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Averill park, New York, United States
This is a blog that hopes to help with the confusion of bus riding in Vegas. Comments are encouraged. Spam is not encouraged. Comments that include websites will not be published. Allow time for moderation of all comments.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Downtown to the strip

Here is some advice to a guy going from downtown to the strip.  It may be helpful for you.

It is a lot easier to give good advice if you tell us your exact itinerary and the times you expect to use the bus.

Are you going by bus to a hotel?
Is it downtown?
How many days will you stay?
How many days might you ride the bus?
What times would you be riding (SDX and WAX do not go 24 hours)?
Where do you want to go on the strip?
How much walking are you willing to do?
Does going to Sam's Town or Eastside Cannery out Boulder matter to you enough to go there on the way to the strip making it overall a longer trip but perhaps free?
Do you want to be perfectly honest or are you willing to pretend to be a local, willing to be asked to get off the bus if you are discovered?

That being said, this might give you enough information. But I detect you hate buses and are frustrated and overwhelmed with the planning, so give us an itinerary and we'll sketch out the "best" possibility.

The Centennial Express crosses the strip at the Fashion Show Mall. Another quick route.

Both the WAX and the CX are residential buses, so the 24 hour pass is cheaper but technically not good for tourists with no local ID on the Deuce and SDX. I don't think you are a senior, so the WAX for you is $5 for 24 hours. RTC wants you to pay the big bucks at $7 a day or $20 for a three day pass to ride the tourist strip buses. The $5 strip accessed pass mentioned by Turtle is not one way but a 2 hour pass that will let you change buses within that time frame and I have seen bus drivers be lenient if you are a bit over your 2 hours. 
Most of us buy 24 hour passes as opposed to one way or 2 hour because we are coming back to where we started, or we are riding more than one bus, or we can use them early the next day. 

Are you going once or for a few days?
The 5 day pass is the best deal for tourist all access. $20 for 5 days as opposed to $20 for 3 days. However buying one is a chore. You can buy one at Walgreen's downtown or at the BTC or at a bunch of vendors around town. It is all access for tourists as well as locals. No local ID required.
Some of us take the WAX to the BTC from the airport on a one way ticket, then hop off and buy the 5 day pass or passes. Bought from a live person, it does not have to be activated right away, so if you want 6 days then buy a 24 hour pass at the airport and let it expire before you are going to use the 5 day. Or if you are going for 6 days and won't need the bus for the first 24 hours, buy an unactivated pass there. Walgreen's is sometimes out of them, so call ahead. Bought from a machine it will be activated when it comes out.
If you are going to come back to Vegas and want to avoid all this running around, buy an unactivated pass at Walgreen's or from a live person at the BTC and keep it for your next trip, activating it at the airport.
Or have some board buddy in Vegas buy one and mail it to you.
Some take a 109 to the SSTT. No people work there. But a machine will sell you the 5 day pass. It is unlikely this is the "best" route if you are staying downtown, but suppose just as you get to the airport stop the WAX is pulling away and you have an hour to wait for the next one, but the 109 is right there. Okay, take the 109, but make sure you take it South to the South Strip Transfer Station. From there you can buy a 5 day pass, take the SDX North to downtown and you are good to go.

With large luggage last trip I rode both the Deuce and the SDX and had no hassle. Christine at the BTC said if I ever got a hassle from the driver, than tell them because s/he "needs to be reeducated" However, if the bus is packed a driver might ask you to wait for the next bus. They do that even with no luggage.

Part of the new confusion is that there are so many options because there are so many new routes and many of them will get you to the strip. Don't worry about the end of the DTC. I never went once to the BTC after my first visit to buy my pass and I traveled every day for my 23 days on a 30 day pass that can also be bought at the Vendor's and is all access for locals and tourists alike. You do have to check to see where the stops are, but all the buses are available at stops downtown and all drop off in safe places.

I agree that you should avoid the Deuce unless it is early in the morning or you are picking it up at a very North Strip location. SDX is the way to go most of the time. However, I grab the Deuce at 7 something am from downtown to go to the early poker game at the IP at 8 because it drops me off right there and the SDX is not yet running. So, it takes a bit of familiarity before you know what to do.
And sometimes even then you don't know what to do. Twice I just took the WAX from downtown and the SDX back from Tropicana to get to Paris. It was there at the right time and I knew it was the fastest way even with the one stop back tracking. And there is a very easily accessed bathroom in MGM without the long walk that most casinos make you take to find a restroom, but that is another thread and as I said, I don't think you are a senior yet. 
I can't do two buses without a bathroom break.

And yes, this is all confusing and on purpose. The RTC does not want you using a 5 day pass, won't advertise it, and won't make it a convenient purchase. It is fashioned to serve the locals so they don't have to pay full fare anywhere as long as they buy a pass in their neighborhoods. This in spite of the fact that all the newer and best buses were bought and the routes built with tax dollars from all Americans, stimulus money. However, so far you are allowed to use the 5 day pass if you buy one.
You cannot buy one at a machine on the strip. You will not see it advertised on the site or at those machines. In fact, the site says it is not all access, basically lying. It took me months to get that down clearly.

Everything I said about the 5 day all access is also true for the 30 day all access. As a senior I get that for $30, so if I stay 15 days I might as well get the 30 day pass and be done with it rather than juggle three 5 day passes.

And that is the best way to go from downtown to the strip, on a 30 day pass because you are staying cheap for more than 14 days.

Hey, have a good time. Tell us what you did. PM me with a heads up as I am collecting all this information.
Oh, and while you are down there, make sure that the new Fremont Street coupons have a free Oscar steak as an option. I know you have the influence and can swing it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Buying a 5 day pass while staying at the Gold Coast

(note: anything I say about 5 day passes here, is also true for 30 day passes.  Those are the only two options at Vendor sites)

One senior blog reader writes, asking how to do this.  So, here goes:

I am going to assume that you already have a photo ID issued by the RTC, a photo ID from your local bus route at home, or a Medicare card.  If not, then the BTC is your destination because you want to get your picture taken and get their ID.  It takes about 15 minutes and is good for 5 years.

So with the ID already in your wallet, consult this list of vendors.

None are anywhere near the Gold Coast, but when talking about 5 day passes, there are no vendor's anywhere near the Gold Coast or anywhere near the strip.  This is done on purpose to make it inconvenient for tourists to buy and use these inexpensive passes.  The RTC would like tourist seniors to pay full fare and so offers no discounts that can be purchased on the Deuce or SDX routes.  the 5 day passes are meant to serve the needs of locals, but there is no restriction on using them without local ID as long as you are willing to take the time to find a vendor.

So, one way to buy 5 day passes is to take the 109 out of the airport and stop at Maryland.  One of these vendors, a Walgreen's, is near Flamingo and Maryland.

Near there too is
1300 E. Flamingo Rd.
Passes Sold:
5-Day & 30-Day
Full Fare/ Reduced Fare

Call first to make sure that they have passes.  Sometimes the vendors are out of them.

At the airport hop on the 109 and from the driver ask for a senior one way ticket.  This will cost seniors $1. Have correct change.
Get off at Maryland, find the Walgreen's or Albertson's and buy as many passes as you think you will need for the trip.  Then board the 202 and go to the Gold Coast and you are set with all access 5 day passes good on both the residential routes like the 202 and on the Deuce or SDX.  Be sure to only activate one pass in the first five days of your travels.  Keep the other in a separate place for later activation.  If for some reason you don't use that pass, as long as you don't activate it, you can use it  when you come to Vegas the next time.  In fact, it may be a good idea to buy an extra pass that  you can activate when you hop on any bus at the airport on your next trip.  You cannot buy these online and get the senior discount.

There are other vendors along Flamingo if you find the Vendor is out of 5 day passes.  If you have a different location on Flamingo, the 24 hour pass from the 108 or the 109 bus driver at the airport will let you find your way along Flamingo.  And this is really inconvenient right off the airplane, but it might happen.  I suspect that the Maryland vendor will not run out very often.  That Walgreen's downtown runs out most likely because it serves tourists so predicting pass sales is difficult.

The map on that RTC site is interactive, so if you see a location you think you like, click on it and it will give you the address, phone number, and whether they sell both 5 and 30 day or only 30 day passes.


If you feel you will be too tired to bother with all this the first day, or if you don't want to ride buses with luggage and will take one of the pay shuttles to the Gold Coast, there is a Walgreen's downtown and there is the BTC.  Both places will sell a 5 day pass, but remember you have to get to those places from the Gold Coast and to do that by bus, you technically have to pay at least the $5 two hour full fare ( no senior discount) for a one way trip downtown on the Deuce or the SDX.  Seniors do not get any discount when riding the strip buses if they buy passes in machines or from drivers along the strip.
If you are going downtown within the first 24 hours you are in Vegas, you can chance trying to use a 24 hour residential pass you bought from the 108 or 109 driver at the airport if you used one of those routes to get to the 202 from the airport and then to the Gold Coast.
This 24 hour residential pass is not like the 5 day pass.  It is  technically only good on the Deuce or the SDX if you have a local Nevada ID.  However, I have never seen anyone asked for a local ID when showing the pass.  The worst that would happen is you might be asked to get off the bus at the next stop and buy a $5 two hour pass; however, I am guessing that if you nicely told the inspector you just wanted to get to the BTC to buy a 5 day pass, s/he would let you go that far.  If I already had a still valid 24 hour residential pass, I'd try this and hope any inspector would not care if I was a local resident or not, but just whether the date on my pass was current. If I got asked for a local ID, I would just play dumb. Don't board the SDX with an expired pass.  If it has expired, it is no good, tourist or local. And that might get you fined.
If you decide to do this, catch the SDX in front of Paris because at least you will not have to swipe your pass as you board, and perhaps you won't have to show it at all because inspection of passes on the SDX is hit or miss.
Also, the SDX is the fastest way to get to the BTC or to the Walgreen's downtown.
If you intend to buy the 5 day from the Walgreen's downtown, again call ahead to see that they have not run out of passes.  It is more likely that they will run out than it is that the Walgreen's on Flamingo and Maryland will run out, since the downtown Walgreen's is the only vendor of the 5 day passes that is anywhere close to normal tourist routes.

Technically, to go downtown from the Gold Coast, you would need a $5 two hour full pay ticket good on the Deuce of on the SDX.
Or you might pay the $7 for a 24 hour full fare all access pass right at the airport either in the machines or from the driver.  Specify what you want.  You might like that if for the first 24 hours you were going to hop around the strip area, and then you could use that to get downtown for the 5 day passes.

I got confused on one thing that Christine said at the BTC in November.  She said that buying the 5 day pass at Walgreen's did not activate it, and she recommended I buy one for my next trip, so I could use it right off the airplane.  However, I did not clarify if buying extra passes at the BTC would work the same way.  I can't see why they would not, but it is worth asking that question because if they activate upon selling them at the BTC, (rather than in a machine before we board the SDX or on the Deuce as we board,) we don't want to buy two or more for future use.
This is a good system for some people.

