XpressWest Still Awaiting Word on Federal Loan

Feb 12th, 2013 | Posted by

When last we checked, XpressWest – the Southern California to Las Vegas high speed rail project – was still awaiting word on their $5.5 billion federal loan application. Today, we learned that, unfortunately, they’re still waiting:

Andrew Mack, chief operating officer of XpressWest, told the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors that his company is still awaiting word on approval of a $5.5 billion loan….

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan, overseen by the Federal Railroad Administration, is critical to the XpressWest project. Mack said most RRIF loan applications take an average 19 months to complete. XpressWest filed for the loan in December 2010.

Mack attributed the lengthy wait to the complexity of the project and the amount of due diligence the FRA must complete to approve the loan.

Once the loan is approved, it will take about a year to begin construction and five years to complete the project, Mack said. Because most of the rail line would be built within the Interstate 15 right-of-way, the construction period would serve as “five years of advertising that the train is coming” to motorists who drive between Southern California and Las Vegas, he said.

And according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s article on the project construction might be as much as 18 months away, with Mack estimating another six months on the loan request.

There’s no word on what exactly is causing the loan request to take so much time. The loan program has the budget to handle this kind of request. It’s possible that the Obama Administration wants to find a politically advantageous time to make the announcement, perhaps after Ray LaHood’s replacement as Transportation Secretary is confirmed. But that is just speculation.

XpressWest is a good project that will play an important role in California’s passenger rail future. Let’s hope the project loan application is approved and that we see construction begin sometime in 2014.

  1. Back in the Saddle
    Feb 12th, 2013 at 21:38

    Robert, you are probably right that this project needs to be a part of the bigger high speed rail network in the Southwestern U.S. However, I would imagine that the FRA is somewhat torn over how and when to move ahead. Too many question marks remain. Why terminating in Victorville? Is the Las Vegas economy going to move forward enough to justify a $5.5B loan? What about promised infrastructure improvement in Las Vegas? Finally, how long before California’s High Speed Rail is built from the LA Basin to Palmdale in order to efficiently move passengers to Las Vegas? If the private company had one half of the cost of the project in hand and needed to borrow the other half, the loan would probably be approved earlier. In regards to Ray LaHood, I think the Obama Administration would like to have him make the announcement that the load is approved. It would be the cap to a great tenure as Transportation Secretary.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Back in the Saddle,

    I agree that there are some details to be worked out, but most of the “question marks” are pretty much answered in substance. A Victorville station is to better serve the 4 million people in the Inland Empire who form a disproportionate percentage of Southern California visitors to Las Vegas. The train is not terminating there, but will continue on to Palmdale. Even if California High Speed Rail is never built, it will be possible to take the existing train to Palmdale and transfer to XpressWest there. Travel times from Downtown LA will be maybe 45 minutes longer than if there were a single seat ride from LA Union Station to Las Vegas, but then again, not everyone is coming from Downtown LA anyway.

    “Promised infrastructure improvement in Las Vegas” is a bit vague and I’m not sure what you’re thinking of specifically. I’m sure that the Las Vegas backers will make sure they can get their passengers to the casinos from the station. It would be best to have good facilities for bus transfers, pick up, and car rental, but I think it’s the responsibility of the local authorities to work with XpressWest to make sure that happens (or to not approve construction permits for a project that doesn’t include such facilities).

    The Las Vegas economy definitely needs to be diversified, but this project will be a shot in the arm for the one thing they’re actually pretty good at: tourism. Better transportation links will make it an easy side trip on the West Coast circuit. Whenever I hear international tourists tell me about their trip to California, the constants seem to be LA, SF, Yosemite, Las Vegas… unless they didn’t have enough time to drive to all those places and had to pick and choose.

  2. Roger Christensen
    Feb 12th, 2013 at 22:11

    Meanwhile back in Hanford, Dan Richard has reportedly said that no decision on Fresno-Bakersfield route until April meeting.

  3. Donk
    Feb 12th, 2013 at 22:34

    If they truly did due diligence on this project, they would conclude that they are being asked to throw $5.5B down the shitter.

  4. Clem
    Feb 12th, 2013 at 22:35

    Probably just trying to avoid a Solyndra of the rails.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:


    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The Solyndra building still has a for sale sign on it.

    n bluth Reply:

    So you’re saying XpressWest will go under because it wont be able to compete with cheap Chinese HSR technology that will flood the market? If only.

