RTC exec finds bus rides moving

If Jacob Snow is going to talk the talk, he had better walk the walk, or at the very least ride the bus.

His words, not mine.

For years, Snow has encouraged Las Vegas Valley residents to abandon their vehicles and use public transportation and walk or ride their bicycles.

“If I’m not going to take the transit service in this community, then I shouldn’t have the job,” said Snow, general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission.

For years, he visited places like Portland, Ore., and cherished the evening walks through a lively downtown. Upon his return to Las Vegas, he would ask why that environment couldn’t be created in the valley’s communities.

“I would think, ‘Why can’t we have this in Las Vegas?’ ” Snow said. “We can have that. What they need is the people, somebody to be the pioneer, somebody to show it can be done.”

And so now that he is done talking, he will soon begin walking — to the nearest bus stop.

Snow is uprooting his family from the suburbs of Henderson and replanting them on Water Street, a once-seedy street previously occupied by bail bonds businesses and smoke shops in an area once teasingly referred to as Hendertucky.

By Christmas he plans to live in a mixed-use townhouse where his wife, a photographer and life coach, will have a studio on the ground level and the family will live above. Snow and his 14-year-old son will catch the Boulder Highway Express bus line to Las Vegas for work and school.

Snow’s initial intention was to buy a loft at the Juhl Condominiums in downtown Las Vegas, just a block from the Transportation Commission’s new Bonneville Transit Center. After a shift in ownership put the kibosh on the purchase, Snow began looking elsewhere.

The combination of an improved transit system and redevelopment efforts in downtown areas across the valley have allowed a vision long held by Snow to come into focus. Both Las Vegas and Henderson are going forward with “complete street” programs, which include wider sidewalks with landscaping and decorative lighting, bike lanes and transit lines.

“I want to live in a neighborhood that by design has less automobiles,” Snow said.

The suburbs that many Las Vegas residents have become accustomed to living in are typically walled in, leaving little choice but to drive to schools that are only a quarter-mile away. Neighbors rarely get to know one another.

“I’d rather be a part of a different neighborhood,” Snow said.

In the short time Snow has visited the site of his new townhouse, he has already become well-acquainted with his new neighbors.

“I have felt that Las Vegas, compared to other places, lacks a sense of community,” Snow said. “I wanted to live in an area where we could interact with other people, where there was a street presence.”

In the evenings, he envisions himself walking to restaurants or riding his bike to the gym. In the morning, he will walk to the bus stop and catch the Boulder Highway Express, the new service that will begin operating this summer.

The line will briefly cut away from Boulder Highway and onto Water Street in downtown Henderson. That decision, Snow assured me, was made long before he opted to go hunting for a downtown dwelling. A reliable public transportation system is key to luring people into urban areas, he said.

He stands by elected officials’ decision to make the transit system a bus line rather than light rail. Studies have shown that since Snow’s agency introduced express lines, new passengers share the same demographic background as light-rail commuters.

“We see people parking their cars to take the bus,” he said. “For so many years, people said that would never happen in Las Vegas.”

Now he wants them to join him downtown.

“We have some of the elements (for a lively downtown environment). Now we need to support those things,” Snow said. “We need density and people to get to that real tipping point.”

Snow is clearly continuing to do the talking, but you have to give him credit for also doing the walking.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Adrienne Packer at (702) 387-2904, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Include your phone number.

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