Las Vegas Sun

December 18, 2017

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THE IMPACT OF LIGHT RAIL:

A local’s take: The evolution of transportation in Las Vegas

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Associated Press File Photo

The Regional Transportation District’s light rail train arrives at the Broadway station in south Denver.

Mass transit Across U.S.

Bay Area Rapid Transit passengers wait for a train in this Oct. 22, 2013 file photo taken in Oakland, Calif. Launch slideshow »

There was nothing better as a kid than watching movies at Red Rock Theater. Not the modern cinema at Red Rock Resort, rather Red Rock Theater, on Charleston Boulevard near Decatur Boulevard, one of the original theaters in Las Vegas and the place where most of us local children begged our parents to take us in the 1970s and ’80s.

The drive there from my family’s house, north on Boulder Highway to Charleston, then west to Decatur, seemed to take forever. Part of the wait was the anticipation of watching a new film. Most of the wait was the travel.

Getting across town three decades ago involved taking one of four streets: Charleston, Sahara Avenue, Flamingo Road or Tropicana Avenue. No matter where you were going or coming from, you were halfway there when you passed Las Vegas Boulevard. It was a bonus if the ride was at night so you could see the casino lights.

Much has changed since then. Now, we attend movies mostly at casinos, the valley’s population has exploded to more than 2 million, and, of course, there are multiple ways to travel across town.

If all goes well, future generations won’t need a car to go to the movies or travel from one part of the valley to the next. A proposed light rail system, similar to those in other major metropolises, is in the works and is desperately needed.

Imagine planning an outing on the Strip or downtown without having to worry about traffic. While most people likely still would have a short drive to the rail station, the days of impatiently jockeying with tourist-drivers or battling frustration over freeway traffic would be minimized. Same for the feeling of constantly navigating through construction zones.

Just like in the early 1980s when transportation officials expanded U.S. Highway 95 to include exits on Flamingo and Tropicana in the east part of town where I was raised, a light rail system would enhance flexibility for residents and offer them a more enjoyable lifestyle.

When U.S. 95 was under construction, some people opposed the expansion because it forced a block of homes in our development to be torn down. Many of our neighbors feared the sound of cars traveling at high speeds would keep them awake at night. It didn’t.

Sometimes, as we learned, there are small sacrifices to be made in a city’s development.

That freeway made trips across town to Meadows Mall or other staples on the west side part of our lives. It shortened bus rides to high school sporting events. Before the freeway addition, Basic High School in Henderson felt like it was in another state.

Eventually, the Citizen Area Transit bus system launched as the valley’s population continued to spike and merit more services. That gave teenagers the freedom to get to the Strip to visit the Forum Shops or the arcade at Circus Circus. For those without cars, it was a simpler way to get to work.

Light rail is the next step in the progression. It, like past advancements, would take our city to another level. Our home is the best city in the world. It’s time that city had this resource.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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