Monday, March 2, 2009

My Town Monday: The Sin Express?

I hadn't heard of the "Sin Express", i.e. the proposed high-speed train from Disneyland to Las Vegas, until it was mentioned by Governor Bobby Jindal in his response to President Obama's address to Congress last Tuesday. Since we live about a mile from Disneyland, I was naturally intrigued and decided to check it out.

At first, my husband and I thought it might be part of the California High-Speed Rail system approved by the voters last November. When completed the system will link the Bay Area and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego, but there's no planned route to Las Vegas. I voted against it since it was a fairly hefty bond issue, and given the already large budget deficit, I didn't think it was a good time for California to take on more bonded indebtedness. I'm also of the opinion that this state doesn't have long distance transportation problems so much as short distance transportation problems. The high speed rail duplicates some existing corridors, including AMTRAK service and Metrolink trains. There's a cool map route at the website.

So I did some Googling and found a good analysis of the mass transit construction provisions in the stimulus plan at CBS News website. Apparently funds have been set aside for rail service, but nothing was specified in the bill. I doubt the "Sin Express" will be included, not only because of the bad publicity generated by Jindal's reference, but primarily because it's nowhere near shovel ready, though supporters say it could be by the deadline specified in the bill. Supporters of the bill include Harry Reid, the Democratic Senator from Nevada, and Anaheim's Mayor Curt Pringle, a Republican, so I guess that makes it a bipartisan issue, after all.

Last June, the Las Vegas Sun reported that President Bush signed legislation authorizing $45 million to study the environmental impact of the first section of the proposed rail system from Las Vegas to Primm Boulevard, near the California border. The plan was first proposed twenty years ago and is estimated to cost over $12 billion dollars. You can read the article here.

I don't know about you, but several thoughts come to my mind. One, there is no longer any AMTRAK service along this corridor, so that's a plus. On the other hand, a link between "Sin City" and the family-oriented Disneyland seems a bit odd. Yes, they're both tourist destinations, but do they attract the same customers? Not necessarily, though Vegas is more kid-friendly than it used to be. Lastly, I'm not sure this is something we need to be spending tax dollars on right now. There's no guarantee it will draw enough passengers to pay for the cost of construction. Being of a practical mind, I'd rather see money go to upgrades, maintenance and expansion of existing rail systems, esp. those of use to commuters. Anything that reduces the congestion on our highways and conserves fuel sounds much better to me than a Sin Express.

I'll be driving to Las Vegas on Wednesday to attend the annual EPICon Conference and I may have changed my mind by the time I get home. I took AMTRAK to Vegas once years ago and really enjoyed the trip. Too bad that route was dropped.

What do you think?

Linda

My Town Monday is the brilliant brain child of writer/blogger Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Go to his blog to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.

Note: Photo of Matterhorn was taken by yours truly and the picture of New York, New York is from a collection of Art Explosion stock photos I purchased.

12 comments:

Teresa said...

Enjoy your writers' conference, Linda. If they do go through with the "Sin City" line, we'll have to take an excursion one weekend and leave our husbands to fend for themselves :)

Reb said...

It seems like a mighty strange idea linking the two places. If there is actually a need for rail service between the two, then Amtrak wouldn't have dropped the line.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I could see it when Las Vegas was trying out the "family vacation" idea, but they scrapped that so it makes no sense.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Teresa, that would be fun, wouldn't it? I loved the AMTRAK trip I took. So much easier and more comfortable than driving and without the hassle of airline travel these days.

Reb and Patti, I find the pairing odd, too, but maybe they're just looking at which destinations attract large numbers of people. I think Vegas is also looking to wean day trippers from the Indian casinos around here. There are quite a few now.

Travis Erwin said...

One of these days I'm gonna ride a real honest to goodness passenger train. and of there is gambling at the other end even better.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Travis, I thought of you when I was writing about Vegas. I hope you get a chance to take that train ride some day, but you'll have to leave the Panhandle to do. I checked AMTRAK's website and the Texas Eagle runs from Chicago to San Antonio via Dallas. The route of the Southwest Chief (LA to Chicago via Albuquerque runs just to the north of you in Colorado and Oklahoma. (I used to be a travel agent - occupational habit / hazard.)

whodoithinkiam said...

If it saves lives by preventing horrific weekend accidents on I-15, I'm all for it...and I don't even go to Vegas all that often. :-)

Linda McLaughlin said...

Excellent point. Train travel is much safer.

Kathleen Rowland said...

Linda, have a terrific time at the EPIC conference. When rail service fits with our need to get from A to B, I'm all for it. The walking in between is good for us.

Linda McLaughlin said...

I agree, Kathleen, but I think it'll be a long time before we see anything like this. Too many other priorities these days.

Barrie said...

Looking forward to your thoughts after your weekend in Sin City. ;)

debra said...

The train route does seem a bit odd, doesn't it. One should follow the money and the reason may appear...