Why doesn’t the Las Vegas Monorail connect to the airport? A good question as extending the monorail to Harry Reid Intl. would likely ease street traffic while giving visitors a more cost-effective option to reach their resort.
What are the factors that have prevented this historically, and could the Monorail extend to the airport in the future? First, let’s take a look at the history of the Monorail in Las Vegas.
The Monorail wasn’t initially intended to be a mass transit system
Originally opening as a one-mile-long link between Bally’s and MGM Grand in 1995, the Las Vegas Monorail wasn’t intended to be a city-wide mass transit system. Only later, in 2002 was the Monorail extended to include other casino properties up and down the Strip. Today, the Monorail is the only privately-owned mass transit system in the US and operates as a non-profit organization.
As the system has expanded, there has been additional discussion about connecting the Monorail to both the airport and even Downtown but efforts have fallen short.
Logistical challenges would suppress ridership from Harry Reid Intl.
The Monorail runs behind resorts on the east side of the Las Vegas Strip and doesn’t stop at all of them. Are travelers really willing to walk from the already distant Monorail stations to their hotel? What if their hotel isn’t on a Monorail stop?
For Example, a guest staying at Bellagio would have an estimated .6 mile walk from the Bally’s/Paris Monorail station to the front desk of their hotel. That walk would have them dodging crowds, going up and down escalators, and walking across Las Vegas Boulevard in the desert heat. It’s a first-world problem, understood, but will travelers choose the Monorail over an Uber in that scenario to save a few bucks?
Funding an expansion to the airport could be a challenge
Previous efforts to extend the Monorail system, like this proposed extension to Mandalay Bay, have struggled to raise the necessary funds to proceed.
Lenders are right to be skeptical, after all, the monorail did file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010 leaving creditors holding the bag when they emerged in 2012.
Opposition from Cab Drivers
Extending the Monorail to the Airport would almost certainly result in fewer fares for cabs, however, there seems to be minimal organized opposition to expansion. Lack of protest by the cab community, however, is most likely due to the lack of firm project plans on the near horizon.
Experts have correctly pointed out that there will always be a type of traveler that prefers a cab to mass transportation. Besides, cab drivers in Vegas have much more to worry about with the surge in Uber and Lyft usage immediately threatening their job security.
Other options to connect the airport to resorts
There has also been discussion about the potential for a light rail system to bridge the mass transit gap between the airport and downtown Las Vegas. At a cost of around $750 million, the project could go a long way in easing congestion and simplifying ground transportation for visitors. The project in its current state wouldn’t address the Strip, however.
The Boring Company’s “Vegas Loop” System May Completely Replace the Monorail
There is also a lot of buzz around Elon Musk’s Boring Company and a city-wide “Loop” system that would connect the airport to resorts on the Strip and Downtown via underground tunnels. Riders would be shuttled in electric Tesla vehicles, or in electric trams. As of now, there is a working Loop at the Convention Center, and connections are being built to both Resorts World and Wynn. A citywide system that would connect to the airport has also been approved by Clark County.
In fact, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) recently purchased the Monorail and killed its non-compete agreement that had prevented other forms of public transit from taking a foothold in Las Vegas.
Not only does it appear unlikely that the Monorail will be extended to the Airport, but it also seems unlikely that it will even exist at all in the future. Enjoy her while she lasts.
See Also: Our guide to getting around Las Vegas!