    BeWise Reply:


  5. BeWise
    Feb 12th, 2013 at 22:46

    I fail to understand how XpressWest believes that they can pay back a loan terminating their line in Victorville. Their own revenue statements don’t even seem to support it. Granted, the goal is to get to Palmdale. But a 90 minute infrequent Metrolink connection to Downtown LA isn’t exactly what most visitors from the LA Basin have in mind when deciding how to get to LV.

    BeWise Reply:

    Especially when an average fare would run around $99.

    Emma Reply:

    The thing is the last miles from Victorville to LA would easily double the cost of the project. The hope is that we’ll figure something out between now and the time XpressWest launches. I propose commuter rail connecting LA to San Bernadino to Victorville. Well there already Metrolink covering this area. So maybe upgrade and expand Metrolink? It should at least reach San Bernadino imo.

    Another alternative would be buses like Amtrak (bad idea, I can already see a bottle neck).

    BeWise Reply:

    Even if Metrolink were extended to Victorville, you still face the exact same problem as with Victorville. Winding your way up the Cajon Pass on a standard commuter train would probably take just as long as being stuck in traffic. Assuming an express service from LAUPT, it would still take over 2 hours to reach Victorville. Add in the fact that service would likely be relatively infrequent, and you have a supposed solution that probably won’t help XpressWest ridership much.

    In my opinion, the most logical solution (but most technically challenging from an engineering standpoint) would of been to have the Palmdale-Los Angeles section act as the initial IOS. In this, you could immediately commence one-seat frequent high-speed service from LAUPT to LV. This would immediately start generating revenue to help pay back a loan of any sort, as well as generate additional revenue to begin expanding the system northward.

    Wdobner Reply:

    Why do they have connect San Bernadino with Victorville via Cajon when there’s already a plan to connect Victorville with Palmdale?


    Admittedly it’s still 2 hours to get from LAUS to Palmdale, and it’s a bit indirect. But it’s going to be a lot easier to add trains through Soledad Canyon than over Cajon, and it provides the cheapest possible link to the existing commuter rail network in the LA basin (or at least a LOT cheaper than adding their own track over Cajon).

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Becuase it’s 40 miles from San Bernandino to Victorvile and by going through Los Angeles and Palmdale the trip is 175?

    Wdobner Reply:

    That’s all well and fine, but San Bernardino isn’t exactly the region’s hub nor a nexus of non-car transportation. It cannot even be said the area is particularly walkable, so very few passengers from the Inland Empire would complete their trip without a car. Once they get in their cars there is very little difference between their driving 4 miles to a station in San Bernardino, or 40 miles over Cajon to a station in Victorville. But the exact opposite is true of the passengers who will be boarding at LAUS, where there’s a much greater chance LA-LV trips will be completed without a car being involved.

    Because of the difference in mobility amongst the two groups of passengers XpressWest should prioritize access to Los Angeles by the most expedient means possible, even if it makes the service no more convenient for passengers from the Inland Empire than the Victorville terminal.

    Matt Korner Reply:

    San Bernardino has more Metrolink trains, service, and ridership than any other station besides L.A. Union Station. And, the city’s new multimodal terminal is the optional northeastern terminus for California High-Speed Rail’s North-South (Las Vegas) and East-West (Phoenix) corridors in southern California.

    That terminal is also the site where several lines of B.R.T. service are about to converge. sbX to San Bernardino State and Loma Linda Universities, in fact, is already under construction with an opening date in early 2014.

    Light rail will connect the terminal with the University of Redlands, and a study has been conducted that determines cog rail to Big Bear Lake is, indeed, feasible. SanBAG’s Mitch Alderman also has put into place planning for fixed-guideway links with the new San Bernardino International Airport. Additionally, the City of San Bernardino has adopted the Transit-Oriented Development (T.O.D.) Overlay District that takes advantage of the city’s street grid, the most extensive in the Inland Empire, to create dozens of walkable and mixed-use urban villages.

    Xpress West terminating in Victorville does not make sense. And, extending the line to Palmdale is even worse because that alignment essentially bypasses San Diego and the Inland Empire, which Xpress West’s own management says will provide much of the ridership. Linking Xpress West to California High-Speed Rail via Cajon Pass and San Bernardino, even with the higher costs, is the only viable option for the long term.

    Derek Reply:

    Maybe the feds are waiting for a guarantee that the line won’t be permanently terminated in Victorville. Otherwise the headlines will read something like, “nowhere to Vegas”.

  6. Jerry
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 00:11

    So would the Amtrak SouthWest route be able to share the same route as XpressWest between Barstow and Victorville?

