This is NOT the Desert-Xpress hi speed line proposed from Victorville to Vegas, but a new service that would use Metrolink type cars and existing track, all the way from LAUS to Vegas. Possibly running as soon as next year.
The X Train web site shows some very cool "Sports Bar" type outfitted cars. Think of it as the party train, which looks to be how they will brand it.
They are working with Union Pacific to allow the passenger service to have priority over freight.
Post by Justin Walker on Apr 15, 2010 14:57:14 GMT -8
For the cost of the ongoing studies for DesertXpress and the Maglev project, a conventional rail service on the existing rail line like this could have been implemented many times over. While the X-Train people might be pushing the "party train" angle a bit hard, I think any train that ran to Vegas in 5.5 hours would be a tremendously popular alternative to driving the I-15.
Most of the rail line from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is currently rated for passenger trains for up to 79 MPH and Amtrak very nearly got its Talgo service to Vegas running in the 1998-2002 era until everyone's favorite Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta pulled the plug on it.
For anyone who is interested, here is a summary of Amtrak's Vegas efforts that I produced for some research I did a few years back.
On the average it takes 5½ hours to drive to Vegas, with the usual 5-hour driving (including traffic) and a 1/2 hour meal break. So, this will actually break even with driving. As a bonus you won't be totally exhausted when you get there. So, this is really great!
Post by redwings105th on Apr 15, 2010 20:30:04 GMT -8
If it helps avoid traffic and allows you to chill along the way AND its cheaper than gas, then people would definently take the X-Train to Vegas. I know I would. Just look at the accomadations to what they're planning to put! You don't get that while driving, taking a charter bus, OR riding a plane (I think). It would also bring to tourists to the cities along the route.
Post by tonyw79sfv on Apr 15, 2010 21:47:14 GMT -8
Yep, considering the amenities proposed on the train like slot machines (not sure about the legality of it on a train) and entertainment, you'd "arrive" at Las Vegas at LAUS as the train itself is an extension of Las Vegas by being a traveling casino/gaming venue; it's enough to make you forget about the lengthy ride, plus you get a changing window view every second. The fact it runs out of LAUS makes up for the slow ride over the proposed HSR train out of the high desert.
If Desert Express could use conventional tracks from Victorvill to LAUS, or at least have a timed connection with this X-Train, it could be quite useful. Even now, if the trip was reliably 5 1/2 hours, it would be faster than driving for anyone who needs to stop to urinate or eat more than twice during the trip.
I am surprised the 5.5 hour time is possible, even with 80 mph speeds thru the desert, but the article claims 5 1/2 hours was possible for passenger trains on this route in the past. Can anyone confirm that?
Justin, Thanks for that link, I haven't followed up on it yet, but that will likely answer your question about whether the service was reliable at 5.5 hours or how they planned to make it more reliable. I believe the original article stated that the Desert Wind service had ridership issues because it was often delayed because of UP. If its just a matter of writing UP a check to have them tweak their schedule to allow 2 trains per day, 4 days per week, to skate through, then thats an easy business decision assuming the check isn't too big.
On the CAHSR blog they were speculating like Jeisenbe that the Desert Xpress could then do the jaunt from Victorville to Vegas once it gets up and running in 2014 or whenever. It was also suggested that Desert Xpress simply buy this company out should the X-train actually get running and be profitable. It certainly makes sense from a feeder perspective. Run the X-train LA-LV service until such time as the Desert Xpress high speed line connects Victorville to LV, then just set up a seamless transfer in Victorville and let the Desert Xpress get them to LV. If the demand is such that you could continue to operate the X-train even after Desert Xpress is up and running, then do so. The college age group would probably prefer a rolling 5 hour party to a 3.5 hour party.
The other blog also brought up the idea that if you can run trains from LAUS-LV, then there might also be demand from other locations that are served by Metrolink. I'm not too familiar with the Metrolink track layout, and how that might mesh with the UP freight lines that get over the Cajon pass. But you get the idea. The X-Train could be running from several different starting points and going to Vegas.
And then you have the additional possibility of the CAHSR system coming along and someone running tracks the additional 50 (?) miles from Palmdale to Victorville, at which point you could have the CAHSR system working in cooperation with the Desert Xpress system to have a one seat "truly" high speed trip from LA-LV. Of course the Desert Xpress line would be limited to the 150mph design they have chosen, but it will be electrically compatible with the CAHSR system.
I could see this going a couple ways. Personally, I think that the idea will work to some degree and the guys promoting it will at least break even. Vegas has boomed quite a bit since the Desert Wind stopped running back in 1997. The highway is an absolute mess on the weekends. And the ability to get from LAUS-LV in a single seat ride, on what appears to be a beautiful train, would get enough people to make it work.
