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January 26, 2015

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ACE rapid-transit bus service exceeds ridership expectations


Kyle B. Hansen

From left, Rep. Shelley Berkley, RTC General Manager Jacob Snow, Rep. Dina Titus, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Henderson City Councilwoman Debra March and County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani plant seeds to mark the stat of work on the ACE Green Line.

ACE Green Line groundbreaking

RTC General Manager Jacob Snow speaks at the groundbreaking of the new ACE Green Line, which will run down Boulder Highway from downtown Las Vegas to Henderson. Launch slideshow »

RTC: New Bus is an ACE

Sleek new ACE buses will take passengers down two new routes starting on Sunday, March 28. Until April 3, locals ride for free on the new ACE Gold Line and ACExpress rapid transit service from Centennial Hills to downtown, UNLV and the south Strip.

Instead of a traditional groundbreaking for the new ACE Green Line, the Regional Transportation Commission held a seed planting and watering Thursday, marking what officials hope will be the beginning of a world-class transit system.

So far, they seem to be on track.

Less than two weeks after beginning service, the Las Vegas Valley’s first two rapid transit bus lines, the ACE Gold Line and the ACExpress C Line, are exceeding ridership expectations, General Manager Jacob Snow said.

The lines began service March 28. The ACExpress W line is expected to begin service later this year, and the groundbreaking was to make room on Boulder Highway for the ACE Green Line, which should be running by the end of next year.

So far, about 12,000 people have ridden the C Line, which provides nonstop service from the new Centennial Hills Transit Center in northeast Las Vegas to downtown before going to UNLV.

The ACE Gold Line, which runs down Las Vegas Boulevard from downtown to the Strip, has been averaging 20,000 people a day, Snow said.

That’s far more than the 4,000 to 6,000 riders the commission’s computer models predicted, Snow said, and the demand required the RTC’s contractors to add staff.

“We really tried to get ready, but we were overwhelmed by the response,” Snow said.

There were a couple other minor problems as the service began but, Snow said, they have been solved.

Utility work on the Strip near Spring Mountain Road also made running the buses on time more difficult than expected, Snow said.

The launch of the ACE lines included an adjustment to the commission’s other bus lines, including changing the route of the popular Deuce on the Strip line, which largely serves the same corridor as the ACE Gold Line.

But riders who work on the Strip said the change added more transfers and time to their trip, and some tourists like the double-decker buses and preferred to take them downtown, so the RTC on April 1 extended the Deuce route to again go downtown.

Between the Gold Line and Deuce, about 40,000 people ride a bus on Las Vegas Boulevard each day, 8,000 to 10,000 people more than before ACE service, Snow said.

The RTC is counting on more people continuing to ride the ACE lines — which have higher fares than traditional lines — to help fund the system as tax revenue has fallen.

For fiscal 2010, the RTC expects fuel tax revenue to be down 3 percent, sales tax revenue to be down 13 percent and jet aviation fuel tax to be down 2.9 percent, Director of Finance Marc Traasdahl told the RTC’s board at its meeting on Thursday.

But fare-box revenue is expected to be up 11.7 percent, to $61.7 million, Traasdahl said, and it is expected to rise another 2.4 percent in fiscal 2011.

The RTC recently raised fares, contributing to the increase, but the new ACE lines are considered “premium services,” which have higher fares. So as more ACE lines are added, more people are paying the higher fares.

That means more ACE lines not only help reduce the number of cars on the road, they also help fund the commission, which helps fund road projects throughout the valley in addition to running the public transit system.

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