An alternative might sound crazy, but I might do it.
Suppose you are at the Gold Coast, ready to buy a 5 day pass, and don't have any residential pass to get you downtown.
I might get on the 202 and buy a 24 hour residential pass ($2 for seniors with RTC ID or Medicare card.) and ride it for 45 minutes to Sam's Town on Boulder.  I might poke around that casino or the Eastside Cannery and then hop on one of the new Boulder buses to get downtown.  The HDX is the fastest but you have to walk to Flamingo and Boulder to get it.  It stops at Sahara and then goes downtown.  The BHX is slower as it stops all along boulder Highway, but if you want to see Boulder Station or Arizona Charlies, this is the bus to take.
All these buses, unlike Deuce and SDX, are residential buses with the senior discount.  Buying the pass from the driver on the 202 is advised because the machines on the HDX or the BHX buses (no driver to talk to) are a bit tricky and if directions are not followed perfectly will take your money and not give you a pass.
It only saves $3, but if those places are in your itinerary, well ..... it saves $3.
One of the things to consider when buying a 5 day pass is when to buy and use it to get maximum benefit from it.  If you are a planner and have worked out which days you will be in one area or another, then you can plan your 5 day purchases around that plan.  If you experience Vegas in more of a serendipitous manner, then working out when and where to buy one or more gets more complicated and the inconvenience of the purchase accomplishes what the RTC intends.
I go for 15 to 23 days, and lately I am focused on sleeping downtown even though I play poker on the strip, so I just get a 30 day pass at the BTC or Walgreen's, after I hit downtown on the WAX.  For $31 I am set for each trip and I don't have to think about passes as long as I don't lose that 30 day pass.
I liked that system very much on my last trip.  I kept the single pass in one place and just used it anytime I wanted a bus.  Most trips in Vegas I get lost in timelessness and often don't know what day it is, so having one pass and nothing more to think about worked great for me.

If you are going to take a bus from the airport to the Gold Coast and you just happen to see the WAX come up when you are at the airport, you can take it to Tropicana and then take the SDX from in front of MGM and then take the 202 from in front of Caesar's.  Three buses might be a bit much.  But it might not be any longer than 108 or 109 to 202.  One advantage is that you are closer to tourists when at bus stops.  I don't expect any problems out Flamingo at bus stops, especially at Maryland, but those stops close to the strip don't attract as many weird characters.  If you decide to do this, buy an all access pass for $7 and you can use it to get downtown to buy your 5 day pass anytime in the next 24 hours.

Also, there is a way to use the vending machines at the SSTT which is at the South end of many bus routes, a transfer station like the BTC but with no live people working there.

I have not done this, but this indicates they sell the 5 day passes there in the vending machines.
These machines will offer a menu that includes the senior discount.
This discussion of buses includes a description of getting passes at the  SSTT.
scroll down to the post by Teacher 1

A $1 ticket on the 109 going South would get you there in seven minutes, and from there with a 5 day pass in hand, you could take the SDX with your new 5 day pass to Flamingo and then the 202 to Gold Coast.  But I have not done this and I don't know for certain that the vending machines there sell 5 day passes.  I'll see if I can find out.
Again this is three buses, but it keeps you close to tourists and probably does not hold you up too much.  The longest wait will always be for the 202.  I like to wait closer to the strip when I am with luggage.

While the Gold Coast is not as easy to get to as downtown from the airport by bus, once you are there with a bus pass, it is a great location.  The free shuttle that runs from The Gold Coast to the Orleans and then to the strip can be linked with the 202 Flamingo and the 201 Tropicana for great strip flexibility.  I usually end up going to some show in the V theater and being able to hop on a shuttle to the Orleans and then the 201 to the strip at Tropicana saves me all that crazy Deuce overcrowding.
Also, at Tropicana about every hour we can catch the WAX bus to downtown, or ride up to the Tropicana on that bus.  It saves a lot of traffic and time as long as we pay attention to the schedule and don't wait at the bus stop for too long.
Also, you are staying at the Rio and they have some good free shuttles to various strip locations as well.
They go to Harrah's so that is yet another strip location easily accessed from the Gold Coast area.  Here are some shuttles.  You might note that from Harrah's you can go to Sam's Town, so it is possible to get from the Rio to Sam's Town for free and then from Sam's Town to downtown for free.  This would save any bus fare and put you downtown near Walgreen's.  Here is a good site for the free shuttles.  However, these run only at certain times, so you have to do some planning to use them efficiently.

If you take the 202 from the Rio, use the stop across from the Palms, just as you did when you were riding from the Gold Coast.  It seems counter intuitive to head away from your destination, but if you exit the Rio and turn left, expecting to find the next bus stop, you will walk all the way to the strip before you find it.  The Rio is not a city bus friendly casino.  There is a bus stop right in front where you will be dropped by the 202, but the Rio entrances require a long walk one way or the other to get back in the casino.  Check this out before you are coming back in the dark so you know where you are going when the bus drops you off.  At the Gold Coast the 202 drops right at the parking lot.

Okay, lots of choices.  All of them good from a frugal standpoint.
Hope this was helpful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thoughts on the Bus compared with Car Rental

For me the bus rides are a fine part of the adventure of meeting strangers.  I like that as much as the gambling.  On live low limit poker tables it happens as well.  I was joking with three guys from Norway who paid $1000 in air to get to Vegas.  
"See,"  I said, "I've saved a grand because I get to meet you guys here, so I don't need to go to Norway." 

So the bus is like that.

But frankly, until this trip I was looking to shift my hotels to maybe long stretches at Super 8 close to where I play poker.   I thought the new BTC and the new decision to not give senior bus fare rates to tourist seniors was pushing me away from staying downtown.  Also, I have always thought of Flamingo as my main strip, but that bus service has been reduced.
Now the Gold Spike gives good value (even though it does charge a resort fee) that competes with Super 8:  free wifi, nicer heated pool, TCM and other stations on the TV, nicer room than Super 8. And it gives me location now as well.  I can get to Sam's Town in 12 minutes as contrasted with about 45 min. from Bill's on the 202.   I can get to and from the strip is so many ways that one of them will be ready and fast whenever I want to go out. 

And when I compare to a rental car:
By being able to drink, I gain about $40 in the value of free alcohol every day.
By being able to sometimes go on 3 hours of sleep a day, I actually realize more time at the poker tables than I would if I were driving and needed to rest.
I nap on the buses coming back to downtown because at the end they empty the bus at Fremont and I can't oversleep the stop.
So I am not certain that I would gain any time were I to go to Vegas for just 5 days.
However, playing live poker is different than popping around to play a bit here and a bit there on slots.  It requires an hour at the table to even know the competition well, so long hours are common for poker players, especially low limit.  At Flamingo I once changed tables twice to get the kind of opponents I could beat.  That takes time in one place.