This will also tell you quite a bit about the level of demand for train service to Vegas. That is an even more important question for the long term. Assume the service not only works, but they find that the "4 round trips per week" scenario is completely booked and they need to run more trains. If UP can tweak their freight schedule to allow 2 trains per day to pass, then they could certainly tweak it again to allow 4, they just get a slightly bigger cut. Maybe they need to add some additional track here and there to make it work. If someone is actually making a profit, then that money can be used for track upgrades.
If that scenario is what actually takes place, and no doubt thats a big "if", then the people who are working now on Desert Xpress and the CAHSR system will have a huge incentive to get their system built and running ASAP. If someone is making money hauling people to Vegas on the "slow train", then just imagine the demand that a quicker trip would produce. One of the business plan elements for the CAHSR system was to plan the segment construction according to the potential profitability of the segments. LA-Palmdale gets the one seat trip to Vegas at high speed up and running once Desert Xpress is in place. There is a possible business case.
And let us not forget that the Chinese recently made some noise about partnering in the CAHSR system. Getting the X-train up and running is just a matter of buying the rolling stock, fixing it up, working with UP, getting the required permits, and building an LV station. We are not talking big bucks here. probably less than $20 million. Since that is the case, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the X-train company is bought up lickety split by the Chinese if for nothing more than a test case of what the ridership potential is for a Vegas train. If it looks like it could work for them, then they take a "private equity stake" in the Desert Xpress. Since that is still a private company, they can get the capital required from whomever they want. The Chinese could get those Desert Xpress tracks built from Victorville to LV faster than the blink of an eye, just look at what they are building in China.
The funniest thing would be if "privately built HSR" actually took off, and worked at a profit. Then the case for the CAHSR system becomes a much easier sell. Once you can demonstrate demand, and prove that the system can at least break even, you have a much better case for allowing public money to used.
LOL, desertxpress is not gonna happen rubbertoe, nor should it. It requires Inland Empire and SGV residents like me to have to go through the LA area and up to Palmdale, and THEN begin to go to vegas.
What LA area are you going through? Inland Empire is in between Riverside and San Berdadino Counties. So for you it should be shorter (and easier) than for most of us in LA County to get to the Desert Express. SGV is also close to San Berdadino County so there isn't much of LA to go through. If you don'r like to go to Palmdale then just drive to Vegas while everyone else is chilling in a cool (temperature) train withouth worries of making pit stops along the way and the tought of gas in LA.
Justin, I just finished reading that piece that you referred us to on the history of the LA/Vegas train. OMG, unbelievable. If ever there was a users manual for how *not* to do something, that is it. Years and years of announcing plans, with nothing ever coming to fruition. Years and years debating over who will pay the $28 million required to double track up the Cima section. Environmental assessments indefinitely delaying work. Then the DOT gives Amtrak $100 million under the condition to *not* operate any new routes for 15 months, etc, etc, etc.
What was the TARP bailout? Something like $700,000,000,000? The $28,000,000 to double track Cima is 0.003% of that. Thats 3 one thousandth of 1 percent.
And to add insult to injury, they probably spent 3x the $28 million just on the years of planning for it. It looks like the moral of the story here is that you shouldn't believe anything that you read concerning a LA/Vegas train until such time that you actually take the 5.5 hour trip and jump off in Vegas. And even then, you better wake up from your dream because it was likely just that.
Post by James Fujita on Apr 19, 2010 14:58:47 GMT -8
there's no point in dwelling on the past.... if they can get this up and running, all the more power to them...
that "how do we keep the frat bros from wrecking the place?" question is a valid one, but one would hope that private investors won't spend all that money on getting the trains and tracks ready and forget to add conductors, sports bar attendants, security guys and other "necessary evils" to keep things running smoothly. i.e., cause a ruckus and there's an 80mph exit door waiting
I also like the idea of linking this up with the DesertXpress. call it a "temporary" solution, but it's going to take time for DesertXpress and for CAHSR to get up and running, and in the meantime, X-Train gets to find out if there's money to be made in rails to Vegas....
in a few years, who knows? maybe you have a choice: the faster, more expensive Xpress or the slower party X-Train
If the Palmdale leg is constructed, you could still board in Victorville, which is quite convenient to the Inland Empire.
As San Bernardino becomes denser in the coming decades as the major CBD of the Inland Empire, and as residents there rely less on LA, the demand for some sort of a cajon pass leg is going to be there, no matter how expensive it is (I doubt it's expensive as some may say it is).
The X-Train project is a project that I will look at in more detail. What really needs to happen is that these rail projects (X-Train, DesertXPress) need to be coordinated and a seamless fare policy/collection and transit connections (rail/bus) set up between the stations and other major transit hubs.
