Coaxing students out of cars
New transit center aims to make taking the bus easy, convenient for people
The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada recently debuted its 6,460-square-foot transit center at UNLV, along with new technology that makes paying for a bus ride as easy as tapping a plastic card against a card reader.
Now comes the hard part — luring UNLV students out of their cars and onto the RTC’s natural gas-fueled double-decker buses.
If students don’t buy in, it will be hard to justify the $3.5 million — 80 percent of which was federal funding — spent on the center on the southeastern edge of the campus.
Things didn’t look good when the transit center first was announced. The facility displaced a parking lot, and students grumbled about the center taking away valuable parking spots near the Student Union.
The transit center is a nice place. Shelter canopies protect park benches next to the bus bays, and there are plenty of bicycle racks.
UNLV is the last stop on the Centennial Express line that runs 22 times a day from a park-and-ride facility in Centennial Hills near the U.S. 95 Durango exit. The route takes less than an hour to complete and stops in three places downtown, on the Strip at Spring Mountain Road and at the Howard Hughes Business Center.
RTC General Manager Tina Quigley suggested that students read or listen to music during the commute. The Centennial Express also would be an ideal “Rebel Ride” to UNLV basketball games from the northwest valley since the station is a short walk from the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV also may someday become a key stop along the Maryland Parkway corridor, which the RTC is studying for future transportation improvements. Maryland is viewed as a key route because it stretches from downtown Las Vegas, through a medical district, past a shopping mall, to UNLV and McCarran International Airport.
The center also is going to be a stop for the RTC’s Route 602, which will make express runs to Sam Boyd Stadium for UNLV football games that are played at home.
Students and faculty of UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College can buy a monthly UPASS for $32.50. A semester pass costs $104. The general public would pay $65 for a monthly pass.
That’s fairly steep for a college student but cheaper than gas.
The agency also is trying to streamline bus use. In tandem with the new transit center, the RTC launched a pilot program on the Centennial Express route that allows passengers to pay fares electronically. Passengers simply tap a card against a reader to pay their fare.
TransitTap also allows the RTC to gather data about students’ riding habits, which will help them to develop more routes through UNLV and, hopefully, get more students out of their cars.