You can't get there from here!
A round trip in a taxi from Caesar's Palace to the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas costs an average of $25.00 including tip. A bus ride along the same route costs $3.00 round trip. The only other way for a tourist to visit Downtown from the Strip would be to drive their own, or a rented car, and try to find parking once they're there. Downtown parking meters charge $1.00 per hour and $20 parking tickets are gladly given to overtime tourists - what a deterrent to repeat visits!
In other words, "You can't get there from here" is common advice given to out of state visitors staying on the Strip who show a desire to go Downtown. It is no wonder that the Downtown casino revenues are so flat and that the city wants to raise homeowner's property taxes, or ask for revenue bonds to make up for the shortfall!
I have traveled to what are called "third world" cities that have better means of public transportation than we have here in our "modern" city. In Hong Kong for example, it cost twenty-five cents to take a clean underground train to the shopper's haven in Kawloon - across three miles of open ocean. To go the same distance as from the Sahara Hotel to Fremont Street takes less than five minutes, and the train travels through a tunnel under the ocean!
To travel the same distance in Las Vegas requires an average of thirty minutes waiting for a bus, or the expensive cab ride I described earlier. It is obvious that our city is strangling the life out of our Downtown through the inconvenience of traveling there.
A solution that was described by transportation consultant Peter Christoff involves making a deal with the Union Pacific Railroad to use the unused right of way along their main line running from just behind the Mirage to the Las Vegas Speedway in North Las Vegas.
The railroad crosses under I-15 at Flamingo and travels in an almost straight line into Downtown and beyond. A fixed rail, at grade, trolley system is begging to be built along this right of way! Such a system could comfortably carry tens of thousands of new visitors into our now dying Downtown each day, and free up auto lanes on the Strip.
Furthermore, on race days the same trolleys could be used to shuttle race fans from behind the Plaza Hotel on Fremont Street to the Raceway thereby ending the gridlock along Las Vegas Boulevard North, or I-15.
Mr. Christoff has really come up with a great idea, and I hope our City Council and Regional Transportation Commission is paying attention.
Another great idea is also lying just below our noses. At this time there is no Downtown Airport, but there could be one in the near future. Clark County recently invested $30 million building a new terminal building at the North Las Vegas Airport located less that three miles, as the crow flies, from Casino Center.
The runways at North Las Vegas Airport are shorter than those at McCarran International, but not too short to be used by state-of-the-art commuter airlines that carry less than one hundred passengers in smaller turboprop equipment. Such modern airplanes are extremely safe and quiet so as not to disturb residents living in the airport environment, and such airplanes are commonly operated by the major airlines into and out of the smaller cities they serve. Why not Downtown Las Vegas?
Downtown Las Vegas would become like Burbank, Ontario, and Orange County, California: cities near Los Angeles that provide reliever airports for LAX.
Why not give Las Vegas visitors the chance to see the real Las Vegas - Downtown Las Vegas - instead of diverting them to unincorporated Clark County hotels outside Las Vegas. Remember that the Strip is not in Las Vegas, it only borrows our city's good name while treating Las Vegas like an unwanted stepchild.
With our own Downtown Las Vegas Airport, our city leaders need only to install a simple light rail system straight from Fremont Street, or the Downtown Transportation Center near City Hall, to the new airport. Just make sure that the trolleys accommodate luggage, and there we go!
With the improvements I have suggested, there will be little need for increases in homeowner's property taxes since the Downtown casinos will again come alive and generate increased employment, gaming and property taxes to be enjoyed by the City, and only the City.
It is time for the real Las Vegas to take back its name, and all we have to do is make it easier and more convenient to "Get there from here!"
Steve Miller is a former Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner. Visit his website at: http://www.SteveMiller4LasVegas.com