SNS Newsletter – April 2019

Maryland Parkway’s future decided

RTC board chooses BRT line along key corridor

The decision

Bus rapid transit (BRT) will soon be coming to the Maryland Parkway corridor.

The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) board unanimously voted to pursue a new BRT line rather than the far pricier light rail system that garnered public support. The decision was made at the April 11 RTC board of commissioners meeting.

Cost and funding seemed to be the biggest factors in the decision, with RTC board members raising concerns about the $1 billion price tag and higher operating costs associated with the light rail option. The BRT line is projected to come in at nearly a third of the cost to build and be roughly half as expensive to operate and maintain.

As currently planned, the $345 million project will include 8.7-miles of side-running BRT that runs from McCarran International Airport up to the Las Vegas Medical District. Additional “complete street’ improvements – including separated bike lanes at sidewalk level, enhanced pedestrian amenities, new lighting, and other streetscaping – will also be included.

Route 109 along Maryland Parkway is currently one of the highest performing bus routes in the RTC system, with more than 9,000 riders daily. The RTC projects ridership to increase between 40 and 50 percent with the new BRT line. And with dedicated travel lanes and service improvements, average travel times are expected to drop by 15 percent.

“The BRT investment along Maryland Parkway should have beneficial outcomes for the corridor and community,” said Dan Reuter, director of Southern Nevada Strong (SNS). “The service and streetscape enhancements should not only result in mobility improvements, but can also go a long way in helping create a real sense of place and a more livable corridor.”

The end of the tracks

The RTC board vote put an end to the region’s decade-long dalliance with light rail on Maryland Parkway.

Dating back to the early 2000s, Maryland Parkway has been seen as a key route in the RTC network that warranted a mass transit investment.

The RTC began studying high capacity transit options for Maryland Parkway in 2012, beginning with a federal alternatives analysis that evaluated a variety of transit technologies and recommended further evaluation of both BRT and light rail.

Building light rail also made its way into the SNS regional plan, which was adopted and finalized in 2015. It was seen as an opportunity to modernize the region’s transit system and spur transit-oriented development.

In recent years, the RTC began engaging the general public and various stakeholder groups to gauge interest in transit investment along Maryland Parkway.

Light rail was the preferred choice of the RTC’s Transportation Resource Advisory Committee (TRAC) and the general public.

During the public comment period held early in 2019, the RTC received more than 750 public comments specific to the proposed alternatives for the corridor. Approximately 74 percent supported light rail, while 15 percent favored BRT. The remaining 11 percent was comprised of those who either wanted minimal enhancements made to the current bus route or preferred no action be taken.

Escalating costs and uncertainty around funding, however, are what seem to have done the light rail option in.

In the RTC’s initial cost projection from 2016, light rail came in at $750 million. An updated cost analysis completed earlier this year pegged the final cost at upwards of $1 billion. The increase was attributed to current market conditions, according to RTC officials.

The light rail option would likely have also been dependent on yet-to-be-established local funding mechanisms to cover approximately $380 million of the project.

The road forward

In the coming weeks, the RTC board decision will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to finalize the environmental assessment and receive a decision. This which will allow the RTC to begin preliminary engineering and pursue federal funding opportunities.

Construction is tentatively slated to begin in late 2022 and finish by the end of 2024.

For more information on the project, visit rtcsnv.com/Maryland-Parkway.


The 21st century library: 3D printers, drive-thru cafés, DJ labs, job training

New branches in Mesquite, East Las Vegas aim to serve as catalysts for local economic diversification, educational achievement, and civic pride

Grand openings

When the new Mesquite Library first opened its doors 11 months ago, close to 4,000 people gathered for the grand opening celebration. And they haven’t stopped showing up.

Since the opening of the new 13,300-square-foot library, which was built across the street from the original library building, attendance and usage skyrocketed.

The number of library cards issued nearly tripled from January 2018 to January 2019. Total visits jumped by 15 percent.

And with nearly three times more square footage than the old library, program and class offerings increased 26 percent, which led to a 90 percent bump in participation.

