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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                  January 29, 2006

Release M-9-06


 

MAYOR INSPECTS LAS VEGAS MONORAIL TO WRAP UP MAINLAND TRIP

 

            Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann concluded his Mainland trip by riding and inspecting the Las Vegas Monorail and visiting with officials of Transmax Group, which led the project’s financing, and Bombardier, which developed and operates the system.

            According to Transmax officials, the Las Vegas system is the first and only modern-era rapid transit system in North America that was privately financed, without government funds.

            “The private sector participation in the system is overwhelming,” said Hannemann. “I came away with ideas on how to encourage and entice public-private partnerships to finance Honolulu’s mass transit system.”

            In addition to substantial financial support from many hotels and casinos, the Las Vegas Monorail also sought other corporate sponsorship for its trains and stations. For example, the giant Nextel-Sprint wireless communications firm sponsors the monorail station at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The Sprint station has a 15,000-square-foot wireless communications center featuring retail space, concierge service and a high-tech briefing center that people have to walk past to access the convention center. That sponsorship generates $2 million a year for the monorail system.          

            According to Bombardier officials, the $650 million Las Vegas Monorail came in “on budget, on time.” It began operating in 2004, and suffered some initial operational problems.

            “I was interested to learn how they overcame their early difficulties and transitioned to what is now a smooth operation that’s running in the black,” Hannemann said. “A key advantage is that Bombardier was contracted to design, build, operate and maintain the Las Vegas Monorail. That way, you’re able to hold the contractor’s feet to the fire when problems occur.”

            Hannemann said the fully automated system is heavily used by tourists. Ridership runs from 25,000 to 50,000 passengers per day, with local residents paying one dollar and everyone else five dollars per ride. There are seven stations along the four-mile line, and trains stop every three to four minutes.  Officials are planning to expand the monorail to serve McCarran International Airport and other areas, which is expected to increase the number of LasVegas residents who ride it.

            Bombardier also developed the Vancouver, B.C., Skytrain, which Hannemann inspected last Monday with Honolulu City Councilmen Todd Apo and Gary Okino, to begin his trip.           

            Between Vancouver and Las Vegas, Hannemann spent three days in Washington, D.C., where he attended the 74th Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He said, “I found the discussions the mayors had on emergency preparedness to be very useful for Honolulu. We heard first-hand the lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. In addition, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton briefed us on the ongoing challenges municipalities face in obtaining federal funds from Washington.”

            While in the nation’s capital, Hannemann called on Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development appropriations subcommittee that will be a key to Honolulu obtaining federal funding for mass transit. Hannemann also met with Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Bill Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association. South Korea’s ambassador to the United States, Lee Tae Sik, invited Mayor Hannemann to a meeting to discuss tourism and transportation opportunities in Korea and Honolulu.          

            Mayor Hannemann returns to Honolulu today.

                       

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Contact:

              Bill Brennan, 527-6928

              Mark Matsunaga, 527-5767

Monday, January 30, 2006

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