Ex­perts look at mass-tran­sit chal­lenges

Still vi­tal piece of puz­zle even with tech ex­plo­sion

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NEVADA & THE WEST - By Mick Ak­ers

Las Ve­gas has not missed the boat when it comes to im­ple­ment­ing a mass tran­sit strat­egy in the city.

Mass tran­sit in large cities is al­ways go­ing to be a need, even with tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments and the ex­plo­sion of ride-share and other mul­ti­modal op­tions.

A group of trans­porta­tion ex­perts tack­led the sub­ject Wed­nes­day dur­ing a Fu­ture of Ur­ban Mo­bil­ity event at Zap­pos head­quar­ters down­town.

“There is a se­vere prob­lem with think­ing that tech­nol­ogy can solve what is es­sen­tially a geom­e­try prob­lem,” said Dr. Joshua Schank, chief in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer of the Los An­ge­les County Met­ro­pol­i­tan Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity. “You can have as many AVs (au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles) and elec­tric ve­hi­cles as you want all over town, but if there’s too many of them try­ing to go to the same place at the same time, you’re go­ing to have the same con­ges­tion prob­lem.”

Op­tions like Lyft line, where mul­ti­ple rid­ers can hail a ride from the same driver and share a trip, help. But hav­ing larger ve­hi­cles trans­port­ing a large num­ber of peo­ple in ad­justed cor­ri­dors is a must, Schank said.

Bus lanes, light rail, or even a mono­rail are more im­por­tant than ded­i­cat­ing space to high oc­cu­pancy ve­hi­cles so they can by­pass traf­fic, he said.

For the last few years, the Re­gional Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion of South­ern Ne­vada has been gaug­ing in­ter­est from com­mu­nity mem­bers and stake­hold­ers about a pos­si­ble light rail sys­tem run­ning along Mary­land Park­way.

A pub­lic meet­ing about the project where com­mu­nity mem­bers will give their feed­back on light rail and the al­ter­na­tives, in­clud­ing a ded­i­cated bus lane through the route, is set for next month.

“It’s an area where we will and do have a geom­e­try prob­lem,” said Tina Quigley, RTC gen­eral man­ager. “New tech­nolo­gies are com­ing, but that still doesn’t change our geom­e­try prob­lem. Some type of high-per­for­mance, high-tran­sit sys­tem with ded­i­cated lanes is some­thing that we’re al­ways go­ing to need in cer­tain cor­ri­dors.”

Pro­vid­ing op­tions

Pro­vid­ing res­i­dents sev­eral trans­porta­tion op­tions, in­clud­ing mass tran­sit, ride-shar­ing and bike-shar­ing, will al­low res­i­dents who do not own a per­sonal ve­hi­cle to seam­lessly travel around the city. To that end, Lyft has be­gun to in­cor­po­rate the abil­ity to re­serve not only rides in cars but bus rides, bike share and scoot­ers through a part­ner­ship with the Tran­sit app, which launched in Las Ve­gas last week.

“We be­lieve in or­der for peo­ple to give up their cars there has to be a strong back­bone of a pub­lic trans­porta­tion net­work,” said Debs Schrim­mer, se­nior trans­porta­tion pol­icy man­ager at Lyft.

Al­though the pan­elists agreed tech­nol­ogy wasn’t the only so­lu­tion, they did con­cur it plays an im­por­tant role in the fu­ture of trans­porta­tion.

The in­no­va­tion dis­trict in down­town Las Ve­gas has been a hot­bed for trans­porta­tion-based projects, in­clud­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle testing, ini­tia­tives with Lyft, bike-shar­ing and more.

An au­ton­o­mous shut­tle pi­lot pro­gram be­tween Ke­o­lis, AAA, the city and RTC fea­tured Nayva, a self-driv­ing shut­tle trav­el­ing a 0.6-mile route in the Fre­mont East Dis­trict down­town. Dur­ing the pro­gram, which ended in Oc­to­ber, the shut­tle pro­vided 32,000 rides.

The city plans to in­sti­tute the pro­gram on a dif­fer­ent route down­town, but Joanna Wadsworth, pro­gram man­ager for the City of Las Ve­gas, said ne­go­ti­a­tions about where that will oc­cur are still un­der­way.

Lyft in­sti­tuted an au­ton­o­mous driv­ing pro­gram with part­ner Ap­tiv on the Strip cor­ri­dor with over 20 self-driv­ing BMWs. The ve­hi­cles are on au­ton­o­mous mode, but have a safety driver in the driver’s seat for pre­cau­tion­ary rea­sons. They’ve given 25,000 rides, with a 4.96 out of a pos­si­ble 5-star cus­tomer rat­ing.

Audi is testing a pro­gram in Las Ve­gas where driv­ers of its newer model ve­hi­cles re­ceive a count­down-to-green timer on their dash­board, as RTC pro­vides the car­maker with data from traf­fic sig­nals.

Ad­di­tion­ally, RTC is look­ing to have an au­ton­o­mous shut­tle ser­vice of its own in op­er­a­tion from the Bon­neville Tran­sit Cen­ter down­town to the Univer­sity Med­i­cal Dis­trict.

At­ten­tion to curbs

An in­creas­ing amount of at­ten­tion is be­ing paid to the value of curbs, as they are the first and last point of con­tact for con­sumers and com­muters when they come and go from a busi­ness or area and rep­re­sent valu­able real es­tate.

“For such a long time the curb was a re­ally un­sexy, ig­nored as­set that we gave away for free,” Schrim­mer said. “With the emer­gence of on-de­mand ser­vices — ride share, courier or de­liv­ery — the curb has be­come a very valu­able as­set and cities strug­gle with man­ag­ing it.”

Look­ing to take ad­van­tage of the curb down­town, Lyft jumped in and cre­ated a ded­i­cated pickup/drop-off area in down­town called Lyft Park. The area, lo­cated on the north­east cor­ner of Las Ve­gas Boule­vard and Fre­mont Street, fea­tures art in­stal­la­tions from Burn­ing Man, games to play while rid­ers wait for their ride and more.

The art park is more than an en­ter­tain­ing place to wait for a ride. It was set up to cut down on con­fu­sion of pickup and drop-off ar­eas and in­crease safety for rid­ers and driv­ers alike. It also cuts down con­ges­tion in the area, in­clud­ing curb­side.

It’s pro­grams like those that has Las Ve­gas Mayor Carolyn Good­man en­thu­si­as­tic about where the city is head­ing.

“It’s (Las Ve­gas) the great­est place in the whole world,” Good­man said. “It’s where in­no­va­tion hap­pens. Where ev­ery day you can feel a part of some en­ergy that is re­ally mov­ing for­ward and do­ing some­thing ex­cit­ing.”

Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal

The au­ton­o­mous Navya shut­tle re­cently ended a pi­lot pro­gram down­town, pro­vid­ing 32,000 rides.

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