Las Vegas Sun

January 23, 2018

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Las Vegas scores high marks in public transit report

Many Southern Nevadans live in sprawling suburbs connected by large arterial roads and wide freeways, but not everyone has a car.

And if you don’t, you likely rely on public transit to get to and from work each day. Those who match that description apparently are lucky to live in Las Vegas.

A new report indicates the Las Vegas Valley’s public bus system ranks high in getting vehicle-less people to work.

The report from the Brookings Institution says 50,601 households in the Las Vegas metropolitan area don’t have access to an automobile. That’s 7.2 percent of households in the region.

The study, by Adie Tomer and Robert Puentes from Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, says more than 94 percent of Las Vegas households without cars are in neighborhoods served by transit. That puts Las Vegas in 22nd place among the top 100 cities in the country.

Even better, Las Vegas ranks ninth in the nation for job access via transit, with 59 percent of people without cars capable of getting to work within 90 minutes, the report says. That 59 percent is higher than the 40 percent average for the nation's largest 100 metro areas.

Jacob Snow, the general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission, which operates the valley's bus system, said he was “thrilled to have done this well,” in the report.

But he also didn’t seem surprised.

Unlike other cities where jobs have spread to the suburbs, workplaces in Las Vegas remain concentrated in downtown and along the resort corridor. So when the commission began to focus on increasing speed, it was easier to connect outlying areas with work areas via bus rapid transit.

“We basically built those express routes around where people live and where they were going for their employment,” Snow said.

Those routes now connect the northwest to downtown via the Centennial Express; the western valley to downtown, the Strip and McCarran International Airport via the Westcliff Airport Express; downtown to the Strip via the Strip & Downtown Express; and downtown to North Las Vegas with the Metropolitan Area Express.

Two new express routes connecting Henderson to downtown Las Vegas are set to begin Sept. 18 and an express route on Sahara Avenue is scheduled to open in February.

“So we have those three services to enhance and speed up our express service network,” Snow said.

The commission is also working with the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that will help local agencies better pair low-incoming housing areas with bus routes, Snow said.

The county and local cities are working on similar transit-oriented development, where higher-density housing and commercial projects are built near transit routes, Snow said. That includes Henderson’s plans for Water Street as well as North Las Vegas’ long-term plans for North Fifth Street.

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