In my last article, I commented on the 5 different systems vying for Los Angeles and Las Vegas rail service. As a refresher, they are, Interstate Maglev, X-Train, Z-Train, Desert Express and Desert Lightening. Interstate Maglev support was withdrawn by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev) due to lack of progress on the project. The technology has not been proven but supporters keep hoping. X-Train and Z-Train while bashing each other and promising to start service quickly, have no permission from Union Pacific to run trains on the existing UP track and apparently have not been in contact with UP about running trains. Desert Express holds the pipe dream that people will ride to Victorville in 80 minutes, then rent a car and drive the remaining 3 or 4 hours to get into Los Angeles? In reverse, those traveling to Las Vegas will drive 3 or 4 hours in traffic to get to Victorville and leave their cars to ride 80 minutes to Las Vegas? The second option doesn't seem so bad. Lastly, the Desert Lightning, while a brilliant idea, connecting Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas has much left to do to get a start.
So, where is Amtrak in all of this? Amtrak operated the Desert Wind which connected Los Angeles and Salt Lake City via Las Vegas until 1997, then canceled the train due to lack of funding and political reasons. Amtrak's reason was that ridership had diminished. The train had been getting slower and slower due to traffic delays caused by UP's freight trains. Some trips took up to 10 hours, it was scheduled for 6.5 hours. Anyone who has traveled to Las Vegas on a weekend will attest to the traffic nightmare on I-15 and the feeder freeways such as the 91 and I-10.
So, who will have the luck of the draw in this contest? Hopefully, the beleaguered highway bound travelers in California, Nevada and the rest of the southwest.