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Las Vegas Monorail ticket sales expected to fall millions of dollars short

Las Vegas Monorail ticket sales are expected to fall millions of dollars short of predictions for 2017 and 2018, according to budget documents the monorail company released last week.

Ticket sales are budgeted to bring in about $21.4 million next year, the lowest amount since 2014.

Across both years, the monorail is budgeted to make about $6.5 million less in ticket sales than was forecast in a Monorail Co.-commissioned ridership study published by BuroHappold Engineering in April 2016. Sales also fell short of the report’s projections in 2016. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The numbers reflect additional competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft, Monorail Co. spokeswoman Ingrid Reisman wrote in an email. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

“While Monorail ridership hasn’t been affected as significantly as taxis and the bus system, there has still been an impact,” Reisman wrote.

That impact wasn’t accounted for in the ridership study, which wrote off Uber and Lyft’s potential affect on the monorail as “negligible.” The study is private, but the Review-Journal obtained a copy.

The dismissal of ride-hailing companies was unwise, said James E. Moore II, director of the University of Southern California’s Transportation Engineering Program.

“I don’t really think it’s sensible to dismiss these technology platforms because they’ve been competing very effectively with taxis, and they’ve been competing on just about every front,” he said.

Dubious forecast

Monorail Co. President and CEO Curtis Myles has said increases in ticket sales are vital for the company to be able to repay $110 million it plans to borrow to finance a mile-long route extension from the MGM Grand to the Shoppes at Mandalay Place.

The Monorail Co. filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 after ticket sales were insufficient to repay the bonds that funded the system’s construction.

The budget numbers for 2017 and 2018 were posted online Dec. 18, one day after the Review-Journal published an article about the about the Monorail Co.’s need for an increase in ridership so it can repay the money it hopes to borrow.

The Monorail Co. has predicted that the new station will increase annual ridership by approximately 2 million people within two years.

Moore reviewed the ridership study and said he finds it credible. However, he remains skeptical of its forecast.

He pointed to the study’s assumption that hotel rooms at Mandalay Bay will generate as many rides as those at other resorts with a monorail station.

“What’s unique about Manadalay Bay is it’s also a convention center,” Moore said. “So the behavior of travelers at Mandalay Bay may be different than travelers at other hotels.”

Moore said that even in the best of circumstances he doesn’t expect the Monorail Co. to recover the money it spends to build the extension.

“I’ll put it another way,” Moore said. “I’m glad it’s not my money.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

(Las Vegas Review-Journal)

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