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U2 fans find no good way home

What happens at Sam Boyd Stadium eventually ends. But what stays at Sam Boyd Stadium is you. For hours, apparently.

That is according to hundreds of U2 fans who caught the Oct. 23 show and found themselves waiting in long cab lines, with one glitch. No cabs. This frustrating scenario prompted some visitors to wander off to Tropicana Avenue in search of a bus stop and others to wait in line as taxis trickled in over a two-hour period.

But, hey, this is Vegas, and we promote ourselves with that overused slogan — you know, the one about what happens here staying here. So with this in mind, I’m sure the tourists won’t pass the word that they had to trek through unfamiliar territory in search of any form of transportation — bus, cab, friendly driver willing to help out desperate visitors.

No, deep, dark secrets such as this one will be safe: Las Vegas, the Entertainment Capital of the World, struggles to provide transportation to major off-Strip events.

When it came to ferrying tourists and locals to a concert expected to draw at least 40,000, the folks at Sam Boyd thought they had it figured out. They made six lanes available for cabbies to drop off U2 fans and later scoop them up.

But the problem was the cabbies didn’t come back. You can’t blame them. The decision is a no-brainer for cabdrivers presented a choice between staying on the Strip where other concerts were ending and collecting fare after fare, or making the time-consuming haul out to Sam Boyd for a single fare.

It’s an even easier choice for cabbies who pay for their own gasoline.

You can’t really blame concert organizers either. Who wouldn’t expect the taxi drivers to flock to a stadium full of thousands eager to get back to the clubs and casinos?

This scenario doesn’t happen in other major cities equipped to handle such events with transportation such as a light-rail system or subway. The situation that unfolded last weekend exposes Las Vegas as a city struggling to grow up but lacking big-city conveniences such as a wide-ranging public transportation system.

It also provides more ammunition to those who object to multibillion-dollar proposals to build a high-speed train between Las Vegas and Los Angeles — those who urge politicians to get something done here first.

We boast about landing major events such as a NASCAR race or a band such as U2, which every city in the nation would love to host. Yet our two largest venues — Sam Boyd and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway — are miles from the Strip.

We have a difficult time getting the folks to these events.

This predicament is nothing new. When the NASCAR race was introduced to Las Vegas, Las Vegas introduced its transportation woes to spectators.

The Regional Transportation Commission couldn’t provide buses for the event, because it doesn’t have a route that reaches the Speedway and federal laws prohibit government-funded agencies from competing with private charter services. The Speedway resolved the issue by chartering private shuttle companies.

The transportation commission can put more buses on existing routes for events, but those don’t provide an expeditious trip out to these venues.

“We can’t provide a direct route from Point A to Point B. We have to follow our standard routing with all the stops in between,” said RTC spokeswoman Allison Blankenship. “When we get information about events, we get info out promoting the use of our transit system.”

Even when the transportation commission unveils its new ACE service, which is touted as the closest technology to light-rail, it won’t alleviate the headaches experienced by concertgoers at Sam Boyd.

Those buses will be concentrated downtown, not on the outskirts where, on a day-to-day basis, there is little demand.

To be fair, the transportation commission eventually came to the rescue at the U2 concert.

Although it is not used daily, a Sam Boyd route exists in the transit guide, which allowed buses to be dispatched once it became clear there was a problem.

Based on past experiences, Blankenship said, the transit authority anticipated about 150 fans would use the bus to get to the stadium. Five buses were placed on the route.

At 10:45 p.m., the transit supervisors watched stranded wannabe taxi passengers begin flooding the transit line and requested three more buses.

An hour later, Las Vegas police called for additional help and two double-deck buses were sent to the stadium.

Blankenship said about 1,000 fans were transported back to town with the regular stops in between.

Still, nobody foresaw the problems at Sam Boyd. And that was a glaring oversight that shows our city struggles to accommodate the droves who come to visit and attend big events.

Don’t get me started on the impact road work has on events. Don’t get me started on the city closing Summerlin Parkway the weekend of the recent Justin Timberlake charity golf tournament in, yes, Summerlin.

That’s a whole different story. Stay tuned.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail her at roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com or apacker@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.

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