Image via Wikipedia On my recent trip to Las Vegas, in addition to riding the Monorail I also had the opportunity to try out the other great transit experiment, MAX which runs from Downtown to North Las Vegas. This is a Bus Rapid Transit service that has been highly touted and used as an example of a light rail "like" system but of course for less money.
The line uses dedicated traffic lanes for part of its journey along with million dollar buses that use Hybrid technology. The system also has Proof of Payment fare collection, and makes limited stops.
I will not discuss ridership numbers on my trip since it occurred on a Saturday, but in Las Vegas that should not play a role in the numbers. The first thing you notice is that the buses are slightly quieter than a normal bus but in no way is comparable to electrified operation of light rail. In addition you still get the road noise and other problems associated with rubber tire technology.
The buses are equipped with an optical sensor system so that when the bus approaches a stop the system takes over the steering and steers the bus to a perfect stop. Great concept that just doesn't work in reality. Because of the drifting sands of the area the optical sensor system has never worked and would not work in area that gets snow (ie: Utah) either.
Unlike the monorail this system is run the CAT the local bus system and does use normal cat fares, transfers, and bus buses. They have been touting the great ridership increase but in reality less than a thousand new riders are on board on a regular basis.
When it comes down to it, MAX is nothing but a glorified bus and many local residents I talked to see it as nothing but a glorified bus. It is not attracting the choice riders that Light Rail does but does serve a purpose of getting people along the corridor faster. However, the Limited bus that used to serve the area did the same thing at less cost.
Much like the monorail, the MAX system is all glitter and no gold.