Roundtrip Train Ride from Rancho Cucamonga to Vegas – Would You Pay $400?

Posted on: March 8, 2024, 04:06h. 

Last updated on: March 11, 2024, 11:42h.

Commuting back and forth from Southern California by high-speed rail won’t only take longer than flying, it was revealed this week. It will also cost more.

Brightline West high-speed rail train
An undated rendering depicts the Brightline West high-speed rail train from Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. (Image: Brightline West)

The bad news came directly from Brightline founder Wes Edens, who told the L.A. Times that his company “will eventually charge more than $400 for a round trip from Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga.”

Brightline West will cover the 218 miles at speeds of up to 200 mph, mostly along the Interstate 15 right-of-way. Light rail connections will carry passengers the 37 additional miles east from LA.

That will make the trip 2 hours and 10 minutes each way. Figuring in an hour for light rail, that’s more than twice as long as an average flight from L.A. to Las Vegas, at a roundtrip price of $75 more than flying.

Brightline estimates that 50 million people travel the route per year, 85% of them in cars.

“They’ll have to drive past our train station (in traffic) and then watch the trains whiz by them at 220 mph,” Edens, a private equity billionaire, told the Times. “It’ll be phenomenal.”

Ground is scheduled to be broken this spring, with an eye toward opening in time for the 2028 Olympics in L.A.

Off the Rails

That’s if Brightline West even gets going. The Biden administration has poured $3 billion taxpayer dollars into the project, along with access to $3.5 billion in tax-exempt bonds. However, nearly half of its $12 billion budget is still unaccounted for.

And now, the project faces swift and fierce pushback to the ticket price revelation.

“Who in their right mind would pay that amount when flying or driving, in most cases, costs much less?” Apple Valley resident Dana Bingham wrote in a letter to the L.A. Times editor. “Yes, the train seems to be more relaxing than flying and easier than driving. But a one-way fare of $80 seems to make much more sense. If the company doesn’t think it can make money at that price, it should just stop now and give any federal money for the project back so it can be used for something else.”

Numerous high-speed rail projects have failed in the U.S., where driving is cheaper and population centers are farther apart than in Europe, where they are commonplace and profitable.

In fact, talk of a Vegas to L.A. bullet train traces back to 2005, when Tony Marnell II, founder of the Rio, could not get his proposed XpressWest system to Victorville, Calif. out of the station.

A Brightline rail line in Florida has failed to meet ridership projections since its 2018 launch. According to a public bond filing, it logged an operating loss of $190 million during the first nine months of 2023. And a Brightline train from L.A. to San Francisco has tripled its original budget to $100 billion, and experienced significant construction delays since breaking ground in 2015.

“I wish them well,” Robert Poole, director of transportation policy for the Reason Foundation, told the Times. “I hope the plan works. But I’m skeptical.”