Elon Musk’s Boring Company is increasing its efforts in Las Vegas by submitting a proposal to expand its underground transportation system. The proposal entails constructing 65 miles of tunnels beneath the streets of the city, with dozens of tunnels interweaving to reach various locations, including retail zones, casinos, the University of Nevada, and even residential areas. Planning documents reveal that the proposed transit system comprises 69 stations and 65 miles of tunnels, along with an unknown number of Tesla vehicles.
If the proposal is successful, it will lead to the creation of a Loop station located just a few blocks from central Las Vegas. Additionally, five stations would cater to the University of Nevada, while Allegiant Stadium, which is home to the Raiders NFL team, would have additional links to the western part of the city. Although there won’t be any stations serving the passenger terminal, Harry Reid International Airport will have several stations surrounding it.
The Boring Company has proposed an ambitious plan to create a city-wide transit network in Las Vegas. The plan involves building a new tunnel alongside the Strip with several stations, which would allow for a high-speed “express” route between the north and south of the city. Additionally, an existing artery connects east and west Las Vegas.
Currently, the Loop system consists of about 70 Teslas serving five stations about two miles apart. The project took nearly three years to build and was mainly funded by a $52.5 million contract with the Las Vegas Convention Center. However, a sixth station is expected to open this summer. The Boring Company has claimed that construction on the new system could begin this summer and be completed by February 2024, but it’s unclear if this refers to the full system.
Expanding the Loop from a small campus people-mover to a financially self-sustaining, city-wide transit network poses significant financial and logistical challenges for the Boring Company.
The ambitious plan to expand the transportation system from Clark County to Las Vegas may face challenges. Las Vegas has its own regulations and permitting process that TBC, the company behind the transportation system, will have to navigate. However, signs suggest that this process is not going smoothly.
On March 8, a city engineer rejected TBC’s initial structural engineering review for its proposed tunnels. TBC proposed a tunnel design that would enable safe construction of buildings above them, but only up to six stories. The engineer deemed this proposal “NOT acceptable” to the city, which has plans for further development in the area.
The engineer also noted that TBC’s designs mix imperial and metric units, and reference design standards and building codes from abroad. The engineer stated that it is impossible to comply with all of the referenced standards, many of which are from other countries, and that it would be more prudent to use codes, standards, referenced codes, and design aids that have been used and developed in the USA.
According to an engineer, The Boring Company (TBC) made an incorrect statement by saying that there is no U.S. design code for tunnels, as the US has a ‘code’ for tunnels, which was mentioned just a few paragraphs below. The engineer also raised concerns about TBC’s tunnels running too close to the foundations of the iconic Strat tower and the risk of lithium-ion battery fires within the system.
To address Las Vegas’ concerns, TBC may need to build stronger and deeper tunnels, which could increase the project’s cost. TBC CEO, Steve Davis, revealed that the cost of the stations would range from $1.5 to $20 million, depending on the distance to the tunnel and station opulence. The majority of new stops on the expanded network will likely be surface-level stations as they are the cheapest to build.
The city of Las Vegas did not provide a comment regarding the issue. However, it’s worth noting that the Loop construction has not started yet in Las Vegas.
The Loop system will not receive any public funding for either construction or operation, which is uncommon for public transportation systems worldwide. Instead, the Loop system will pay the city and Clark County a small percentage of its passenger revenues, increasing as the ridership grows. TBC raised $675 million in a Series C round last year.
The number of passengers who have used the Loop system in Las Vegas has been a topic of debate, with conflicting reports. While City Councilwoman Olivia Diaz stated that the system had carried over 700,000 riders since its launch, TechCrunch’s analysis of public records revealed that it had only transported 487,700 passengers as of July 2022. The Boring Company, which operates the system, announced that it had transported its one millionth passenger, but this figure has not been confirmed.
Most of the rides on the Loop system have been on the Las Vegas Convention Center campus and have been funded by payments from the LVCC to The Boring Company, with only a small number of passengers paying the $1.50 cash fare for trips between the LVCC and Resorts World casino. The price paid per passenger trip at the Convention Center varied depending on how busy the LVCC was, with the average cost ranging from $2.67 during the busy SEMA car show in November 2021 to $23.72 during the quieter month of September for a 0.8-mile trip.
When fully operational, The Boring Company claims that the Loop system could serve up to 57,000 passengers an hour, with fares ranging from $6 to $12 per trip. However, the franchise agreements with Clark County and Las Vegas allow The Boring Company to set fares as it sees fit.
The Boring Company (TBC) has built a factory on the outskirts of Austin, Texas to develop new boring machines and test tunnels. However, TBC’s request to discharge treated wastewater into the Colorado River has been met with opposition from locals who have filed nearly 200 protests ahead of a public meeting. Some residents have expressed concerns about public resources becoming private dumping grounds for global elites to increase their profits. TBC has already been served notice of two wastewater violations.
Despite the tech being developed in Austin, there is no mention in the new planning documents of the self-driving vehicles that Musk originally promoted for its Loop system. Instead, human drivers of Tesla Model X and Y vehicles will assist passengers along roadways and into egress shafts in case of an emergency underground. This may increase costs for TBC, but it could reassure passengers who may be unnerved by ongoing investigations into Tesla’s Autopilot technologies. Additionally, it provides drivers with the opportunity to talk about the company’s “great leader.”
What are your thoughts on The Boring Company’s plans to expand its Vegas Loop, and do you think it will have a positive impact on transportation in Las Vegas? Share you opinion in the comments below.