Elon Musk proposes shooting people in capsules at incredible speed down a tube from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Hyperloop capsule

Hyperloop capsule. It seems to carry only three people: all lying down. Image source.

As an alternative to commuting daily down a drainpipe, I propose reconstructing cities to allow people to live close to where they work, shop and find rest and recreation.

Admittedly my solution to the commuter problem would be more expensive than Musk’s Shotgun Shuttle. But we are in dire need of economic stimulus, and in the long run, the payoff in time and energy saved from abolishing the daily commute would be enormous.

The trick to getting people, workplaces, shops and recreation facilities in close proximity, while getting rid of noisy, smelly, and dangerous motor vehicles is to increase urban densities to match those of great Asian cities such as Hong Kong or Mumbai.

That means a floor space to land area ratio of about one, and an average building height of eight stories. That provides a home to 33,000 people per square kilometer, with 30 square meters of living space per person, plus an additional 30 square meters per person for commercial, industrial and public buildings. Of the remaining unbuilt land area, or seven eighths of the total, a third might be devoted to roadways, the rest to lakes, watercourses, parks and gardens.

Roadways would be restricted to the use of pedestrians, skateboards, and possibly bicycles, although bicycles might be better accommodated in elevated, glass-walled tubeways, which might incorporate fans to provide commuters a following wind on their way both to and from work.

On main thoroughfares, pedestrians could choose either landscaped open-air walkways or air-conditioned passageways. Some parks, with beaches, swimming pools, ski slopes, pavement cafés, etc., would also be enclosed and air-conditioned to provide the pleasures of a year-round resort.

Beneath each street would be a multi-level tunnel to accommodate services, including novel services such as an automated door-to-door parcel delivery system, as well as a heavy goods electric rail system.

Such a city would provide a vastly healthier environment than that of any large present-day city. Inhabitants would mostly walk, jog or cycle to work, breathing unpolluted air. The stress and hazards of road traffic to drivers and pedestrians alike would be a thing of the past. Shopping would be a breeze: order online or by phone and receive automated, below-ground delivery to your door within minutes. Pleasant places to walk, sunbathe, sit and read or engage in sporting activities would be at your doorstep.

By abolishing the need for travel, energy consumption would plummet. The destruction of farm and wild lands for the construction of roads, suburbs, exurbs and airports would be at an end.

At the proposed population density, the entire population of the World could be accommodated in a single urban area just 259 kilometers in diameter. The entire population of the United States could be accommodated in a single city just 56 km in diameter: most Americans could get home for Thanksgiving on a bicycle.