Las Vegas Sun

June 25, 2019

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RTC of Southern Nevada

Easing your commute, one traffic light at a time

RTC intro native

Transportation shapes all of our lives in a multitude of ways. It can influence where we live, where we work, where our children go to school and how we spend our time. According to 2016 U.S. Census data, people in Clark County had an average commute of 24.7 minutes to work each way — almost 50 minutes a day and about 247 minutes every workweek.

The way we travel shapes our daily experience as individuals and affects the overall health of our city. As such, coordinating and streamlining the travel experience of the 2.1 million people living in the Las Vegas Valley is a tall order. Ensuring that our communities run smoothly requires complex planning, engineering, advancing technology and a keen eye looking toward the future.

By 2025, the population of Clark County is estimated to reach 2.7 million, with more than 53.1 million annual visitors. Here’s a glimpse of how our transportation infrastructure is managed today.

Transportation planning and management

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada manages transit, traffic and metropolitan planning, and administers Southern Nevada Strong, a collaborative program dedicated to bettering our community. It’s the only agency in the country to handle all four within a single organization.

While it may stand alone among its other metropolitan counterparts, coordinating all methods of travel within one place represents a holistic approach to the valley’s many transportation demands.

Here are a few of the many facets of transportation managed by the RTC:

• 39 bus routes

• 97 dynamic message signs

• 14 travel time signs

• 547 freeway flow detectors

• 496 arterial cameras

• 150 freeway cameras

• 400 fixed-route transit buses

• 3,408 bus stops

• 1,400 traffic signals

• 400 fixed-route transit buses

• 1,000 miles of bike routes, lanes and shared-use paths

• 21 bike-share stations

• 180 bikes available for use

Did you know?

On an average weekday, the public transportation system experiences 175,000 passenger trips. During an average month, 54,000 bikes are transported.

According to RTC data, there were 64 million passenger trips in the 2017 fiscal year. In addition, 600,000 bikes were transported during that time.

According to Census data from 2015, 78.4 percent of people in Clark County drove alone as their most common method of travel; 9.1 percent carpooled and 4.5 percent used public transportation.

How much of your commute is being coordinated?

Traffic and traffic patterns are constantly being monitored and controlled — oftentimes in ways you may not notice.

• Arterial and freeway cameras are typically closed-circuit television video feeds that display traffic in real time. The videos are live-streamed to a monitoring center, where dispatchers review the feed and report relevant traffic information. These feeds are shared with local news stations. This is used to inform traffic reports, travel time estimates and detour information, among other things. The images are not saved or used for any purposes other than real-time reporting. Arterial cameras are often mounted on traffic lights, and freeway cameras are located in multiple places along the corridor.

These cameras are not the same as road safety cameras, which take pictures of traffic violations (such as speeding or running red lights) and are linked to automatic ticketing systems. Arterial and freeway cameras exist primarily to inform the public about traffic conditions.

• Ramp meters are the traffic lights that sit above freeway entrances to regulate the flow of traffic on the freeway. During low-traffic times, the lights may be turned off completely, but during high-traffic times, they help moderate the flow of incoming traffic to reduce traffic jams.

• Freeway flow detectors are basically sophisticated motion detectors that are placed along a freeway corridor to collect data about vehicle volume and passage rates. This information is used to inform traffic management initiatives, such as signal and ramp controls. They often look like medium-sized gray boxes along freeway barriers.

What’s ahead

An initiative would put a light rail system or bus rapid transit along the Maryland Parkway corridor. The proposed route would run from McCarran International Airport to downtown Las Vegas — an 8.7-mile stretch that could greatly enhance the mobility of the people who live, work and go to school along Maryland Parkway.