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Las Vegas loses if it ignores mass transit

A few weeks ago, the American Public Transportation Association released a study on the transportation preferences and habits of the Millennial generation. The study, entitled “Millennials and Mobility,” found that 70 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds are multimodal, meaning they travel to their homes and jobs using varied modes of transportation, including rail, bike and bus. This is the multimodal generation, and this is the future.

Ever since I served on the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, I’ve been an advocate of transit. For more than five years, I’ve been speaking across the country, telling audiences that the Millennial generation will be moving our economy and the world differently. It turns out I was wrong to speak in the future tense — the future is now.

Today, Millennials are moving to communities that provide public infrastructure choices. They want to get to home, work and recreation as seamlessly as possible. They will use cars if they can afford them, but they would rather walk or ride their bike to a transit stop and go into work from there. Millennials are demanding high-quality transportation infrastructure, and they are voting with their feet.

Why does this matter? Millennials are the smartest and most tech-savvy workforce that the world has ever seen. Time away from their phones, tablets and laptops makes them uncomfortable. They view their drive time as wasted, and they want to be in communities that afford them the opportunity to be constantly connected.

In Southern Nevada, Millennials are demanding more and better modes of transportation. If we do not meet that demand, we will lose these bright individuals to places such as Seattle, Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City.

Our community is embarking on a new direction for economic development. It’s time we went in a new direction for public transportation. What kind of community do we want to be? Do we want to stay ahead of trends, or do we constantly want to play catch-up? Do we want to attract a tech-savvy workforce, or do we want our competitors to get them?

Many may ask what it will cost us to build a world-class transit system. I think the better question is this: What will it cost if we don’t?

In a 21st-century global economy, many funding mechanisms exist for transit infrastructure, including public-private partnerships and private equity. As a community, we should investigate all opportunities to develop our transit infrastructure. Our community must lead and aggressively position itself for the future. Now is not the time to hesitate. Investing in our transit infrastructure will help us in create a new economy with a larger workforce prepared for the jobs of the future.

If anyone can do this, Las Vegas can.

Tom R. Skancke is president and CEO of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance.

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