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LA-Vegas high-speed rail tickets could be $400 round-trip

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(The Center Square) – A round trip ticket from Los Angeles to Las Vegas on a planned high-speed rail line could eventually cost up to $400, the project’s developer says.

The founder and chairman of Brightline, the company developing the LA-Vegas rail line, told the Los Angeles Times he will one day charge $400 for a round trip. As of the time of publication, roundtrip flights for the route range — which take just over an hour — from $40 (cheapest) to $200 (peak, same-day) for a standard seat.

The typical time to drive from LA to Vegas is four to five hours, while the Brightline train will take only 2 hours. However, with the Brightline terminus located in Rancho Cucamonga, those departing from Los Angeles would need to drive one to two hours to reach the station, making the journey roughly equivalent in time.

Passengers who choose not to drive to Rancho Cucamonga could take a Metrolink train of the likes that connects cities all across California, albeit at an average speed of 34 miles per hour.

It’s likely Brightline will employ the same kind of variable, demand-based pricing that it does on its Florida line, the only privately-owned-and-operated rail line in the United States. On that line, connecting Miami to Orlando — a similar distance from LA to Vegas, round trip tickets can be as cheap as $49 each way for entry-level business class seats, or as little as $119 each way for first-class seats with included food, drinks and alcohol, as well as conference room and lounge access.

While the Brightline project, expected to be finished by the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, is receiving $6.5 billion in government support — $3 billion in grants and another $3.5 billion in allowed issuance of tax-exempt transportation bonds — California’s other high speed rail line under development is expected to cost taxpayers at least $35 billion for its initial operating segment. This government-funded program, developed by the California High Speed Rail Authority, will connect the relatively sparsely populated Central Valley, linking the cities of Merced and Bakersfield.

The 218-mile Brightline project is expected to carry 11.1 million passengers on one-way trips each year, compared to the projected 6.61 million one-way passengers the initial CAHSR segment is expected to carry. This means the Brightline project will cost $55 million per mile, or approximately $5 million per mile per passenger in its first year. CAHSR, meanwhile, will cost $205 million per mile, or approximately $31 million per mile per passenger in its first year, or 662% more than Brightline per mile per expected first-year passenger.

However, CAHSR is expecting to sell tickets on the eventual LA to San Francisco route for $86 each way, which, while still more expensive than flying, could offer better value to customers than the LA to Vegas line.

With a new Prius averaging up to 57 combined miles per gallon, and California gas prices averaging $4.82 per gallon, gasoline prices for driving from LA to Vegas could cost under $20. Parking service Spot Hero says the average price of an overnight Vegas parking spot ranges from $15-$25, suggesting a two-night trip to Vegas via a new Prius could cost $80 in gas and parking, or $40 if split between two people.

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