    Joey Reply:

    Sure, if you want your high speed schedule to be clogged up with low speed trains that are more often late than not.

    Andy M Reply:

    Isn’t that a question of smart scheduling?

    I have no idea what sort of frequency XPress West wants to operate, but even if its going to be hourly, you can still easily thread a slower train or two into the gaps. Several European HS lines are shared by freight even.

    The question is more, would an Amtrak Genesis + Superliners (or whatever will replace them) be acceptable on HSR infrastructure in terms of its axle loadings, signalling interface, platform heights, superelevation etc. But that same question will also have to be resolved by CAHSR if the San Joaquins etc are to use HSR lines in a transitional period. And as I assume that XPress West will be essentially compatible to CAHSR (anything else would be senseless fragementation), I assume the same answer will apply.

    Clem Reply:

    “Senseless fragmentation”… I like it. And you can pretty much count on it because it keeps profit margins high… there’s tremendous money to be made in integrating incompatible systems, building separate platforms, and so on.

    Joey Reply:

    The question is more, would an Amtrak Genesis + Superliners (or whatever will replace them) be acceptable on HSR infrastructure in terms of its axle loadings, signalling interface, platform heights, superelevation etc.

    Short answer: no.

    Jerry Reply:

    Don’t have to use the same tracks. Sort of like the ‘blended system’ on the Peninsula.
    Possibly share the same stations, employees, and parking lots in Victorville and Barstow.
    Otherwise, the small towns end up like Stockton, CA with two separate train stations serving three different train routes.

    Clem Reply:

    Ruling grade is 4 to 4.5 % (I forget the exact figure, it’s in the EIS) so the answer is no.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Clem, he said “between Barstow and Victorville”, and I don’t think the ruling grade is that high *between Barstow and Victorville* — I believe the ruling grade was reached somewhere east of Barstow.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold”

    “Fear and Loathing on XpressWest” just doesn’t have the same ring.
    And don’t even _think_ about the application of TSA-style security!

    Nathanael Reply:

    Shorter answer: no reason to do so even if you could.

    This would involve adding two dispatcher handoffs for Amtrak, which slows things down more than any track speed gain.

    If the route is extended from Victorville to LA Union, *then* it would be worth thinking about.

  7. joe
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 06:44


    America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair. Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids. The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs. And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts. I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.

  8. Robert
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 07:48

    Didn’t hear the entire SOTU, but read something about having more public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects. That seems exactly what the XpressWest project would be. I would think they would wait until the sequester issue gets resolved. Having said that, it could end up just getting put off for several more months.


    Jonathan Reply:

    Public-Private partnerships? Privatization of any profit; public assumption of any risks and associated costs (especially of failure)?
    My, my. _Do_ look at the UK example.. Two catastrophic bankruptcies on the East Coast main line, endung up with the Government assuming ownership of operations and unforeseen costs. Richard Branson prognosticated the same for the West Coast Main Line after Virgin Trains lost the WCML contract, last August (IIRC).

    not to forget the Railtrack bankruptcy (“liquidation”), sparked by infamous crashes which were attributed to outsourcing of key engineering and safety business functions,to outside private companies.

    Don’t go there. Not with the US political process, not if even the UK can’t make it work.
    Oh… Channel Tunnel, anyone??

  9. Jo
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 08:59

    The loan application calls for the loan to repaid back over 35 years. Can a $5.5 billion loan be paid back by Las Vegas interest in 35 years? I think that they can do it.

    Andy M Reply:

    That’s 157 million a year without counting interest payments. Sounds steep to me but not impossible.

    On the other hand, Wendell Cox is on the barricades against it and predicts it will fail, and seeing he’s pretty much always wrong, that’s about the best badge of honor Desert Xpress could wish for.

    DanM Reply:

    I’d ride it every time I go to Vegas (2x per year for conferences), but I’m very sceptical they’ll be able to pay off the loan.

    Here’s the math: 35 years at 2% interest and $5.5 billion requires a payment of $18,219,450 per month. At 30 days per month and $99 profit (after operating expenses) per passenger that is 6135 passengers per DAY (or 2,208,418 per year) just to break even on the loan. That’s a pretty hard sell without a direct connection to Los Angeles….

