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?
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Aug 12, 2009
There is a very good reason that cities build pedestrial overpasses 17' above the traffic at huge expense rather than pedestrial tunnels 6' below at minor expense. ihateregistering has pointed out one example but there are many, many more. You can't change human nature. There are ways to make cities pedestrian friendly without completely grade separating the traffic.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
Garbage sinks.

You already mentioned the smell, and the gas, but a bigger problem would be the fairly unpredictable way the ground would sink as the garbage rotted away.

Also there is a possibility of contamination. If a load of things had gotten into the garbage that shouldn't have - eg. batteries, old electrical goods etc. then it could lead to some real heavy metals nastiness.

As others mention, there is also the problem of security. But it could be dealt with. I assumed in my head as I read this (I don't know why) the tunnel system would have to be built with all spaces covered by security cameras as standard, and some pretty hefty doors between the tunnels and people's basements. That should solve it.
Aug 12, 2009
you are hilarious
Aug 12, 2009

You are absolutely right that using the underground to interconnect places is very efficient.

Disney World is well known for using this solution: http://www.hiddenmickeys.org/wdw/magickingdom/Secrets/General/Underground.html
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
It's already been done - just look at [Insert name of pet hate-city, say Birmingham, or Wolverhampton, or Aldershot]
Aug 12, 2009
As someone with serious knee injuries, I can assure you that not everyone is able to pedal a bicycle, regardless of the lack of hills. The elderly tend to have joint issues, and would not perhaps benefit from an extra wheel. However, those little electric scooters you see the elderly on at the mall would probably be just as useful as a bicycle for getting around.

Garbage is unstable. It will shift, and decompose, and it would be difficult to control the rate at which that happens, and where exactly on the site it happens, so that any movement would be equal across the structure being built on top. Since that's more or less impossible, we would see massive fissures and cracks in the structure as garbage in different parts rotted out and settled faster than that of other areas. Decomposing garbage also tends to produce a degree of warmth which could offset your heating/cooling ideas, however that might be worked into the overall system and be counted as a bonus.

I would be concerned with germs and vermin; if you're travelling underground with no exterior protection (car frame) and you're underneath a pile of garbage, the chances of finding yourself surrounded by rats is rather high. Mind you, that's probably decent motivation to improve your overall fitness level and it's also a way to deal with our aging population; those little scooters might just run out of battery power en route and then it's bye-bye grandpa. Mind you, that leaves me as rat food too, but sometimes we all have to make sacrifices.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
Not that I enjoy pointing out contradictions but your have three problems with tunneling one of which is it takes a long time. But your alternative solution is to pile garbage for "years."

A second problem is that you say that tunneling is dangerous and then identify poisonous gas seepage as a danger for landfill living city dwellers in the alternative scenario.

I will give you that it is probably the least expensive sollution.

Incidentally I've visited Montreal a few times which claims to have the world's largest underground city. People there seem to love it.
Aug 12, 2009
You should check out the way Walt Disney World is set up in Orlando. They have a similar system with tunnels and what not. I believe they built the entire theme park structure a few feet above sea level to accommodate the tunnels without having to dig down.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
We can't remember to return the videos we rent, you want us to remember to take Vitamin D supplements everyday? We're pale and sickly enough as is!
Aug 12, 2009
I think you're putting the horse before the cart here. If there's no-one living above ground to make refuse, then there's no refuse being made. You could ship refuse from somewhere else but the cost of transportation is a big problem. And of course, the aforementioned problem with rubbish settling. All the old tips that I know of have been turned into sports fields, not housing estates.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2009
"Worst idea ever?"

No. Keep going. I'm sure you'll be able to top it.

Aug 12, 2009
Scott, you've just described Boston (except for the tunnel part).
Aug 12, 2009
A city built on a mountain of garbage (as with rock & roll), would probably be structurally unsound.
Aug 12, 2009
unfortunately there's another problem w/bikes: security

i.e., it's a lot easier to rob someone on a bike than someone in a car. we've had some high-profile robberies and even a rape/murder on a popular trail here in Atlanta. now on a per-passenger-mile it may still be safer (don't know - insufficient data) and w/proper safety equipment (i.e. helmet) there's almost certainly a net reduction in fatal accidents but you're fighting perception & people's poor math skills @ that point (like terrorism & air travel)...
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