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THE MONORAIL FUTURE | P1 | Turning 10 and in need of expansion

Reported by: Tom Hawley
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Updated: 2/21 9:04 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- The Las Vegas Monorail is coming up on its tenth anniversary this summer.

For much of its first decade, there has not been much to celebrate with early breakdowns, low ridership, and finally, bankruptcy.

News 3's Tom Hawley has been looking into the state of the monorail. There are rumblings that some tabled plans for expansion are getting back on track.

That has monorail operators thinking about tomorrow.

A lot of investors lost money in the bankruptcy process, but that part is over. The economy is slowly but steadily improving, and a resort corridor transportation study is about to start.

“We've always got in our sights, in our vision for company, extending the system,” said Las Vegas monorail president Curtis Myles, adding the company is no longer constrained by a crippling monthly loan payment due to its financial restructuring.

“Getting private dollars to finance a system like this is still available to this company,” he said. “We worked with a few underwriters to understand what the probabilities are to actually run out and do that. They seem to be fairly positive at this point.”

To expand would take money. Lots of money -- in the neighborhood of $100 million or more.

“I look at it from a different point of view. What is the cost if we don't do it?” said Tom Skancke, president of Las Vegas Global Economic Development.

Skancke sees Las Vegas potentially losing tourist and convention market share as a growing percentage of Las Vegas visitors come from overseas, where they are accustomed to mass transit rather than cars.

“Strategically, what I think we need to do is get the community to realize that this is a viable mode of transportation,” Skancke said.

One reason for optimism about a potential rise in ridership are a couple of attractions coming online right next to monorail stations -- the SLS, where the Sahara Casino used to be, and the High Roller Linq observation wheel.

“The High Roller Linq is like having a daily event. And so to the degree we can project what those events will do on our system, you get a pretty good idea daily of what the High roller will do,” Myles said.

“Most people in the community if you ask them about the monorail, they're generally pretty positive about it. They always ask, ‘Why doesn't it go to the airport?’” said monorail board member and former county commissioner Bruce Woodbury.

Woodbury says the airport is taking a back seat for now.

“The first goal would be to link the monorail to some other very important stations such as the Mandalay Bay possibly if we can work that out, or some other convention sites,” Woodbury said.

“We have done some very preliminary engineering, alignment work on where the alignment would go and it's basically a Koval-Reno alignment,” Myles said.

This could lead to something much bigger.

“If you could get from MGM to Mandalay Bay, then it only makes sense to go from Mandalay Bay right on down the west side of the Strip to the north part of the Strip.” Skancke said. “Carry it on down to the property across from the SLS and now you have an integrated, connected system.”

If that sounds like pie in the sky, Skancke says we have to start thinking big.

“Here’s the issue. If we have to attract a global economy, a global tourism market to Las Vegas, we better look like them. We better provide the mode of transportation they use,” Skancke said.

Step one is convincing the public that the existing post-bankruptcy monorail can be a success.

“In terms of being the most return in fare-box revenue compared to systems around the country, it’s really one of the only ones that make a profit,” Woodbury said.

If the monorail does expand, where will all that funding coming from? Are there other rail options for improving congestion in the resort corridor? We'll look at those questions in the second part of our report -- Thinking about tomorrow -- tomorrow evening.

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