If stars align, it looks like car-centric Las Vegas will soon place new bets on mass transit. This week state and local officials presented a preliminary plan to construct multi-billion-dollar light rail system in Sin City. The route, which has been in the works for more than two years, would link Las Vegas's airport, McCarran International, to the Strip. A bill under consideration in the state senate would give local officials authority to pursue federal grants or impose tax increases to fund transit, as well as emerging technologies like self-driving cars. Right now, state law forbids local transit commissions from creating "high-capacity" mass transit systems like the proposed railway, the Associated Press reports. Bill sponsor Mark Manendo was one of six elected officials at the meeting who said Las Vegas trails similar municipalities in mass transit development. "If we can lead in the travel and tourism industry—and who can dispute that, accommodating more than 42 million visitors a year—I find it hard to believe our community cannot come together to help build a world-class transportation system," Senator Manendo told the AP. To formulate its plan, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada looked to light rail systems in Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver, and San Diego. In addition to trains, the commission is also considering other mass transit options to connect the city's college campuses, commercial corridors, hospitals, and residential districts. The senate bill, though, doesn't stop at Las Vegas, where a light rail line could cost $12.5 billion and take two or three decades to build. Reno, Nevada, could see transit improvements, as well, if the state's estimated $26 billion plan is approved and fully funded.
Last week, Atlanta’s notoriously dysfunctional mass transportation authority, MARTA, released a $2.7-billion expansion plan that will extend its services from the city center via light rail, bus rapid transit, and arterial roadways. The announcement marks the largest development strategy made by the organization in decades. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the 40-year plan, “More MARTA,” was approved by the authority's board of directors in a unanimous vote on Thursday. Officials have agreed to dole out money to 17 projects across the city, allocating large sums to the Beltline and the Clifton Corridor, the latter of which will include four miles of light rail service from the Lindbergh Station to a new station at Emory University. In total, 29 miles of light rail will be built throughout the city, as well as 13 miles of new bus lines. Three arterial rapid transit routes serving both the north and south sides of Atlanta will be built out as well, making 20-to-30 minute trips much faster. Station improvements along the MARTA rail line will also be made over the next few years. Initial plans for the major expansion were announced in May, but significant adjustments were made leading up to the final decision after Beltline advocates pushed for more money for public transit along the 22-mile loop. The light rail addition has long been in the works for the famed urban park and trial. Further tweaks were also made to extend train and bus lines more effectively into some of Atlanta's 10 outlying counties. In recent years, several have voted to join MARTA, further incentivizing the transportation organization to provide high-capacity services to the outer regions. Atlanta is the third fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States and it has suffered from poor public transportation. A report put out by the U.S. Census Bureau in March revealed that nearly 90,000 people moved to the city from 2016 to 2017, bringing the total population to approximately 5.8 million people. It’s the largest single-year growth gain since the Great Recession. These scores of people are moving to Atlanta largely for jobs—77,300 were added last year—but not everyone is living in the areas where mass transit is already available for their daily commutes.