So, I've totally switched back to being  a downtown guy again as long as I can get the good prices at the Gold Spike and patch in freebies.  
The host at Four Queens told me that I had gambled enough to get offers even though not enough to get my fourth night comped.  It was $24.  He also told me that if I took more rooms as a Binions poker player I could extend my stay at $24 a night without extending the need for gambling to keep my score high enough for mailings.  
Then I seeded the Fitz this time.  So I may get offers from them as well.  It is going to be owned by different folks, but still I might get offers.  Check out and Check in time from the Fitz means crossing on tiny street.  It is easy and can be easily coordinated with suitcase not brought out until the next room is booked.
So, the check in and check out waste of time, that seemed to be associated with moving from freebie to freebie,  is pretty much eliminated.  
If I can do a week at Gold Spike with no play, but rooms at $21 and $36 a night, and then do a week at Four Queens with 3 free and the others at $24. And add in two nights on the El Cortez coupons at $34, then my largest move might be to a Caesar's casino that has given me a couple free for poker play.  I have pretty much decided to not bother with free rooms at the Orleans.  That is too hard a move with heavy luggage.
My only other issue was if I felt safe coming back late at night to bus stops downtown.  I do.  They are all comfortable.  So that eliminates the need to go to the BTC and catch a bus to downtown from there.

I do have to walk sometimes a few blocks for a bus stop, but I've parked a rental in Vegas where I had to walk just as far from the parking lot, and then try to remember how to get back again to the car, and remember where I parked, and wake up enough to drive safely.

Cabs for a solo traveler are really expensive in comparison, especially if the trip is from the strip to downtown or to Boulder Highway.  For one such cab fare I can ride all month on the buses and go anywhere I like.

I understood the old argument that short term visitors to Vegas might not want to spend time on buses, but the bus time has been reduced by about 66%.  So for solo travelers who will pay just one fare everytime they move about, this is a good way to go.  
And all this does not even get into the built in insurance of the buses.  In Nevada, fatality statistics show 47 to 1 in favor of buses.  And for most fatalities it does not matter how well you drive.  They happen at stop lights when you are rear ended.
And then there are all sorts of insurance loop holes that make folks liable who think they have insurance.
So I also get peace of mind on buses.

I know this is not the way to go for many folks.  It is especially not the way to go for folks who need to be protected in a middle to upper class community to be comfortable.  Buses are middle to lower class communities and mixed racial experiences.
Of course, I like that part.  Those are more my people.  

But time is less of an argument.  In 23 days I rarely waited longer than a few minutes.  Once I waited 40 minutes and everyone was outraged, but that was on the 108 and a bus had broken down.  Rental cars can break down or need to be returned. That has happened to me with rentals in Vegas.

Friday, November 18, 2011

22 days of Vegas buses and a couple stories

note : I know that some people may be leaving soon and I want this information available, but I'll be rereading and tweeking it as I review my notes from this past 22 day trip to Vegas.  So if you have a while, revisit just before you to.

It has been a confusing year for me around buses and bus information. I thank all of you who helped me with personal anecdotes and information from phone calls and emails.
So, after my 6 hour flight, I just went directly from the airport on the WAX and got off at the BTC determined to straighten out a few things or just sleep there the first day until I got someone intelligent to talk to.

I spoke with Christine - Wow. What a mind! She knew the answers and went beyond them. She was willing to take the time, and she also called in her supervisor and assured me that I could call Tacy Bowers again and I'd get answers. And most important, she told me whenever she did not know something. She did not speculate.
I think we talked for forty five minutes.


First, 5 day passes are all access passes for everyone including tourists and we do not need local ID's. Just ignore that website chart. It is wrong. (edit in Feb.  The site was revised and still it does not list 5 day passes as all access.  What's wrong with them.  Do they want folks constantly confused?)

Passes can be bought at BTC or at any of the vendor's on that RTC vendor page.
(Not however at any strip Walgreen's.  Not at the new big one.  Clearly an attempt to isolate tourists and get more tourist dollars. edited Feb 2012) 

The reason one phone call to RTC  discouraged me from Walgreen's downtown is that Walgreen's has been running out of them. So call them before you go. They had them when I was there and Wild Bill bought one, although the clerk argued a while with me that they were $30 full price not $20. So she was just another idiot in the mix. The fellow who actually sold them came out with a clipboard and then she argued with him as well.
Christine also told me that it is possible to buy passes at Walgreen's and then have them ready at the airport when we get on the bus on future trip. If you buy a pass in the machine at the airport, you will pay the strip price. If you buy a 24 hour residential pass from the driver, you are technically not allowed to ride the Deuce or the SDX without a local ID.
Seniors from the airport going downtown can ride for a dollar one way and then buy an all access pass of some kind, either by stopping at the BTC or at Walgreens.
Seniors staying near the strip can take the dollar ride on the 109 to Maryland, look for the Albertson's there and get the 5 day.
For seniors, these 5 day passes are the way to go because they still can be purchased for $10 each with a senior ID. There is no senior reduced fare on the stip so one day costs $7. This is a huge difference.
RTC has in the past offered a reduced fare to senior and disabled users whether they were tourists or not. This year they have acted to separate senior tourists from the senior locals. They want as much as possible to make senior and disabled tourists pay full fare while having some window for senior and disabled locals to pay a reduced fare. So they have created a 5 day and a 30 day all access pass that is not available in common tourist areas (except the Walgreen's downtown)

The RTC may intend in a large way to put tourist seniors in second class status, but we don't have to comply because they have also given those of us who are savy bus riders a window of opportunity in the 5 day all access passes.
Christine also told me that to prove we are seniors we can use a Medicare card or a picture ID from our local bus system instead of the photo ID issued by the RTC. So those of you who are older seniors and want to spend just a dollar from the airport to downtown, but have not got a photo ID from the BTC can just show a Medicare card. At 60, well before Medicare, you can get an RTC photo ID just by stopping by the BTC and getting your picture taken. 20 minutes and it is good for 5 years. This is probably a good plan to avoid a hassle with some driver who does not know your Medicare card it good as proof. I was asked half a dozen times to show the ID, and so I started just showing it as I boarded. Flipping it out in my open wallet with the card in a plastic see through spot was enough proof, so that was easier than digging back in my wallet and the drivers appreciated it.  I was never asked for a local ID, but I had a 30 day pass. 


