Monorail boosts ridership in 2013, but revenue still drops

The Las Vegas Monorail train as it leaves the Convention Center Station, Monday Nov. 14, 2011

LV Monorail

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

Annual ridership for the Las Vegas Monorail Co. went up for the first time in five years in 2013, the company said, but revenue trends continued the downward spiral that began in 2006.

The company that operates the 3.9-mile elevated transit system east of the Las Vegas Strip had 4.17 million riders in 2013, 1 percent more than 2012’s total.

The company generated $18.4 million for the year, 1.5 percent less than in 2012.

A spokeswoman for the company said the higher ridership and lower revenue was a result of more wholesale sales contracts being in place in 2013 after the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2012.

Ingrid Reisman, vice president of corporate communications for the company, said that when the monorail emerged from bankruptcy in November 2012 it was allowed to put sales contracts back in place with third-party concessionaires that offer tickets at discounted rates. As a result, even though more passengers rode the system, it generated less money.

Company officials are optimistic that ridership and revenue trends will increase in 2014 with the opening of Caesars Entertainment’s Linq project in February and the SLS Hotel, formerly the Sahara, in the third quarter. About 500 people a day, mostly passengers transferring from buses, ride the monorail from the north end of the line at the station at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road across the street from the SLS property.

Reisman said the monorail saw strong ridership during this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, and the year’s convention calendar presents the potential for greater usage in 2014.

Over the past nine years, ridership peaked at 10.3 million passengers in 2005 when the nonprofit company took over management of the system and revenue hit $31.5 million in 2006, according to figures from the Las Vegas Monorail Co.’s website. Since 2007, ridership has fallen every year leading to the January 2010 bankruptcy filing.

While some critics have called for the monorail to be dismantled, others say the system would be successful if it were to be extended to McCarran International Airport. While company executives continue to seek investors to pay for an extension, there are no plans to add a McCarran link or new tracks to downtown Las Vegas or the west side of the Strip as initially envisioned when the system opened in 2004.