Bombardier Transportation signed a contract with the Las Vegas Monorail Company in 2000 to design and build a driverless, urban monorail transportation system east of the Las Vegas Boulevard (‘the Strip’) in the heart of the resort. The seven-station route formed an extension of the original 1.6km (one mile) monorail route which opened in 1993 between the MGM Grand and Bally’s hotels.
In spite of the city’s need for improved mobility there were no fixed guideways, automated monorails or light rail urban transit systems until the monorail, discounting the short free-access Mandalay Bay-Luxor-Excalibur and Monte Carlo-Bellagio inter-hotel systems on the west of the Strip.
The first leg of the Las Vegas Monorail was by far the most scrutinized project in Nevada’s history, with more than three years of public hearings and costly independent examinations. There was no tax money available to build the system, although the $65m project was finally given the go-ahead in September 2000.
Driverless urban transit system project
Driverless urban transit systems are expensive to build, and taxpayers usually do not want to raise their taxes to build them, especially in this setting where users are more likely to be visitors than residents. To overcome this problem Las Vegas resorts, led by Park Place Entertainment and MGM Mirage, raised finances without using any public funds.
The sponsoring resorts invested a total of $30m, and the Las Vegas Monorail Team, led by Bombardier and Granite Construction, invested an additional $18.5m. The rest of the required capital was financed by tax-exempt non-recourse revenue bonds tied to anticipated fare box and advertising revenue.
Under a turnkey contract, the system was built by Bombardier with a maintenance and operation contract for five years, which may be extended by another two terms.