Friday, August 01, 2008

Las Vegas buying the BRT Kool-Aid

Las Vegas Blvd.Image via WikipediaThe RTC in Las Vegas was planning a Light Rail line from Henderson all the way to North Las Vegas but instead will now have ACE Rapid Transit. So what is ACE Rapid Transit? It is the newest Las Vegas Bus Rapid Transit project that will not be very rapid.

ACE Rapid Transit

Of course they are using the usual BRT propaganda that it will be just like light rail only cheaper. For anyone that has ridden the 35M knows that it may be a little faster but it is not like light rail except you don't put money into the farebox (well at some stops you have to), and you can board from any door, beyond that it is not like light rail.

This new service will travel from the Premium Outlet Malls near downtown Las Vegas through downtown then down the Las Vegas Strip. While ACE is bragging about exclusive lanes that the buses will use, they only cover the section of the route from the Premium Mall are to Casino Center and Imperial which is less than a third of the route. The rest of the route will be in the streets which includes Las Vegas Blvd.

For anyone like me who are familiar with Las Vegas will know this whole thing is a joke. The area with exclusive lanes does not have a traffic problem. I have traveled these streets many times and I have never been stuck in traffic. On the other hand who in their right minds drives down Las Vegas Blvd through the strip area unless you are people watching because they will be passing you or your a tourist who doesn't know any better?

You cannot say anything driving down Las Vegas Blvd in mixed traffic is rapid.

What they don't tell you is the disadvantage of this system over rail transit:

1. When your bus is full, you cannot just add another car to the train. You have to add another bus and driver which increases cost.

2. Light rail vehicles and streetcars carry more passengers than any US legal buses.

3. Operation cost are higher per passenger on a bus than a light rail or streetcar.

Las Vegas needs real answers not a repackaged bus that is covering an already overcrowded corridor. But this is just another example of how BRT is being sold as a magical answer that it is not.

There is better ways to invest transit dollars than Bus Rapid Transit such as Streetcar, Rapid Streetcar and Light Rail.




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5 comments:

F. Mathew VonStieff said...

I think that this is an apples and oranges situation. Here in SLC we do not run a 24 hour operation, where LAs Vegas does. Also what is the ridership in Las Vegas? Have YOU beeen on the new 35M? Everytime that I seee it, I see people on it, so obviously, it is being ridden. Yes it is similar to TRAX but not exactly like TRAX, and in that manner you have to push a button to get onto the bus as well as off of the bus with the Magna loop being the exception. I think that Light Rail would serve Las Vegas very well, as well as having a BRT system.

The said...

If light rail is such a good deal, why did it rank so low on WFRC's cost-effectiveness list?

JMD said...

Yes, I have been on the 35M and the old 35 plus the new 35. My problem with BRT like many transit advocates is that it is being sold as a bill of goods that it is not. It is said to be "just like light rail but cheaper" but if you compare apples to apples BRT is more expensive since almost no project proposed is equal to a light rail system. Besides as I point out there is no way in **** that the Las Vegas system is any better than a standard bus because of Las Vegas Blvd.

To "The" who ever you are. Are you talking in general, then I say BS as has been proven by the performance of TRAX. If your talking about the 3500 South Corridor itself, then I would say that it would not justify putting full blown LRT down that corridor I don't support it the same way I say TRAX should not go along the 5600 West Corridor.

F. Mathew VonStieff said...

As a driver, I see how popular the 35 MAx route is. People are getting used to it, and the epeople who live in Magna seem to love it. When I hear that it is just like lightrail I will disagree. It is similar to lightrail in the sence that you have to oush a button on the outside to open the two back doors to get inside the bus and to exit the bus. The fare is also on an honoer system like the TRAX is. However if a transit officer does fare inspection and you dont have a fare that is gonna cost you. The other simalar thing is that it has 29 stops along the 3500 South Cooridor. Eventually, the max will have its own lane. People think that the MAX can change the traffic signal to green. This is not true. It has an illuminator on the drivers side in the header which will keep a signal green for an extra 10 seconds. However if a MAX bus has entered that intersection recently, it will not work, as the signal has to be given a chance to recycle itself. I do not know why you dont want TRAX to go down the 5600 South corridor. With rising gas prices, public transit is still cheaper than a tank of gas. Please explain why.

JMD said...

I think TRAX is overkill in that market. My proposal would be to have a "rapid streetcar". This would be less costly to build than full blow LRT like TRAX, but you can build the platforms to allow a couple of cars per train so you have the passenger carrying capacity.

Another advantage of the rapid streetcar is that it could run on TRAX lines say in the Daybreak area.

A nice extension of the 5600 South Rapid Streetcar would be you could run it all the way from the airport to connect up with Front Runner South in Riverton or Draper.