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All Aboard The Vegas Trains

By Chuckmonster on Tuesday, 25th May 2010 4:59pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 15


"We'll be up five hundy by midnight! Vegas baby... VEGAS!!!"

As anyone whose made the long windy burn through the desert can tell you, the above scene from "Swingers" - and more importantly the ten seconds that follow it - is money baby. Three, four, five, six, sometimes seven hours later, driving to Vegas makes you wonder if you shoulda stayed home. Most Fridays it takes about four hours of bumper to bumper traffic to get from Downtown Los Angeles to the Cajon Pass. 134 to the 210? You're fucked. Taking the 10 from the Westside? It'll take you about 90 minutes to get to Downtown Los Angeles. Taking the 5 from OC? Good fucking luck. 405? 605? 60? 710? 105? No matter how you slice it... driving to Las Vegas is the absolute worst thing in the world.

Have you boarded a plane at LAX lately? After waiting on line to check in for your flight via kiosk, you have to stand in line to take your bags to the counter anyways, where they add a sticker to your luggage. Then you have stand to bring your bags to the TSA baggage check... your third line. After you've finally dropped off your bags, you have to go OUTSIDE of the terminal to the main security line, one that stretches half the length of a terminal before it winds its way inside, up an escalator, down a hallway, down another hallway where it doubles back the entire length of the hallway you just traversed and into a room where a single solitary metal detector (of a possible two) are usually working. Two hours later you finally make it through security, wondering if you might be time and money ahead if you drove to Vegas.

If you go to Vegas regularly, excitement can only pave over so much travel related annoyance, frustration and boredom. Drugs, tunes, a bagful of gizmos and having great travel partners helps, but seriously... are we there yet?

Z-Train Z-Train!

After a dozen or so years of fleeting discussion, the possibility of there being a third option - travel by railway - is on the verge of becoming a reality. There are currently four different plans being floated by competing companies, two Amtrak style party trains which will run on current Union Pacific track and two high speed trains which will require brand new right of way tracks.

The similarly named X-Train and Z-Train, plan to bring double decker passenger cars - some of which will feature sports bars, clubs and potentially casino gambling - on the old Amtrak "Desert Wind" line between Los Angeles' Union Station and Las Vegas. The upside of these traditional train offerings is that little to no infrastructure would be required to get them up and running. The downside is that the owner of the tracks - Union Pacific - won't allow party/gambling trains on their tracks. Surely, with enough grease, that wheel could be easily silenced.

The high speed trains, on the other hand, require an entirely new track to be built. DesertXpress and California Nevada Super Speed Train have proposed building brand new tracks along side of Interstate 15. CNSST, which uses maglev technology (magnetic levitation) is planning to connect two of the most visited tourist destinations in the United States in five stops: Las Vegas, Primm, Barstow, Victorville, Ontario and Anaheim. A CNSST express train from Anaheim to Las Vegas will take about 85 minutes. DesertXpress on the other hand is hoping to build their track in phases, without using any federal funds to help them. Phase one will contain high speed tracks from Las Vegas to Victorville where visitors will get in the car that has been baking in the hot sun for three days and drive another 2-4 hours to wherever in Southern California they live. Train to nowhere indeed.

If I was the person signing the checks, I'd probably vote for the CNSST maglev proposal as their plan takes a larger, longer view of what types of rail transportation Southern California and Nevada need, regardless of the $12-18B total costs. Even if I have to take a 35 minute Metrolink train from Union Station to Anaheim to hook up with the CNSST to Las Vegas, it would still be better than traffic jams and security checkpoint snafus. Moreover, it would make flying in and out of Ontario Airport a feasible alternative to LAX.

Name Type Speed Time Party Stops Fare Odds
Z-Train (Z Train Ltd.)
Traditional, partnership with Amtrak 100mph 5 hours (Los Angeles to Las Vegas) Yes Los Angeles (Union Station)
Las Vegas
Variable 20-1
X-Train (Las Vegas Railway Express)
Traditional 100mph 5 1/2 hours Yes Los Angeles (Union Station)
Las Vegas
$99 round trip 12-1
High Speed Rail 300mph 84 minutes* No *Victorville
Las Vegas
$50, one way 35-1
California Nevada Super Speed Train
Magnetic Levitation 300mph 86 minutes (Anaheim to Las Vegas) No Anaheim
Las Vegas
N/A 10-1

Tagged: maglev   desertxpress   x-train   z-train   


Comments & Discussion:

Screw trains, lets go back to Zepplins.