I have been hearing about folks who took luggage on the Deuce, so I asked about it. Christine said that all buses should allow my luggage. She could see it and so I appreciated that information. I carry a huge suitcase, the largest the airline will allow, and over my neck strap swings sleep apnea machine and a laptop.
However, I rode all the buses including the Deuce and got no argument. Bus drivers were very helpful. If they were not, Christine said that they needed to be "reeducated" so turn them in if you get a hassle.
Drivers are encouraged to be polite to riders with luggage, even my large suitcase. However, riders with a large number of suitcases might not be accommodated.
The rule is that it is to be kept in your seat space. Not blocking aisles. Not taking up a second seat. However, there is a good bit of space, even a spot near the front where we can stand with luggage. I found that the seats opposite the exit doors on the Deuce are the best. One even had a bit of room on the far right and my suitcase slipped right in there. Most of us traveling now on airplanes don't have a huge amount of luggage.
Now, if the bus is packed, the driver may not accommodate luggage. He may ask you to wait for the next bus. I would not travel at night with luggage on the Deuce up the crowded strip. There were times when I was shoulder to shoulder without luggage.
However, generally we need this service when we check out and check in to another hotel and we do that in the daytime. I'd be happy to check out early if it means an easy ride. I find in a good number of places that a room is available at 10 am but not later.
I asked so many times about this that Christine said, "How else are tourists to get from one hotel to another," as if I had missed the obvious need for that bus service.
I can't tell you how much this means to me. I was intending to go from the Four Queens comped rooms to Harrah's comped rooms and I thought I would need to catch a bus to the BTC, catch the 108, go to Flamingo, catch the 202 to the strip, and walk from Flamingo to Harrah's. As it turned out discussion board member Ian offered me a ride, so we could also meet up. But I could have gone right from downtown on the Deuce and gotten off right across the street from Harrah's.

At check out I decided to use up the time between checkout and airplane take off time with a buffet at Terribles. So on the way out I did the walk with luggage from Harrah's to Flamingo, took the 202 to Terribles, rolled my luggage into the little buffet room, and after a relaxing meal, caught the 108 to the airport.
However, the choices are simply mind boggling.


As well as 5 day passes (or 30 day passes like I bought,) ask for a little white paper with all the buses to get from the BTC to downtown. This is the size of a credit card and fits easily in your wallet.
Also get the schedule book for one dollar with all the bus maps and routes and schedules. You will find that between printing and the time you ride, the times of buses may have changed, but the routes are still pretty clear and the amount of time between buses will be pretty standard. I find the book cumbersome to carry, but good as a reference in the room.
At most bus stops now there is a full route map and a schedule so you can both see where the bus goes and when it should arrive. Buses were not always on time. Some, like the Centennial Express were early. So come a bit early.


The 202 generally comes up Flamingo to Boulder, turns right on to Boulder and then turns left and parks right next to the parking area at Eastside Cannery. It is a nice stop because feels very safe and because I can wait at the lobby at Eastside and only walk out when the bus arrives, since the driver will take a break there. However, that is not 24/7
Dead time for the 202 to Eastside Cannery is 2:14AM until 4:46AM.
During these hours I must walk to Nellis.

Boulder Highway buses stop in front of Sam's Town going North and in front of Walmarts going South.

Carson is the street that runs parallel to fremont. It is still in a very safe area.

Centennial Express. Less on weekend because the students are not in class. The stop to go to the transfer station (I won't use it) is on 4th back near Carson. Getting on the wrong way means wasting time.
Look for the other stop near Binions.
WAX The stop for Suncoast is there on Carson.
Again, I think Binions has the stop to go back to the airport.


For me this was the best development. I like things that happen along Boulder Highway. Sam's Town on Thursday has one of the best variety shows in Vegas, and it is both free and different every week. And I love the Eastside Cannery for a bit of poker and for their Latino lounge music on Monday nights. However, neither casino sends me offers.

The two buses that run Boulder both pick up and deliver on Ogden between the El Cortez and the Gold Spike. Since the El Cortez new resort fee after 7 days pushed me out and into the Gold Spike as my main casino, this is perfect for me. In days gone by this area was a bit sketchy, but there has been so much improvement that I did not find it that way at all, even very late at night.
The bus stops are about equidistant from both casinos. The Boulder Highway Express BXH makes all the stops along Boulder. The Henderson Downtown Express HDX is more of an express. However, it will stop at Sahara and then at Nellis, so it was taking me from downtown to Sam's Town in 12 minutes. I intended to spend a day in Henderson, but my feet gave out so walking around that little town was dropped off my list. However, the bus goes right into the downtown and there are interesting galleries there, a good diner, and some small casinos with decent VP pay tables and what has been reported to be interesting live poker. The stop at Sahara would also give me good access to Palace Station and I may try that next time.
These buses are the SDX style where the driver is tucked in his safe little cab and not to be talked to. I like these buses, but having a question was a bit difficult. There are no outside machines selling tickets. The ticket machine is inside and this is something most needin improvement. Everyone agreed that if you did not follow the directions exactly or if you took too long, then the machine ate your money. Better to already have a pass. Inspectors checked but even more rarely than they did on the SDX.
One other thing to note is that the BDX is stopping in very poor neighborhoods and will attract the lowest economic class of rider. For folks who are uncomfortable with that, the HDX is the better choice unless you want to go to Boulder Station or Arizona Charlies. And I did see characters on my lat night/early morning rides. Since the driver is less accessible, riders must deal with characters themselves. That being said, I asked one questions and found folks pretty friendly in giving answer. It is all new to everyone so it is not only tourists asking questions.


