I've blogged before about how great it would be to have a city with underground bike paths, replacing cars for most purposes. Almost everyone would ride a bike if they didn't need to worry about weather and traffic and hills. Even senior citizens would tool around in 3-wheelers with little effort.

It would also be great to have underground package delivery to your home via robots. Just order your groceries and whatnot via the Internet, then get an e-mail alert when the robot has delivered your goods beneath your home, in a sort of basement area that connects to the vast underground grid.

As you know, underground spaces stay at a consistent temperature, which allows you to put pipes in the ground and use the difference in air temperature compared to the surface for cheap heating and cooling.

In other words, there's a gold mine to be had underground. The big problem is that tunneling is expensive and dangerous and takes a long time. But what if we went at it another way. Instead of tunneling, we build our tunnel structures above ground and then pile mountains of garbage on top of them, for years, until the tunnels are totally buried. Then we build our city on top. No tunneling or ditch-digging needed. And that garbage had to go someplace anyway.

I'm assuming we have the know-how to keep the garbage smell and poisonous gas seepage from being a problem to the city dwellers above.

Worst idea ever?
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +4
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Aug 12, 2009
"The Caves of Steel"

by Isaac Asimov.

You might have heard of him, or not.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
ooo ooo and if you build the tunnels in a circle it could be down hill all the way around... and you could have robots peddle for you.. or maybe robot rickshaw...

Most tunnels I have been in smell of urine and stale cigarettes and ass... but mostly urine.
Aug 12, 2009
Man, I like that idea. Particularly the absence of hills and rain. And as a bonus, it would get those !$%*!$% bikes off the road where I would continue to drive!
Aug 12, 2009
So far alot of research and pilot testing has been done here in Canada to recapture the methane gas produced in landfills. http://www.toolkit.bc.ca/success-story/hartland-landfill-gas-utilization-project-0
In colder climates the heat produced from the break down of the garbage could be reclaimed to heat the homes or to be a pre-heater for a steam power plant.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
I think this is a bad idea.

However, I think that this could actually happen in real life, but not if it were actually planned out. I live in Seattle, of which much is built on itself (someone also mentioned many cities in Europe having this characteristic). This is a scenario that could happen because of the often-strange relationship between technology and govt bureaucracy.
Aug 12, 2009
On the contrary Scott, it's thought-provoking. What if, instead of garbage, you used incinerator ash (assuming it's created in an environmentally friendly fashion)? Also, many people have pointed out the security drawbacks of people using the tunnels as bike paths. Make the tunnels just for delivery robots & pipes, and build cheap (recycled plastic?) awnings above ground to cover the bike paths.

[It's ridiculous to say tunnels are intrinsically more dangerous than roads. And you could have security cameras on every inch. -- Scott]
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
Aug 12, 2009
while someone else mentioned that garbage sinks unpredictably, another flaw is that as garbage decays it generates heat. which is a flaw in the design. it can in fact get quite hot indeed which could cause quit unnatural wear and tear on the tunnels before they are even used.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
Except for the garbage, this is an awesome idea! Except for the tunnels.
Aug 12, 2009
Scott, I don't care if your ideas are bad. They're very amusing, and they get my brain spinning. Free speech is fun!
Aug 12, 2009
"Caves of Steel"?

I expect that the cost of protecting us from the dangers of the garbage could equal the cost of tunneling.
Aug 12, 2009
First thing I thought of when I read this was "mugging" and "rape". Ihateregistering beat me to it.

Enjoy the underground Scott!
Aug 12, 2009
Not entirely crazy. Half the cities in Europe were buit on the ruins of earlier cities, which is why they can't put in a basement without uncovering some historic artifacts. An area of Chicago has a lower level, partially because the ruins from the Chicago fire caused them to build upward. So the trick, as others have mentioned, is to find a way to make the refuse pile stable and sanitary. I think both are possible.

When I lived in Chicago, I hated the artic winds that would blow down from Canada in the winter. I always wished we could build a trash mountain range on the border to keep the cold air up north. Maybe add one south too to cut down on illegal immigration.
Aug 12, 2009
I've been in tunnels, and I don't find them very pleasant. Crowding them with kids, robots, and grannies on bicycles doesn't sound like an improvement.

Such a large integrated system would necessarily need to be run by the government. If the USPS can't compete with UPS and Fedex above ground, I don't think digging tunnels is going to improve efficiency.

The pioneers to these garbage cities would get some great real estate values, that's for sure. Can we securitize their mortgages?

Aug 12, 2009
As DMH points out, Montreal's underground city is hugely popular, as is the underground here in downtown Toronto. This is, however, quite a different set up than the one Scott proposes. These areas are, in both cases, mainly "downtown" and are filled with shops and several exits to the street, connections to the subway and to various buildings downtown. The popularity is mainly due to the inclement weather we experience for much of the year here in Canada; rather than break your neck on an ice patch and freeze to death trying to get up, we go underground and leave our jackets back at the office (not to mention winter boots, scarves, mittens and toques).

In any event, here in Toronto, and, I suspect also in Montreal, there are some residential buildings connected to these underground passageways/shopping centres. In the Yonge/Eglinton area and again in the Yonge/Sheppard area (and to a lesser extent, Yorkville) many of the condo and apartment buildings offer underground access to both subways and shops, such that some individuals don't end up going outside at all in bad weather; from home to work to play, everything can be accessed indoors. I have not heard of rampant crime in these underground passages, but they do have security installed (cameras, guards who make rounds, passcard entry, etc.) and overall Canada is known for having lower crime rates than many comparably sized cities.

Despite our recent garbage strike issues, Toronto is not a city built on a garbage dump, so the correlation breaks down a little at that point.
Aug 12, 2009
Yeah, that's the ticket. And while you're at it, just let people wander into your 'basement' at will. Um, no.

[Maybe someone could invent a sort of cover for basement doorway openings. It could be wooden and have a knob about waist high. Maybe it could only be opened with some sort of small metal object you could keep on a keychain. It's kind of sci fi, but I think it could work. -- Scott]
Aug 12, 2009
Funniest idea ever!
Aug 12, 2009
To summarize: The Disney tunnels are private, limited in scope, closed to the public, and a planned infrastructure investment. Scott's proposed tunnels are public, unlimited in scope, open to the public (and adjoining your home), and an ongoing infrastructure money pit (Boston's Big Dig in your basement and tax base).

In Cheaptopia, maybe. In reality, never.
Aug 12, 2009
You're nuts. I mean nuts. Really nuts.
Aug 12, 2009
As noted by a few people above me, you are essentially describing facets of Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom had a system of tunnels (Utilidors) laid out and fill dirt placed above it to provide an unseen underground labyrinth for the employees, deliveries, maintenance workers to get around with ease.

Additionally, many of the other concepts you hint at in your postings are very similar to what Walt Disney had originally planned to incorporate into EPCOT (the experimental prototype community of tomorrow, not the theme park). He proposed underground tunnels for the traffic, deliveries, maintenance crews, garbage pickup, etc which would allow the pedestrian traffic on the surface (as well as provide a more pleasing city visual appearance sans car congestion). He passed away before anything could be finalized, though many of his ideas were incorporated into the Epcot theme park and Walt Disney World grounds in general.

For more information, read the book "Realityland".
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog