Elon Musk says public transit is 'painful,' Twitter fights back — then so does Musk

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk
Brian Snyder | Reuters

Elon Musk does not like traffic. In fact, the billionaire serial entrepreneur's The Boring Company is currently digging tunnels underneath Los Angeles to provide an alternative, less congested route for cars.

Picture of The Boring Company LA tunnel taken yesterday

It also seems he's no fan of most public transport. He's proposed the hyperloop (a vacuum-sealed tube through which pods can fly at tremendously high speeds) and is preparing to compete on a bid to build a train connecting downtown Chicago with Chicago O'Hare Airport.

The Boring Company will compete to fund, build & operate a high-speed Loop connecting Chicago O'Hare Airport to downtown

But most recently, the Tesla CEO reportedly made disdainful comments on the subject at a company event during the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in Long Beach, Calif., in December.

Responding to a question about public transit and urban sprawl, Musk said, "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 a--," he said, according to a report from Wired. "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."

When an audience member brought up the effective public transport in Japan as a counterpoint, Musk's response was again dismissive: "What, where they cram people in the subway? That doesn't sound great," writes Wired.

Musk later called the Wired story a "depressingly misleading & misanthropic article" on Twitter. He also called the author, who questioned whether someone building public transportation needs to like public transportation, unflattering names. A Boring Company representative told Wired Musk does not like public transportation's existing options.

"Good point. It's just a really bad and fundamentally misleading article that doesn't actually represent my point of view at all. Other publications referred to it as an "interview"

But amid the back and forth, Musk's comments caught the attention of Brent Toderian, a Vancouver-based city planner and urbanist. In response, Toderian called for people to tweet about good things that happened to them on public transit.

Elon Musk may say bad things about public transit, but I asked Twitter to share their #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit! As usual, Twitter responded in spades. Here are some of my favourites for posterity - please enjoy & share!

Toderian himself shared a story.

Many to chose from, but the best day I ever had on public transit was the day my wife & I took the #17 bus home from the hospital for the first time with our new baby Alexander. The motion & sound made him sleep! His love of buses was born. #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit

And so did so many others:

I met a cute ultimate frisbee player on the train home. We got talking, changed trains, got off at the same station and walked by my place on the way to hers. It's 16 years later and we've been married for 11 years. #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit

There's nothing better than when I can sit and chat with this guy instead of focusing on the road, @elonmusk #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit

I walk 5000 more steps each day than I ever would if I drove #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit

My husband and I took transit to our wedding reception, joined by many of our wedding guests #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit

Once I was reading a book on the train and the author sat down next to me and introduced herself. #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit

Public Transit allows our class to use the entire city as our classroom! #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit

Christmas decorated buses in Brisbane really get you in the festive mood #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit

I've read hundreds of books on the L train. #greatthingsthathappenedontransit

In a country where government censorship over airways, and where millions of Venezuelans lack internet access; a volunteer-run group that travels the city on a Bus, informing citizens about national news is #GreatThingsThatHappenedOnTransit @elbusTV

Thursday, Musk responded to the ordeal with an impassioned series of tweets.

According to Musk, he does, in fact, "actually love trains, most subways and London buses." But not everything.

However, public transit is obviously not fully solving the problem, as most major cities have been in traffic hell for decades with no solution in sight. Multi-level tunnels can solve this, but we need much better tunneling technology, as it is currently super slow and expensive.

It was all part of a Twitter fight that erupted between Musk and New York Times economist and columnist Paul Krugman, who chastised the entrepreneur's name-calling.

Elon Musk's idea of a cogent argument: "You're an idiot"

After a heated exchange, Musk promised, "Bloody hell, I'm going to have to write a blog. Can't fit this into tweets."

See also:

Here's what Elon Musk has to say about Donald Trump's new plan to send Americans to the moon and Mars

9 of the most jaw-dropping things Elon Musk said about robots and AI in 2017

For $20, you could win a tour of Elon Musk's Boring Company tunnels under Los Angeles

Here's what it will be like to travel to Mars in Elon Musk's spaceship

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