Study: Rail transport to airport would make Las Vegas more desirable

The Las Vegas Monorail pulls into the Convention Center station on Monday, Nov. 14, 2011.

A study by two Washington-based associations affirms what most local tourism leaders already knew: A rail transportation system serving the airport would make the city a more desirable place to live and visit and would benefit resorts, the meetings industry and the city’s economy.

“A New Partnership: Rail Transit and Convention Growth” was released by the American Public Transportation Association and the U.S. Travel Association on Wednesday as part of the Connecting America Through Transportation conference in Washington, D.C.

The report compares hotel room rates in six cities that have rail connecting their airports to city commerce with five cities that don’t have airport rail, including Las Vegas.

The report’s release has focused new attention on the Las Vegas Monorail, which began operating in 2004 and received permission from the Clark County Commission in 2006 to expand to McCarran International Airport. Monorail officials haven’t been able to raise the capital to pay for an extension.

Although the report says hotels on rail lines linked with airports have room rates and revenue per room that are 10.9 percent higher than in nonrail cities, Las Vegas is an aberration. According to the report, Las Vegas has higher room rates than rail-connected Atlanta; Minneapolis; and Portland, Ore. It also has higher occupancy rates than every other city studied, including rail-connected Chicago, Washington and San Francisco and nonrail Orlando; New Orleans; Sacramento, Calif.; and Tampa, Fla.

Despite the city’s resort successes and its ranking as the nation’s top convention destination, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is developing plans to remodel the Las Vegas Convention Center campus as the Las Vegas Global Business District and include an intermodal transportation component. Details of the plan and how it would link the airport with the convention center and the resort corridor are expected to be outlined next year.

Local transportation experts also are taking into account that today’s millennial generation that is more inclined to use public transportation than other consumers would be making future decisions on where to vacation and conduct business meetings.

Curtis Myles, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Monorail and a member of the LVCVA’s transportation planning committee, said it’s important for Las Vegas to consider options now in order to stay ahead of growing competition.

“Everybody agrees that there would be positive benefits to connecting the airport with our business district, which, in our case, is also a tourism destination,” Myles said. “Technology has changed the way the millennial generation looks at transportation and connecting with people. A recent study showed that people between the ages of 18 to 34 are more inclined to use public transportation instead of buying a car.”

Myles said Las Vegas needs to think in terms of serving those people.

“We need to be smart about how we make our next investment,” Myles said. “We may be winning it all today, but we may not be able to win with the next generation.”