By Brooke Edwards
VICTORVILLE, Calif. — Asking most Victorvillians about riding a high-speed train to Las Vegas is a bit like asking us about California’s balanced budget: We’ll believe it when we see it. After all, we’ve been hearing about a proposed train for at least 20 years and have yet to see a single railroad tie lessen the 200-mile gap across the Mojave Desert.
We’re certainly not aghast at outsiders questioning the logic of DesertXpress leaving from or arriving in Victorville. Even most who adore their desert haven are under no delusions about its lure for tourists. But with developers of DesertXpress planning to break ground on the Victorville terminus this year, residents are growing intrigued.
“I would do it at least once just to do it,” says Dustin Ricks, 22, of jumping onboard after the train’s scheduled 2014 launch.
Wynell Fishburne, 72, agrees, explaining, “It would just be kind of fun to do something different like that.”
But once that novelty fades, it’ll of course be largely a numbers game.
DesertXpress may cost $50 each way. For a couple driving one of the raised trucks with massive tires that populate Victorville, it might mean an extra $30 to switch to rail—but could cost an Accord-driving family of four 10 times more.
“If it’s a carload full of people then it’s definitely cheaper to split the gas and drive up there than pay 50 bucks each,” Ricks says. “But if you’re by yourself and in a hurry …”
If time is money, the train wins. Although we Victorvillians love our car cocoons as much as the next Southern Californian, the three-hour drive to Vegas can become an intolerable six hours on holidays. Not accounting for parking, security, etc., compare that with 84 minutes on a luxury train and Leslie Musselman, 34, would opt to ride the rails “in a heartbeat. … You’d be so much more relaxed when you get there.”
But for Victorville’s 110,000 residents, DesertXpress is about more than getting to the blackjack tables faster. With 16 percent unemployment and half the workforce commuting up to two hours, adding a couple hundred local jobs for train maintenance is no small matter. The resulting sales and property revenue also would be a boon for the cash-strapped city, with officials touting a master-planned community that will shift the center of Victorville north.
It’s not just about Victorville, either. The city is inextricably linked to 350,000 residents of the Victor Valley, which also includes Hesperia, Adelanto and Apple Valley—all of which have a stake in a 10,500-acre redevelopment agency surrounding former George Air Force Base. And with the train’s planned terminus inside that region, every local city stands to benefit from the tax increment DesertXpress should bring.