Posted on: April 5, 2024, 12:52h. 

Last updated on: April 5, 2024, 02:10h.

When news broke in late 2020 that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) had purchased the Las Vegas Monorail Co. out of bankruptcy, fans of the once-futuristic tram system saw it as a lifeline.

Obsolescence has hastened the end of the Las Vegas Monorail, which is due to be decommissioned within four to six years. (Image: LVCVA)

It was really a death warrant.

What most people don’t realize is that the LVCVA’s plans included an $11 million fee for dismantling the monorail, perhaps as early as 2028, but definitely by 2030.

Last Stop Coming Up

The problem is that operating the monorail, for which the LVCVA pays a Los Gatos, Calif. company up to $500K annually, has become like driving a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California SWB Spider. Sooner or later, it will break down and require a replacement part that can’t be obtained because it’s not manufactured anymore.

And old monorail parts aren’t the kind of things that get listed on eBay.

The monorail employs nine Mark VI trams, each with four cars, which its four-mile track was custom-designed to fit. Those trams are only manufactured by Bombardier out of Quebec, which no longer makes them. In fact, after racking up billions of dollars of debt, it no longer makes trams at all. Bombardier sold its rail business for $6.7 billion to French competitor Alstom in 2021.

The monorail stops at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Image: Las Vegas Monorail)

For a while, monorail executives reportedly rooted for Disney World to upgrade its Mark VI trams so they could buy the retired stock. (The first monorail tracks to operate in Vegas, connecting the MGM Grand and Bally’s from 1995 to 2002, used two retired Disney World Mark IVs.)

However, the Mouse House is in the same no-win situation as Las Vegas. It can buy an all-new monorail system but would need to construct all-new tracks. It’s not impossible for a company to develop a new monorail to fit the existing one’s tracks but nobody is rushing to step up to that very niche plate.

Off the Rails

The monorail stops at the MGM Grand, Horseshoe, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Las Vegas Convention Center, Westgate, and the Sahara. (Image: lasvegasmonorail.com)

The Las Vegas monorail began when the original MGM Grand-to-Bally’s system expanded to include seven more stops along the resort corridor in 2003.

It has never made a profit — but it was never designed to — since it was considered a public service. Though no public money was used in its $650 million construction ($1.12 billion today), Nevada did provide the project with the largest investment of state-issued bonds in the state’s history.

Other than its latest bankruptcy, which was its second, another hint that something wasn’t right was the relatively small price paid by the LVCVA, $24.3 million, for a system that cost so much to build.

A third hint is the deafening silence surrounding the monorail’s plans for a Mandalay Bay/Allegiant Stadium extension and a stop at MSG Sphere. Both were approved by Clark County in 2018 and expected to open by 2021.

The monorail even announced, in October 2019, that it had secured $33.5 million in financing from Dallas-based Preston Hollow Capital for the expansion.

The completion of this initial financing is an important and necessary step in our expansion strategy for this system, which already provides substantial mobility benefits along our busy resort corridor,” Las Vegas Monorail Co. CEO Curtis Myles said in a statement at the time.

“With two new stations, we will multiply those benefits for our customers, resort partners, sponsors, and our community.”

Neither station gets mentioned anymore by the LVCVA.

The doors are closing fast on your opportunity to ride this train. (Image: KLAS-TV)

Crazy Train

So why would the LVCVA purchase an old transportation system that they knew was doomed?

Because the monorail had a noncompete clause that prohibited any other company from building another off-street transportation system for the Strip.

And the LVCVA had already signed, in 2019, a $48 million contract with Elon Musk’s The Boring Company to build the Vegas Loop, which would probably have violated the monorail’s noncompete clause.

Monorail tickets cost $5.50 for a one-way ride, $13.45 for an unlimited 24-hour pass, and $57.50 for a seven-day pass via the system’s website. Monorail trains arrive every four to eight minutes.

Take one last ride while you still can!


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