can solve.

Correction: This article originally stated Musk made these comments to Wired. He made them at a tech conference.

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