Saturday, January 8, 2005

Conventioneers boost monorail receipts
Opening day of CES brings record revenue
By OMAR SOFRADZIJA - REVIEW-JOURNAL

What a difference a convention makes.

A surge of conventioneers at the International Consumer Electronics Show is being credited with giving the Las Vegas Monorail is highest revenue day ever Thursday, the show's first day.

The monorail collected $138,000 in fares that day. While monorail officials could not immediately translate that into a turnstile count, if riders averaged paying the $3 base fare, that would equal around 46,000 riders.

"It was always anticipated we'd move a lot of conventioneers. It appears we're doing that," Todd Walker, a monorail spokesman, said Friday.

"Our ridership is going to end up somewhere around 40,000 and 50,000" a day, Walker said. "That's a solid number."

The strong revenue day was the first glimpse of the troubled monorail's oft-touted potential as a gridlock-breaker at the Las Vegas Convention Center, host of this week's show.

"The monorail running is definitely making a dent in a very busy traffic flow pattern," said Erika Yowell, a spokeswoman with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

The system reopened to the public Dec. 24, after a 107-day shutdown prompted by three incidents of metal parts falling from moving trains in 2004.

One of those incidents happened amid the Men's Apparel Guild In California's annual MAGIC show here in August, leaving some conventioneers scrambling for alternate transportation.

This week, auto traffic was reported to be heavy along Paradise Road and other major streets bordering the Convention Center, which was expected to draw 120,000 people through Sunday, the four-day show's last day.

"Our parking lots have been very busy. They're filling up quickly," Yowell said.

"If travelers have to be in this area, it is moving but it is busy," Yowell said.

In hopes of lessening traffic tie-ups, the center has set up a traffic command post to help regulate traffic and troubleshoot problems.

Also, additional lanes have been added to drop-off and pick-up lanes in front of the center, in hopes of making it easier for cabs and limousines to gain access to the show, Yowell said.

In recent months, authority officials have expressed concerns of hour-long waits for cabs at the center.

Show organizers also have arranged for satellite parking at various nearby hotels, including the Riviera, Hilton and Sahara, all at or near monorail stops, Yowell said.

And organizers have chartered around 200 buses to help shuttle conventioneers between the show and various Strip hotels, Yowell said.

Monorail officials expect continued heavy ridership today, as weekend tourists join the rider mix, before an expected drop-off on Sunday, the show's last day.

"We'll see good numbers," Walker said.

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