Library district officials expect an even greater level of fanfare and sustained interest when its newest branch, the 40,000-square-foot East Las Vegas Library, opens Thursday, April 25.

“We’re very excited for this opening,” said Danielle Milam, development and planning director of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District (LVCCLD). “This is a big deal for the community. The new library is going to be in the heart of a vibrant neighborhood that hasn’t seen much investment the past three decades.”

We don’t library like we used to

The two newest editions to the region’s collection of libraries reflect the shift in how LVCCLD and other forward-thinking library districts view the role they play in a community.

While books and quiet spaces to read remain an important component of LVCCLD services, offering resources and amenities that meet the needs of the local community has become a top priority in recent years.

“Coming out of the recession, we realized we needed to reinvent ourselves,” said Milam. “We needed to be responsive to our local communities and better connect to the community agenda.”

That meant creating flexible library spaces, embracing new technology, and creating a more welcoming and communal environment that emphasized all types of learning.

Both of the new state-of-the-art libraries include teen lounges, family play areas, multipurpose auditoriums, intergenerational “living rooms,” and even cafés with drive-thru windows.

The “Makerspace” at each location provides access to new technology and hosts classes on coding, 3D printing, and computer engineering to build skills for the next generation of tech jobs. At the East Las Vegas branch, the “Makerspace” will also feature a recording studio and DJ lab, and through a partnership with UNLV, is expected to offer classes on robotics, drones, and maybe even virtual reality.

Sur La Table-style cooking classes will be held in a culinary demonstration kitchen at the East Las Vegas branch, which is in close proximity to several of the region’s food deserts.

To help youth and adults find jobs as well as bolster the training needs of local businesses, both locations include One-Stop Career Center services provided by Workforce Connections. This is particularly pertinent in East Las Vegas, where 45 percent of families live below the poverty level and the unemployment rate is in double digits, according to LVCCLD.

Programming and classes will also aim to meet specific needs of each community. For example, at the East Las Vegas branch, which is surrounded by a high concentration of Latinx families, the library will support more than 1,000 programs per year in areas such as early childhood development, nutrition, and English Language instruction, as well as offer after-school homework help and tutoring for students.

All of the new features and offerings were designed based on deep knowledge of community conditions offered by local stakeholders. Area elected officials, civic leaders, businesses, non-profits, residents, and youth leadership groups were all engaged and weighed in during the planning process, according to LVCCLD officials.

Aligning & redefining

With the opening of the two new libraries, LVCCLD will have completed two major capital projects approved by its board of directors in 2015 aimed at the modernization of the library system. And while LVCCLD officials are proud of their accomplishments, they’re quick to acknowledge the partnerships that helped make them possible.

In Mesquite, the City of Mesquite donated the land for the new building. And LVCCLD worked with the City of Las Vegas and Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority to secure the East Las Vegas site.

LVCCLD provided funding and directed the construction of both libraries. But as the construction costs in the region grew exponentially in recent years, the LVCCLD Foundation – the nonprofit arms of the library district that supports fundraising and partnership development – worked with multiple partners to secure new sources of federal funding to close financing gaps and bring the projects across the finish line.

“These projects really illustrate how stakeholders can invest in resident needs by aligning resources across partners for greater impact,” Milam said.

In the coming years, LVCCLD plans to continue to reimagine and redefine its libraries by renovating and retrofitting 13 existing libraries in the region, as well as pioneering new, innovative ideas to better serve the community.

“We’re really aiming for each of our library campuses to be a catalyst for local economic diversification, educational achievement, and civic pride,” Milam said. “We want them to embody the Southern Nevada Strong regional development goals to the greatest extent possible.”


Las Vegas engaging public for master plan update

The City of Las Vegas is in the process of planning for its future and is looking for the public to weigh in. The city is updating its master plan, which will serve as a blueprint for the city’s growth and development for the next three decades, and city planning staff are working to get the community to provide input to help shape the plan.

The Las Vegas 2050 Master Plan will touch on a range of elements — from housing and land use to public safety and transportation — that impact urban and suburban development.

