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Washington, DC (CNN)The Las Vegas Monorail Company filed for bankruptcy this week, nearly six months after its last passenger boarded, as transportation businesses continue to struggle with fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The monorail shut down on March 18 and has yet to reopen. Transit systems worldwide have seen ridership drop and face increased costs to clean and sanitize their trains and buses.
But Vegas visitors should still have a chance to ride the monorail on future trips.
The bankruptcy filing is part of the monorail’s agreement to sell itself to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which made a bid for up to $24.3 million for the company. The authority plans to continue to operate the monorail if the acquisition is successfully completed.
A purchase of the monorail by the authority could clear the way for an expansion of Loop, an underground ride service in Tesla vehicles from Elon Musk’s The Boring Company. The Loop would no longer be restricted by the monorail’s non-compete rights. Two tunnels for the Loop were completed in May and the system is expected to open in January 2021.
A spokeswoman for the authority declined to say if service levels will remain consistent if the acquisition is completed. Other bidders still could make offers to acquire the monorail in bankruptcy court.
How much additional interest there will be for a monorail system is unclear. US monorails are generally more of a novelty than a serious and integral part of city transportation systems.
Las Vegas’s 3.9-mile system originally opened in 2004. It carries five million riders a year, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
Aside from Disney World resorts, the only American monorails are in Las Vegas and Seattle, according to Keith Walls, vice president of the Monorail Society, an organization that promotes awareness of monorails. Seattle’s is only about a mile in length. Most monorails worldwide are in Asia, Wells said. A drawback of monorails is that it’s hard for trains to switch from track to track, which can be problematic if a city wants an expansive, multi-line train system.
Jacksonville, Florida is in the early steps of converting its 2.5-mile monorail to an elevated roadway for autonomous vehicles. Its system originally opened in 1989, but never reached full potential, according to a spokesman with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. Initial plans to expand it throughout the city were abandoned.
According to Walls, Las Vegas’s monorail would have been more successful if it had connected to the McCarran International Airport and more local destinations.
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