Las Vegas Monorail Purchase Could Be First Step To Reinvent Transportation In Southern Nevada
Wednesday August 5, 2020 | 2 a.m
It was a pleasant surprise last month when Steve Hill, head of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, unexpectedly announced that LVCVA was considering purchasing the Las Vegas monorail.
The LVCVA, to its credit, does not let the pandemic prevent it from building for the future of Las Vegas. If the monorail can be acquired at a reasonable cost, it is a profitable investment that will help the city take over.
Hill and his team have rightly recognized that this crisis will end someday and congestion will return to the Strip. It is therefore good to hear that the LVCVA is studying different options to optimize transport in the tourist corridor.
The 3.9-mile monorail’s greatest value is that it provides conventioneers with a convenient and inexpensive way to get around. That value would only increase if the route was extended south to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center and a stop added at the Sands Convention Center, plans that were in the works before the coronavirus outbreak.
The extension would not only connect the city’s three largest convention centers (along with the Las Vegas Convention Center), but would improve access to the Allegiant Stadium, which is within walking distance of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The monorail, which turned 25 this year, currently has seven stops and is operated by the non-profit Las Vegas Monorail Co.
The announcement of the purchase sparked howls from critics of the monorail, who point out that it is underperforming in terms of ridership and is in financial difficulty.
But this review is shortsighted. By purchasing the monorail, not only would LVCVA keep it an option for conventioneers and other visitors, but the sale would end a non-compete clause that gives the monorail exclusivity on the Strip.
Eliminating non-competition would make it easier to pursue other opportunities, including new transit such as a light rail system that would connect the Strip with McCarran International Airport and downtown Las Vegas.
Ultimately, the light rail is exactly what Las Vegas needs. To maintain the high quality of the visitor experience that has become the main attraction of our city, it is essential that our customers can get around easily and at low cost. The same goes for workers on the Strip, who could access the light rail through park-and-ride options that could easily be integrated into a system.
Driving the Strip is now easy and cheap – although unfortunately for the wrong reason – as the pandemic has reduced visitor numbers and prompted resort companies to waive parking fees.
But the pandemic will not last forever. And when Las Vegas returns, so will the bumper-to-bumper traffic. There is simply no way to add capacity for more vehicles on Las Vegas Boulevard, which no longer has room for expansion. Parking fees seem likely to come back as well.
It is therefore in our interest to offer visitors options, including the monorail.
Some critics say The Boring Co. system, funded by Elon Musk and currently limited to the Las Vegas Convention Center, will render the monorail obsolete, but that’s doubtful. Although the underground system plans to expand, it is unclear to what extent this can occur due to the complexity of tunneling under the developed properties.
The monorail, on the other hand, has proven itself as a passenger transporter. It attracts a good clientele at high capacity events – Vegas Golden Knights hockey games, New Years Eve, Independence Day, Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, etc., in addition to conventions.
Beyond that, the monorail – and the tramway if we had to develop it – are fundamentally egalitarian and allow all goods to benefit from them. Expanded public transit would also help meet the needs of today’s visitors better, as decades of research have shown that the average tourist drives to multiple properties – 6.4 per visit. Improving and simplifying the flow so that visitors spend less time traveling and more time enjoying stations benefits the whole economy.
So despite the reviews, this is definitely a bargain to consider. And frankly, many critics looking for the scent salts at the thought of spending tax money during the pandemic would cry out no matter when it happens. For some people, there is no such thing as a good investment of taxpayer money.
But public funds can be spent wisely and strategically, in a way that protects the interests of the community. Well done to LVCVA for finding out and keeping our eyes open for opportunities.