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October 31, 2014

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The future of public transportation: ACE rapid transit lines

When most of us think about our commute to work, what matters most are how quickly and easily we can get there. This month, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada will launch a system designed to make commuting faster, easier and more attractive with the ACE rapid transit system. Two ACE lines open this month, with three others scheduled to open over the next two years.

ACE is a truly hybrid system. It combines the speed and style of a light rail system with the flexibility to travel anywhere, like a bus line. But it isn’t your grandfather’s bus. ACE features hybrid vehicles with sleek designs and spacious interiors that mimic a train, but rubber tires make it possible for them to drive anywhere. Three wide doors and level station platforms, also similar to a light rail system, make boarding convenient and fast. Passengers purchase tickets from ticket vending machines and simply walk onto the ACE vehicles, which will arrive every few minutes.

The ACE rapid transit lines will feature dedicated lanes that allow the vehicles to travel fast, unimpeded by other traffic. With the dedicated lanes and fewer stops than traditional transit routes, that means a shorter commute for riders. The first line, the ACE Gold Line, will link downtown Las Vegas with the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Strip. With dedicated lanes downtown, the service is fast and convenient, much like light rail lines you find in downtown areas in other cities.

One of the best features of the ACE Gold line downtown is the enhancements to the streets where ACE will operate. Streets are our most ubiquitous form of public space, but all too often aren’t given the treatments that make them truly usable. The dedicated transit lanes, enhanced landscaping and attractive station platforms that we’ve installed create the feel of a truly livable urban community.

The second type of service that will launch this month is ACExpress. This service is designed with commuters in mind. ACExpress provides fast, limited-stop service ideal for commuters. The line we’ll launch this month is the ACExpress C line. The C line will travel from the Centennial Hills Transit Center, a new park-and-ride facility at Durango Drive and Elkhorn Road, directly to downtown Las Vegas using the carpool lanes on U.S. 95. With no stops between the park-and-ride and downtown, the service will be competitive with car travel. After stops downtown, the C line will continue to Spring Mountain Road and the Strip, to the Howard Hughes Center and then to UNLV. The line will be ideal for commuters traveling to downtown, the Strip or UNLV.

A second ACExpress line, linking a new transit center at Westcliff and Durango drives, will launch later this year. The ACE Green Line on Boulder Highway will be completed next year, followed by a rapid transit line on Sahara Avenue that will be completed in 2012.

The flexibility of the ACE vehicle to travel anywhere — in dedicated ACE lanes, in carpool lanes or on regular streets — makes it ideal for Southern Nevada. That flexibility is one of the advantages of the ACE system, but so is the price tag. At a time when local governments are struggling to pay for basic services, expensive light rail lines are something few can afford.

In Seattle, a new light rail line cost as much as $100 million per mile to construct. Phoenix’s new light rail line cost as much as $70 million per mile. The RTC has been able to construct the ACE Gold Line for less than $6 million per mile while achieving the same feel and speed as a light rail system.

Much of the funding for the ACE system has come from federal government, making it even more affordable.

Monthly passes for the ACE system and access to all of the RTC’s transit routes cost just $65; five-day passes may be purchased for just $20. During the first week of operation, from March 28 through April 3, residents can ride for free with a local ID.

I hope you and your employees will be on board for the ride.

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