Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment CES CES2022

An Eyewitness View of the LVCC Loop – #CES2022

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 total] 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.

At around 16 seconds in the above video, there is a modified Tesla with a rear rack to hold a wheelchair. Whether or not that modification would meet ADA specifications, it is indicative that Tesla/The Boring Company realizes that accessibility is important.

Note, the white Tesla outfitted with a wheelchair rack

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 the 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.

An image from The Boring Company that shows what a multi-passenger, electric vehicle might look like.
High-Occupancy Autonomous Electric Vehicle (AEV) concept vehicle running between Exhibit Halls. Courtesy The Boring Company.

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. 

The Model Y's trunk is convenient for storing awkward items, like a tripod on wheels.
The Model Y’s trunk is convenient for storing awkward items, like a tripod on wheels.

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.

The view of a future station from the top of an escalator

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 [Added 8/2/23According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the city of Las Vegas approved an expansion so that the planned network will have 81 stations over 68 miles].

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.

The McCarran Aiport to the LVCC distance via the Vegas Loop compared to surface streets is longer (4.9 versus 3.2 miles) because there is no proposed tunnel directly from those two destinations. It would be interesting to understand the economics of adding a 2.2-mile tunnel between the Thomas & Mack Center and the LVCC. In this scenario, another mile-long tunnel on Flamingo between Paradise Ave and the Strip would create another loop, providing additional connectivity.

Proposed Vegas Loop - The red dotted lines is Viodi's suggestion for closing the loop.
Proposed Vegas Loop – The red dotted lines are Viodi’s suggestions for closing the loop.

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?

Author’s Notes:

  1. As a 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 to one’s destination. One nice thing is that it is possible to purchase a ticket for the Deuce using the Lyft app.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. When it was announced on 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 the customer experience of a moving sidewalk to the vehicle approach currently employed.
  5. 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 of amusement park rides. 

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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