These have been some of my favorite routes, but the service has been cut back and for both me and Wild Bill these buses delayed out progress especially late at night.


We thought we were losing downtown as a flexible hub for travel when the new BTC was built so far away from the Fremont Experience.
That is not the case.
Not only are the Boulder Highway stops close to Fremont, but the Deuce and SDX, WAX and CX pick up and drop close to Fremont so to go most places tourists go from downtown we never need to stop at the BTC. Most of the time the buses just stop there, but do not enter. Once the SDX had a layover inside the BTC terminal.
I don't have all the stops down perfectly, so study the schedules. Stops of most use are those Ogden street stops, the stop along Binions, the stops along 4th between Carson and Walgreen's and the stop at Casino Center and Carson. the Fremont Experience changes where the buses drop. A walk around those areas to get familiar with what goes where is a good idea.
Twice I rode the WAX to Tropicana and then came back on the SDX or Deuce. I just happened to be there when the WAX was picking up to I went with it. I also used the CX to get to the strip around Fashion Strip Mall and it was faster than taking the Deuce.

The Deuce does much more winding around downtown than it once did. One interesting stop will put folks very close to the famous Televised Pawn Shop. Or if you want a bail bondsman, there are a cluster of them near the pawn shops and wedding chapels.
Still it takes a much longer time. The SDX does not run generally until 9 ( I did catch on earlier) so the Deuce is needed as it is after midnight.

I wandered out of the Thomas Mack Center on the UNLV campus in the dark and got twisted up as to where I was going. When I exited the campus I was very near a 108 bus so I just decided to take that to the BTC. However, it stopped near the Stratosphere where I could transfer and it was a well lighted stop adjacent to a Denny's. So I got off, had a late night breakfast and then took the Deuce that would drop me downtown. I liked this stop because right there was the glass walled Denny's and I was very visible and had a good escape route even near the Stratosphere. There were plenty of bus riders there as well.

Gradually now we can being to collect the safer places to wait for buses. This is a good one.
Also, we should collect places where changing buses also allows an easy visit to the restroom. Seniors especially may like having the option. So many of the restrooms are so far in to the casinos. However, if you are waiting to go North at LV Blvd and Tropicana, there is an MGM restroom right off the street. And that Denny's I mention has a restroom as well. I know, it sounds funny, but I also know that it isn't. I like my poker rooms with close restrooms as well.


This is doable, but is not easy. The BHX turns at Sunset, long before the Joker's Wild. The HDX skips the area. We got off at Sunset and caught the 402 where we found the only real rude bus driver who just did not want to help us find our way. We caught him again on the way back and he would explain nothing to either me or Wild Bill. I wish now I had taken his name or at least written down the time he drove the bus. The stop at the Joker's Wild was very dark, but we did not feel uncomfortable. The stop coming back was better. Craps was happening there, but we could not get a place at the table. They do dollar craps and use quarter chips to make the payoffs so everything is right mathematically. It is very popular and since a guy can play for hours on little bankroll, the table does not open spots.
I may try it again on my next trip as they are supposed to have a rather soft tournament there and some good food specials.


The Centennial Express is party routed to serve the needs of students going to the UNLV campus. So on weekends it is less frequent. It has an unusual winding route that is more efficient than the Deuce in getting to the Fashion Mall or to the campus where it turns and drops right near one fine cactus garden. It goes up Flamingo, but it does not stop many places so it is a fine way to go from downtown, and again makes downtown a hub of bus opportunity. The campus is huge so landing more in the middle is helpful.


Wild Bill and I took the WAX to Suncoast to see the place, use a coupon, and play some poker. I liked the poker, but it was a bit loose. I made money, but I got good cards. There were very nice to us at the poker room. None of the gruff attitude that we have found in some rooms.

It was a great ride and it dropped right in front of the casino and was easy to take back as well.


Personally, since I always go for more than 15 days, the 30 day pass is the best bargain for me.  For the cost of three 5 day passes, I get total coverage.  I expect I will stay almost exclusively downtown now and take buses somewhere almost everyday.
5 day passes bought at Walgreen's are not activated until you get on the bus or activate in a machine for the SDX and Boulder buses. So those are a good bargain, especially for seniors.  5 days for seniors for $10 each as compared with 3 days in strip machines for $20 or one day for $7.
It is a great advantage having the pass in pocket.  Many of the buses do not have a driver who checks fares, but inspectors who may or may not come on the bus.  Also, three times I ran to catch a bus.  Had not had a pass in my pocket I would have had to hasstle with suitcase and money on the way into the Deuce or I would have missed the SDX.
Finally, the most poorly designed fare boxes are those on the Boulder Highway buses.  You have to select a fare, and then confirm it, and then put in exact change.  If the money goes in first of if you take too long to make decisions and you options go off the active screen, you just lose your money and have to start over.  I guess there is a way to recover it at a bus office, but who wants to do that?


The Four Queens seemed to offer the best discount for food which could be achieved by showing a bus pass.  However, the senior discount is just the same at Magnolia's so all I really needed was my senior status.
I did not try out the bus pass as discount in other places.  However, RTC is still promoting it to locals, urging them to be a tourist in their own town.

I had so much free food this trip that I did not have too many windows of opportunity to use discounts.  2 for 1 coupons give a better deal and we had a ton of them with everybody holding a soon to expire American Casino Guide as well as current Fremont Experience coupons.


Now I am unpacked and I don't seem to see my bus book, sot perhaps I left it somewhere along the way.
My memory may not be perfectly accurate, but I believe that The stop at Binions (called Casino Center at Fremont on the route maps) is the place to catch the SDX or the WAX or the CX going South, but they will drop us back downtown at 4th and Carson.
The stop at Neonopolis is where the Deuce picks up and it will drop at 4th near Walgreens.

Each of these stops is well marked as to which bus stops where, so a walk around to see all of them early in your visit is helpful.


