Elon Musk's tunneling company has permission to significantly expand its operations under the city of Las Vegas. Last month, the Las Vegas City Council voted unanimously to approve the Boring Company's plan to dig more tunnels under the city, following in the steps of Clark County, which in May gave a similar thumbs-up to the tunneling concern. The company's plan calls for 68 miles of tunnels and 81 stations, served by a fleet of Tesla electric vehicles, each able to carry three passengers at a time.
Despite the unanimous approval, Mayor Carolyn Goldman had a litany of concerns, including safety, low throughput of passengers, and a lack of accessibility. However, she said that "hotels are begging for transportation options."
The Boring Company owes its origin to a traffic jam that ensnared Musk in 2016. Incensed by having to sit behind other drivers, the billionaire decided the solution should be a network of private tunnels under cities, perhaps taking inspiration from Mad Magazine or the Usborne Book of the Future.
As is often the case, Musk's plans were fanciful, verging on the outlandish. The tunnels were originally planned to carry high-speed magnetically levitating trains in near-vacuum, a concept called the Hyperloop. In 2017, Musk even claimed that he had government approval to dig a tunnel between Washington, DC, and New York City and that the journey would take just 29 minutes.
The following year, Ars got its first experience of a Boring Company tunnel in person when we visited a 1.1-mile test tunnel in Los Angeles. By that time, any thoughts of maglev or even mass transit had evaporated. Instead of carrying lots of passengers at hundreds of miles an hour, a Tesla Model X was pressed into service, driving down the bumpy roadway at 45 mph.
True to form, Musk continued to drum up attention for his tunnels. In 2018, he convinced the city of Chicago to commission a tunnel between its downtown and O'Hare International Airport. This time, electric pods would carry 16 passengers through the tunnels at speeds of up to 125 mph every 30 seconds.
But the Boring Company's plans scaled back from maglev trains and vacuum tubes to high-speed electric pods and then to just regular Teslas with human drivers, and interest waned.
Except in Las Vegas. There, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said yes to a $48.6 million, 2.2-mile loop underneath the convention center. In 2021, the LVCC Loop opened a 1.7-mile network with three stations; the Boring Company claims it has transported 1.15 million passengers, with a peak capacity of just 4,500 people per hour. For context, a subway system can be expected to carry between 600 and 1,000 people per train.
Should the Boring Company see this project through to completion, 60 of the stations would be in Clark County, mostly concentrated down the Strip and the major casinos, with the remaining 21 in the city of Las Vegas.