Traffic study urges end of free parking

Doing away with one of the Strip’s long-standing freebies could ease traffic congestion, according to a new study.

But the study’s recommendation to end free parking in the resort corridor as a solution to gridlock is being summarily dismissed by the Regional Transportation Commission, the commission’s chief administrator said Wednesday.

The transportation commission might, however, consider improving streets, building new rapid transit lines and creating park-and-ride lots, as also suggested by the study.

The pay-to-park plan “has no legs. I just don’t see how that will work here in this community,” said Jacob Snow, the commission’s general manager. He said he believes the transportation commission’s board shares that view.

“I don’t think this community is set up economically for that to happen,” Snow said.

An early version of the study, commissioned by Clark County planners and scheduled to be presented to the transportation commission today, claims the Las Vegas Valley will have a hard time sustaining growth unless commuters start using ways other than driving alone to work, play or shop.

“Mobility within (the) Las Vegas Valley has reached a crisis point, with both residents and visitors trapped by congestion,” said a study summary, prepared by Wilbur Smith Associates, a transportation and infrastructure engineering firm from Columbia, S.C.

“Existing plans and policies will inadequately support further growth, meaning that even the desire to continue building will be stopped by congestion,” the study said.

Among its conclusions, the report suggests “finding ways to accommodate a high growth in person trips without also greatly increasing vehicle trips” in busy districts such as the resort corridor.

The study believes one way to do that would be to end free parking, which in the resort corridor creates a “tremendous incentive for many to fight their way through congestion to bring their cars into overloaded areas” and ignore transit options, according to the study.

“Paid parking must be a feature of the most congested areas, or those areas and the roads feeding them will suffer,” the study said. “If businesses cannot organize to charge on their own, implement a parking fee for all vehicles that park inside the most congested areas, and use funds generated to help create” satellite parking lots that could be located around the edges of the resort corridor, linked by shuttle buses to major Strip properties.

But Snow believes commuters instead could be lured to embrace mass transit options through other incentives. Currently, Strip employers who provide car pool programs or other such group commuting opportunities get a tax credit of $1,200 per employee enrolled in such efforts.

While the rest of the study’s suggestions are still on the table, Snow said the transportation commission isn’t ready to commit to most of the concepts.

“I don’t think the RTC is saying we’re going to put all our ducks behind any of these proposals,” Snow said. “Most of these recommendations, we’re going to have to develop some additional data to see if it’s even feasible.

“I think there are some good ideas in that report that need to be explored further,” said Snow, adding that he was “confident we’ll be able to accommodate that growth.”

The study’s lead recommendation is one that the transportation commission already is pursuing actively: creation of a so-called “regional fixed guideway” along Las Vegas Boulevard, which would consist of an express bus using bus-only lanes and making limited “station” stops, to mimic the speed and patterns of a train.

The study also calls for the re-engineering of various streets to improve traffic circulation, including the Paradise Road/Swenson Street corridor; around the Strip and Las Vegas Beltway; and on Boulder Highway and Blue Diamond Road.

In many cases, the work could involve creating “couplets” of parallel one-way streets, or the conversion of some streets into freewaylike “superarterials” that use overpasses and onramps in place of stoplights and intersections.

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