Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2019

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Is switching time zones a bright idea for Nevada?

Sunset at the Cashman Center

Leila Navidi

A view of Las Vegas at sunset near the Cashman Center.

We’ve been told over and over that there’s no quick fix for Nevada’s grinding unemployment and underwater mortgages. So how about an extra hour of daylight to brighten these dark days?

From the Internet comes a provocative idea: Nevada should part ways with the Pacific time zone of the coastal states and join Arizona, Idaho and Utah in the Mountain time zone.

It would not, of course, increase the amount of daylight in a 24-hour period. But on a day like today it would push sunset from 4:32 p.m. to 5:32 p.m. — ending the depressing late-fall phenomenon of leaving work — for those of us still with jobs — at 5 p.m. only to find night has fallen.

More would be awake for the early sunshine — sunrise would on a day like today go from 6:16 a.m. to 7:17 a.m.

Nevada rides at the rear of the parade that is the Pacific Time Zone, a fact that becomes apparent after daylight saving time ends and darkness arrives an hour earlier.

Consider Los Angeles at the western edge of the time zone: Sunset today is at 4:49 p.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory Astronomical Applications Department. They get the beach and 17 minutes more of evening light.

Then consider Phoenix, in the Mountain time zone. There, the sun will not set until 5:25 p.m.

It would be a stretch to describe the idea of changing time zones a movement. It’s mostly the griping of co-workers and one man ranting on a blog.

When the state moved its clocks back this month, Hugh Jackson, proprietor of lasvegasgleaner.com, opined: “Lickety-split it’s going to be getting dark around here at, oh, 4:14 in the afternoon. Dreary, depression-inducing, soul-sucking darkness and it’s not even cocktail time ... isn’t that what North Dakota is for?”

While a lone voice, Jackson, a liberal commentator, raises an interesting question: Why is Nevada time-tethered to California?

Getting a state or county’s time zone changed is uncommon, but not unprecedented.

There are two paths, according to the federal Transportation Department, which oversees time zone boundaries.

One is federal legislation, which hasn’t been used in 60 years. Given the reaction of a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — extended silence, then incredulity that this was a serious question — this issue is not on the federal delegation’s radar just yet.

The second is a petition to the Transportation Department.

After a local government or state legislature conducts a formal vote, the agency’s general counsel will consider a request, including holding public hearings. The decision would ultimately rest with the Transportation secretary.

And how would he or she decide?

The prime factor is commerce, and that brings us back to Jackson’s question about Nevada’s ties to California.

In 1882 there were 40 regional times in the United States, generally centered on large cities and the railroad lines that originated in them, according to Mike O’Malley, author of “Keeping Watch: A History of American Time.”

A year later, the railroads got together and created four time zones “to coincide as much as possible with places where (railroads) were already changing their operating times,” he said.

Nevada, a mining state with ties to San Francisco, naturally fit into the Pacific time zone.

Today, Las Vegas depends heavily on visitors from Southern California, leaping like salmon up the Cajon Pass to come gamble.

Because the economic ties remain, it’s unclear whether the feds would let Nevada break away.

But not all of Nevada is shackled to our Western neighbors. West Wendover, on the eastern edge of the state, has been using Mountain Standard Time for as long as anyone can remember, according to Chris Melville, West Wendover city manager.

The town straddles the Nevada-Utah state line. Customers for its casinos come primarily from Salt Lake City, and many of the casinos’ employees live on the Utah side. So the town just always operated on Mountain time.

In 1999, Wendover, Nev., petitioned to be officially moved into the Mountain time zone — a Nevada pioneer looking east.

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