Will a new Park n' Ride facility in Victorville and an 80 minute train ride on a high speed train be enough to get LA - Las Vegas drivers out of their cars? The latest of the Victorville to Las Vegas rail saga is that the US government is close to kicking in $4.9 billion dollars to help the fledgling rail system get some traction. The hopeful rail line is known as the DesertXpress (DXE) http://www.desertxpress.com/. Its been almost 15 years since passenger rail has existed between Las Vegas and Los Angeles with Amtrak's Desert Wind. Various attempts have been made to bring a rail connection back to Las Vegas over the 15 years but DesertXpress appears to be the most visible of late. Amtrak had plans back in 1999 to restore service using train equipment with tilt technology but that was scuttled and the equipment went to the Amtrak Cascades in Oregon and Washington state.
DesertXpress is a privately held company that is gambling that travelers coming from Los Angeles will park their cars in Victorville and ride the remaining 200 miles on their train. DesertXpress (DXE) is banking on the numbers. Almost 10 million visitors made the trip to Las Vegas from the Los Angeles area last year and 90% of those drove I-15, the only direct highway between the two cities. The other 10% of travelers flew or took a bus. The rail company is convinced that drivers fed up with the congested I-15 will take to the rails to complete their trip.
The Obama administration and Nevada politicians foresee jobs for Nevada although most of those would be temporary. A consortium of business interests is also blessing the venture. Many skeptics though feel that without a connection to the Los Angeles basin, the train will will never be a success. Some experts say that connecting to Los Angeles presents a formidable challenge including where to put tracks in available space, spanning bridges and how to negotiate Cajon pass among others.
DXE indicates on its website that connecting to Los Angeles will take place via Palmdale with the new California High Speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Earliest estimates for being able to ride on that train are still 7-10 years depending on funding and right of way issues. Several regulatory bridges have already been crossed by DXE and now investors are waiting for final approval of the loan. Loan approval will allow the company to raise additional funding.
There are two other rail ventures proposing service between the two cities. The Pullman Palace Car Company, Ltd. which has apparently absorbed what was known as the Z train is without a website at the moment so not much information on that venture is available. The other most likely contender is the Vegasxtrain http://www.vegasxtrain.com/. This company has responded to DesertXpress' news on its Facebook page saying that the Vegasxtrain train will only cost $50 million instead of nearly $6 billion and will go all the way to Los Angeles in 5 hours which implies that passengers driving some 2 hours on a Friday night to Victorville, then parking and boarding, the travel time would be almost the same. They are claiming a start service sometime in 2013. By the way, Amtrak sort of serves Las Vegas with daily bus service and another indirect option, taking the Amtrak Southwest Chief departing LA daily at 6:30 pm arriving in Kingman, AZ in the early am hours and catching a shuttle bus for the 91 mile trip between Kingman, AZ and Las Vegas. Thats about a 10 hour trip.
Which of these company's luck will hold out on the rail gamble?