    Jo Reply:

    If you look at that way – yes it looks like a hard sell. But they will not just be selling $99 train tickets. They will be selling packages. Riders will be paying to stay at their hotels, resorts, eating their food, attending their shows & attractions, buying their merchandise, etc. It is like a tour or a cruise, they entice you with a low initial rate just to get you in. Then they offer all sorts of extras – this is where their true profit is made. Considering much of their loan can be paid with only $99 fares seems very positive to me. The economic benefits and income generated will not stay or be made only the train.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Jo, you need to read more carefully. DanM said $99 per passenger _after_ _operating_ _expenses_.
    That’s not $99 tickets; more like twice that. Or they’re assuming _lots_ of $12 beers or bottles of water on the train.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Bluntly speaking, the direct connection to LA will happen and XPressWest is assuming that it will happen, whatever they are saying now. Second, I’m quite sure XPressWest will be able to fill seats at $200 a ticket or more, since the price of driving and of flying is going straight up. This simply leaves the question of whether enough people will want to travel from LA to Vegas. Which I can’t answer, because I don’t know why *anyone* goes to Vegas.

    Jonathan Reply:

    I don’t know why anyone goes to Vegas, either. Unless it’s for a conference or trade show.
    But.. those who do go, apparently don’t go alone. Not if popular media are to be believed.

    Share the fuel cost, and HSR prices which pay for operations *and* profit *AND* coinstruction don’t make sense. No more sense than they would if roads had to recover actual construction costs, plus profit.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    … which is why there’s only one flight a day between Los Angeles and Las Vegas on a 50 passenger regional turboprop….

    Jonathan Reply:

    Really? Seriously? What’s the ticket price? ;)

    Whatever it is, I’m sure it doesn’t cover airport capital costs.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    like the taxes on the fuel burned on I-15 covers the costs of I-15?

    Eric M Reply:

    Well according to this, in 2009, there was 3,733,037 passengers who traveled on an airplane between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and ranked as the 9th busiest air corridor in the United States

    Nathanael Reply:

    In that case, XPressWest will have no trouble whatsoever filling trains and paying off capital costs.

    ….assuming it gets to LA. As everyone else has pointed out, the Victorville terminus is the weak point. The plan depends on “someone else” managing to construct Victorville-LA (preferably all the way to LA Airport, but that’s not essential).

    Jonathan Reply:

    Fair point about the Victorviille erminus.

    Even so, I see room to doubt that a private company can cover both operational costs and construction costs of a rail line, when competing with airlines which don’t have to cover the capital costs of airport infrastructure. But I confess I don’t know whether XpressWest plans to electrify.
    If they don’t, they’ll be less time-competitive. if they do, the payback period for electrification would make repayments for the FRA loan harder (unless it covers electrification; which for the stated amount, seems very improbable).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    It seems that the alternative DX/XW is looking at is electric 240 km/h trains.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The FRA loan amount covers electrification from Vegas to Victorville, yes.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    A quick search of Expedia and Southwest shows rates range from $170 to $250 for a March 22-March 24 trip. Go on a Monday-Friday (march 25-29) and it goes down to $125-$150. It is a 1 hour flight + lets say 1.5 hours at the airport to get through security

    So keeping everything simple using 1 way calculations (multiply by 2 if you want)

    So the choice is a 1.5 hour drive from LA to Victorville (per google maps, no traffic jams) + 1.5 hours on the train = 3 hours total trip time (best case assuming you step right on the train) vs 2.5 hours for flight even if you include a very conservative 1.5 hours to get through security.

    As fas as cost it is $20 in gas (100 miles at 25 mpg and $4 gas) and $200 for the train ticket vs $125-250 for the airplane

    Don’t care about time as much as cost. You can get $20 tickets on a bus, with WiFi for a 5 hour trip

    So it costs more and it takes more time…wow people are really going to eat this up. I am sure it will be a great success.

    BeWise Reply:

    I just found prices for as low as $93 for the same weekend flying out of Burbank. 1 hour flight + 30 minutes at the airport (at Burbank, I usually do curbside to gate in under 15 minutes all of the time, even during peak periods) + 30 minutes getting to the airport + 30 minutes getting to hotel after flight has arrived = 2 hours.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Uh huh, just like Amtrak’s failed Acela experment, why would anyone take the train when they could drive there cheaper.

    Peter Reply:

    The interest on the RRIF loans is ridiculously low. IIRC, it’s merely the cost to the government for making the loan.

    Jo Reply:

    The interest rate to be charged is that of US Treasury Securities. After all this is an infrastructure project.

    synonymouse Reply:

    In the real world this loan would never be repaid as initially agreed and promised. See Sin City Monorail. Any more than Prop 1A will ever be placed before the voters again or its provisos ever be met or even seriously considered in decision making.