So, to give an anecdotal example of how the buses make Vegas easy, let me report on one Thrusday.
I am staying at the Gold Spike and I decide to see the free senior variety show at Sam's Town. I also have these free tickets I got on senior day at the Orleans and I want to see a later comedy show there.
In 12 minutes on the HDX I arrive at Sam's Town, getting off at Ellis Island. The hardest part of the whole trip is crossing the street here. I have to wait a long while and if I want to make both sides of Boulder in the time allowed, I have to run across the first side.
I still play just $20 of video poker, break even and quit. Then I go early to get really good seats for the show, which is just great. When I write it up, I'll try to link here.
I have time to eat, so I get the Sam's Town steak night buffet on my Boyd points. It is fine also. I like the steak they serve. This is my second visit on Steak night. I also like the little crispy bits of deep fried carnitas in the Mexican section. I like the navy bean soup that has so much more than beans in it. I like that I can get my own coffee when I want it and that there are little packets of honey to put into it.
My last visit in May I went on Italian night and I did not like the buffet.
After a good supper, I run back across the street and catch the BHX. It stops at Tropicana. It is a little walk to the stop around the corner, but I have met a nice woman on the bus from Pennsylvania who is now living in Vegas, and she walks me there to finish our conversation. She lives nearby.
The Tropicana bus takes me to the Orleans. It does have the only surly bus driver I have met. She is nice to me and most of us, but she gets in a huge argument with a young Black girl who boarded the bus in the back and refuses to leave. It is disconcerting, but I am not in a hurry.
The girls feels disrespected and says she will leave when security comes. These is some bumping and we know that she may be arrested. A gentle, well dressed Black woman goes up to her and slips her some money and quiety talks here into backing down.
As we go along the bus driver is still ranting about it. She is a case of nerves. I can't figure out if she is Black also or perhaps Latino.
I've had enough so I say,
"Okay, you won and its over. Let's just ride along,"
and she says,
"I never win!"
but she stops venting.
I do believe that she never wins. I taught inner city Black kids just like this girl and I understand that there is a point where they will go to jail just to assert that they will not be shouted at.
Also on the Tropicana bus there has been a young man sitting next to me who works part time in pawn shop and we talk about that. I suggest the old black and white movie, The Pawnbroker, but I remember the title as the Pawnshop, so I suppose he will not find it.
In the conversation an old, disheveled guy sitting across the row, adds bits of information I have forgotten and says that we could not take a film course without encountering this film. And there it is. A character I might take for a derelect, speaks like a college professor.
At the Orleans I go to the new comedy club, Big Al's, a very comfortable place that I like very much.
I try to .
I take the Orleans shuttle to Bill's and play poker at the Flamingo for as long as I can manage, and then I ride the Deuce back to downtown, catching it in front of the new Margaritaville, so I can listen to Jimmy Buffet while I wait.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Classic newbie question and responses

Originally Posted by Vincev33 View Post
I originally rented a car for our 3 night stay in December. I see that you can buy a 3 day pass for the RTC busses for like $20. Has anyone done this? Is it convenient? Looks like it stops everywhere and can save me like $150!!! Thoughts??
Yes, many of us here are veteran bus riders.

Once all the bus changes settle, perhaps I'll start this blog up for real again.
However, since you seem to be just discovering the bus, some of the more recent posts should be helpful. The oldest posts refer to routes that may have changed or been eliminated, but they might still give you ideas to follow up.
Just pay attention to the dates of the posts and also the dates of the threads here on this board that a post might direct you too. There are long discussions of buses here.

The place to get the latest, definitive information on buses (except for senior fare issues) is here

Probably the best tool on the site is the route planner on the left. You can being up detailed plans from one place to another and it will tell you how to do, the time it should take, and how many stops. This is current information.

Printing out the bus schedules from that sections for routes you might like to take is helpful as well. Some very fine and uncrowded buses only run at certain times an hour apart. So you can plan when to leave the gambling table.

My favorite route is the 202 along Flamingo. I think of Flamingo as my strip.
If you connect up that bus with the free shuttles at Bill's or Gold Coast, you have quite a network of casinos.
Late night/early morning bus rides mean waiting at a bus stop and wondering who will pass. The Flamingo, going back to Tuscany, Terribles, or Eastside Cannery puts you right where you would park if you had a car. Sam's Town is not a bad drop either. I would not hesitate coming back to the strip from Eastside Cannery at any hour. The 202 bus just sits there at the end of the route.

In Nevada in 2009 deaths in cars compared to deaths on buses were 47 to 1.
So that is added benefit. It is much safer.
Also, you can't drink and then drive, but you can drink and then ride.(no drinking on the bus)
To your $150 savings add the value of the free drinks you can now enjoy without worries. That value itself may be equal to the car rental savings.

Whenever possible substitute something for the Deuce. SDX
is a good choice. There are also two other ways to access the strip from downtown: The Centennial Express and the already mentioned WAX.

The newest buses are two just opened on Boulder Highway. This month there are free days (but only for locals). This bus makes all the casinos along the Boulder Strip and even downtown Henderson accessible and cuts in half the ride from downtown to Arizona charlie's, Boulder Station, Sam's Town, Eastside Cannery, Joker's Wild.

The downsides against buses:

They are not always as quick as cabs and of course don't give you flexibility as does car renting. However, I might rent just one day to go to Red Rock. You reduce enormously your possibility of accident if you use the rental far away from the tourists, drunks, cabbies making lights, and locals angry at all of them.
For one thing, most fatalities in buses are when the victim of the accident is stopped at a light and rear ended. Note that there is really not too much to do to protect against that except to reduce the number of lights in your journey.

During hot weather, the waits outside can be restrictive.

And for some people, being mixed in with lower economic classes and working people is uncomfortable. For me, that is part of the treat, as I almost always end up with some good stories on the buses off the strip. Often the length of a ride is well paid for by information I gather or people I meet.

For full discussion and more detailed responses, see this thread:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Video on finding ground zero

Great little video on finding ground zero.

Two comments.
At the bottom of the escalator you won't see a sign for ground zero but you are there.  There is a sign but it lists other information.

