When transportation experts drew up plans for the new ACE transit system, they had residents such as Chris Jacobs in mind.
Jacobs is a manager at Trump International Hotel, and he lives about 20 miles northwest of the Strip in the Centennial Hills development. On Monday, a day after the Regional Transportation Commission formally introduced the ACE line to Las Vegas, Jacobs was on the bus again.
It was his second day too.
"This is the first time I've taken public transportation," Jacobs said. "Ever."
Exactly the mind-altering effect transportation representatives hoped the sleek new transit system would generate.
The crowds taking a spin on the new vehicles looked more like the type of passengers one would see on a commuter train .
Although the buses started running Sunday, the Centennial Hills park-and-ride officially opened Monday, offering residents in the northwest an express ride downtown, a trip that takes about 20 minutes. It continues throughout downtown, then down to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. Passengers can get off downtown and switch to the ACE gold line, which heads down the Strip.
Jacobs said he was at work in 45 minutes, about the same amount of time it took him to drive. He figures he will save $200 a month in gas because he drives a pickup and is pleased that he is helping the environment.
Judging by the ribbing he took at work Monday, not everybody appreciates the concept.
"No one walks or rides bikes in this town," he said. "If you take public transportation, they think your car broke down."
That doesn't bother Jacobs.
"I'll do it (ride the ACE) five days a week," he said.
Others hopped on the bus Monday to test the times before relying on the system to get to work. They embraced the thought of reading a book, checking e-mails or snoozing and leaving the driving to someone else.
"You can talk on the phone or get work done. You don't have to worry about the stress of driving because you're not the one driving," said Dara Godfrey, who used to commute by train in New York. "It takes a load of stress out of the day."
Godfrey, also a Trump employee, never envisioned herself riding the bus.
"The last thing you'd think about is taking a bus," she said. "It looks like a trolley or a train. It's really nice-looking."
Most of the people checking out the ACE line admitted to never having taken public transportation in Las Vegas.
Cindy and Herman Kluesener figure the express line is the perfect option when friends visit and they head downtown for dinner, drinks and a show. They were impressed with the cleanliness of the vehicle and the security in the park-and-ride facility.
"I think this will definitely help downtown," Herman Kluesener said. "We're way out here, and we get in a rut. We don't like to drive, but I'd do this."
Judith and Victor Emenike took their 5-year-old son on the ACE for his birthday. He loved the modern look of the bus and wanted to take a ride. Judith Emenike would consider taking the ACE line to the Premium Outlet stores on Grand Central Parkway. The system is appealing because it is on time and direct.
"It doesn't stop in every little place," she said.
While the ACE line appeared to be overwhelmingly successful with those who rode it Monday, a few aired some complaints.
Passengers said they would love to see the line extend to McCarran International Airport.
As the system is now, residents can take the ACExpress to UNLV, then change buses to the airport, or they can take the express line downtown, transfer to the gold line that runs down the Strip to the South Strip Transfer Terminal and catch a bus to the airport.
Allison Blankenship, spokeswoman for the Regional Transportation Commission, said three lines now serve the Strip: Route 108, the Deuce double-deck buses and the ACE.
The Deuce and both ACE lines are considered premium service, meaning fares start at $3 for a two-hour pass, $1.50 for seniors and children 6 to 17 years old.
Another common complaint among Monday's passengers were the downtown stops. Edie Hegi, blocked the sun from her eyes as she sat on a bench at Fourth Street just south of Fremont Street.
Aside from the sun beating down on Hegi and her two young daughters, she said the stop was difficult to find and she didn't feel all that safe.
"This particular spot isn't up to par," she said. "At night would be my concern."
Concerns about downtown stops are expected to be remedied when the Bonneville Transit Center opens this summer. The transit center at the corner of Bonneville Avenue and Casino Center Boulevard will be the first downtown stop for the Centennial Hills line and a second express route that will originate at Westcliff and Durango drives, a park-and-ride expected to open in the fall.
The Regional Transportation Commission will break ground next week on the green line, which will cater to Boulder Highway.
"It's amazing how far we've come in such a short amount of time," Larry Brown, Clark County Commissioner and chairman of the transportation board said. "The ACExpress is going to be phenomenal."
About $2.5 million of the ACE system funding came from the federal stimulus plan, Sen. Harry Reid said Monday.
"This project is more than just moving people; the event here today is about moving the economy," Reid said.
Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at email@example.com or 702-387-2904.