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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 Comments that include websites will not be published.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, September 29, 2012

As we approach the change in rules, schedules, regulations

Helpful is to define our questions clearly and understand that we will disagree on which questions matter to us.

The first set of questions have to do with the rules and rates and regulations. Basically, those of us asking these questions are asking what is the law of the RTC. The questions include defining the existing kinds of passes, the prices, the senior discounts, and what types of travel the passes allow. Normally, such questions are easily answered, but this has never been true for the RTC. Answers by phone and email contradict each other. Answers in the printed book or on Facebook or via email have been incorrect. Answers given directly in person at the BTC, if we get a clerk who knows the rules and if we remember to ask all the nuances, have been the most definitive.
There are as many as three people who have agreed to ask for clarification in rules and rates in person in the month of October. This is the set of questions that matter most to me because most people new to the buses want to know what the rules are rather than how to break them with impunity, and those are the folks I work to advise.

The answers to these questions have tended to be hard to nail down in the past. The printed books have been wrong or changed quickly after publication. The on line charts have been wrong and stayed wrong over the course of a year. The phone and email answers have been full of contradictions.
To nail down definitive answers I suggest face to face personal questioning of RTC clerks who actually know the new rules and can speak intelligently about them. I suggest that it helps to tell the person that you are going to write these up for a few hundred readers on a discussion board and on a bus blog, and I suggest you take the names of the people you talk to. My past experience is that Christine at the BTC was just wonderful, while other clerks have run the gamut between uncertainty, confusion, apathy and functional brain impairment.
Also be prepared for changes during the year and for another set of rate and rule changes to define again next year at about this time.

This is also true for changes in routes and schedules. I still feel bad about going to Vegas one November, telling someone at a bus stop that the Deuce no longer goes downtown, but Deuce route had been changed as I was on the airplane coming to Vegas.

Change is common in Vegas and the RTC is no exception. Confusion is more common at the RTC than any other Vegas organization I know.

The second set of questions have to do with enforcement.
What rules will be enforced by drivers and what will be ignored?
There is no way to nail down anything definitive for this category of rules.

For example, Keno is going to take a residential 24 hour pass and use it on the strip buses. This is clearly against the rules for tourists and has been against them. He expects that he won't be asked for a local ID as Merlin insists has been the practice. If he manages this half a dozen times while he is on this October trip and does not get caught, perhaps he'll suggest what Merlin suggests, that breaking the rule about having a local ID is fine because the drivers don't ask.
Whether they ever ask can't be answered.
Whether they will start asking as more and more people decide to break the rules will continue to be unknown.

A third set of rules is what are the penalties for breaking rules. If it is being asked to leave the bus, perhaps for some that is a mild penalty and they will just risk it. If it is a hefty fine, that may discourage rule breakers.

I will know less about the last two sets of questions than other posters, because generally I like to define the rules and follow them, and always I like to give advice that reflects a clear understanding of the rules, offers that clarification so difficult to nail down, and lets me know that I am not giving advice that will cause anyone pain and suffering. I won't be suggesting criminal behavior, but I wish the miscreants of bus riding successful journeys.

We do know this much:
On September 30, the 5 day passes are no longer available.
There will be 15 day passes and 30 day passes on residential routes.
Dollar American coins are fine in the fare boxes. They are officially allowed and they work.
Locals can use any residential pass ie, 24hour, 15 or 30 day passes, on strip buses by showing a local ID, and can get reduced fare by showing a reduced fare ID issued by the RTC.
24 hour residential passes are sold on residential buses when we board.
15 and 30 day passes will be sold at the BTC, the SSTT, and a whole list of Vendor's around Vegas ( 7/11 stores, Walgreens, Albertsons), all of them in local areas away from the strip and intended to be for locals but probably not restricted to their use on residential buses. However, even this question has received contradictory answers from the RTC.
In strip machines, the higher all access strip bus prices will be charged for 24hour passes or 3 day passes. These are good on residential buses as well without question. No senior discounts are available in these machines. Senior discounts are only available on 24 hour passes sold by drivers, or 15 and 30 day passes sold at the transfer stations or by Vendors.

Those of us who want to clarify the rules need to know this:
Are 15 or 30 day passes good for tourists on the strip buses (Deuce/SDX)?
Are tourists still able to use the senior ID to get a discount on 15 and 30 day passes and are these good on residential buses without local ID?