I think CNSST will have a much stronger chance of reality and success if the route were a direct shot to Vegas. Reasons behind my logic:

-Only two stations to build instead of five. Lower initial cost, fewer people to employ, and less maintenance. I understand that the vast majority of the cost is in track, but it'll still be a significant savings.
-In most circumstances, the very worst of the traffic is over long before Ontario. All Inland Empire residents find the drive a lot more appealing than Orange or LA County folk.
-To put it bluntly, the coastal communities have a lot more money. The Laguna Beach resident is far more likely to pay the premium of the ticket price over gas in his luxury car than the Barstow resident who's half way there already (and traffic free the whole way).
-With no stops and a longer time at top speed, they can advertise truly mind-boggling numbers (thinking circa 50 minutes to Vegas) and charge a higher premium for it.

As much as I hate flying nowadays with all the pathetic fees (aka "Resort Fees In The Skies"), gas prices have become equally obnoxious as a factor for my Vegas commute. My usual choice is to fly out of Long Beach or Burbank. Much easier than the hellhole known as LAX. And JetBlue is usually not as fee-happy as other airlines.

And the train station in Vegas would be located...?

I am a petroleum engineer, not a civil engineer, and certainly not a train engineer, but I am confused. Entranced by the idea of mag-lev, I clicked on the websites, and the DesertXpress website says of the technology " DesertXpress will utilize proven, off the shelf STEEL WHEELS ON RAIL high speed trains similar to those running in Europe and Asia ". Steel wheel on rail sounds nothing like mag-lev, even though transit times listed are similar. Not that it matters for me personally ( unless they plan a 1100 mile extension to Lubbock, and I dont see that happening ), but I am the type to fly to LA just to ride the train back to Vegas for the experience. I am also, like Drake above me, interested in where these stations in Vegas are proposed to be built.

There is an obvious need, but IMO none of these proposals are likely to come to fruition. Without a major federal commitment (financial, construction, and right-of-way), I don't see any of these groups having the staying power to get it done. The X-train has the best chance of success.

Isn't there a train station in the ass-end of the Plaza?

I was originally all for Maglev as the best technology available, but they kept f*cking it up and delaying any possibility of construction. That's why it's most likely DesertXpress will be the high-speed train built. They lined up all the political support and corporate support as Maglev floundered. I just hope there's a real, concrete plan to connect it from Victorville to LA & OC BEFORE they complete it, as I doubt Victorville to Vegas service would really work out.

The DesertXpress project does not utilize Maglev technology, it is a more conventional approach to high speed rail. To my knowledge there is only one Maglev proposal out there right now. The DesertXpress only has a maximum speed of 150mph. I would much rather prefer Maglev over the conventional rail proposals when I am out in California but I have a fear it will never come to reality... its been thrown around for over 20 years.

Here is a link to a recent news story on the 4 projects. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gkIIvXsDFSsQ2n_Mj1BLCa7oV2ewD9FS2DI00

Thanks for catching my boo boo y'all!


"I would much rather prefer Maglev over the conventional rail proposals"

I feel your pain. I also preferred Maglev...

"but I have a fear it will never come to reality"

And your fear is totally logical, since it won't ever come to fruition. I believe they've thrown the idea around for over 30 years now, and they still have nothing to show for it. That's why all the money has recently gone to DesertXpress. It's sad that the good idea is dying because the competing (and arguably inferior) plan has big money on its side and the good idea has been plagued by incompetent advocates, but that's reality.

Yo Duffman - "Screw trains, lets go back to Zepplins." i think the better technology is transporters!! I saw them in a movie that makes them real, right???

Sounds good to me, or just one really long people mover like they have in airports.

The old train station waiting room at The Plaza is now the employee break room. From the rumblings I hear, X-Train is looking to have the station at The Plaza. However, they should to pow-wow with Harrah's about making the station at The Rio for pure best location for most visitors.

However, the Plaza does have the advantage of the rail line already being triple-tracked. The ACE could undergo a slight route change (or special service) to meet the trains.

Don't forget that X-Train will serve a significant number of international visitors who come here for 2-plus weeks at a time, are used to rail travel, would find the scenery between here and L.A. actually interesting, and would use it in droves to hop over to L.A. for 2-3 days. Especially with the easy connections to San Diego and S.B. with the Surfliner (and once again, the scenery of that route).

Toss into those of us who live here who might use it for the same purpose and I feel it has a real shot at success.

The gambling issue really is a non-issue. The train is going to take about 40 minutes from Stateline (Primm) to the Vegas stop. I could see a satellite sports book for the ride home: Bet a game while still in Nevada then watch it on your way home in one of the bar cars.

I'd venture a guess that nobody here ever rode Amtrak's heavily promoted Atlantic City Express from DC to AC circa 1994 or so. It was fun, it also flopped. Operating trains takes deep pockets.

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