Vegas, baby! The route between Southern California and Sin City is one of the most frequently traveled in the United States. Problem is: it’s at least a four-hour trip one-way by car. That’s more than eight hours round-trip — eight hours of driving that could be better spent smoking cigars, feeding your face at the casino’s questionable seafood buffet, and pretending you can actually fake a half-way decent poker face. Thankfully, a huge investment in near-high-speed rail travel along this corridor could cut that travel time in half.
Unless you’re balling on a private jet, traveling between Los Angeles and Vegas is a quick and often cheap flight. However, there’s still the matter of getting to the airport, parking, checking in two hours ahead of time, dealing with TSA’s nonsense, and all the other headaches that come with domestic air travel.
For these reasons, many travelers opt to drive. More than 50 million trips are made between the two cities annually, making the 185-mile route among the most popular and heavily trafficked in the country. On a perfect day, it’s more than four hours by car, but Vegas’ revolving door of mega-conferences and trade shows can push that drive along Interstate 15 to as much as eight hours. That can turn a long weekend trip into a very, very long weekend trip.
Late last month, Brightline announced their acquisition of the long-defunct XpressWest project — a high-speed intercity passenger rail line slated to run between Victorville, California, and Las Vegas. Construction will begin in 2019 with a planned completion date of sometime in 2022. Brightline further plans to expand the new Vegas terminal with 38 acres of land just off the Vegas Strip, where the terminus will serve as a major travel hub for buses, shuttles, and taxis.
For decades, rail travel in the United States has been a bit, let’s say, lacking. Compared to the rest of the world — Switzerland’s insanely efficient rail system and the bullet trains throughout Japan come to mind — it’s long puzzled Americans why train travel in our country is so damn inefficient. This might just be the next step is helping us sort of catch up.
Brightline is currently operating in South Florida from Miami, through Fort Lauderdale, and up to West Palm Beach. They’re already expanding further northward to Orlando with plans to reach Tampa in the near future. So, while high-speed rail service has been a stunted promise for decades, it seems Brightline could indeed pave a “bright” way forward for domestic train travel.