1. A transit-dependent resident living in the Montclair area wants to go to Las Vegas for a three day business trip and cannot drive.
2. He goes to the DeserXPress website, types in his home address and his hotel location, books a DesertXPress train trip online with a "transfer to/from local+express transit" option, buys and prints the e-ticket on the Internet or at a ticket outlet center. He also adds one more Las Vegas RTC 1-Day All Access Pass to his e-ticket, allowing for unlimited local transit in Las Vegas for his 3 day stay (two days w/ transfer option, one day with day pass).
A very similar concept is the EZ Pass Agreement with Metrolink, except passengers do not pay extra for the transfer.
3. He walks a few blocks from his house to the local bus stop and boards the next Foothill Transit bus to the Montclair Station Multi Modal TransCenter using his e-ticket w/ transfer. The driver scans the e-ticket to check its validity.
Local transit providers would have friendly carry-on baggage policies that would allow passengers to carry on one baggage piece on their laps.
4. He catches the express feeder from the Montclair TransCenter, again boarding with the e-ticket.
5. The express feeder bus arrives at the Victorville DesertXPress station about 15-20 minutes before the train departs.
6. He boards DesertXPress. The conductor scans and takes his e-ticket for the inbound trip and gives him a validated boarding pass stub, which he will use for the remainder of the trip.
7. He transfers to the Deuce Bus to his hotel, using the boarding pass. He uses the stub for the remainder of the trip for his transportation needs. Local bus drivers and fare inspectors would scan the stub for validity.
8. Upon return on the third day, he takes the Deuce Bus to the train station with his boarding pass.
9. He boards DesertXPress for the return trip. The conductor scans the stub.
10. He transfers to the express feeder back to Montclair with the boarding pass.
11. He transfers to the local transit line back home with the stub. He may use the stub as a Foothill Transit "day pass" for the remainder of the day if needed.
I am in the process of developing colorful PDF and PPT presentations that would advocate a simple, yet productive fare policy like this one for regional transportation. The political will must be there. Visit A Better Inland Empire web site for more information.
Justin, Wow, great find. I read the article. So now perhaps there are 2 different entities planning on 5-5.5 hour service. If nothing else, the fact that X-Train maybe is trying to steal the original idea by Z-Train indicates that a couple different groups at least are seeing an opportunity.
The Z-Train looks like they plan on using Amtrak crews and locos, but their own people in the cars. Initially 14 car trains with 4 dining cars, some dome cars, and several different classes of service. Several mentions were made of first class service for the Asian market, who are used to taking trains. Even private cars seating only 25 or so people.
Christmas 2011 startup, with round trip prices above $99, which they say is required to make a profit. They also will have a sports bar car, but say that a gambling car is not possible, which seems right. No mention of the exact Vegas station location except that it will be on the Strip.
If they can actually pull this off, more power to them. I bookmarked their web site and will check it periodically. Not much there now except the team members bio's:
Some company info, a lot of which is also in Justin's article link...
* Created by professional railroaders in the best traditions of the passenger railroad industry, combining successful historical values with today’s passenger and operating environment. * Z-Train has been developed by a professional team working since 2006 to provide an exciting passenger rail experience between Los Angeles/Southern California and Las Vegas. Weeks, months, and years have been spent in deep research of every aspect of the market, jobs growth, and economic development for Z-Train to be an economic engine for tourism and in support of Las Vegas. Government officials on every level have been consulted, in addition to professional railroaders, hospitality and gaming industry luminaries, and marketing experts. Every facet of Z-Train has been developed with one overall goal in mind: to provide America’s unrivaled premier intercity passenger train experience. * Z-Train will be America’s only regularly scheduled, non-government subsidized intercity passenger service between two major metropolitan areas, where anyone can purchase a ticket for transportation; operating full roundtrips six days a week. * Z-Train has been developed to meet the rigid requirements of host railroads and federal transportation statutes, including any necessary construction of additional railroad passing sidings or other necessary upgrades to host passenger trains. Every facet of Z-Train has been created to work in harmony with pending agreements with host railroads and operating crew and motive power providers. * Z-Train is beyond just traveling from one city to another; it’s a transportation and entertainment experience designed to rekindle the great American slogan, “getting there is half the fun!”. * Z-Train has been developed using sound, conservative financial principles. * Z-Train is the original Los Angeles to Las Vegas conventional passenger train project which has been carefully developed under the most stringent guidelines over a three-year period. * Z-Train is the only passenger rail project which will run directly from downtown Los Angeles/Los Angeles Union Station to the heart of the Las Vegas Strip and Z-Train’s proposed, newly-built passenger train station, and is the only passenger rail project which will directly connect to all other passenger rail routes in Southern California. * All Z-Train passenger railcars will be rebuilt and redesigned equipment from America’s most prominent passenger railcar builders, designed originally for some of America’s most luxurious passenger trains. The upgrades and modifications made by Z-Train will meet every need and desire of modern travelers from new technologies to comfortable, plush seating. * Food and beverage and onboard entertainment will be areas of major emphasis, with dining and lounge cars to meet every expectation and requirement for all age groups.
