Double-O Tunnel Boring Machines

I stumbled on this totally cool innovation in tunnel design: the Double-O Tunnel Boring machine.


Apparently it uses two cutting heads, interlocked like gears, to bore double-barreled tunnels over a narrower area and ostensibly with less waste. The tunnel takes the form of union Venn diagram, with a line of columns in the middle.

For tunnels, it’s not an unusual configuration. Tunnels are round because it distributes weight forces efficiently and because a rotating cutter head involves the fewest moving parts. But, this also often leaves space that’s hard to use, since most vehicles are rectangular in section. Intersecting the circles creates flat sides and reduces waste.

The Lexington Avenue line tunnels on the Harlem River are built this way. The deep-column stations of the former Soviet Union are constructed by tunneling out a larger chamber between two tunnels. See Mayakovskaya, for example.

But as far as I know, TBMs like this are rare. A technical paper I found explains some of the difficulties, but there are TBMs with 40- and 60-foot diameters, such as Bertha, used to tunnel the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement, or what Tysons Tunnel proposed.

I have no idea about the feasibility or actual value. I’d love to find out more.


Design the next Moscow Metro map

The City’s Department of Transportation has announced a contest to redesign the cartography of the Moscow Metro, one of the busiest and longest urban rail systems in the world. The impetus for the redesign seems to be the limitations of the current system diagram, which is light on information, and already quite dense with stations. More importantly, that map is about to get more confusing, because the Metro plans to grow 150% in size, with 70 stations to be added by 2025. So, there is a lot of material to work with.

I say cartography, because the brief asks for a tiered wayfinding system, where the diagram on the trains is expanded for each station to include relevant ground transportation and sites, at that particular station.

I am generally negative about designers doing work for free, but the restriction that this contest only be open to individuals ensures that the playing field is at least level, even if only one person is paid for the work that they do.

Submissions are due as PDFs by December 23rd, 2012.




In Moscow, a revolution for transportation

Велодорожки МГУ from Alexander Tugunov on Vimeo.

The city of Moscow opened its first on-street bike path in September. It’s a small sign of a strategic change in the urban development of a city that has become legendary for bad traffic.

According to the article, behavior on the trail isn’t perfect: people are parking in the bike path! Unthinkable! But, also unthinkably, the police has promised to enforce the laws and educate drivers. Now, when I lived in Moscow, I saw the city rip up Leningradsky Prospekt to convert it into a highway. That remains unchanged, but now dedicated trolleybus lanes will run along the highway. The entire transportation and land use strategies are being upended because the mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, and the Kremlin have realized that you cannot build yourself out of congestion with still more roads.

If there’s any doubt as to whether this is a token effort, Sobyanin’s comments here and there are explicit commitment to a complete transportation strategy. Take this interview on

SOBYANINThe easiest option we could offer is: “Let’s build more roads and interchanges, at two levels, three levels, and, sure, everything will be wonderful.” : Yes, like in Tokyo, Beijing and other Asian cities.

SOBYANIN: Yes, but it’s a dead end. It is impossible, even if we had a lot of money. And, there can never be enough money, because the building of highways and interchanges costing absurd sums.

That is just the beginning. There’s trams, trolleys, and a hundred miles of metro construction after the break.

The Metronomicon


A Russian artist and ad man named Alexei Andreev has been publishing some distinctly surreal photography recently regarding the Moscow Sankt-Peterburg Metro. Mostly, it hints at the perpetual creepiness of a dark subway and the complex relationship one always has with it. As much as it’s preternatural eeriness, it also reflects daily life a lot more than most architectural photography of the subway. The whole collection deserves a look, but not before a late night Metro ride.