Elon Musk’s Las Vegas loop could carry only a fraction of the passengers promised – TechCrunch
In the years without a pandemic, The largest trade show in the United States, CES, attracts more than 170,000 attendees, bringing traffic that jams the surrounding roads day and night. To help absorb at least some of the congestion, the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) scheduled a transfer of people last year to serve an expanded campus. The LVCC wanted public transport capable of moving up to 4,400 participants every hour between exhibition halls and car parks.
He considered the traditional light rail that could carry hundreds of participants per train, but installed on an underground system of Elon Musk’s The Boring Company (TBC) instead – largely because Musk’s offer was tens of millions of dollars cheaper. The LVCC loop would transport participants through two 0.8-mile underground tunnels in Tesla vehicles, four or five at a time.
But the planning files reviewed by TechCrunch appear to show that the Loop system will not be able to move near the number of people LVCC wants, which TBC has agreed to.
Fire regulations set the occupant capacity in the loading and unloading areas of one of the three Loop stations at just 800 passengers per hour. If the other stations have similar limitations, the system may only be able to transport 1,200 people per hour, or about a quarter of its promised capacity.
If TBC misses its performance target by such a margin, Musk’s company will not receive more than $ 13 million from its construction budget – and will face millions of additional dollars in penalties once the system is up and running. .
Neither TBC nor LVCVA responded to multiple requests for comment.
The LVCC has always realized that it was taking a bet on the loop. Although musk builds a short demonstration tunnel near Los Angeles, it would be the first public system with real customers and service requirements. An analysis by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman in May 2019 concluded that TBC’s unproven system posed a high risk to LVCC’s parent body, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor’s Authority (LVCVA).
So when the LCVCA drafted their contract with The Boring Company, they did their best to get Musk to keep their promises. The contract would be at a fixed price, and TBC would have to go through specific steps to receive all of its payments. When the bare tunnels are completed, which could happen overnight, TBC will have gained just over 30% of the total. The next big step is the completion of the entire working system, which would result in a payment of over $ 10 million.
This had to happen before October 1, so that the system would be ready for the next CES show in January. While CES 2021 has now gone virtual and Musk has less time constraints to deliver, he presumably still wants to get paid.
In a tweet this week, Elon Musk wrote that the system would be opened in “Maybe a month or so. Some final touches need to be made on the stations. “
After another milestone for the completion of a test period and a safety report, the last three milestones in the system relate to the number of passengers it can carry. If the loop can demonstrate moving 2,200 passengers per hour, TBC will receive $ 4.4 million, then the same payment again for 3,300 passengers, and again for 4,400 passengers per hour. Together, these capacity payments represent 30% of the fixed price contract.
Even if TBC reached these numbers during testing, the LVCVA was concerned that it would not be able to maintain them once the system was up and running, so it inserted another requirement: “[TBC] recognizes that damages are applicable for [TBC’s] the inability to provide system capacity for full trade show events. “
For each large lounge where TBC fails to carry an average capacity of 3,960 passengers per hour for 13 hours, it will have to pay LVCVA $ 300,000 in damages. If TBC continues to miss, it continues to pay, up to a maximum of $ 4.5 million.
So what’s stopping TBC from carrying as many people as it and the LVCC want? There are national fire safety rules for underground transit systems that specify alarms, sprinklers, emergency exits and maximum occupant load, to avoid overcrowding in the event of a fire.
Construction plans submitted by The Boring Company include a fire code analysis for one of the loop’s aboveground stations:
The above screenshot of the plans shows that the area where passengers enter and exit Tesla cars has a maximum occupancy load of 100 people every 7.5 minutes, or 800 passengers per hour. Even if the other stations had higher limits, this would limit the hourly capacity of the system to approximately 1,200 people.
“Sounds okay,” says Glenn Corbett, professor of security, fire and emergency management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. “But if this is the bottleneck, the question from a security point of view is what controls that?” [800 per hour]? Is it just pure honesty and people playing by the rules, or is there something mechanical that keeps them out? “
The plans show no turnstiles or barriers to restrict entry.
Even without the security restrictions, the loop can struggle to meet its capacity goals. Each of the 10 bays of the Loop stations must handle hundreds of passengers per hour, which translates to maybe 100 or more arrivals and departures, depending on the number of people carried by each car. This leaves little time to load and unload people and luggage, let alone travel the 0.8 mile and occasionally recharge.
Although TBC Loop website says the system will use autonomous vehicles, a TBC executive told a planning committee last year that the cars would have human drivers “for added safety.” TBC had proposed to develop a larger capacity autonomous shuttle for the loop, capable of carrying up to 16 people. The latest shots all show traditional sedans, however, and another tweet from Musk this week admitted: “We’ve made it a lot easier. It’s basically Teslas in the tunnels at this point.
The most recent documents filed by TBC also show changes to the original buckle design.
Gone are the striking curved roofs, both above-ground stations now having flat PV canopies to help charge Tesla vehicles. These terminal stations each have a single Supercharger station and a “flagship sculpture” made up of a concrete segment similar to those used in the tunnels below.
The underground central station has a large open platform and also houses the electrical, fire safety and IT equipment. Each station will have bays for 10 Tesla vehicles to load and unload passengers.
Even before the first Loop is operational, TBC is planning two more Loop tunnels nearby, connecting the LVCC to Wynn Encore and Resorts World casinos.
The tunnel to the Encore is long enough that safety regulations require an emergency exit about halfway. Plans indicate an emergency escape well and a small hatch, but it is unclear whether passengers escaping a fire or breakdown would be supposed to climb stairs or even a ladder.
Last year, TBC suggested an emergency ladder for its proposed loop between Baltimore and Washington, DC, a system Corbett called “the definition of insanity», Because it does not take into account passengers with reduced mobility. This project is now on break.
TBC’s stated goal is to extend the LVCC loop from a local mover to a Vegas-wide transit system serving the Strip, the airport and eventually extending to Los Angeles. . If the company struggles to deliver the capacity – and revenue – for its small-scale convention center system, the future of those ambitions could be in doubt.