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Brightline West: It’s not just a high-speed train to Victorville

Updated October 19, 2021 - 6:57 pm

High-speed rail operators Brightline West figure it’s time people stop thinking about its project between Las Vegas and Southern California as the train to Victorville.

Greta Seidman, director of public affairs for Brightline, told a local tourism group Tuesday that dual links from Victorville eventually would provide seamless train service to either downtown Los Angeles or the Inland Empire. Trips from Southern California to Las Vegas would take around three hours with tickets priced competitively with the cost of making a trip by car or plane.

Brightline anticipates 11.3 million one-way train trips between Southern California and Las Vegas once the system is operational in four years.

“This route has been many things over the years,” said Seidman, one of about 30 Brightline workers based in Las Vegas and a longtime resident who has seen various iterations of train proposals to Southern California over several decades.

But since Brightline purchased what used to be XpressWest in 2018, new plans have emerged for connectivity to Las Vegas’ biggest tourism market.

Under the former XpressWest plan, company officials were expecting travelers to drive and park in Victorville then ride the train to Las Vegas. Eventually, a plan to add more track west to Palmdale, California, where the California High-Speed Rail system would pass through, was hatched.

Under Brightline, the Palmdale connection was kept, but it also added a link to Rancho Cucamonga by way of Cajon Pass. Both Palmdale and Rancho Cucamonga are cited as transit hubs that would connect travelers with Metrolink, Southern California’s commuter rail system.

Also, Seidman said plans are in the works to develop an underground people-mover system between the planned Rancho Cucamonga station and Ontario International Airport through an operation familiar to Las Vegans — the Boring Co.

Boring developed the three-stop, $52.5 million Convention Center Loop transit system at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Seidman told the Destination Services Association Las Vegas, a group of more than 200 tourist companies, about the planned $8 billion rail service project. A corporate Brightline official said it’s unclear when ground would be broken on the project.

Shelley Stepanek, president of the association, said Seidman’s presentation was great for members to learn more about what the company has in store, but she still sees flaws in Brightline’s strategy, especially for travelers who would take the train from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.

“When it drops you off in L.A., you’re still going to have to rent a car somewhere there,” Stepanek said.

“For those coming (from Southern California), they can run up and down the Strip in taxis,” she said, noting Southern Nevada’s attractions are in close to each other while those in L.A. are spread out.

“And it’s also four or five years out,” Stepanik said. “I think it was a good presentation because many of us didn’t know too much about it. But for me, I don’t think I’d do it.”

Stepanik said she plans to do more research on Brightline when she makes one of her frequent trips to South Florida. Brightline operates between Miami and West Palm Beach through Fort Lauderdale and is building an extension to Orlando with plans to go west to Tampa.

More details

Other details from Seidman’s presentation:

■ The train service from Southern California would be beneficial to Southern Nevada tourism because guests probably would stay two to three nights at a hotel or resort and would come for a special event, such as a sporting event or concert.

■ Brightline officials expect to capture 22 percent of the traveler market share when fully operational. That would take 3 million vehicles off the road over a year’s time and remove 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air and save an estimated 3.3 billion gallons of gasoline.

■ Customers on Brightline trains will have an onboard concierge service to make reservations en route, meal and drink service, free WiFi and charging stations, checked baggage, tiers of service classes and state-of-the-art restrooms. Train cars also will be pet-friendly.

■ The Brightline station in Las Vegas will have a Las Vegas Boulevard address and be located between Blue Diamond and Warm Springs roads. It’s expected to become a transportation hub so that train passengers can reach resort and attraction destinations.

■ The project is expected to produce 40,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs, Seidman said.

■ Each train would be capable of transporting 450 to 500 passengers at a time and could operate with departures every 45 minutes.

■ The all-electric train system would have power generating systems along the route, which generally would run within the median of Interstate 15 to Victorville.

This story has been updated to reflect that it’s unclear when groundbreaking for the project will take place.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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