They want you to buy a premium pass in the vending machine.  With dollars you can buy a residential pass from the driver of the bus.  You must have exact change.  Technically, you are not supposed to buy a residential pass and afterwards board the Deuce or the SDX.
Seniors in particular, with a senior ID issued by the bus company, can get a 24 hour residential pass for $2 or a one way ticket for $1.

How and Why to get a senior ID

To get a senior reduced fare you have to prove you are 60 and go to the Bonneville Transit Center and have your photo taken and a reduced fare ID made for you on the spot. This takes 15 minutes.
This is good for 5 years.
Even folks from other countries have gotten them with passport.

This allows you reduced fare on all buses except the Deuce and the SDX and on those buses as well with a 5 day all access pass available at Walgreen's downtown or at Walgreen's Albertsons or a machine near Flamingo and Maryland or at many other vendors around town.
Any one way trip on any bus except those two will be just a $1 and a 24 hour pass will be $2.
Popular routes other than Deuce SDX include:
Flamingo 202 that gives access to Gold Coast, Rio Palms, the strip at Bally's, Ellis Island, Tuscany, Terribles, Sam's Town and the Eastside Cannery.
Tropicana 201 that gives access to the Orleans or the Pinball hall of Fame.
You ID also allows you to buy long term passes from the BTC or from certain vendor's around town including that Walgreen's downtown.
And with it in your pocket, your next airport trip on the WAX is just $1 one way or $2 from 24 hours.
WAX also gets you to Suncoast and Rampart is under a mile walk.
106 gets you to Texas Station and Fiesta.
Such bus convenience for such little money means you can book a cheap hotel off strip and still roll back safely at 3AM.

5 day passes are all access.  i was assured of that at the BTC.
They told me on Facebook and in person at the BTC that no local ID was required for a 5 day all access pass.
24 hour passes are not all access unless you have a local ID. Few bus drivers or inspectors ask for the ID, but those are the rules.
Residential buses will give you limited strip access. The WAX drops at Tropicana and the Centennial Express drops around the Fashion Show mall.

While riding the Deuce or the SDX with just a 24 hour residential pass is not considered technically correct (Only locals with a local ID can do that), Hammie rode 4 times his last trip and was never asked to show his local ID.

There is no gray area around buying a 30 day all access pass. That is good on any bus, any time, and with the senior ID you get one for $30, just what you will pay to ride the Deuce/SDX for 4 days on 24 hour passes.

Neither the 5 day passes, nor the 30 day passes are sold anyplace except the BTC and a bunch of vendors who generally are no where around tourists. However, if you want two at a time or to buy one for a future trip, then you must buy the unactivated passes from a vendor.  If you buy them at the BTC or in a machine at the SSTT, they will be activated at the time of purchase.
Here are the vendor locations

Most tourists I know use the Walgreen's downtown or the Albertson's or Walgreen's near Flamingo and Maryland that can be accessed on the 109 from the airport.

RTC offers disappointing new site

Moving again in a direction of separating tourists from locals, RTC is offering a site that will advise trourists on how to use the bus system without mentioning residential or reduced fare passes at all. In fact, it just ignores that aspect of bus riding except to print a very confusing second set of rates for the WAX buses.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Latest Bus Report from Hammie

Greetings Dewey,
Feel free to use my name, my handle or whatever....I am a fan of open communication. I arrived around 9:30 am at McCarran and proceeded to walk out to the bus staging area. I attempted to buy a bus pass at a vending machine but I think the card reader would not accept two cards I carry, a visa and MasterCard. I forget the error message that was displayed, but I swiped each card at least three times. I asked someone at the bus stop and they said I could buy a pass from the driver. When he pulled up, I just pulled out a $5 bill and ran it through the machine, and out came my 24 hour pass. (I would be happy to mail it to you if you'd like) Regarding the SDX bus, I had to run after it and was the last one on, I didn't have to swipe my card as the driver was behind plexiglas and took off as soon as I got inboard. It was a strange set up as if no one was collecting fares, sort of like the Hudson Bergen light rail in Hoboken, NJ where you have to buy a fare card in case you are asked for it. Later that evening, I caught the deuce just north of the Riv and swiped my card, no problems, this was about 8:00 pm. Later, on my way back, at the Fremont stop going south, I boarded a deuce form my return and swiped my card, no problems.

I guess to sum it up, how can a fare card dispensing machine determine if you are local or not, does the fare collecting software "read" your zip code from your credit card? It's possible as on occasion when I have bought fuel for my car, I had to punch in my zip code, this is a security measure to foil someone buying gasoline with a stolen card.

As such, my recommendation would be to buy the card from a reseller such as Albertsons, CVS, etc.

I downloaded a transit guide to my iPad and in the section where it explains fares it reads: based on Federal Regulations, Reduced fares are not offered on the strip SDX or Deuce on the Strip as the fares are already discounted. Residential full and reduced fares are not affected and can be used on all RTC Transit services by showing a valid local Nevada ID.

When I think of reduced fares, look at the stipulations: student K-12, over 60, those with disabilities, and Medicare eligible. So, I think the hang up in your case is that you (if I recall correctly) are 60+ and are trying to buy a reduced fare card for $30. So as the rules are written, you would need to present local ID at the time of purchase and each time you board a bus. I just can't for see a bus driver checking ID when there are 25 passengers trying to board.

I am rambling a bit here, but I don't like the way this issue is prefaced by the phrase "due to federal regulations......" I think it's a classic money grab by a nameless authority who's power is granted by legislature......stick it to the tourists, they fund this town anyway.

At any rate, I am worn out from my walking the trade show and I would like to return with my wife in the near future. I am at the McDonalds across from the Riviera and will put my $10 wifi savings towards dinner. Best to you, 

Dewey, I just realized I didn't answer you fully. I arrived on Tuesday 9/27 at 9:30 am. Also, I forgot to mention that I used the deuce again this morning (wednesday) at 8:15 am to travel toCaesars. So for $5, I took 5 rides in 24 hours. A good deal.