In case you missed it: City of Henderson Mayor and RTC Chairwoman Debra March delivered an insightful column as guest author in the Las Vegas Sun, which previously ran on Wednesday, May 4. Here’s your second chance to read up on what she had to say about transportation in Southern Nevada.
By Debra March City of Henderson Mayor and RTC Chairwoman Debra March
In a fast-growing metropolitan area of 2.3 million residents with tens of millions of annual visitors, Southern Nevada has built and earned its reputation as a world-class destination and a wonderful place to live. In the next two years, Southern Nevada is expected to add approximately 100,000 new residents on our way to 3 million by 2045 or sooner. As mayor of Henderson, Nevada’s second-largest city, and chairwoman of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), I know firsthand the stress this rapid growth puts on infrastructure — such as increasing congestion on our roadways and the growing need for public transit options. I, along with my fellow RTC board of commissioners and RTC staff, recognize our mobility challenges, and the fact that current demand for transportation services already far outweighs available resources.
Community input is a vital part of our planning process. We’ve gathered extensive feedback regarding transportation from the public through the Southern Nevada Strong Regional Plan, RTC’s Transportation Investment Business Plan and RTC’s On Board Mobility Plan. In all three initiatives, our stakeholders told us they want improved mobility options, such as increased bus service, higher-capacity transit and more investments in technology. However, these solutions don’t come without a price tag. And although federal stimulus dollars have provided the RTC a temporary reprieve from the significant budget shortfall the agency is facing, candid conversations must occur regarding additional public investments in transit and other mobility options.
The RTC is federally mandated as the metropolitan planning organization responsible for transportation policy-making. As the RTC looks to address our community’s transportation challenges, collaboration between public and private stakeholders is critical as we consider potential solutions. Certainly, we will need significant private investment to accomplish our goals, but that must be carefully considered to avoid hindering our ability to provide more far-reaching, public solutions.
A constant stream of exciting transportation technologies and projects is proposed to address specific mobility challenges, including the Boring Company’s Vegas Loop in the Resort Corridor and the Axios high-capacity transit project on Charleston Boulevard.
As the Vegas Loop comes closer to beginning operations at the Las Vegas Convention Center and conversations continue about expanding the system throughout the Resort Corridor, it presents Southern Nevada with a unique opportunity. Without requiring public funding, it has garnered international attention for our region and reinforced our reputation as a partner willing to experiment with innovative ideas. The Axios project has also attracted interest, attempting to become the first-ever privately funded light rail project in the country.
However, as these and other transportation projects are introduced, we would be wise to remember our community’s past experiences with private transportation modes and consider each project’s role in addressing our full set of needs. We must also recognize the importance of collaboration to address the needs of residents and tourists alike. The Las Vegas Strip has been the most profitable transit line in the country, which has afforded us the ability to extend services across the community. As ridership is segmented, all providers must communicate and collaborate to ensure the best outcomes for the entire community.
Here in Southern Nevada, we have had a mixed experience with innovative urban transportation technologies. Some have proven wildly popular, being rapidly introduced and integrated into our transportation system, but not every new deployment has gone smoothly or met expectations.
Companies like Uber and Lyft provide great convenience for tourists and residents. When they first arrived in Southern Nevada a decade ago, these companies committed to serving our entire community, not just the most profitable resort corridor. Many transit agencies hoped that ride-hailing companies could be a partner, particularly by solving the “first- and last-mile problems” of accessing a transit stop. Unfortunately, studies show that hasn’t yet happened.
Privately funded transportation alternatives can potentially enhance our transportation system and help address some of our congestion challenges — but we need to examine their long-term impacts carefully and keep in mind our shared goals around advancing equity, reducing greenhouse gases and supporting intermodal convenience.
When new projects are proposed, we must consider the impacts of these projects on our regional transportation network and our most vulnerable residents who rely on public transit. We must also determine what steps can be taken to ensure that all residents benefit from these investments. For the transportation projects that are currently being proposed, this examination must start now. It is imperative that any new and innovative transportation project, privately or publicly funded, must integrate seamlessly into our regional network.
As we consider the Vegas Loop, the Axios project, proposed RTC mass-transit solutions, and even Uber and Lyft, it is our duty to ensure a holistic approach to provide the best possible benefits for our residents and visitors. A commitment to partnership and collaboration should be our first step down the road.
Debra March was elected Henderson mayor in 2017 after serving as a city councilwoman since 2009.