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Soda ad christens monorail

Jun 24, 2003 9:27 AM

A soft drink ad served as the décor for the first train to run on the planned $650 million, privately-funded monorail on the Las Vegas Strip.

The exterior of the train was painted to look like a giant can of Monster Energy drink to demonstrate the use of "experiential advertising" that backers of the private rail will employ to generate revenue when the train is ready for operation in early 2004.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas Monorail Chairman John Haycock, lines of dancing showgirls and other guests were among those scheduled to be on hand Tuesday at the unveiling ceremony at the convention center.

The route of the planned four-mile track, on the eastern side of the Strip, extends from the MGM Grand Hotel north to the Sahara Hotel, with seven stops at a total of eight casinos and the convention center.

The cars of the train are driverless, "urbanized" versions of the Mark VI cars used to transport visitors of the Walt Disney Resort in Florida, monorail officials said.

Officials of Las Vegas Monorail, which owns the train project, claim it will be the first train system in the world backed entirely by private money. The train also would be "the most technologically-advanced public transportation system in the world," they said.

The company obtained funding for the $650 million transit project using tax-exempt, non-recourse revenue bonds.

In addition to the advertising, backers of the monorail expect to pay down the bond debt with funds from fares charged riders.

Las Vegas Monorail officials said that about 19 million people would use the train each year at first, and they believe that ridership could reach as high as 40 million people in the future.

The monorail system will feature nine trains pulling four cars each, running on rails inside heavy cement supports 20 feet above the ground, except for a station at the convention center that would be 70 feet high.

Running times for the trains would be from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., every day of the year.

Meanwhile, the developer of the monorail, Transit Systems Development, is preparing a plan for extending the route several miles north to downtown Las Vegas.

Clark County Regional Transportation Commission last week authorized the company to start designing and building the planned extension. The extension would cost $394 million, with $170 million in federal funds and the rest coming from bonds and loan guarantees.