Question: Should a light rail line (Regional Fixed Guideway) be built from Henderson to North Las Vegas?
Yes, Our Economic Future Depends on It
by Jacob Snow
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) has a vision for everyone, not just those who drive automobiles. While the RTC oversees the funding of roadway construction, we know that people need other ways to commute than driving their cars on increasingly busy streets. In addition to the CAT and MAX transit systems, another component of our overall vision of an integrated transportation system is the proposed Regional Fixed Guideway (RFG).
The RFG, envisioned as a regional rail or rail-like system, would link Henderson, Clark County, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas with the Las Vegas Resort Corridor. Though the RFG is but one part of our larger vision, it is indeed a critical component to ensuring the future vitality of our community.
Here’s why: At last count, 11 people per hour move to Southern Nevada. More than 100 cars are added to our roadways every day. By 2008, conservative estimates put our population at 2 million people and by 2015 at 2.5 million people. That’s the entire population of Utah – or for a more urban example, the public transportation Mecca called the Bronx.
Projects like the RFG can move more than 60,000 people per hour in a 40-foot wide corridor. Contrast that with the mere 2,000 cars per hour moved on a freeway lane. That’s why it’s so vital to make the most efficient use possible of existing right-of-way.
Further, public transit that utilizes our roadways just isn’t enough if we are to avoid gridlock and maintain the quality of life that is largely responsible for the population and economic growth in Southern Nevada.
We cannot expect everyone in Southern Nevada to use mass transit – nor could the RTC handle such heavy demand. But we must have efficient solutions that attract some out of their cars. In cities from Portland to Dallas, more people use light rail everyday and the same can and will happen here if we provide a fast, safe and convenient rapid transit system.
Why should we continue to give our part of the gas-tax dollars to other communities instead of keeping that federal funding in our own backyard?
It’s time to accept our responsibility as a world-class city that requires varied modes of transportation. Learn more at www.rfguideway.com and by attending public meetings.
By resisting change, we could lose all we have been working to create. Our economic future depends upon maintaining the quality of life we Southern Nevadans sometimes take for granted.
No: Mass Transit Has Failed Enough Already
by W. Leslie Sully, Jr.
The taxpayers cannot afford another “smart growth” plan based on irrational idealism without taking into account economic realities. We should learn from our own experience and the experiences of other communities throughout the United States and accommodate the transportation needs of our citizens without pursuing ill-advised schemes, such as the Regional Fixed Guideway).
To fairly analyze the situation, two issues must be addressed. The first is whether the proposed RFG will meet the demands of the people. It has been thought that if the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) builds it, riders will materialize. However, the only places that have achieved measurable acceptance of mass transit are densely urbanized areas with significant concentrations of businesses or residents. However, our community infrastructure has already been established utilizing a late 20th-century model of less density, made possible through the flexibility of automobile travel.
Presently, residents of Henderson travel, with the freedom of their vehicles, for work, school, shopping, dining, etc. throughout the entire Las Vegas Valley, not just to and from the Strip and North Las Vegas. This will not change. Published CAT ridership figures demonstrate that two of the four least-traveled routes are those serving Henderson and Green Valley (only about 450 regular commuters) – the very areas the RTC proposes to be served by the RFG Henderson Corridor. Moreover, the RTC’s argument that Strip workers will sacrifice their vehicles for train service is belied by the fact that the proposed service hours will only accommodate one of three casino shifts.
Next to be considered is whether the ostensible benefit justifies the cost, which could exceed $2 million per commuter (based upon RTC construction estimates and existing ridership data). Moreover, the cost of continued operation will plague us forever. Witness the Monorail fiasco, which cannot seem to break even and which knowledgeable experts predict will be taken over by the RTC (at taxpayer expense). Similarly, but less known, CAT revenue figures reveal that the CAT bus system is being subsidized with almost $50 million per year.
Cities all around the country using the same failed paradigm are just as unsuccessful. Reflecting on the absurdity of the situation, Wall Street Journal writer P.J. O’Rourke recently observed that municipalities picking up the tab for mass transit losses could have more economically leased a luxury automobile for every commuter served.
Public responsibility mandates that we approach the problem of transportation with an eye on economic viability.