Click here to provide feedback through an online survey. (Note: The survey will be open through the end of April, but will be replaced with a new questionnaire in early May.)

In addition to the soliciting feedback through the survey, city staff have been hosting public workshops and outreach events across the community since March, and will continue to do so through the end of May.

Upcoming events include:

  • April 25: “Safe Summer Nights” at McWilliams Elementary School (5 – 7 p.m.)
  • April 26: “Vintage Vegas Modernism Show and Sale” at World Market Center Pavilion 2 (6 – 9 p.m.)
  • April 27: Fantastic Indoor Swap Meet (11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
  • May 1: “Safe Summer Nights” at Reed Elementary School (4:30 – 6:30 p.m.)
  • May 2: “Safe Summer Nights” at Wendell Elementary School (5:30 – 7:30 p.m.)

Feedback and suggestions can also be provided by calling (702) 229-IDEA or emailing masterplan@lasvegasnevada.gov.

“If you’ve ever wanted a park near your home or had ideas for how to make your neighborhood safer, now’s a great time to let the City of Las Vegas know,” said Namita Koppa, an analyst in the city’s office of sustainability.

The new master plan process is scheduled to take place through 2019, and is intended to be adopted in early 2020.

The city’s most current master plan, the Las Vegas 2020 Master Plan, was adopted in 2000 and projected growth and guides policy recommendations for the city through 2020.

Visit www.masterplan.vegas for more information on the master plan process and a full list of upcoming public engagement events.


SNS highlights regional accomplishments made in 2018 in new report

Strides made toward strengthening region’s higher education system, expanding water conservation efforts, diversifying local economy

A new accomplishments report highlighting progress the region made toward implementing the Southern Nevada Strong (SNS) Regional Plan in 2018 was released by the SNS Office last month.

Click here to view the report in full.

During the course of the past year, Southern Nevada saw the University of Nevada – Las Vegas (UNLV) join the ranks of some of the country’s top academic institutions by earning an R1 Carnegie classification, high school graduation rate hit a record 85 percent, and new investment and redevelopment throughout the region’s downtown areas.

The SNS Office continued to collaborate with stakeholders toward advancing important regional initiatives. Efforts included hosting a four-part workshop series aimed at improving the region’s federal grant competitiveness, and convening stakeholders for a roundtable discussion with former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx on workforce development and equity.

In addition to 2018 highlights, the report also includes an update to the SNS Indicators Dashboard, which tracks community-level data used to help gauge the well-being of the region. Notable progress was made in median household income, high school graduation rate, percentage of insured adults, and food security rates.

Click here for the 2018 SNS Indicators Dashboard.


News Beyond the Valley

Here are a handful of stories that have caught our attention. Each article highlights how innovative, forward-thinking regional planning, policies, and initiatives can have tangible community impacts.

3 cities to charge for curb space in new micromobility pilot

Charlotte, Detroit, and Omaha will use a mobility platform to charge for curb space for all micromobility modes, in an effort to incentivize behavior. Collected data will also allow cities to analyze scooter supply, demand, distribution and use in addition to overseeing curbside pricing and payments.

New York becomes first city in U.S. to approve congestion pricing

New York City will be the first in the country to impose congestion pricing, charging drivers to enter the most crowded parts of Manhattan. The plan is expected to raise $15 billion for the city transportation authority, which is struggling to modernize its old subway infrastructure.

Amsterdam’s Plan: If You Buy a Newly Built House, You Can’t Rent It Out

In an effort to make housing more affordable, the Dutch capital is crafting a law that says anyone who buys a newly built home must live in it themselves.

 

California will require solar panels on all new houses

California is officially the first state to require newly built homes to come with enough solar panels to offset their electricity use. The state Building Standards Commission voted unanimously to add the requirement to the state building code late last year.a

Oslo to install wireless electric chargers for taxi fleet

Oslo, Norway is poised to become the first city in the world to use wireless fast-charging infrastructure for its taxi fleet, in part of an effort to deploy only electric taxis by the year 2023.