    You fire the messenger; you eminent domain and nationalize; you slap on some more taxes.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    5,000 passengers per day at $99 and 2% interest to pay off the loan. After that you can start buying electricity, wages, etc.

    jimsf Reply:

    well, if they have any creative vision, they can generate a lot more than just ticket revenue.
    First they can offer more than one class of service and amenities. Premium price for a high roller first class ride for instance.
    Certainly having the “egas expericence” start upon boarding, they could include a stripper lounge with pole dancing, for additional entrance fee.

    On board food and beverage sales could rack up a nice profit.

    And it could even be worked out that a local tribe could be granted gaming rights on board within california.

    The key is to keep the “you can’t do that” crowd away from the enterprise and focus on revenue creativity.

    Further, if xwest owns the terminals, they make rent money by leasing out retail space and the ends of the line just like airports get revenue from such space, including slot machines in the station in lvs.

    There really is no limit to the ways the free market could make money on this. so long as you involve can-do entrepreneurial business folks.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    On board food and beverage sales could rack up a nice profit.

    Resurrect Fred Harvey, maybe. People aren’t going to pay the kind of prices that have to be charged to make a profit.

    jimsf Reply:

    yes they will. they pay it all day long in vegas.

    I go to vegas sometimes ( I hate vegas) and I don’t gamble. Yet it costs me a fortune for a weekend there. Even with free valet parking everywhere.

    People can, will and do, pay the prices.

    I paid 8 dollars for a 12 ounce bottle of water at an outdoor bar while standing in line for a concert

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    So the people who are used to all you can eat $9.99 dinner buffets are gonna pay fifteen bucks for a tuna sandwich because they are on the train?

    jimsf Reply:

    you havent been to vegas in a while. the days of cheap buffets are long gone. the vegas strip has gone increasingly upscale unless you are slumming downtown on fremont street.

    jimsf Reply:

    check out the new vegas.




    for starters.

    Unless you’re talking about poor white trash crowd – who won’t be talking the xwest anyway – they will have 5 people in their 89 honda civic with mismatched door panels and red registration extension tag in the rear window. They will stay downtown at the four queens… where a tuna sandwich is 9 dollars.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The house always wins, the only thing I do in Las Vegas is change planes.


    $9.99 isn’t unusual. It’s a bit out of date. So $11.99 all you can eat-ers. Go to one of the pricey hotels and it goes up to 30 bucks. I spend 30 bucks on dinner out here in the woods.

  10. synonymouse
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 09:49

    “Because most of the rail line would be built within the Interstate 15 right-of-way, the construction period would serve as “five years of advertising that the train is coming” to motorists who drive between Southern California and Las Vegas, he said.”

    Curious PB Worshippers reject this same observation when it comes to the CHSRA down the median of I-5 in the San Joaquin Valley.

    Not to worry too much about any repayment on the Deserted Xprss loan. The project will amass red ink immediately and be shortly nationalized(Amtrakked)and subsidized. Ditto for the parent TehaVegaSkyRail.

    Meanwhile BART fares are to be raised 5%. Amalgamated is hungry.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Aww, it still drives mouse batty that the line will serve the cities in the central valley

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Where by “serves” you mean “screws”.

    Matthew B. Reply:

    If there were an alternative that paralleled Interstate 15 but actually had two million population (Fresno + Bakersfield metros) instead of 30K (Barstow), sensible people would be supporting an alternate route with intermediate stops for XpressWest. If there’s no city in between with a large enough population to justify a stop, freeway medians are fine.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Thanks, “Matthew B.”. You really cleared things up for me! TOD all the way! 220mph+TOD! It works, while 350kmh+urbanity (they hate us for our freedom, and for our large number of pounds per capita) doesn’t.

    America will show the world how to do urban development! Start with freeways! Add 350kmh express trains! It’s TOD-tastic! USA! TOD! USA!

    Joey Reply:

    For extra greenness the TOD should generate power from all the noise and wind of passing trains.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I know the speed profile is very different, but I also hear remarks from urbanists that TOD next to elevated rapid transit lines is impossible, and a lot of “Yes, but”s when I talk about Metrotown and other SkyTrain TODs.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If they don’t like examining Vancouver point at Chicago. The outer boroughs. Philadelphia.

    Jim Reply:

    Alexandria VA next to the Eisenhower Ave. Metrorail station. 33 stories of TOD.

