What Will It Take to Make Las Vegas Walkable?

A surprisingly high number of visitors to Las Vegas get around on foot, but right now the infrastructure isn't exactly friendly to them. Graphic: RTCSNV

Contrary to popular belief, visitors do walk to get around Las Vegas, but the streets don’t work for them. Graphic: RTCSNV

Saying the future of the city’s economy depends on it, Las Vegas tourism interests are pushing a $12 billion plan to improve transit and walkability, reports the Associated Press.

A group of tourism industry leaders, hotel owners, transit officials, and taxi companies are backing a plan from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada that includes major transit expansions and street overhauls, as well as HOV lanes on freeways. They see the investments as essential to staying competitive with other cities with significant convention business.

A key element of the proposal is connecting the Las Vegas Strip to the airport by light rail. The same line would connect to the convention center and downtown. According to the AP, some large conventions require hundreds of shuttle buses to bring people from the airport. Without high-capacity transit, transporting tens of thousands of people to events like the Consumer Electronics Show can be “chaotic,” according to Travelpulse.

The plan calls for several more transit upgrades, including expanding the city’s financially troubled Monorail line, creating a number of high capacity bus rapid transit lines to bring workers to the city center, and adding a “downtown circulator trolley.” However, options to prioritize transit on some streets, including the Strip, are already not “recommended” in the plan.

As far as walkability goes, the Strip would remain a hellish place for people on foot, it seems, with the main changes being the addition of elevated pedestrian bridges and walkways, and not much in the way of traffic calming. Planners considered and rejected proposals to both pedestrianize the street and add dedicated transit and taxi lanes.

But other key boulevards would be in line for much smarter changes. For example, the plan calls for “prioritizing pedestrians” on Convention Center Drive. With tens of thousands of people walking between the convention center and the city’s resort corridor every day, planners are also eyeing the pedestrianization of some blocks linking the two destinations.

This being Las Vegas, it’s not all about walking, buses, trains. Several freeway expansion projects are also on the table.

The plan is undergoing two months of public review before transportation commissioners vote in March. Funding it would require a mix of federal, state, local, and private sources.

Even if it is approved, the AP reports, light rail planning won’t be completed until 2022, and design won’t be finalized until five years after that.