Tag Archives: Mandalay Bay Las Vegas

On to Mandalay Bay

What is next for the Las Vegas Monorail?

When it comes to transportation options along the Strip, perhaps the most visible yet misunderstood is the Las Vegas Monorail.

Yes, the Las Vegas Monorail Co., a privately held 501(c) 4 not-for-profit company, went into voluntary bankruptcy during the recession when it couldn’t pay the interest on more than $400 million in capital debt.

But today the 4-mile line hauls more than 15,000 tourists a day, turns an operating profit and it has an appetite for expansion.

On Nov. 7, 2012, the company emerged from Chapter 11 under a reorganization plan that canceled the prior debt. In exchange, the bondholder received two series of current interest bonds, Series A totaling $10 million due in 2019, and Series B totaling $3 million due in 2055. Today, the company earns enough money from ticket sales and advertising to completely pay for all of the operations, debt obligations, and maintenance of the entire system.

The success of the system has brought quite a lot of interest from various people, places, organizations, and groups who want to see the monorail expand. Perhaps the most asked question is about the extension of the monorail to McCarran International Airport.

About 70 percent of the people that arrive at the airport are going to the Strip. The only option from McCarran to the Strip is surface transportation, which is a major livelihood for the cab, limo and shuttle drivers. However, at peak times, there are delays.

“From a bigger picture standpoint, we need to look at all of the options on the table and what is best for the community,” said said Ingrid Reisman, vice president, and chief marketing officer for the monorail. “We (the monorail) are so close to McCarran, yet so far away with a station at the MGM Grand … I don’t think that there is just one solution that will solve that particular traffic movement. I believe that there should be multiple solutions and that the monorail should be one of them.”

Other ideas have included the expansion of the monorail north to Fremont Street, and most recently to UNLV.

“Could that be something in the future? It could be, but we need to look at our most critical transportation needs and prioritize them,” said Reisman. “Right now, as a not-for- profit company, those two expansions are not something that we could fund and expect for it to pay for itself, but they might be viable extensions in the future.”

Recently, the monorail company joined the Regional Transportation Commission in a study to look at the resort corridor and identify transportation shortcomings. The result of that study is the Transportation Investment Business Plan and one of the recommendations is to extend the monorail service to the Mandalay Bay.

“Obviously we agree with that, it makes sense as the primary expansion of an existing 4-mile system to the newly expanded Mandalay Bay convention facility. It would give Las Vegas a huge competitive advantage in the convention market,” Reisman said.

Sketch level plans for an extension from MGM to Mandalay Bay are already being developed by the monorail’s planning team with an alignment and ridership study included. Initial estimates are that $100 million would be needed to construct the 1-mile of track, the station, and electronic infrastructure. A good portion of that money is projected to be in the form of debt, but the actual financial plan has yet to be determined.

Also, the Transportation Investment Business Plan is recommending that the monorail add a stop at the Sands Expo and Convention Center so that all three major convention facilities would be connected.

The monorail is on track to carry 4.7 million people in 2015. This system is unique compared to other similar transportation systems in the country, in that it does not have regular commuters. The entire customer base changes approximately every three days. Because of its popularity with the tourists, the system also reduces the number of vehicle miles traveled in the resort corridor by 2 million, along with a reduction of the accompanying exhaust emissions (carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxide), emitted into the air by 26 tons annually.

The monorail configuration is four cars per train with an average of five to eight trains running during the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. On Saturdays, service is extended to 3 a.m.

During busy convention periods, the trains can be expanded to eight cars if needed, but the company has found it to be more convenient for the riders to increase the number of trains on the track, which shortens wait times at the stations. The average wait time at each station is four to seven minutes; the entire trip from the SLS Station at Sahara Avenue to the MGM Grand is approximately 15 minutes.

It is interesting to note that while the monorail only serves the east side of the Strip, according to customer surveys, 40 to 45 percent of the customers stay in hotels on the west side of the Strip. Those surveys also rank “customer satisfaction” highest for convenience, cleanliness and safety.

