Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011 | 9:30 p.m.
Map of Water Street District
S. Water Street, Henderson
Map of Fremont Street Experience
425 Fremont St, Las Vegas
Officials in Henderson and Las Vegas hope new express bus lines that will link cities’ downtown areas and triple transit service along Boulder Highway will spur activity and development.
“This was a longtime coming, much needed, much wanted and much appreciated,” said Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen. “It will really help the development of our downtown and our redevelopment area.”
The Regional Transportation Commission held a kickoff event for the new service Thursday with competing bands from Basic and Foothills high schools. Actual service will begin Sept. 18.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said when she first moved to Southern Nevada she would ride a horse around town. “I love the fact that we can go now back and forth on express vehicles,” she said.
Officials said they hope the service will benefit both communities.
Goodman encouraged her hosts at the Henderson Events Plaza to use the new buses to go to downtown Las Vegas. “Come on down to the city and we’ll come visit often,” she said.
And the price can’t be beat, she said. “What a bargain, $2. You can’t even get down there with gasoline in your car for that.”
The new express service is actually two bus lines.
The Henderson and Downtown Express will run from Nevada State College in Henderson, stop along Water Street in downtown Henderson and then continue down Boulder Highway, making limited stops on its way to the Bonneville Transit Center in downtown Las Vegas.
The Boulder Highway Express will run from the Galleria at Sunset mall to the Bonneville Transit Center, making more frequent stops on Boulder Highway.
Between the two lines, transit service on Boulder Highway will be about triple what it has been, commission General Manager Jacob Snow said.
The Henderson and Downtown Express line will be quick, making the trips between the two cities in about 40 minutes. The Boulder Highway line will make more stops and operate like a light rail line, Snow said.
Both will use new buses already in service on the Strip and will take advantage of new bus-only lanes on the shoulders of Boulder Highway as well as new stations, many with raised platforms and ticket vending machines.
The project to add the bus lanes and stations cost about $40 million, with about $22 million coming from federal stimulus money.
Money from a separate federal grant will help operate the express lines for the next three years, even though the commission is cutting bus services in other areas because of budget problems.
Commission chair Larry Brown said the lines are an “opportunity to truly bridge and connect two great cities, two great downtowns.”
Water Street in Henderson also got a makeover in preparation for the new bus lines.
Henderson was working on improvements to Water Street between Lake Mead Parkway and Pacific Avenue, so the commission and the city agreed to include the new bus stops in the project, with the commission reimbursing $700,000 for part of the cost of improvements and the bus stops.
While that construction has been difficult for businesses in the area, it should be over about the same time the bus lines begin service.
Transportation officials say the improvements and new bus lines should help businesses in the long run.
With the buses, Water Street becomes a prime local example of a concept planners call a “complete street,” one that is accessible to all modes of transportation, including cars, bicycles, pedestrians and mass transit.
Water Street now has wide sidewalks, attractive bus stops and narrow lanes for vehicles, helping to slow them down.
The complete streets “foster economic development and economic activity because they draw people to them,” Snow said.
It also helps encourage people to use the bus lines, Snow said. “This is a real comfortable place to be if you’re going to take transit. You feel comfortable walking down the street.”
Unlike other cities, jobs in the valley are mostly concentrated in downtown Las Vegas and in the resort corridor, making it easier to connect the major shopping and entertainment areas to the bedroom communities as well as the job centers.
“That’s where people want to go, so it’s really important to connect those two downtowns,” Snow said.
Brown, who is a Clark County commissioner for the northwest valley, said more complete streets will be developed as the valley continues to grow.
“We’re still a very young community, so these opportunities to build the complete street into all our public infrastructure are easy to do,” he said. “You look at Water Street, and the city of Henderson has done a great job of redeveloping that into a complete street.”
As new areas are built, pedestrian, transit and bicycle facilities will be mandated, Brown said. For existing areas, changes will come more gradually. “We (will)...try to get the opportunity to retrofit of some of our more mature areas,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley said she is a frequent customer at some of the shops on Water Street, which has a quaint feel with many locally owned small businesses.
“Water Street is a remarkable little snapshot in time, of what our past was, our present is and what our future can be. And this transportation system is going to help with that,” she said.