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Vegas Goes Mono: Monorail to Lighten Cab Lines

Some attendees will be able to avoid long taxi lines at this year's NAB show by catching the Las Vegas Monorail, the gambling capital's newest moving attraction.

LAS VEGAS Some attendees will be able to avoid long taxi lines at this year’s NAB show by catching the Las Vegas Monorail, the gambling capital’s newest moving attraction.

Starting March 1, the electric transportation system will begin ferrying passengers along a four-mile route on and near the Las Vegas Strip. It will become the first fully automated large-scale monorail in the country, according to the Monorail Society, a volunteer organization founded to promote this transit method.

With stops at the Las Vegas Convention Center and eight resort hotels, the driverless trains will offer conference attendees and tourists an alternative to busses and taxis without hurting the environment. The LVCC station is at the intersection of Paradise Road and Desert Inn Road at the western end of the center.

(click thumbnail)The new look of transportation at NAB shows.
The developers of the system predict that the monorail will eliminate the need for more than 4.4 million automobile trips on the major roadways and reduce carbon monoxide by 135 tons per year.

For large conventions such as NAB, which draws more than 90,000 attendees, the monorail will not solve transportation problems, but would supplement existing transportation options such as convention buses and taxies, said Todd Walker, director of communications for the Las Vegas Monorail.

For $3 one way and $5.50 round trip, riders can get off at seven stops from the Sahara to the MGM Grand Hotel-Casinos on opposite ends of the strip, with stops at the Las Vegas Hilton, the LVCC, Harrah’s/Imperial Palace, the Flamingo/Caesars Palace and Paris/Bally’s. Traveling at up to 50 miles an hour, passengers can ride the track from end to end in 14 minutes. Hours are 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day of the year. Tickets can be purchased online or at the monorail stations.

Each train carries approximately 225 passengers and rail officials estimate that the system will carry up to 5,000 passengers per hour in each direction. During larger conventions, Walker said, the monorail will coordinate with the convention center to accommodate increased passenger loads at particular times of the day.

During peak times, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., riders will be able to catch a train approximately every four minutes in each direction.

NAB organizers believe the monorail will provide a great service for attendees. “Hopefully we’ll see traffic lighten, cab lines shorten and wallets thicken with the cheaper rates,” said Dennis Wharton, NAB senior vice president of corporate communications. “The schedule and number of stops will allow our attendees to get around quickly and easily.”

NAB is not changing nor scaling back its convention shuttle service for this show, planned before the monorail plans became public. It will, however, evaluate the shuttle service for NAB2005.

NAB’s shuttle reaches 20 hotels.

Conceived 30 years ago, the monorail is the result of a 10-year effort by entrepreneurs, business leaders and elected officials who raised $650 million from revenue bonds and contributions from resort properties to build the system. Developers said the monorail is privately financed and will not use any tax money for the system, which will be supported by fare revenue.

The monorail system is owned and operated by the Las Vegas Monorail Company, a non-profit corporation whose board is appointed by Nevada’s governor. In December, the developers announced that the project was $23 million under budget.

In 1995, the MGM Grand and Bally’s Hotels built a one-mile monorail that carried approximately 5 million riders each year between two stations. The original monorail track was expanded for the new transit system, according to Walker. The monorail eventually will connect downtown Las Vegas and the McCarran International Airport.

While some cabdrivers expect the monorail to be successful and reduce gridlock during large conventions and high season for tourists, other taxi companies believe ridership estimates are inflated.

“We feel, plain and simple, it will be a white elephant,” said Bill Shranko, director of operations at Yellow Checker Star cab company. The company’s taxis would compete with the monorail for riders. Yellow Checker Star taxis offer door-to-door service and allow several riders to split a single fare, he said.