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.