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November 22, 2014

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City, RTC join forces on safety measures at Las Vegas bus stops

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Steve Marcus

Reginald Lovett, an employee of Outdoor Promotions, disconnects electricity from a bus shelter after a pickup truck ran into the shelter on Rancho Drive just north of Lake Mead Boulevard Monday, June 21, 2010. The driver of the truck, a person waiting at the bus shelter and the driver of another vehicle were transported to the hospital, police said.

Updated Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 | 5:43 p.m.

The Regional Transportation Committee is getting a $1 million boost for its efforts to make bus stops around the valley safer.

On Monday, Las Vegas officials announced the $1 million contribution for acquiring rights of way to allow the RTC to move more than 100 bus stops farther back from the curb.

The relocated stops generally would be set back five feet from the roadway and include a shelter.

Many of the 1,434 bus stops in Las Vegas are on the sidewalk next to busy roads and are marked only by a sign, placing pedestrians waiting there at risk if there’s a vehicle accident.

“The fact is moving shelters further back from sidewalks or creating bus turnouts increases safety at stops. The challenge is gaining the right-of-way to make these efforts come to fruition and acquiring it is the critical role the city plays,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said.

Moving bus stops back by just five feet has been shown to reduce the chance of an accident by 80 percent, RTC general manager Tina Quigley said.

Although vehicle-bus stop collisions account for less than 1/10th of 1 percent of all accidents in the valley, Quigley said the investment in better bus stops would help people feel safer and encourage them to use alternate modes of transportation.

“Having that buffer of five feet not only gives you a certain psychological comfort while waiting but research also shows it’s safer for you,” Quigley said.

There have been several high-profile fatal collisions between vehicles and bus stops over the years — most recently in September when four people were killed at a stop along Spring Mountain Road— but most accidents happen at night when no one is at the stop, said Carl Scarbrough, the RTC’s manager of transit advertising and amenities.

“As a part of what’s going on in our roadways, bus shelter crashes are a very small segment of all crashes,” Scarbrough said. “If you look at the number of shelters that get hit, it’s one to two a month. Most of those are happening overnight and no one is hurt; it’s a hit and run.”

The city’s allocation for right-of-way acquisition is the first time a municipality has monetarily supported the RTC’s efforts to improve bus stop safety, Quigley said.

The RTC also is working with various business owners to see if they will donate the 5-by-25-foot parcels – equivalent to about two parking spaces – needed to set bus stops back from the sidewalk.

A church and a U.S. Bank near Tropicana Avenue and Mountain Vista Street recently provided right-of-way access to allow new bus shelters to be built on their properties, Quigley said.

“We’re hoping that private-sector businesses will also recognize the importance of setting the shelters back,” she said. “It’s very easy for a property owner to donate that easement. If we can do that we’re saving our community not only in lives but there’s a benefit to the taxpayer as well.”

Funding for the land acquisitions will be available in July and will be paid from the city’s share of the nine-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax collected in Clark County.

The city and RTC have developed a prioritized list of bus stops in Las Vegas that would benefit, based on ridership and traffic numbers. The city’s allocation would only cover acquisitions within its municipal borders.

The city projects the $1 million allocation will allow for right of way acquisition at 150 to 200 locations.

Once the city has acquired the land, it will be up to the RTC to design, build and install the shelters, which usually cost about $15,000 each.

The RTC has spent $15 million since 2008 to improve pedestrian safety at its bus stops, including building 478 bus turnouts and moving 515 stops and shelters further back from the roadway. The RTC operates 3,156 stops throughout Clark County.

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