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Elon Musk’s Company Underground Transit Venture Ready to Unveil Its First Project

Musk's company announced it was moving ahead with a proposed tunnel across town to connect Dodger Stadium to the existing subway line.

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Elon Musk arrives to speak at Boring Company community meeting in Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, May 17, 2018 VOA

The Boring Company, Elon Musk’s underground transit venture, planned an unveiling of its first tunnel Tuesday, two years after the billionaire entrepreneur complained about Los Angeles traffic and vowed to “just start digging” as a remedy.

Musk has advertised his 2-mile (3.2 km) tunnel as the first step toward developing a high-speed subterranean network for whisking vehicles and pedestrians below the congested streets of the second-largest city in the United States.

The tunnel, an initial proof-of-concept, has been excavated along a path that runs not through Los Angeles but beneath the tiny adjacent municipality of Hawthorne, where Musk’s Boring Company and his SpaceX rocket firm are headquartered.

In a tweet earlier this month, Musk said the big reveal would include “autonomous transport cars & ground to tunnel elevator cars.”

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Vehicles are backed up while entering the US 101 Ventura Freeway as traffic from US 101 enters into downtown Los Angeles, Aug. 25, 2015. VOA

Boring’s website describes a system of passenger- and automobile-carrying “skates” that can zip through the tunnels by way of electric power once they are lowered underground from street level.

Musk, best known as head of the Tesla Inc electric car manufacturer and energy company, launched his foray into public transit after complaining in December 2016 that L.A.’s traffic was “driving me nuts,” promising then to “build a boring machine and just start digging.”

In May, the company gave the world a preview of the first tunnel, posting a fast-forward video of the interior shot by a camera traveling the length of the cylindrical passageway, which measures about 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter.

Musk also created a stir by promising free trips through the tunnel once it opened — “like a weird little Disney ride in L.A.” — to get public feedback before proceeding with a larger system.

It remained doubtful, however, whether permits Musk received to dig what was then billed as an experimental tunnel would allow the public inside.

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Elon Musk tweeted a photo of The Boring Company LA tunnel, taken Oct. 28, 2017. VOA

“There will be no cars or people in the research tunnel,” according to the minutes of a special Hawthorne City Council meeting in August 2017 to review an easement for the project.

On its website, the Boring company said that “due to unbelievably high demand, tours through the Hawthorne test tunnel are by invitation only.”

If successful, the Hawthorne tunnel is envisioned as eventually connecting to a network of other tunnels, yet to be approved or built.

Last month, the Boring Company scrapped plans for a slightly longer 2.7-mile segment under a West Los Angeles neighborhood, settling litigation brought by community groups opposed to that project.

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Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. (Wikimedia Commons)

But Musk’s company announced it was moving ahead with a proposed tunnel across town to connect Dodger Stadium, home of the city’s Major League Baseball team, to the existing subway line.

Also Read: Elon Musk May Buy GM Plant to Increase Tesla Production

In June, Boring was selected by the city of Chicago to build a 17-mile underground transit system linking that city’s downtown to O’Hare International Airport. The company also has proposed an East Coast Loop that would run from Washington, D.C., out to the Maryland suburbs. (VOA)

 

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New Rule in USA to Allow Passengers to Bring Pet Animals on Flight

New Rules Could Bump Emotional-Support Animals From Planes

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Airlines can now let passengers bring other animals on board, but hefty fees would apply. Pixabay

The days of passengers bringing rabbits, turtles and birds on planes as emotional-support animals could be ending.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday proposed that only specially trained dogs qualify as service animals, which must be allowed in the cabin at no charge. Airlines could let passengers bring other animals on board, but hefty fees would apply.

Airlines say the number of support animals has been growing dramatically in recent years, and they have lobbied to tighten the rules. They also imposed their own restrictions in response to passengers who show up at the airport with pigs, pheasants, turkeys, snakes and other unusual pets.

“This is a wonderful step in the right direction for people like myself who are dependent on and reliant on legitimate service animals that perform a task to mitigate our disability,” said Albert Rizzi, founder of My Blind Spot, which advocates for accessibility for people of different ability levels.

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Airlines say the number of support animals has been growing dramatically in recent years, and they have lobbied to tighten the rules. Pixabay

Tighter rules praised

The U.S. airline industry trade group praised the tighter rules. Industry officials believe that hundreds of thousands of passengers scam the system each year by claiming they need their pet for emotional support. Those people avoid airline pet fees, which are generally more than $100 each way.

“Airlines want all passengers and crew to have a safe and comfortable flying experience, and we are confident the proposed rule will go a long way in ensuring a safer and healthier experience for everyone,” said Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America.

Flight attendants had pushed to rein in support animals, too, and were pleased with Wednesday’s proposed changes.

“The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. The union chief said untrained pets had hurt some of her members.

Veterans groups pleased

Veterans groups have sided with the airlines, arguing that a boom in untrained dogs and other animals threatens their ability to fly with properly trained service dogs. Last year, more than 80 veterans and disability groups endorsed banning untrained emotional-support animals in airline cabins.

“It’s just interesting how people want to have the benefits of having a disability without actually losing the use of their limbs or senses just so they can take their pet with them,” Rizzi said.

Southwest Airlines handles more than 190,000 emotional support animals per year. American Airlines carried 155,790 emotional support animals in 2017, up 48% from 2016, while the number of checked pets dropped 17%. United Airlines carried 76,000 comfort animals in 2017.

Department officials said in a briefing with reporters that they are proposing the changes to ensure safety on flights. They also said some passengers have abused the current rules.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes, and they could take effect any time after that.

The Transportation Department proposes a narrow definition of a service animal — it would be a dog that is trained to help a person with a physical or other disability. Passengers who want to travel with a service dog will have to fill out a federal form on which they swear that the dog is trained to help them with their disability. A dog that is trained to help a passenger with psychiatric needs would continue to qualify as a service animal.

Animals on Planes
Oscar the cat, who is not a service animal, sits in his carry on travel bag after arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. VOA

Note from medical professional

Currently, passengers have been allowed to bring many other animals if they have a medical professional’s note saying they need the animal for emotional support.

The proposal would prohibit airlines from banning particular types of dog breeds — Delta Air Lines bans pit bulls, for example — but airline employees could refuse to board any animal that they consider a threat to other people.

The president of the Humane Society of the United States said airlines had “maligned” pit bulls by banning them. Kitty Block said the Transportation Department’s rule against breed-specific prohibitions “sends a clear message to airlines that their discriminatory practices are not only unsound, but against the law.”

The new rules would also bar the current practice by many airlines of requiring animal owners to fill out paperwork 48 hours in advance. A department official said that practice can harm disabled people by preventing them from bringing their service dog on last-minute trips. But airlines could still require forms attesting to an animal’s good behavior and health, which could present challenges if the form has to be completed by a specific institution, Rizzi said.

Also Read- Spain Takes a Step Forward to Combat Climate Change

The proposal also says people with service animals must check in earlier than the general public, and would end the rarely seen use of miniature horses as service animals, although a Transportation Department official indicated the agency is open to reconsidering that provision.

Airlines could require that service animals be on a leash or harness and fit in its handler’s foot space. They could limit passengers to two service animals each, although it is unclear how often that happens under the current rules. (VOA)