By Jacob L. Snow
Between the bright neon lights of the Las Vegas Strip and the breathtaking views of Red Rock Canyon, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) has a lot of competition. To capture the attention of transit riders — and potential transit riders — we have to be creative and efficient. Challenged to steer our agency in unique directions, we have one goal: improve passenger mobility.
In 2005 RTC launched the Deuce, our double deck bus service on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The Deuce was an immediate success and allowed our agency to place nearly 100 more riders on a smaller footprint than an articulated vehicle. This is particularly valuable in a corridor that has reached its capacity such as Las Vegas Boulevard. In addition to being new and fun, the Deuce is more efficient than other vehicles in terms of maintenance and operating costs.
By 2006 when the Deuce was carrying more than 30,000 people per day, we began deploying these popular vehicles to specific residential routes throughout southern Nevada. Today, the Deuce serves six residential routes and has been incredibly popular in this capacity.
In fact, we have found that the Deuce alone attracts new transit riders to the system. On our Nellis Boulevard route we witnessed a ridership increase of about 10 percent simply by deploying the Deuce on that corridor and making no other changes.
RTC has begun receiving the next generation of Deuce vehicles, which are even better suited to the Strip. They feature two staircases that allow for faster boarding and de-boarding and today those vehicles carry more than 37,000 passengers daily on the Strip alone.
The Deuce Ambassador Program
RTC has instituted The Deuce Ambassador Program to further ensure its success on Las Vegas Boulevard. This program is part concierge service, part quality assurance that generates a lot of fun for our passengers.
In March 2008, the RTC hired 15 part-time ambassadors. Most are students interested in fields such as hospitality, public relations and international business. They work an average of 15 hours per week and have specifically trained to provide excellent customer service and hospitality to Deuce riders. To date public response to the program has been very positive and the waiting list of those interested in becoming an ambassador typically hovers at around 40 hopefuls.
Enter ACE Rapid Transit
For all the success the Deuce is enjoying, the RTC is preparing to provide a complimentary companion called ACE, a sleek, high-end rapid transit service that will mirror light rail. But unlike light rail, ACE is cost effective enough to traverse the Las Vegas Valley with the flexibility to adjust to any future variations on demand. ACE will feature level platform boarding, off-board fare collection, rail-like seating, limited stops and a dedicated transit lane for portions of each route. This dedicated lane allows ACE to travel freely without competing with traffic. The first route, ACE Downtown Connector, will roll onto streets this fall, creating an enhanced transit link between the Strip and the newly revitalized downtown area.
In addition to implementing new and exciting services, the RTC has also been working to improve the fixed route transit system. Today we boast an on-time performance of more than 95 percent and thanks to strategic vehicle deployment the RTC will save nearly $400,000 annually beginning in 2009. We have also worked to implement innovative scheduling that has lead to higher passengers per service hour figures than our system has ever seen. In October 2008, the RTC transit system carried more than six million riders for the first time in its history.
Need for speed
To compete with the automobile, we recognize speed is critical. Because getting there on time is so important to our customers our board of commissioners has directed us to focus specifically on making transit faster.
We plan to do this in a number of ways. First, we are working to implement park-and-ride locations throughout southern Nevada that will allow commuters to drive to a location near their home, drop off their car and hop on an express bus.
Second, we are reviewing bus shelter placement to eliminate excessively close stops in order to increase the speed of our routes. We also have plans to expand barrier-free boarding in 2009 to additional lines within our system. Currently, only the RTC pilot rapid transit line, the Metropolitan Area Express, has barrier-free boarding.
The RTC transit system is less than 20 years old, but by implementing cutting-edge vehicles, operational strategies and advanced technologies, we are confident that we can provide our residents and visitors to this community with a transit system as striking as the bright lights of Las Vegas, one that will make everyone a winner.
Jacob L. Snow serves as general manager for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC).