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MAX - The Metropolitan Area Express - is one new kind of public transport in Las Vegas - a 19 million dollar experiment by the federal government. It is the first of it's kind in the U-S - that would make MAX a kind of loner. MAX doesn't need stop lights. MAX doesn't need a driver to park at it's futuristic docking stations and MAX doesn't need regular gas. What MAX needs is popularity so people will use it. So MAX zooms along Las Vegas Boulevard attracting attention and sometimes MAX stops for some admiration. Early Saturday morning MAX had been spotted at Broad Acres Swap Meet on Las Vegas Boulevard North. KNPR's Ky Plaskon went to investigate the success of MAX's popularity campaign.
PLASKON: Not a whole lot of people here today. The streets are wet. It rained last night. It's still sprinkling a little bit. Lets go in and see if we can find someone who has already met MAX. Just inside the gate Tim is getting ready for a day of making keys.
TIM: I can get a 12 pack of Milwaukee Best down at the Mexican store.
PLASKON: Excuse me sir, have you met MAX yet by any chance?"
TIM: Uh, No.
PLASKON: Do you know who MAX is?
TIM: Uh, No.
PLASKON: Lets see what the younger crowd thinks of MAX. A few isles down some children are chewing on some candy. Have you seen MAX? (Children laugh). Hmmm, is it MAX who's funny or is it just me? Well, anyway, here's someone a little more serious, the swap meet's security guard who I found patrolling in a golf cart.
PLASKON: MAX is supposed to be here today.
PLASKON: MAX. It's a bus but kinda not really.
BILL: Oh ya, he's out in the parking lot. Ya, the MAX bus the big city bus, it was out there earlier, I don't know now.
PLASKON: Are you going over there? Can you give me a ride? Allright! I get in, he hands me a tray of coffee and we roll away to some destination among the isles. Bill's got some perspective on MAX from the point of a driver. And, no, not just from driving this little golf cart either.
PLASKON: So what do you think of the bus so far?
BILL: it's different, I drove for 28 years.
PLASKON: You drove busses?
BILL: No, I drove a truck.
PLASKON: I guess the driver sits . . .
BILL: Right in the middle, and your wheels sit back so to me it would be kind awkward. I talked to a driver earlier and he said it's real nice. All the wheels are driven by electric gears, got a Cummings motor in it. The Cummings acts like a generator for the electric wheels. It's different.
PLASKON: Do you think people will like riding it?
BILL: I don't see why not, a bus is a bus right?
PLASKON: We drive all the way to the back entrance of the swap meet where MAX was last spotted.
BILL: Oh it's gone, they left.
BILL: They were parked right here.
PLASKON: MAX left?
According to the official RTC press release MAX was supposed to be here until 11:30 in the morning. I guess MAX is just a little anxious to get back on the road. Bill's been lucky enough to see MAX in action as it takes joy rides up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, just for practice. I wasn't so lucky and so I settled for buying a bag of peanuts.
PLASKON: Hola, puedo comprar unos cacawuates? Has visto MAX? ese autobus como cosa que estaba alli? Even the Peanut salesman had seen MAX.
PEANUT SALESMAN: Si, como no, es bien bonito y tiene mucho lujo. Oh si como no, si se entre ese bus will fall es muy bonito ese.
PLASKON: It's really pretty and very luxurious he says. When that bus goes into operation the other busses won't even be able to compete. It's really pretty. He says. In fact MAX is already moving in on CAT bus territory. The CAT bus rout that usually serves the Las Vegas Boulevard rout from Nellis Air Force Base to Downtown will be reduced because of the leaner, meaner MAX. MAX is scheduled to serve passengers for the first time on March 16 as a kind of express service - all for the same price as CAT.
Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR.