DesertXPress is a BAD idea.
For those of you who don't know, DesertXPress is a privately-funded consortium determined to build a high-speed train system from Southern California to Las Vegas, including a connection to the Vegas monorail system. The all-electric train wants to charge around $100 round trip and would get people from SoCal to Vegas in a little under an hour and a half. What's not to love, right?
Except that "Southern California" in this case translates to "Victorville."
I grew up in the high desert. (Wrightwood, to be precise.) I understand Vegas traffic- we'd call it Friday Night Freak-Out. Everyone knew up there that you didn't want to be on I-15 heading up the pass on a Friday night, nor down the pass Sunday morning. And on the first day of a three-day weekend? You'd be better off hiking. But that's just the thing. The traffic we feared wasn't in the wide, long, exit-free superhighway that stretches across the desert like a monotonous asphalt ribbon of doom past Apple Valley. Getting to, say, Barstow wasn't a problem on Friday nights. It was the Cajon Pass that was essentially unnavigable. You know, the stretch of freeway that LA drivers would have to navigate to get to a Victorville rail terminal.
Not only is there no rail connection* between Victorville and Los Angeles (which would be ideal for DesertXPress' success), but there is no public transport connection whatsoever. The only, tenuous link between the desert and the rest of the LA basin, the Victor Valley Commuter, was severed back in 2006 due to funding problems. (I used to ride the giant, peach-and-turquoise coaches often.) So the question that we should ask of DesertXPress is, who wants to drive their car through the traffic-choked LA freeways, up the equally traffic-choked Cajon Pass, and then pay for a train ride that will get them around the part of the Vegas drive that's normally smooth sailing?
Many commenters over at Curbed LA have suggested that the train be extended to Palmdale, where there is currently Metrolink service 7 days a week, and where the California High-Speed Rail system will eventually make a stop. Others have gone so far as to suggest that DesertXPress trains could run down the CA-HSR corridor, providing a single-seat ride into Union Station. (NOTE: It was pointed out to me via e-mail that this idea is also held by the CEO of DesertXPress. No comment on it from CA-HSR yet.) But spending millions on a high-speed rail line to Victorville is just a lousy idea.
*There is technically a rail link between LA and Victorville- theSouthwest Chief
runs one train daily in each direction. The train from LA arrives in VV around 2200, and the return leaves VV around 0300.