The Las Vegas Premium Outlets-North mall offers a variety of shops, but visitors staying on the Strip had difficulty finding transportation to the shopping center unless they hailed a cab. A couple of years ago, if they took the bus, they were stuck waiting at a bus stop in the blistering desert heat with no shelter.
Holiday shopping -- as well as airport transportation -- via public transportation has improved significantly over the past year. The Regional Transportation Commission's efforts to provide comfortable public transportation appears to have paid off, judging by recent figures.
Before the new Strip and downtown express service was introduced with newer sleek vehicles, ridership to the mall, on Grand Central Parkway, hovered around 400 passengers a day. Now? More than 1,500 passengers make use of the transit system to visit the mall.
The Strip and downtown express services, both of which stop at the Bonneville Transit Center downtown, also have seen record-setting figures. For the first 10 months of the year, the services logged 11.8 million passengers, an increase of 1.2 million over the same period last year. That eclipses past ridership numbers -- 11 million a year -- for the Deuce.
Before the express routes, the Deuce, which stops more frequently, was the most popular mode of public transportation down the resort corridor.
In October alone, the Strip services, which travel a total of 83,000 miles a month, carried 1.3 million passengers, another record. If those riders, an average of 43,000 passengers a day, were in private vehicles, the line would be equivalent to two lanes of traffic in each direction between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, according to a commission report.
"The faster service with limited stops coupled with the 'wow' factor and convenience of the Deuce are two distinct and appealing options that give people the type of service they've been looking for," said Tracy Bower, spokeswoman for the transportation agency. "The audience has been there, and the riders have been there. We're now seeing an increase in numbers."
Bower said other amenities such as ticket machines and more attractive bus shelters are attracting riders that otherwise might take a taxi from the Strip.
The Regional Transportation Commission is encouraging residents to take advantage of its park-and-ride facilities to get to McCarran International Airport and avoid its crammed parking garages. All the commission's facilities offer free parking and security.
"People are choosing to park their cars and take transit," Bower said. "The service is competitive to driving a car by themselves. It saves people time, and it helps save people money."
Residents in the northwest valley can hop on the Westcliff Airport Express at either the station at Westcliff and Durango Drive or at the Suncoast hotel-casino. About 100 parking spaces are designated for travelers at the Suncoast and 94 spaces at Westcliff. The trip to McCarran averages 45 minutes.
A park-and-ride is available in Centennial Hills on Grand Montecito Parkway near the U.S. 95 and Durango Drive interchange. Because this line doesn't connect directly with the airport, buy a $3 two-hour pass to avoid having to buy another ticket at the Bonneville Transit Center.
Once at the Bonneville facility, passengers headed to the airport can hook up with the Westcliff line at Bay 18 or Route 108 southbound at Bay 20. Returning from their trip, vacationers can grab either bus at Level 0 at the airport, where passengers are also dropped off.
The commission also offers free parking at its South Strip Transfer Terminal at Sunset Road and Gilespie Street. There are nearly 200 spaces and, like the others, it is first come, first served. Take Route 109 north to access McCarran, a ride that takes about 10 minutes.
If the family is taking a longer vacation with more luggage, members are advised to drop off relatives and luggage and have one person park the car at the South Strip terminal and return to the airport via bus. This parking lot is full for Thanksgiving weekend, but it is a viable option for the Christmas holiday.
Each of the commission's park-and-ride facilities allows travelers to stay for more than a week, but they ask that drivers contact the security personnel inside the buildings to inform them.
The $2 rides to the airport have become more popular . Travelers can bring their luggage aboard, but no attendants are there to help, and there are no cargo compartments for oversized bags. Pets that fit in carry cases and service animals are allowed on the buses.
Airport officials remind travelers the long-term parking garage and the valet lot are typically the first to fill up. An economy lot is available off Paradise Road south of Russell Road, and a remote lot is available on Gilespie just north of Warm Springs Road. Allow 30 minutes to catch the shuttle to the airport.
As those lots fill up, electronic signs will direct passengers to the airport's overflow lot.
For parking information at the airport, call 261-5122 or log onto mccarran.com.
For the Regional Transportation Commission bus schedule, log onto rtcsnv.com.
Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at email@example.com or 702-387-2904.