    Jonathan Reply:

    @Alon: there’s a scene or two in the Blues Brothers which makes that point about regular trains.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Steel els are way noisier than concrete viaducts, 27-meter curves are noisy, etc. Even the elevated parts of the First Subway in New York aren’t that noisy.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s a valid point but there’s a reason that current examples of HSR through cities are limited to 270km/h.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Richard, ask your doctor to recalibrate your meds. Transit-Oriented Development for a SoCal-to-Vegas link? Who’s that going to serve? Croupiers and hotel maids????

    Nathanael Reply:

    Richard, if by “screws” you mean “benefits”, then yes.

    Otherwise, I would like to point out that you’ve proven yourself to be a complete nutter.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Er, you mean just this one time, on this one “screws” vs “benefits” issue?

    Nathanael Reply:

    No, I mean in general.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The comment below to the effect that he has slowly been driven crazy seems to be correct. He’s gotten less and less sensible as time goes on.

    Jonathan Reply:

    You mean the post about Richard being the one tied to the mast? Nah. What’s the quote from ‘The Mote In God’s Eye’?
    “Circumstances force me to disagree with you, Master.”

    Richard has been barking mad for years. Going back to when he was banned from the Mozilla project, after saying the world would be better off if he (Richard) could reach out through someones’ screen, and cut that person’s hands off.

    Richard may seem somewhat saner here; but I suspect only because Richard has learned not to respond to posts which critique his barking-mad non-sequiturs and (deliberate?) misreadings.

    Nathanael Reply:

    Ah. Good to know.

    synonymouse Reply:

    Bako and Fresno are easily accessed from Tejon and I-5, the centrally located default entree into the LA Basin from the Valley.

    Nathanael Reply:

    No, they aren’t. You could cross Tejon, veer east to serve Bakersfield and then run north along 99 / BNSF, of course. But “easily accessed from”?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Nathaniel, there are the liberal-arts/public policy/community outreach types who run Caltrain.
    To them, $d = ut + 1/2 at^2$ is a foreign language. And that’s just kinematics; we haven’t gotten to dynamics, or how it affects speed through curves.

    Synon seems to view the world through conspiracy-coloured glasses. Compared to that, the aforementioned people are paragons of rationality.

    Jonathan Reply:

    …. to steal someone else’s thunder:…
    Synon is forever pushing his tin-foil hat up the Tehachapis, with his nose. As penance for his sins.

  11. nslander
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 11:42

    OT: Alan Lowenthal was quoted in a local long beach publication as having been disappointed in not becoming appointed to the House Transportation Committee.

    Jeez, Alan. I can’t imagine why you were denied that position. Very public but failed attempts to betray your own party’s leadership, your Governor and House Minority Leader on prominent matters of transportation are routinely rewarded with committee memberships on transportation.

    Go sit in time out and try not to #### yourself again.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Along those lines, the Senate Trans sub-committee consists of NEC dems, plus one from NM and one from MT. No one representing the west coast at all. Time to secede.

    joe Reply:

    Yeah because Alan Lowenthal would be able to obstruct the CA HSR project from his Congressional assignment. Nancy Pelosi isn’t stupid. She’s potty training Alan.

    CA did damn well with HSR funding regardless of the committee membership. No it isn’t what the hard core rail advocates wanted which is probably why it got done.

    Jonathan Reply:

    What do you think a “hard core rail advocate” want?

    joe Reply:

    I think hard core rail advocate want CA to build their system. Then hard core rail advocate want to hand CA a schedule.

    Paul have awesome hard core plan for CA that not widely supported, not funded, not voted on but perfect solution for everyone. Maybe Alan Lowenthal smash CAHSR and make pretty train for Paul.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “We need a verb, Senator”…..

    joe Reply:

    Hulk Smash HSR and give pretty piece to LA.

    synonymouse Reply:

    I believe that is essentially Villa’s plan.

    It is not even that bad a plan. Spend the money in LA and and just scab single track over Tehachapi. Nobody will buy it anyway.

  12. jimsf
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 11:53

    well after contructing the segments from fresno to bakersfield and merced to fresno. perhaps xpress west constrution can coincide with the baksersfield palmdale constrution. that would put the most pressure on making full hsr construction from la to palmdale the next step giving a good start on a network like this ( la-palmdale and san jose madera could be concurrent )

    StevieB Reply:

    Palmdale to Sylmar would eliminate the slowest track section south of Palmdale and would have a more politically acceptable price.

