In a revelation that surprised absolutely nobody who’s been paying even the smallest bit of attention to Elon Musk’s under-Vegas tunnel project for the past few years, the underground loop beneath the Las Vegas Convention center was finally unveiled today, and it’s about as exciting as a sheet of unpainted drywall discarded in a closed office park. It’s just some Tesla Model 3s driving slowly in a tube, and if that gets you excited then I hope you enjoy the many orgasms you get while driving down a spiral ramp in a parking deck.
As far as the Keno thing goes, growing up, my friend’s dad used to tell us that “a dead man could play Keno,” though I’m not really sure what I was supposed to do with that information. Just know that Keno is lame, and so is Elon Musk’s Las Vegas Convention Center Loop system.
Las Vegas media were invited to the opening of the underground loop, which is 1.7 miles in length, with three stops, and cost $53.5 million to build.
So far, there are 11 Tesla vehicles that drive in the tunnel, with human drivers, as Tesla does not currently have an autonomous driving system to do the job without a human at the wheel. Speed for the cars is limited to 35 mph in the tunnel, which is about 10 mph less than the top speed of a 1908 Ford Model T.
Musk’s The Boring Company own the machines that dug the tunnels, and those machines, some of which were heavily modified by the company, are capable of using the excess dirt from the tunnel to turn into bricks, which is pretty cool, I guess:
Raw, humid thrills of brick-making aside, all this really is are some Teslas driving in tunnels lined with LED lights.
Sure, it’s a 45-minute walk (correction, more like 20 minutes, sorry) on the surface and only a few minutes ride underneath, but the system is still remarkably bad at moving large numbers of people per hour, the metric normally used to evaluate mass transit systems.
While it was originally intended to move up to 4,400 people per hour, fire regulations will limit the system to moving between 800 and 1,200 people per hour. That said, it looks like the company still states the 4,400 number, when used with 62 cars in the tunnel, though based on the safety issues, this does not seem likely.
That’s in the same ballpark as normal vehicular street traffic for private cars (600 to 1,600 people per hour) and a lot less than a dedicated bus lane (4,000 to 8,000 per hour) — hell, normal 60-passenger buses can do about 1,800 per hour, if we have them going back and forth every two minutes or so.
A dumb old sidewalk can move 9,000 people an hour! But that’s walking, which is what animals do, and it takes a while and has the potential to make you sweat.
Proposed moving high-speed sidewalks, similar to the ThyssenKrupp ACCEL system used in the Toronto Pearson International airport, are expected to move about 7,000 people per hour, and such a system would be far cheaper and easier to build.
It’s just Teslas driving slowly in tunnels. It’s not just me saying that — Elon freely admits this, too:
Even if I wanted to be really charitable to the World’s Richest Man and say only nice things about the Vegas Loop, I’m not really sure what I’d say? I mean, it beats walking, sort of, right?
Some hardcore Friends Of Elon are trying hard to find the upside by imagining a future full of things, like Tesla robotaxis, that aren’t even close to existing yet:
I mean, it’s not like autonomous short-range people carrying systems don’t exist: Morgantown, West Virginia has had an automated transportation system called the PRT in operation since 1975 and even that Ford-administration project feels light years more advanced than people driving Teslas slowly driving in tunnels does today.
The PRT also moves about 16,000 riders per day on average (though it’s been proven to move almost double that number) over a 3.6 mile loop, for a cost of $62 million back in 1975. In today’s dollars that would be over $300 million, which is more than the Vegas loop cost, but also is about three and a half times bigger and moves many more passengers.
The best comparison may be this one, though:
Also, Space Mountain would fit in a lot better with the whole Vegas aesthetic, really.
Maybe at some point higher-capacity vehicles will be in the tunnel or it’ll expand to be the full proposed Vegas Loop or, I don’t know something will change to make any of this make actual sense.
The system is also supposed to work like a ride-hailing service, though with three points to get in and out of the tunnel and planned stations, I don’t see how that will really work?
As it stands now, we have a few Teslas driving around in long, narrow loops under the convention center, saving you a bit of walking but doing every other part of the job of moving people worse than almost any other solution.