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Monorail: Less Debt, More Routes

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(Photo- Jenna Bodnar/Getty Images)

(Photo- Jenna Bodnar/Getty Images)

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(Las Vegas CBS KXNT)  The Las Vegas monorail system has endured financial struggles, but it achieved the practical goal set by traffic and convention planners.  It’s relieved big-convention gridlock  on the Strip and surrounding arteries, according to company representatives.

“We get 40, 50-thousand riders just  for a two or three day period for any of the major conventions,” said monorail board member Bruce Woodbury.  “It’s in the millions every year.”

After a bankruptcy that left original investors with less than they bargained for, the monorail’s debt load has been reduced by more than $700 million.  The next goals are promoting ridership, and raising more money to extend the service.

Reduced debt and potential for federal funding look like light at the end of the tunnel, Woodbury said.  Monorail management is considering an additional station on the existing line, plus service to McCarran Airport and eventually to a proposed UNLV sports stadium. But expansion depends on boosting the number of riders, and persuading investment banks that the monorail can perform financially.

“It would be a combination of private financing through bonds, plus, we hope, some federal government dollars that we will be, we think, eligible for,”  Woodbury told KXNT on Wednesday.

He touts the monorial system as a national leader in fare-box revenues, showing an operating profit every year and paying the interest on its bonds.  But the system didn’t earn enough to pay the principal on the original debt, Woodbury said.

“Virtually every transit system that serves the public in the United States is subsidized by taxpayer dollars, and none of them make an operating profit.”

Woodbury said those transit entities don’t have to repay their startup costs.

“Only the Las Vegas Monorail has shown an operating profit of millions of dollars every year,” he said.

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