The maintenance teams regularly service the trains to make sure they are in smooth operating order. Malfunctioning parts are diagnosed at the facility or sent back to the manufacturer for replacement. Photo by Craig A. Ruark

The maintenance teams regularly service the trains to make sure they are in smooth operating order. Malfunctioning parts are diagnosed at the facility or sent back to the manufacturer for replacement. Photo by Craig A. Ruark

And safety is important to all involved. There are 96 cameras throughout the stations, capturing all areas of the system. Each train has eight cameras to cover all areas of each train car. Also, each car has an ‘e-tel’ button so passengers can communicate directly with the central control room at any time if needed.

Should a train develop a mechanical problem, there are more than 400 sensors and switches on every station platform level monitoring the health of all systems at all times. While there is a place for a driver to sit, each train is unmanned and operated remotely by a “wayside control unit” in the main computer server room. There are also additional control units throughout the system, which regulate and track the position of every train at all times and regulate the spacing of trains.

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Solar projects gaining on commercial rooftops

The amount of solar energy that hits one square mile of Earth in one year is equivalent to the energy produced from four million barrels of oil. Of course, converting 100 percent of that solar energy is a difficult proposition given the fact that today’s rooftop photovoltaic technology is only capable of converting 15 percent of the Sun’s energy into electricity. However, many companies have committed millions of dollars toward capturing and utilizing as much of that solar energy as possible in order to offset their reliance on fossil fuel energy.

One such company is MGM Grand International, and its showpiece can be seen from the air as you pass over the Mandalay Bay. In August, the Mandalay Bay Convention Center will complete an expansion of the convention facility making it the fifth largest in the United States with 2.1 million square feet of space under a single roof.

The roof of that facility is already home to the second largest rooftop photovoltaic array in the world, and the completed expansion will increase the total number of panels to 21,324 and the capability to generate 6.5-megawatts of AC power, enough energy to power 1,300 homes. The electricity generated from this system will be used to offset 26 percent of the Mandalay Bay’s power demand. This, in turn, will also lower demand on the southern Nevada electricity grid at the hottest time of the day. The project diminishes the need to import energy from outside the local energy system and reduces energy costs for the entire Las Vegas system.

The project is a partnership between MGM International and NRG Energy, Inc., under an agreement where the Mandalay Bay property will purchase the power from NRG at a very competitive rate over the lifetime of the contract. This allows the hotel to predict the exact cost for 26 percent of its power use regardless of NV Energy’s rates.

In addition to generating power, this project also helps to clean the air by displacing approximately 6,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), emissions that would be generated from fossil fuel power plants. That is about the equivalent of taking the emissions of 1,300 automobiles off the road.

When the project was initiated in 2013, Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International stated, “Integrating environmentally responsible practices throughout our operations has been a key pillar in MGM Resorts’ strategic sustainability plan. Partnering with NRG to install the solar rooftop at Mandalay Bay highlights a major milestone in our efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce our consumption of the planet’s limited resources.”

While there are few places in the U.S. with as much rooftop space as Mandalay Bay, rooftop photovoltaic systems are being embraced by Corporate America. Wal-Mart has been the quickest to go solar, with 105.1 MW of power currently installed on its stores. The company is working in California, Arizona, and a super store in Gardnerville, Nevada, and plans to be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2020. Kohl’s, Costco, and Ikea stores are also going solar on a nationwide basis, and collectively the three are generating 137.4 MW of power.

At the end of 2014, according to its Letter to Shareholders, SolarCity had 190,000 U.S. customers with one gigawatt of combined generated power. With Google’s backing, the company expects to install another 25,000 new solar households, generating another 500 MW of power.

In Nevada, SolarCity employs more than 1,000 customer service and installation personnel and installs between 12 and 20 rooftop systems per day.

According to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “From now through 2016, the use of solar power is projected to increase faster than any other source of energy, both renewable and non-renewable.”

– See more at: http://businesspress.vegas/technology/solar-projects-gaining-commercial-rooftops#sthash.4b3QX4Me.dpuf