All Aboard the Vegas Party Train!
Recent reports suggest that the “X Train” – a conventional speed passenger rail service from Fullerton to Las Vegas – could become reality next year. And while this isn’t exactly high speed rail, it could demonstrate that there is strong ridership potential for passenger rail service from Southern California to Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Railway Express, the company that plans to operate a weekend, adults-only party train between Fullerton and Sin City, marked a milestone this month with the signing of an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad. The pact will allow the “X Train” to run on tracks that have carried only freight since Amtrak ceased passenger service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas 15 years ago.
The venture has purchased 16 rail cars, but they need to be refurbished before the trains can begin operating. Company officials say they hope to launch in time for New Year’s Eve 2013.
The trip from the Fullerton train station, which serves Amtrak and Metrolink, to a yet-to-be-built depot in downtown Las Vegas would take five hours. The Vegas-bound trains would depart on Thursday and Friday afternoons, with two return trips on Sundays.
Five hours seems fast to me, but I’m not complaining. And it’s great news that they’ve gotten Union Pacific, notoriously hostile to passenger rail, to agree to let them use their tracks for this service.
Who knows whether this service will break even and become a lasting success. I hope it does. But I suspect this will be an interim step between the current absence of passenger rail and the construction of true high speed rail from Southern California to Las Vegas with the XpressWest project. That will take several years to build, assuming the federal loans are given later this year, and so anything that can bridge that gap would be welcome.
The train’s schedule is a sensible one, with afternoon departures for people looking to get away for the weekend and Sunday return trips so folks can get home in time for Monday. We know that the drive to and from Vegas on Interstate 15 is a pain in the ass, especially given traffic. But sometimes, after a weekend of partying, you’re not in the mood to spend hours behind the wheel:
A potential passenger who was in Las Vegas from Orange County during the Thanksgiving holiday agreed.
“If you party really hard, it sucks driving back,” said John Lawson, 28.
Indeed it does. I’m guessing the return journey will be less of a “party train” and more of a “quiet car.” Hangover remedies should sell well.