Elon Musk reveals Las Vegas Convention Center Loop station, and its private shuttles

So Much For Public Transit

Elon Musk reveals Las Vegas Convention Center Loop station, and its private shuttles

Tesla Model 3s parked in the speculative Las Vegas Boring Company station. (Courtesy Elon Musk/The Boring Company)

So much for Elon Musk’s pivot to mass transportation. Yesterday, the Boring Company founder revealed a first look at its Las Vegas Convention Center Loop station, only stocked full of modified Tesla Model 3 cars instead of the larger shuttles Musk teased back in 2018.

The Las Vegas Loop is located directly below the Las Vegas Convention Center, and upon its completion in January 2021, will ferry upwards of 4,400 passengers per hour from the West Hall to the South and North halls (and vice versa). Comprising twin 0.83-mile-long, 14-foot-wide tunnels wedged side-by-side, the $52.5 million transportation system will cut the 15-minute jaunt across the convention center campus down to just one friction-less minute. The Boring Company successfully completed tunneling for the project on May 14 and proceeded to celebrate with a flashy “breaking through the wall” video.

In confirming that the forthcoming Loop system would use modified, on-rails electric sedans, Musk acknowledged that each car would only hold a maximum of five passengers—a decision that may make it difficult for disabled or wheelchair-bound guests to access the service. Once passengers are inside, each driverless car, clamped to a set of guide rails, would zip down the tunnels at speeds of up to 150 miles-per-hour.

When asked what had happened to the bus-like shuttles he touted a couple years ago, Musk only replied that making sure passengers were seated was “safer” than the alternative. (Each shuttle was meant to accommodate up to 12 straphangers.) Moreover, he added that because “Individualized mass transit is the future” his team would not be considering expanding capacity. It might just be the perspective of the project rendering, but it also looks like each station only has enough room to hold eight Tesla vehicles at a time.

Additionally, it seems that ridership might fall even lower than the five-per-car maximum; on the Boring Company’s website, their frequently asked questions section actually touts this as a benefit in the age of COVID-19:

Unlike standard public transportation systems, Loop vehicles carry small numbers of passengers (as low as one). This allows Loop passengers to travel with people they know and reduces the risk of exposure to airborne diseases presented by crowds. Additionally, rider high-touch surfaces are well understood within Loop vehicles, which can then be cleaned and disinfected between rides.

Of course, Twitter users were quick to dunk on Musk, pointing out that trains and busses can already carry up to hundreds of times more riders in the same period for much cheaper, and that “individualized mass transit” is an oxymoron, and, well, just cars. Among the commenters was the official Twitter account for Caltrain, San Francisco’s home commuter rail service, which posted a photoshopped version of the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop with Caltrain’s new rolling stock pasted on top. The account added the taunt: “Coming soon, with far greater throughput per hour.”