Beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center, Musk-designed transport system idles

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The Boring Co.'s people-mover tunnel under the Las Vegas Convention Center is ready when conventions resume.
The Boring Co.'s people-mover tunnel under the Las Vegas Convention Center is ready when conventions resume. Photo Credit: Mark Damon / Las Vegas News Bureau
Paul Szydelko
Paul Szydelko

The Elon Musk-designed underground transport system under the Las Vegas Convention Center was to be unveiled for the opening of the new West Hall and the annual CES this month. But of course the pandemic intervened, the 170,000 people who were expected to attend CES 2021 stayed home and both the West Hall and the tunnels have gone unused.

The expectation is that when large conventions resume, attendees will be able access the system in one of three stations and be driven under the 200-acre convention center campus in less than two minutes -- what would otherwise be a 15-minute walk. Rides in all-electric Tesla vehicles through two parallel tunnels would be free of charge.

The $52.5 million project is the first commercial endeavor for Musk's Boring Co., which is also planning tunnels from the convention center to the Encore Las Vegas and Resorts World.

It is also seeking land-use approvals for a much larger Vegas Loop. Land-use applications filed with Clark County show one route would transport riders to resorts on the Las Vegas Strip north to downtown and south to McCarran Airport and Allegiant Stadium. A planned second line would transport riders around Caesars Entertainment resorts. The Clark County Commission is set to review land-use applications next month.

Steve Hill, CEO and president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said access to and around Las Vegas was one of his top priorities when he took the job in 2018.

"The Boring Co. loop is going to be, I think, a big part of the solution," Hill said. "The ability to move a lot of people underground: something that's really fun and really quick."

Hill noted the Boring Co. is financing the tunnels and that resorts will pay for stations at their own properties as the system grows. "It's pretty easily expandable," Hill said. "If we reach the capacity of that system as it's installed, it's about as simple as adding a road lane, except it's underground, and you've got infinite space to add."

He said the full proposed system from downtown to the airport would have as many as 600 to 700 cars and move 12,000 to 15,000 people an hour.

Gridlock on the Las Vegas Strip at peak times has long vexed planners, but one observer makes a distinction between tourist traffic and locals' need to get around.

"The moving of traffic around Las Vegas is literally a tale of two cities," said Alan Feldman, a casino industry veteran who is a distinguished fellow in responsible gaming for the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "There's Strip corridor traffic. And for the locals who get stuck in that, that is very frustrating. There's no question.

"But the tourists, I don't know that they mind it that much. There's so much to see. Unfortunately we're not doing it these days [amid the pandemic], but when you are creeping along in Friday night traffic on the Strip, it's kind of fun. You're not rushed, you can really see the front of the hotels and all of the entertainment that's packed out in front of them."

While not dismissing the need to improve tourists' transportation experience, Feldman said the larger issue is the movement of workers, services and goods. "We've done a pretty lousy job of figuring [that] out. For my money, I'd rather see us trying to fix that and figuring out ways to improve public transit, so that more and more people can have access to their jobs without having to climb into their cars one by one."

Another longtime observer, Richard N. Velotta, assistant business editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, wrote that the "Boring system was destined to be one of the most talked-about aspects of the [CES] show. I was looking forward to seeing how the system would hold up with the massive volume of people in attendance and how long the waiting lines were going to be for conventioneers moving from station to station. What would take longer: waiting for a ride on the people mover or walking from the Central Hall to the new West Hall?"

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