Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016 | 2 a.m.
According to a forecast issued last year by the UNLV Center for Economic and Business Research, the population of the Las Vegas Valley will grow by about 700,000 people by 2040.
That’s a lot of people — it’s about the size of the Colorado Springs metro area population today — and it raises some weighty questions about the future of the valley.
A big one is: How are we all going to get around?
This month, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is asking local residents to help answer that question.
The RTC has drafted a long-range transportation plan and is seeking community input on it through a series of public meetings. The first was conducted last week at Boulevard mall, but the final two meetings will be this week: from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson; and from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the RTC Administrative Building, 600 S. Grand Central Parkway.
The plan is not a collection of specific projects, but rather a guiding document that outlines needs, priorities, strategies and projections. Future transportation projects will be measured against it to determine if they are in line with the community’s needs and, if so, how they should be prioritized.
The RTC has already conducted a community survey to identify priorities, gathering results from about 7,000 respondents who listed increasing safety and easing congestion as Nos. 1 and 2 on the list. Other priorities include expanding bike/pedestrian lanes, enhancing bus service and building a light-rail system.
The priorities identified in the survey are all important, but light-rail development is a must for the community. Not only that, but adding a rail system would help boost safety and reduce congestion on valley roads.
Beyond question, the Strip has maxed out its capacity to handle cars. For proof, try driving there on a night when a major concert or sporting event is being staged. For that matter, give it a try on most any Friday or Saturday night and see what happens.
Creating a light-rail system that would connect McCarran International Airport to the Strip and then travel up Las Vegas Boulevard would give visitors an easy and convenient way to get around, which would eliminate the need for so many taxis, rental cars and ride-share vehicles to cycle between the airport and the tourist corridor. Given that some proponents believe that a first phase could be built for about $400 million, and would travel all the way north to Sahara Avenue, it’s a cost-effective way to vastly improve the transportation system.
Meanwhile, the system could also include park-and-ride areas that would allow Strip workers to avoid driving on or near Las Vegas Boulevard, further easing congestion. And by connecting to downtown and North Las Vegas through additional phases, a light-rail system could eliminate even more traffic.
It’s an idea whose time is overdue, given that other communities that compete with Las Vegas for visitors have already built light-rail systems.
Are we agreed, Las Vegas? Regardless, the RTC would like to hear from you.
Given that we’re about to absorb the equivalent of a city’s worth of population in the next 25 years, this is a plan that will be important to all of us.