300 M.P.H. Train Between Ontario and Las Vegas

In reading your article on the proposed “Mag-Lev” service between Ontario and Las Vegas, it seems that the enthusiasts for such schemes confuse technology with magic. The question that should be asked is what technology is appropriate to accomplish the task, not technology for the sake of novelty.

Let’s suppose you can develop a functional “Mag-Lev” system. Why should anyone want to travel at 300 m.p.h. on the surface between Ontario and Las Vegas, when you can fly at almost twice that speed now?

The main problem with the “Mag-Lev” proposal is that it must serve Southern California, not just Ontario if it is to work. All transportation systems require a collector and distribution system. Think about how many people would use a freeway if it had only two sets of on- and off-ramps for each end and those two sets had no surface streets to speak of to connect to. To get large numbers of people to ride this service will require a very large parking lot in Ontario. Even here the airlines have the “Mag-Lev” beat, since the airlines fly out of several regional airports. It is faster to drive to a regional airport than to Ontario for most people in Southern California.

A high-speed surface system to Las Vegas is practical, Mag-Lev is not. The reason for this is the high cost of building Mag-Lev in an urban environment, which is where the ridership is. The solution is a rail system much like the French TGV. The TGV can operate like a conventional train on the existing rail network, but can go at very high speeds as well on special rights of way. The true speed of a service is the travel time from door to door, not terminal to terminal.


With upgrading, the existing rail network in Southern California can be used as a collector from Santa Barbara to San Diego at speeds faster than by car. Beyond San Bernardino the train can open up to very high speed. For most people this service will be faster than also driving to Ontario or to an airport if they want to go to Las Vegas. Such a service can also serve intra-regional travel in Southern California. The “Mag-Lev” can’t.