One of the CES2022 highlights was under the show floor. The LVCC Loop made its CES debut quietly hauling attendees between the West and Central Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
With speeds of up to 40 MPH, it takes approximately two minutes to cover the 1/2 mile journey between the West and Central Halls. It can reportedly carry up to 4,400 people per hour with its 70 Teslas.
It only took approximately two years from its May 2019 announcement to complete the twin, approximately one-mile, tunnels, and three stations. Tunneling occurred while conventions were held, with no road closures, and without disturbing attendees. According to the Boring Company,
LVCC Loop’s cost was approximately $47M (firm-fixed pricing) for the two tunnels [1.7 miles] and three stations (two surface and one subsurface).”The Boring Company Website
Clearly, the LVCC Loop is in its early days, as it uses standard Teslas with drivers, and without Tesla’s famous Advanced Driving Assistant System.
Still at the Crawling Stage
The LVCC Loop should be thought of as a proof-of-concept, as so well described in this ATRA article. It is a first step for what will be a next-generation, personal rapid transit system. With PRT, the vehicles stop based on the passenger’s destinations, as opposed to pre-scheduled stops like a traditional subway or bus. Theoretically, it should be a faster ride because of its on-demand nature and fewer stops compared to traditional transit.
In addition to the drivers, there are a number of personnel helping people at the boarding stations. Clearly, for the service to scale, it will require fewer humans in the loop. By having people as part of the process in this early stage, the Boring Company is learning what it will take to automate the system.
It’s not difficult to imagine the addition of autonomous technology to eliminate the driver. The Boring Company has renderings of more accessible, purpose-built, driverless vehicles optimized for ridesharing, which could increase passenger throughput.
To the Strip and Beyond
In October 2021, Clark County Commissioners approved a franchise for the Boring Company to create and operate a network covering Downtown to the Strip to Allegiant Stadium (home of the NFL Raiders), and, eventually, the Airport.
Building owners will pay for the construction of the passenger stations on their respective properties. These 51 ingress and egress points and a 29-mile network of tunnels will collectively be known as the Vegas Loop.
The Boring Company is aggressive in its projections for the travel times between destinations suggesting 5-minutes between McCarran Airport and the LVCC. That would be an average speed of 58 MPH. It will be interesting if this relatively high-speed is possible under normal operating conditions.
With that said, the airport-LVCC taxi ride costs about $37 and is about a 9 to 12-minute drive on the 3.2 miles of surface streets at non-peak traffic times.
Clearly, this is a solution for the urban core as a rough estimate using Google maps suggests that it will cover less than 5% of the Las Vegas metro area. With that said, it will be interesting to see if and how the Vegas Loop integrates with the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) public transit system. It isn’t too difficult to imagine bus riders from the surrounding metro area transferring to the Vegas Loop to finish their respective journeys to work on the Las Vegas Strip.
With projected prices between $6 to $10, the Vegas Loop promises to be a cost-competitive, time-saving, and electric alternative for getting around the Las Vegas Strip and beyond. What remains to be seen is whether the revenue from advertising, passenger fares, and potential data monetization will generate the profits necessary for the Vegas Loop to be a sustainable business. That is, will the Vegas Loop be an amusement park ride novelty or part of a solution that improves mobility in an oft-congested urban core?
- As reference, the RTC’s Deuce, which is a double decker bus with frequent service (every 15 minutes) on the Strip costs $6. Even with its frequent service it takes about 26 minutes (not including 14 minutes of walking) to travel from the Excalibur to Circus Circus; a 3-mile walk. This doesn’t count the time waiting at the bus stop or the hassle of navigating the relatively narrow aisles of a bus. It also left this author at a bus stop that encouraged jaywalking to get one’s destination. One nice thing is that it is possible to purchase a ticket for the Deuce using the Lyft app.
- In FY 2020 (July 2019 to June 2020), the Deuce carried approximately 7.5M passengers, which equals an average of 859 per hour. Granted, this number is probably low because 1/3 of that period was at the beginning of the pandemic. In recent years, rideshare has cut into this number, making the once profitable route unprofitable. With stations inside the various casinos and other destinations, its on-demand service, faster travel times, and wider reach, the Vegas Loop could eventually put an end to the Deuce. This assumes that the Vegas Loop will be able to match the Deuce in capacity per hour.
- It is unfortunate that the LVCC Loop stations don’t terminate within the various convention halls. The physical separation means that attendees have to go through security every time they use the system. This presents a bit of friction and makes it less useful as a people mover system. The station at Resorts World is within the structure, which is much more convenient and an indication of what the rest of the network will look like.
- When it was announced May 22, 2019, it was suggested that there would also be a pedestrian tunnel, but there was none to be seen. It would be interesting to compare the capital and operational costs, the performance, and customer experience of a moving sidewalk to the vehicle approach currently employed.
- Additional history and information regarding this project, which includes a SmartDrivingCar podcast describing it, can be found here. Important to note is that the LVCC Loop is regulated locally by the same County regulatory agency that has oversight on amusement park rides.