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.

15 thoughts on What Will It Take to Make Las Vegas Walkable?

  1. Not sure if it’s true or not, but (conspiracy theory time!) I heard that taxis had a had in making the Vegas monorail so poorly placed as to be pointless.

    There is a very short rail line between Excalibur and Mandalay Bay. Its lack of reach aside, it’s great and free. The boarding station at MB is better than anything LA has besides Union Station.

    Seems like there’s plenty enough room in the strip to run rail down the middle with pedestrian bridges to either side of the street.

    I had heard this about the rail at LAX, but this proved to be false. However, Vegas cabbies are much more powerful – though will probably be less so in the future with the advent of Uber and Lyft there.

    Good transit in the city could encourage people to take transit INTO the city. Boltbus and Megabus are a convenient way to get to Vegas, but most Vegas goers are completely oblivious to the fact that these options exist. I believe the Delano had tried charging for parking to guests after renovations but stopped after a massive uproar.

  2. Keeping the Strip the traffic choked nightmare it currently is is just plain dumb. I can’t believe it isn’t a pedestrian mall at this point.

  3. But the more powerful Uber gets, the more likely they are to join with traditional cabbies (at least on this issue) and fight good public transportation.

  4. I follow Uber closely and they haven’t done anything like that yet. Why not? Probably because they can figure out more productive uses for their time and money, like growing their customer base. Uber also isn’t monolithically a cab company, it’s branching out into other products, and choking the streets with cabs could hinder those other products, whereas cabbies alone don’t have that incentive to balance things.

    Uber’s target isn’t so much cabs as it is mass car ownership. They don’t want anything that puts you back in your car. Blocking transit could do that, and thus be counterproductive.

    Further, they and Lyft have released data that show that many of their trips originate at transit stops.

    They also just started their own proto bus in Seattle and Toronto.

  5. What Will It Take to Make Las Vegas Walkable

    A giant air conditioner? Roof the whole thing like the Fremont Street Experience? Because I’m not going outside otherwise.

  6. One issue in Vegas (which is emphasized by some of the short rail lines) is that the owners of the casinos want to make it as difficult as possible to leave the casinos. When one company owns multiple casinos, they often build bridges or rail lines directly from one to the other. But just as they hide clocks, windows, and external doors, they also make it unpleasant to walk away from their slot machines.

  7. Also, I have no love for Uber (Kalanick is a major scumbag) but at least among my friends in SF taking Uber to Bart is perhaps the most common use case. Fortunately, Lyft works too and isn’t run by assholes.

  8. Nonsense. Millions of people walk, outside, on the Las Vegas Strip when they visit Vegas. It’s basically THE tourist attraction. The sidewalks are always packed. The issue is that as soon as you head a block off the Strip, the pedestrian experience melts away into auto-oriented suburbia. The climate is not the issue.

  9. That’s always been my take from the Vegas experience as well. The resorts/casinos tend to connect somewhat okay to the strip itself, assuming you’re cool with walking 1/2 a mile, but the resorts on the strip actually have a huge incentive to make sure you at a minimum never leave the strip.

  10. Each time I’ve found myself in Las Vegas in the past few years, I think that that someone could turn a nice profit bringing groups of people who want to make their cities or neighborhoods walkable, and walk them up and down the Strip to point out everything they should NOT do. See those giant bridges that pedestrians have to go up and down at every single intersection? Don’t do that. See how insanely wide this street is, and how fast car traffic moves? Don’t do that. See how there’s no accommodation at all for bicyclists anywhere? Don’t do that.

  11. Well, that, and that parts of Las Vegas just a mile or two away from the strip look akin to Detroit than a bustling city, due to sprawl induced growth.

  12. The city of Las Vegas and Nevada could extend the monorail to the airport within 2016. Why won’t they? Because of the taxi mafia. Literally..mafia. The strip is sort of walkable..but not much else. Put bike lanes down the strip..protected. Then let’s talk.

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