01:45 - Source: CNN Business
Elon Musk unveils the tunnel he says will solve LA traffic
Washington, DC CNN  — 

The Boring Company has launched a way for customers to pay for rides on Loop, its Las Vegas transit system, with the cryptocurrency Dogecoin.

Loop consists of passengers traveling in Tesla vehicles that are driven by humans at about 35 mph, a significantly scaled-down version of founder Elon Musk’s original vision of high-occupancy vehicles moving at 150 mph. The Boring Company has described automating the driving and traveling at higher speeds in the future.

The new payment option surfaced Friday as the Boring Company opened its first Loop station outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, which already has three stops. It’s also the latest example of Musk promoting Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency whose value has fallen sharply in the last year. The Boring Company hopes to eventually expand to more than 50 stations on the Vegas Strip, including casinos, resorts and Allegiant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders. Clarke County, Nevada, approved the expansion plan last year, which won’t use taxpayer dollars.

Rides are currently free on Loop, with plans to charge eventually, though the company has not disclosed specific timing. Single rides will cost $1.50 and day passes can be purchased for $2.50, according to the Vegas Loop’s website. Riders will be able to scan a large QR code on a wall at the new Resorts World station to purchase a ticket. People who don’t wish to pay with Dogecoin can use a traditional credit card and US dollars.

Dogecoin began as a joke in 2013, featuring a Shiba Inu dog that was a popular Internet meme. Cryptocurrencies have had many critics, including Dogecoin co-creator Jackson Palmer, who quit the space and has said he won’t return given concerns about powerful cryptocurrency insiders becoming rich by exploiting the public.

Dogecoin rose to prominence as Musk spoke of it in recent years, including on Saturday Night Live. A single Dogecoin can be bought for about 7 cents, far below its peak of roughly 68 cents, which it hit last year. The cryptocurrency had soared about 4000% in 2021, but like all cryptocurrencies faced sharp declines this year. It’s fallen 70% in the last 12 months.

Elon Musk's the Boring Company opened a new station in Las Vegas at Resorts World.

The new Loop station at Resorts World will not connect underground with the three existing Loop stops at the Convention Center. The stations will be connected with other stops like Resorts World in the future as the Loop is built throughout Vegas, according to Lori Nelson-Kraft, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Resorts World guests can travel from the resort to a new station, Riviera, at the Convention Center. If their trip will then connect with the three existing Convention Center stops, they’ll travel through a parking lot and re-enter the tunnels at a Convention Center stop called West Station.

The company plans to transport about 400 passengers an hour from Resorts World, and hours of operation will vary based on the Convention Center schedule.

The Tesla vehicles don’t depart on a set schedule, like a typical bus or train. So far guests have only had to wait a few minutes at most for a ride, according to Resorts World spokesperson Dana Rutkin.

Once a passenger boards a Tesla at Resorts World, they may have to wait briefly again. There’s currently only one tunnel connecting Resorts World to the Convention Center campus, so traffic will flow in one direction at a time.

“It’s still a very swift trip, but it’ll be, hey these five cars go through this direction. When they’re safely at the passenger station, it will then switch directions,” Nelson-Kraft said.

The Boring Company digs small, one-lane tunnels, which allow it to build tunnels at lower costs. Some tunneling projects can cost as much as $1 billion a mile. The Boring Company is also working on projects in Florida and Texas.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first announced in December 2016 that he planned to buy a tunnel boring machine and “just start digging” as a way to beat traffic. He called the venture, “the Boring Company,” and dug a tunnel outside SpaceX’s California headquarters.

Las Vegas is home to the Boring Company’s first Loop system, which it argues is a better subway, as vehicles don’t have to stop aside from their final destination. Critics have argued that Loop inefficiently uses tunnels as the Tesla Model Y SUVs that are being used lack the capacity of a bus or train.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which operates the Convention Center, told CNN Business that Loop has carried more than 400,000 attendees and had an average satisfaction of 4.9 out of 5 stars.

The Boring Company did not respond to a request for comment.