The glazed look in their eyes wasn’t so much about the hour of the day as it was about what they were being handed: a gooey-sweet Krispy Kreme doughnut.
“The RTC is the best!” a woman in her 20s – appropriately – shouted as she happily took the treat being passed out Wednesday morning to mark the 20th anniversary of the valley’s transit system.
It took less than an hour, between 6:30 and 7:10 a.m., to go through the allotment of donated doughnuts at the Bonneville Transit Center. It was one of three bustling bus hubs operated by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada where the doughnuts were distributed in the morning and again in the early evening.
Total number of caloric confections shared by day’s end: approximately 600.
General Manager Tina Quigley couldn’t help but smile as she interacted with bus patrons, who also were offered various RTC-logoed trinkets as they arrived at the downtown Bonneville hub – either for work or to transfer to other buses that would soon carry them around the valley.
Quigley has been leading the agency for only eight months, but she has worked for it for seven years, during what has been its greatest growth spurt.
What began on Dec. 5, 1992, as Citizens Area Transit, with a modified east-west/north-south grid structure of 21 routes, today is a system of 35 routes with nearly 4,000 stops that serves an average of 178,390 riders on weekdays. Much of that growth occurred over the past half-decade, under the direction of former General Manager Jacob Snow, who preceded Quigley.
In 2007, CAT officially was renamed the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada Transit system, and from there, the agency really took off – most notably, Quigley said – with express service, broadened residential service, the opening of the three state-of-the-art transit centers and expanded use of The Deuce double-decker buses, which started on the Strip in 2005.
“We’ve really focused over the past few years on developing a system that takes people from where they live to where they work or where they want to go,” Quigley said. “We’ve worked very hard to do it as reliably and safely as we can.”
As for The Deuce buses, she said, “People are really attracted to the vehicle. Even when we deploy a Deuce vehicle onto a residential route, we’ll see readership jump up between 10 and 15 percent, just because of the vehicle type.”
To rider – and, yes, doughnut recipient – Robert Wandasan, a 64-year-old former driver for Mission Linen Supply, the RTC transit system is the only way to go. Literally.
“I don’t drive no more. My transportation is the bus,” said Wandasan, who started using the system shortly after it debuted in late 1992. In fact, he said he moved downtown to be closer to the Bonneville hub.
“It’s convenient for me because it takes me wherever I need to go,” which Wednesday was “somewhere near the airport.”
“After driving for Mission 30 years ago and the things I saw on the roads then, and the more I’ve seen the last 20 years taking the bus, I’m glad I don’t drive,” Wandasan said, shaking his head. “… The accidents and deaths I’ve seen on the highways and roadways.”
The recent successes of RTC Transit has helped make it the nation’s 19th busiest. And Quigley sees more heady growth over the next 20 years.
“I really believe we’ll have some form of light rail,” she said. “We’re getting to the point where our population is dense enough that we can justify it.”
Contact reporter Joe Hawk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2912. Follow him on Twitter: @RJroadwarrior.BY THE NUMBERS
Year Citizens Area Transit is formed. Later becomes Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada Transit system.
Routes originally provided by CAT, using a modified east-west/north-south grid structure.
Numbering schemes for routes debut in 1993, with 100s representing north-south routes and 200s used for east-west routes.
Greatest ridership growth by percentage in one year, 1996, from previous year.
Number of original Club Ride members in 1999. Club Ride encourages commuters to carpool, walk, bicycle or take transit to and from work; today has 27,000 members.
$20 million, $3 million
Amount to implement and operate Metropolitan Area Express, first bus rapid transit project in Nevada, in 2004.
Route designation of popular The Deuce bus on the Strip when it debuted in 1995.
Number of transit riders annually, for average of 178,390 on workdays.
Average daily number of riders on the Strip & Downtown Express and The Deuce vehicles on the Strip.
Percentage of RTC vehicles that carry three bike racks.