Maybe a steak from Spago can put the sizzle back in a private bus route on the Strip.
That’s what owners of bus system that hauls tourists between the biggest and fanciest resorts in Las Vegas are hoping.
On Tuesday, owners of the Strip Trolley unveiled a new fleet of buses that let riders make dinner reservations, buy show tickets and night club passes via touch-screen monitors.
The upgraded service is thanks to a marketing deal with the Web site Vegas.com. It comes with a name change from Strip Trolley to The Vegas.com Arrow Shuttle. It also puts buses at the front doors of most major resorts and connects to the Las Vegas Monorail, a privately run, elevated rail service east of the Strip.
The buses’ remote buying system and giant red arrows with flashing lights are an attempt by owners to regain customers they lost when a publicly run system called the Deuce launched double-decker bus service between the Strip and downtown Las Vegas.
"Competing against public transportation is extremely difficult," said Brent Bell, president of Whittlesea Bell, the transportation firm that owns the Las Vegas Strip Trolley company. Vegas.com is a member of the Greenspun Family of Cos.
Bell even contemplated selling the transit system before Vegas.com President Howard Lefkowitz hatched the plan for a marketing partnership that links the buses to the monorail, the front doors of Strip resorts and the audience of the Vegas.com Web site that bills itself as a singular outlet for virtually everything a visitor needs for a Las Vegas vacation — products that are now available on the bus.
"It all works form the same ticketing base," Lefkowitz said.
Bell said the system now attracts just less than 1,000 riders per day, a fraction of the number it served before the Deuce launched in 2005. The Strip Trolley launched in 1988.
"(Ridership) was substantially higher than that before they put those new, shiny double-decker buses on the road," Bell said.
Another factor that hurt the old Strip Trolley system was the size of its buses. The 35-passenger buses made to look like trolleys took up too much space to fit anywhere close to the front doors of most resorts. That meant they were relegated to the back of the building or tour bus loading areas seen by far fewer visitors than the front entrance.
The 20-passenger buses that serve the center-portion of the Arrow system route won’t have that problem.
"The key is to get them back to the front of the hotel," Bell said.
But don’t cry yet for the Deuce.
Launched in 2005 by the Regional Transportation Commission, the Deuce now hauls about 35,000 riders per day between the Strip and downtown Las Vegas.
It doesn’t provide curbside service like the Arrow nor can riders purchase "Spamalot" tickets from their seats. But it has lower fares than the Arrow, includes a monorail stop and delivers a $2 million yearly profit the Regional Transportation Commission uses to subsidize less lucrative routes.
Deuce fares are $2 one-way, $5 for an all day pass and $40 for a monthly pass that is good for the Deuce or any bus throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
Arrow fares are $2.50 for one ride or $10 for an all day pass that also includes the monorail.
Transportation consultant Tom Skancke said with about 40 million visitors annually, there’s room for both services to thrive on the Strip.
"The more public sector and private sector transit there is … the better," said Skancke, president of the Skancke Co. "Las Vegas Boulevard is a busy place."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at email@example.com or (702) 477-3861.