Post by redwings105th on Apr 28, 2010 20:20:53 GMT -8
Gambling would probably not be included in anyway since it would only add cost to operation, need to get permits to make it legal, and, if they don't add additional cars, the loss of passeger capacity (if they make a car solely for gambling). I wonder who is going to win the race to build the "Desert Express". (No pun intended).
Post by jdrcrasher on Apr 29, 2010 22:07:46 GMT -8
I doubt DesertXpress is breaking ground this year. The March deadline has already passed, and don't be surprised to see it pass this one. I've already heard on another blog (Curbed LA) from someone involved with the project that it's planned to break ground March 2011.
Post by James Fujita on Apr 30, 2010 13:12:20 GMT -8
No matter who wins this race to Las Vegas (X-Train, Z-Train or DesertXpress), it is rather amazing to think that the players in this high-speed rail game are all private investors. Private investors who are asking for public help and support, but private companies nonetheless.
In America, we gave up on private passenger railroads a long time ago (or rather, the railroads just plain gave up), but Japan has both public and private rail transit. (In fact, even the Tokyo municipal subway is operated by contractors on behalf of the city rather than by the city itself). It's not so much a case of privatization (which I am wary of, as I think you need some guarantees that the private companies won't abandon service or provide substandard service) so much as the Pacific Electrics of Japan never stopped running and never got bought out. (Also, "government" is a different animal over there.) They've figured out how to have private trains and amazingly excellent service, a lesson we haven't learned.
California High Speed Rail is going to need private investment (unless the federal government is willing to kick in moon landing or Iraq invasion-sized investments, which is unlikely), so this private clamoring to operate trains to Vegas is a good sign for Los Angeles to San Francisco as well....
Shanghai has a short Maglev line between the city and its airport. Germany had a couple projects which were almost started but then rejected. Japan has one long Maglev line in planning between Tokyo and the southern cities (Osaka perhaps?) which will require an enormous amount of tunneling to manage high speeds, but there is demand for extra capacity in that corridor. It could be argued that Japan could get most of the benefit with 220 mph steel rail technology, but we will see if it can be built affordably enough to turn a profit.
The Las Vegas to Anaheim Maglev project never made much sense. The route is short enough than even 150 mph max speeds will be faster than flying between LA and LV (the train to LAX would take about 2.5 hours), and Anaheim would be only 20 minutes longer by 110 mph HSR. If the route betwen Palmdale and Las Vegas is built straight enough for 200 mph max speeds, you could be in Irvine or Riverside in 2.5 hours after the whole CA HSR is built, even with the extra miles needed to detour thru Palmdale and Los Angeles.
In the future, it might make sense to bore a tunnel or build over the pass betwen San Bernadino and Victorville, to get a more direct connection betwen the Inland Empire, San Diego and Las Vegas, saving an hour for trips from Riverside or San Diego to Nevada. But 2.5 hours on the train is still fast enough to kill a short-haul air route; look at Madrid-Barcelona or Paris-Lyon. Consider that airport security and slow boarding means you need to get to the airport 1.5 hours before your flight leaves, and getting off and getting baggage takes 30 minutes at your destination. So even a short, 1 hour flight (Like LA to LV) takes 3 hours, airport to airport. Business travelers might cut that down to 2.5 hours by checking no bags and arriving at the last minute, but then you need to remember to add on the time to get to the airport to your destination. One of the HSR stations will almost certainlly be closer than the nearest airport, so add another 30 minutes to the flight time. In the end, the 2.5 hour HSR train ride will equal a 4 hour total trip time for most people, while the 1 hour flight actually equals 4.5 or 5 hours, and subjects you to all kinds of indignities.
So where is the need for 300 mph Maglev in this corridor?
In the future, I could imagine 300 mph Maglev being profitable between Chicago and New York, or Toronto and Quebec, if energy and construction costs are reasonable. Even an express Bay Area to So Cal Maglev along I-5 might work (SF to LA in 1.5 hours!) if the first high speed rail system reaches capacity. But let's try 200 mph, tested and proven steel rails first.
The List: Maglev Desert Xpress X-Train Z-Train Desert Lightning
The fact that the new project doesn't have any money, even for a study, suggests that the others may be ahead of them. Their idea to include Phoenix in the plan is the second time I have seen Phoenix brought up.