Meanwhile, in Phoenix…

phoenix light rail
Photo via Valley Metro Rail.
phoenix light rail
Photo via Valley Metro Rail.

Last April, Southern Nevada officials rejected going forward with a light rail proposal in Las Vegas, opting for a rapid bus transit system instead.

Light rail is too expensive, Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, who also chairs the Regional Transportation Committee Board, explained to a June meeting of the Transportation Resource Advisory Committee (TRAC). At that meeting, Brown also brought up how RTC revenue is taking a pounding thanks to Uber and Lyft along the Strip corridor.

“A better understanding of the RTC’s financial situation and how to mitigate the continued decline would be necessary prior to engaging in any high-capacity transit solution,” Brown said according to the meeting minutes.

A final decision on rapid bus transit system improvements “would not occur until December 2020, during which things could change,” Brown added.

Meanwhile, in Phoenix, voters Tuesday overwhelmingly killed a referendum financed by the groups on the political right that would have blocked expanding that city’s decade-old 28-mile light rail system.

“This campaign was never about one track of rail. It was about equity for our entire city and voters delivered on that promise,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallago, as reported Wednesday in the Current‘s sister publication, the Arizona Mirror.

From the Mirror‘s story:

The city’s south side will be the first community to experience the effects of keeping light rail projects on track.

A 5.5-mile South Central Light Rail Extension connecting the city’s downtown core to its south side down Central Avenue to Baseline Road is scheduled for completion by 2023….

Campaign finance records show only a few individuals bankrolled $459,000 for the committee urging a ‘Yes’ vote, called Building a Better Phoenix, while a broad coalition of companies, nonprofit organizations, individuals and political action committees invested nearly one million dollars to keep light rail development plans, under the Invest in Phoenix campaign committee. 

High school and college students urged Phoenix voters to reject Prop. 105. The week prior to the election, some argued the light rail allowed them access to educational, job and recreational opportunities.

Dazhané Brown, 17, a senior at South Mountain High School, said she spends two hours every day commuting to and from school from her northwest Phoenix home to the city’s south side. If the light rail extension in South Phoenix is constructed, that commute time would be cut in half, she said. 

Brown said it’s “selfish” to reject the light rail projects. 

Meanwhile back in Las Vegas, the Transportation Resource Advisory Committee was scheduled to meet Wednesday. Among items on the agenda was a presentation from Virgin Trains about its proposed high-speed train from Southern California to Las Vegas.

The Review-Journal reported Virgin wants to use $800 million in private activity bonds to help finance the project. Under Virgin’s plan, the state of California would authorize $600 million of the bonds, and the state of Nevada, $200 million, the R-J reported.

The $800 million isn’t state money, but state authorization would render the bonds tax exempt, making them attractive to investors in Virgin’s project. Under federal law, each year individual states are allotted a limited amount that they can authorize in bonds.

In 2018, Nevada’s allocation of tax-exempt private activity bond financing totaled $314 million.

Also on TRAC’s agenda Wednesday was a another review of potential funding sources for transit in Southern Nevada.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I can assure you that the light rail system in Phoenix is a shining example of public transportation, not only is it cost effective but clean and on schedule. The ones fighting it from the gate were the usual suspects, car dealers, gas stations, insurance cos.etc.. Jerry Colangelo was the man with the vision and the civic leadership that made it happen and the transformation along the route is nothing short of miraculous. Phoenix is home to several major bowl games and the Super Bowl on rotation and the light rail is why it is so.

  2. You can talk pep over to light rail station from airport- the Greyhound bus station is right there as well. Light rail goes down town by stadium or out to university in Tempe. Super convenient.

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