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October 24, 2014

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Q+A: Michael Gallis on the future of cars, traffic and rail on the Las Vegas Strip

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Sam Morris / Sun File Photo

Traffic crawls along southbound Las Vegas Boulevard.

Las Vegas Boulevard, the artery that sustains the region’s economy, is clogged and needs help.

That’s the message that transportation consultant Michael Gallis will give this morning during a breakfast speech hosted by the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance.

Gallis is examining the future of transportation on the Strip in a study with the Regional Transportation Commission.

The Sun spoke with Gallis about the challenges of getting around the Strip, how it hurts the economy and whether rail should be the future.

What are you working on with the Regional Transportation Commission?

It’s a project the RTC has launched to develop the infrastructure that Las Vegas will need to support the next evolution of its economy and growth. It’s focused especially in the core, which is the heart and soul of the Las Vegas economy. That includes the airport, the resort corridor, the convention district, all the way into downtown. What infrastructure do we need?

How does moving around the Strip easily improve the economy?

Economic activity depends on interactions between buyers and sellers. We have a lot of things that are very close to each other, the airport, the downtown, the resort corridor. You can literally see them from each other. But getting from point to point, how much time does it take? Every time I have to wait, stop, look for a connection, it becomes a barrier. That translates into lost income and lost opportunity.

Where does Las Vegas run into problems now?

For the visitor flying in, the friction point of course is the wait time at the airport. Am I going to walk out, get a cab and take off no time wasted? Or am I going to stand in the cab line for over an hour? I’ve done both. There’s no certainty. Movement by vehicle on the Stirp becomes very problematic depending on the time of the day. You can run into congestion. Suddenly (traveling) turns into a very prolonged experience.

What can be done to improve transportation and reduce congestion on the Strip?

Those are the questions we’ve got to answer in the process. We are organizing a large group of stakeholders from across this region to sit together with us and go through the process of understanding where we are today, what are our choices are and how these choices fit together.

Las Vegas already has the Monorail. Is there a need for more rail-based mass transit on the Strip?

When we say mass transit, there are two forms: buses and fixed guideways, meaning rails. Bus ridership in Las Vegas is some of the highest in the United States. The road network has grown remarkably well and effectively. But it’s a new era. Looking at fixed guideway systems as yet another alternative is an extremely important step for us to take.

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