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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 Comments that include websites will not be published.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.