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Southern Nevada might finally see progress on the long-planned light rail line down Maryland Parkway.
Tina Quigley, the general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, told State of Nevada after months of conversations and studies, the idea will be brought before the RTC's board in July.
When the light rail plan is presented to the board, it will include a recommendation from the Transporation Advisory Committee.
Quigley said the committee, which includes academics, labor representatives and business owners, recently completed a field trip to Salt Lake City to see its light rail system & talk with stakeholders there.
Many people on the advisory committee, along with Quigley, had questions about whether light rail technology, which is decades old, is the right way to go when technological advances, like autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing, are on the horizon.
She said after the trip to Salt Lake City and months of research on the topic, her mind is made up on the issue.
"You do need to have a fixed-rail-type technology along certain corridors, and those are the corridors where you know there is going to be that densification -- where you know there is going to be additional residential development and employment development," she said.
Quigley said it becomes an issue of geometry -- you can only fit a finite number of cars into a certain geographical space.
On top of that, she said improving transportation is part of an overall plan for a city.
"You have to take a look at not just transit as an independent silo ... but you have to take a look at the corridor & the community at a larger, comprehensive, holistic view," she said.
Quigley said developers in Salt Lake City told them when a rail line was announced and the commitment was made to put a fixed transportation hub in one spot, they knew they could invest in that area.
When asked about the relatively older technology being called for, Quigley said light rail is much different than it was years ago.
"We're talking about systems that no longer require the overhead catenary, or electrification via overhead," she said. "We're talking about systems that can be autonomous. We're talking about systems that are not your grandfather's light rail."
Quigley said she would one day like to see a comprehensive network of light rail around the valley. For now, the plan is to create a line from McCarran International Airport along Maryland Parkway to UNLV, then traveling to the Boulevard Mall & Sunrise Hospital before going west to the new Medical District at University Medical Center.
"It is ripe," she said of the Maryland Parkway corridor. "It is perfect. If you were to look at a classic textbook case about where is an appropriate investment for high capacity transit -- that would be the corridor."
Some people have questioned why a rail line should go along Maryland Parkway, instead connecting the airport with the Las Vegas Strip. Quigley admitted there needs to be a solution to that problem, but coordinating light rail along the Strip would be a larger undertaking than the plan for Maryland Parkway.
For Quigley, the light rail project is just one of many modes of transportation the valley needs -- and needs to invest in for the future. She said smart-car technology, including autonomous cars, will help.
Another technology that could eventually be added to the valley's portfolio of solutions is a more personalized form of public transportation.
Quigley said some communities are testing public transportation that can be hailed through a smartphone app, instead of being on a fixed route at a fixed time.
Those and other solutions, like better connection to the state's rural areas, are part of the overall effort to move Southern Nevada towards becoming a "smart community."
"We're talking about how were are going to become a more efficient community -- using data, using technology and moving past our silos," she said. "So whether you're the transportation department, or the health district, or the water authority, or the city, or the county, talking about how we're going to leverage each other -- using technology to make sure we are not siloed in our approaches to problem-solving."
Tina Quigley, general manager, Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada
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