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Transportation Expert Explains Why Las Vegas Needs Rail

By Nicole Soto
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“It’s clear there needs to be a rail investment in Las Vegas,” Brookings Institute transportation expert Robert Puentes said in a press conference on Thursday Mar. 10th.

Puentes spoke at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas where he gave insight on the city’s transportation issues and, what he believes to be, the best long-term solution.

“It’s one of the largest metro areas in the West that doesn’t have any kind of fixed rail investment, other than the monorail,” Puentes said.

The 8.7-mile urban light-rail, which will route along Maryland Parkway, is one of many proposed long-term investments for Las Vegas, but Puentes thinks it is the only one worth investing in. He believes it will be very helpful for the city.

“They’re talking about ways to not just move people from one place to another but to re-develop these areas,” Puentes said.

He believes the other proposals, such as the elevated expressway connecting the airport to downtown and the underground rail system, are terrible ideas for Las Vegas transportation.

Puentes thinks they would be too expensive and change the landscape of the city unnecessarily whereas the light rail system wouldn’t cause too many problems.

“They need to figure out how to make this investment and how to maximize it. It’s going to be expensive but it will generate returns if it is done right,” Puentes said.

Las Vegas can maximize the most out of this investment by “increasing development opportunities around these station stops. That’s where the best leverage comes in,” Puentes said.

He believes it’s imperative for cities like Las Vegas to focus on the quality of life for the people who will use the system instead of just transporting them from one place to another.

“If you’re going to do it just to alleviate congestion or move people in a very traditional way it’s not going to pay for itself,” he said.

In order to fund these massive projects Puentes believes it’s up to the local government to focus on their own communities and come up with creative solutions.

“You’re going to have to come up with these ideas from the bottom up, because there is no help coming from the top down,” Puentes said about cities receiving funding from the federal government.

He listed many innovative solutions that cities are doing to create revenue for their projects such as going to voters with ballot box measures. This is a common method for localities because it allows people to know where their money is going and have a say in which projects to invest.

Another method that cities are adopting is the increase of subsidies and public-private partnerships to fund projects.

One idea Puentes mentioned is to “put people adjacent to the stations so they’re ready users.” Ideas such as these are what’s getting projects funded.

In order for Las Vegas to have a successful transportation system the government needs to figure out what their vision is.

They do that by focusing on the needs of the people and sparking a conversation that talks about more than just transportation.

It should touch on the economy, the environment and social equality, because all of these things will be affected by new investments.

Puentes believes the more people talk about these things and the impact it has on their lives – the more likely it will be for progress to happen.

Las Vegas needs to follow the formulas that other cities with successful transportation structures have used and be innovative in their funding ideas without having to rely on the federal government Puentes said.

One major worry for Puentes is that the local government will do exactly the opposite.

“The concern I have is that we’re not recognizing that fast enough. It’s so evident and so clear to me that a place like Las Vegas has got to recognize that sooner rather than later,” Puentes said.

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