Las Vegas Sun

December 14, 2018

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Tech, transit innovations crucial to Las Vegas’ future, experts say

Future of Urban Mobility

Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman gives opening remarks during a “Future of Urban Mobility” panel discussion at Zappos headquarters Wednesday Nov. 28, 2018.

Future of Urban Mobility

Debs Schrimmer, senior transportation policy manager for Lyft, speaks during a Launch slideshow »

Smooth and timely commutes on Las Vegas roadways will only be viable through innovation in technology and transportation options as the city continues to grow.

Also, as more vehicles travel local roads with single passengers, the harder it will be to get around.

That’s what transportation experts explored Wednesday night during the Future of Urban Mobility panel discussion, which took place at the downtown headquarters of Zappos.

Las Vegas has blazed a trail with several pilot programs, such as a fleet of Lyft autonomous cars on the Strip and a self-driving shuttle downtown.

Audi has outfitted vehicles only sold here with red-light-reading technology that tells drivers how long they will be sitting in traffic, a first in the U.S.

A technological “disruption is coming,” and Las Vegas aims to be ready, said Joanna Wadsworth, city program manager.

Assets created through innovation don’t come easy but are obtainable, said Joshua Schank, chief innovation officer of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Schank spoke about the chronic problem officials there must confront: “Too many people, not enough space.”

But officials there have tackled the issue head on through the creation of the innovation department Schank heads.

It hasn’t just tried to make mass transit more practical through technology, it’s also attempted to make it more attractive through the “experience” of the trip, he said.

So far, the plan includes the testing of smart bike racks and more sound ways to electronically pay for transportation services, Schank said. Within three years, buses will have systems that track them for riders to view on their smart devices.

Technology that would allow bus drivers to know how fast to travel to hit every green light, an app that would help report infractions of motorists parking in bus lanes, and the usage of drones to inspect cable cars also have been discussed, he said.

Debs Schrimmer, senior transportation policy manager for Lyft, outlined the short history of the ride-hailing company and its future.

Besides car rides, the tech giant has implemented bicycle and scooter services. Recently, it bought the biggest bike-sharing company in the country, which will expand its reach, she said.

It hopes to enhance its app to provide options for its users on whether it’s better to walk, scoot, bike or get to a destination by hailing a ride or boarding mass transit, she said.

The company also works with local entities, such as the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

Las Vegas is a very young community with a great future, Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the audience before the presentation began.

“There is no city in the entire world like Las Vegas,” she said. “It’s the greatest place in the whole world where innovation happens, where every day you can feel a part of some energy that really is moving forward in doing something exciting and wonderful.”