People have lost lives and limbs at bus stops in Las Vegas.
In just one accident in 2012, four people died when a speeding vehicle launched into the air and slammed into a bus stop.
In two accidents in January and February this year, two people died when vehicles slammed into bus stops.
Many have of these accidents have resulted in lawsuits, including one filed earlier this month. Conan Obenchain lost a leg in 2012 after being hit by a car driven by school teacher Lynn Lardeo. Obenchain is suing the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada and the Clark County Commission.
The main argument in many of these lawsuits is this: bus stops are simply way too close to our roads.
The RTC has spent $20 million to move shelters back from the roads and plan on spending another $20 million. But they have some 3,300 shelters under their jurisdiction and about 2,000 have a shelter or bench and half of those will be moved back when the project is finished.
“When we’re done with this project by the end of the year, basically every stop where we have the right of way or an easement, so the property rights to move the bus shelter back off the sidewalk we will have done those,” said Carl Scarbrough with the RTC.
Scarbrough said money is not the issue but finding willing property owners is. He said local owners of commercial or residential property are usually very good partners and happy to give the RTC the room it needs, but many times out-of-town owners are not.
“They don’t see the value of their business or their shopping center of having mass transit,” he said and they don't understand the problem Las Vegas has struggled with for years.
Matt Callister is a local attorney who has represented people seriously hurt in bus stop crashes and the families of people who have died in crashes.
He said city and county governments need to use the power of eminent domain to take land for bus stop easements.
“We have a bus system that’s essentially privately operated under the governance of RTC," he said, "They choose the sites. They know where they are. They don’t want to spend the money to make them safer. So people continue to die”
He said there hasn't been the "political will" to take the land needed. Callister said he understand it can take some time and effort to use the power of eminent domain but crashes are "going to continue to occur until it is properly addressed."
Scarbrough said the RTC cannot on its own use eminent domain to take property, but local governments can. He said the city of Las Vegas is doing what it can to get room for bus stops to be pushed back.
It is the older neighborhoods that are bigger problem, according to Scarbrough. Many older areas have a five-foot sidewalk next to a block wall. The RTC has worked with the developers of newer neighborhoods to have detached sidewalks, bus stop pads and bus turnouts.
North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee worked on the issue of bus stop safety while he was a state senator, and it is still a problem.
“From what I know, safety has always been a discussion but sometimes the proper safety for that shelter itself is almost impossible to get,” he said.
John Lee, mayor, North Las Vegas; Carl Scarbrough, amenities manager, Regional Transportation Commission; Matt Callister, attorney
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