  13. trentbridge
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 15:42

    And no-one mentions XTRN which starts Fullerton – Las Vegas service at the end of the year? They have railroad agreements in place to use existing track and are busy refurbishing carriages for their luxury service. They will have a minimum four year head start and no huge loan to repay. I’d say the timing of this application is all wrong – XTRN should demonstrate that a genuine need for rail service to LV exists before anyone spends money upgrading the service. At least the San Joaquins demonstrate that rail is part of the transportation mix in the Central Valley.
    This reminds me of when Boeing had the 747, Douglas the DC10, and Lockheed the L1011. Three wide-bodies from competing manufacturers going after the same market. LA – LV has had no passenger rail service for more than a decade and now we have two attempts to fill that need.

    synonymouse Reply:

    You are trying to make economic sense out of phenomena that are entirely political.

    Matthew B. Reply:


    The two services are somewhat different market segments. I imagine Xtrain to be something like an extended bachelor party atmosphere, which could be unappealing to many people. It also doesn’t give any real advantage in travel time, just more time for alcohol consumption.

    From the perspective of time advantage, your proposal is like suggesting we don’t need plane trips between LA and Phoenix until we run a bus service between the two cities for a couple years to gauge demand.

    Xtrain also won’t have capacity to seat that many people with very few scheduled trips (and fundamental limits on how many trips can be scheduled/bought due to freight operations). If I had to bet on one of the two business models succeeding, I’d go with XpressWest, especially with a common sense interface to the California High Speed Rail Network and eventual one-seat rides to LA, SD, and SF (with intermediate stops).

    Jonathan Reply:

    “Future one-seat rides to LA, SD ,and SF”? “common sense interface to California HSR”?
    This is a joke, right?? Do you have _any_ grasp how incompatible XpressWest and CHSR can be?
    Platform heights, catenary heights and zig-zag; and signalling systems are enough to be going on with.

    trentbridge Reply:

    Well you missed the point entirely – I’m not saying HSR from Victorville to Las Vegas wouldn’t mean boffo trains and potentially attract teaming millions of eager tourists with trains hurtling across the Mojave Desert every hour. I’m saying I wouldn’t bet $5.5 billion of taxpayers dollars on such a project when the corridor has survived happily without passenger rail for a decade. They stopped the Desert Wind for lack of passengers. If XTRN wants to take a stab at it – fine – they’re not asking for $5.5 billion. It’s a joke to have a “private” venture “borrow” this much money to finance this project. I’m enough of a socialist to argue that it should be owned by California And Nevada if it’s built.
    I’m sure most readers of the CAHSRBLOG would appreciate a loan of $5.5 billion so we could build our own High Speed rail line on largely government ROW.

    Nathanael Reply:

    The Desert Wind was three-a-week, which is a recipe for low ridership. It was being interfered with by freight trains, generating an unreliable schedule, which is also a recipe for low ridership. And yet it still would have continued if not for the usual ignorant budget cuts.

    Jonathan Reply:

    “boffo trains”??? *Boffo*? Please tell me this isn’t the Terry Pratchett sense of the adjective.
    (that’s the most common usage, in the circles I move in)

    meanwhile: *If* Desert Express gets this loan, then *when* (not if) they go bankrupt — because I can’t see any way they will meet interest payments– who ends up owning the right-of-way? Where in the chain of creditors wil the FRA stand?

    trentbridge Reply:

    You noticed? Like Terry Pratchett – I was born in England – he’s two years older than me – “boffo” is English schoolboy slang for something like “worthy excellence” and I was unaware of his use of the term. He also has an OBE, and a Knighthood – which I don’t but I do have relatives in England that have one of each. I’m also married to a writer.

    Walter Reply:

    The fact that you’re referring to them by their stock symbol says everything to anyone who’s been paying attention to these dime-a-dozen proposals for low-speed rail to Vegas. Feel free to let us know when they’re actually open for business.

    And no, it won’t gauge demand. Plenty of Southern Californians will park at Victorville and pay $89 round-trip for a 80 minute ride to Vegas. I suspect far fewer people will shell out $198 round-trip for a five or six hour ride, even if it’s from a more central location.

    Jo Reply:

    Would not a high speed train to and from Las Vegas also attract visitors to California – that is visitors to Las Vegas not originating from California? Las Vegas attracts visitors from all over North America and the world. After they are done with Las Vegas, who is not to say that some of these visitors would not want to visit California and its sights. A 5-6 hour conventional train trip would not do it, an 80 minute ride on a high speed train would – easily.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    I think they have something like 40m visitors each year, more than 30m of them not from California. So if we can shake loose a couple million visitors for a few days each, it could turn into real business for our industries here

    trentbridge Reply:

    I’m not convinced that $5.5 billion should be allocated to one project in a corridor that has no recent passenger rail experience. I would guess that there are at least eleven major projects around the United States where a loan of $500 million would improve the existing infrastructure that permit either 110 mph or 150 mph passenger rail service on existing well-used routes. XTRN has only to invest $30,000,000 to get new sidings added so the passenger trains do not interfere with freight and build a station at Union Plaza in order to get running. That’s chicken feed compared to building HSR across the Mojave. I don’t want to see Desert Express become a poster child for “failed rail” in a Republican election campaign in a few years. I hope it succeeds but – for a political point of view it’s not as safe a bet as many others.

    Nathanael Reply:

    There was rail service between Las Vegas and LA as recently as 1997. That’s more recent than the last time Columbus, Ohio had service (1979!!), and I think it’s clear Columbus, Ohio could use service.

    I think “has no recent passenger rail experience” is a ludicrous non sequiter and has nothing to do with anything. Plenty of places with no recent passenger rail experience would be GREAT passenger rail corridors.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Yeah, but why allocate scarce federally-funded dollars on Victorville to Vegas???

    And what happens to the RRIF pool after XpressWest goes belly-up?

    Nathanael Reply:

    I’m not saying I think it’s a good target for the RRIF loan. Unless there’s a coherent plan for Victorville-LA, I don’t think it is. I’m just shooting down an absurd criticism.

    Andy M Reply:

    I think the X-train is to be seen more in the land cruise category. It’s going after a completely different demographic than Desert Xpress. Passengers on the X-train don’t want to arrive quickly because the cruise is part of the experience.

  14. Reedman
    Feb 13th, 2013 at 20:20

    Where will XpressWest terminate in Las Vegas? The LV monorail doesn’t go to the airport because cabbies said it would put them out of a job.

    swing hanger Reply:

    “within the resort corridor” according to their website. They even have an image of the station:

    If I were them, I’d build a hotel/casino and/or a shopping mall on top of or next to the station- might as well milk your location for all the revenue you can get- though this might not please other casinos.

    Neil Shea Reply:

    They’re thinking of possibly along the RR tracks, west of I-15 at Flamingo road, near The Rio. It’s closer to central strip than the airport, and it works for me

    Andy M Reply:

    I do hope both projects either share the same terminal or use adjacent sites. Having completely separate locations makes no sense.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    That’s what America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals at PBQD=CHSRA and Caltrain are doing. At a cost to the public of over four billion dollars.

    It must make sense, right? Right?

    Matthew B. Reply:

    Thanks for the non sequeter, Richard. Did you write a script to generate posts on this blog? :-)

    Andy, not sure which two projects you mean. The nearest monorail station is about a mile away from a hypothetical HSR station at Flamingo. The rail right of way doesn’t go anywhere near the monorail, unfortunately, and is located on the opposite side of the interstate from the strip. A bus line on Flamingo, such as the current #202 bus route, would get you there: http://www.rtcsnv.com/wp-content/themes/rtc/pdf/12/202(09-30-12).pdf
    I imagine additional bus/shuttle service would be arranged without problem in the event of an intercity rail station being developed.

    Xtrain and XpressWest should have very different demographics, and there is near 0 chance that anyone will need their stations to be co-located to transfer from one to another. In the event of a future extended network of conventional and intercity rail in Las Vegas (a long way off), the Xtrain tracks go right by the XpressWest proposed station site, and a conventional rail station could be developed there in the future. Anyone wishing to ride one way on Xtrain and the other on XpressWest should be able to get to/from either station on existing transit / shuttle / taxi / driving / car rental. Imagine flying into LAX and departing from Burbank airport.

    J Baloun Reply:

    Matt B,
    You must be new here. Richard is the one tied to the mast being driven insane by the Sirens of US transport planning professionals. Better put some wax in your ears.

    J Baloun Reply:

    I guess that makes Sisymouse the one pushing the train up Tejon over and over and over…

    Neil Shea Reply:

    Matthew B is right that a random post generating script would make more sense than either of them

    Donk Reply:

    This is a great idea, and the only viable one. Build a new casino right on top of the train station in Vegas and offer package deals only if they stay in that casino.

  15. Nathanael
    Feb 14th, 2013 at 17:56

    “The loan program has the budget to handle this kind of request.”

    Yeah, but it doesn’t have the budget to handle this request AND all the other requests being made. They’re clearly deciding whether this is worth deferring many of the other requests.

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