Those of us who want to break the rules might want to ask?
Will bus drivers actually ask for a local ID ever?
What is the penalty for not having a local ID if asked by a driver?


Once we know what the rules, regulations, and rates are, we can then devise strategies that will work within the rules. 
These strategies will include:

How can residential bus routes serve us best?
What free shuttles and trams can be pasted together with residential bus routes to make for frugal travel around the city?
When do paid shuttles, cabs, limos, rental etc make more financial sense than the buses, and what added benefits in comfort and convenience or risks come with each separate form of transporation?

One new strategy:
Those of us in Vegas for longer than 31 consecutive days, who have a local address during that time, may be able to get a seasonal local ID from the DMV for as little as $6(senior rate.) I'll know more about that over the course of this year. Right now it looks like these ID's require a proof of identity (passport/birth certificate) and some other paperwork, a local address, a willingness to wait a long while at a busy DMV while a photo is taken, after which the local ID is mailed to the local address and only to the local address.
Perhaps I'll expand my 23 day trips to 31 day trips and stay with one of my relatives during those days. I expect the DMV will be more consistent and clear on the procedures and rules around these local ID's than the RTC. Once again, I am personally more interested in what the rules and regulations are than how they can be broken or what penalties might be incurred by breaking them.

We can keep talking about all this, but I'd suggest we simply wait a month and see what we find out.
Thanks to all of you who have agreed to report what you hear from face to face questioning sessions.
If you find clarification, could you let me know?

More detailed information is on this thread

Friday, September 7, 2012

Web site changes

Keep in mind that many of the schedules will change on October 1. Also, if you have old links to routes and schedules, they upgraded the website and none of the old links work. Now you go to the main page

Chose the "transit ride with us" letters and click.

There in the "plan your ride" boxed section (which is a really useful search to find the routes to those out of the way restaurants in reviews) the one line at the top brings up all the routes.

During the last change in rates and schedules they were a few days updating this, so if you are going to Vegas at the end of the month, on the cusp of the change, just be aware that things are changing. If I read the route changes correctly, there will be more 202 buses and that makes me celebrate since my new strip is Flamingo Blvd. However, the new schedules have not been posted.

WAX delays

Recently reported delays in the WAX.  If this is a pattern rather than an abberation, we'll have to take a new look at this route.

Also, some take the 108 if it comes first.  Here is my calculation on 108 vs WAX.  Maybe I have the math right. Probably not. But it's my mathematical story and I'm stickin' to it:

RTC estimates the trip from the airport to downtown casinos on the WAX as 26 minutes.
The trip on the 108 just to get to the Bonneville Transit Center is 38 minutes, and then we have to walk or get on another bus to get to the casinos. Most of us will not want to walk with luggage from the BTC to downtown, but even if we are up for that, taking the 108 means walking fifteen minutes while waiting for the WAX means sitting.
I imagine any of the buses to the casino area to be at least another 10 minutes with boarding and waiting. For me it means offloading an 80 pound suitcase and loading it again on another bus as well as having to pick which one to take.(not the 107) I'd rather just sit at ground zero, get on and get off near Fremont.

So I estimate the difference in trip time to be 22 minutes with the 108 coming in the slower option even if it is right there at ground zero when we arrive. It we wait say only 10 minutes for the 108, ( which comes about every half hour) well...... now the 108 saves us just 6 minutes on the trip over the WAX.

It depends on whether we want to sit at ground zero longer or ride the bus and hold on to our luggage longer and then reload it.

The WAX is cheaper if we just want a one way ride. $2 as compared to $5 for youngsters. If we are going to change buses at the BTC because we picked the 108, we will want one of those 24 hour passes. Well, we could get away with $4 by paying again at the BTC for another one way pass.

So using an extra 6 minutes to ride the SDX bus saves us at least $2. If I have my math right, that means by sitting at ground zero on average we will earn at least $20 an hour (but we would need to do that for ten trips to get one hour's pay.) Still, it is better odds than the slots.

However, if we have business at the BTC, ie, Having our photo taken for the senior ID pass, or asking some bus questions (like whether our residential 24 hour pass we just bought on the 108 is good on all buses or whether a five day residential pass might be good for us on all buses,) or talking through a trip we are planning, or picking up a new schedule book, or checking out where we are going to store our bikes, well.... the 108 might allow us to get all that done right at the beginning of our trip. Some of us might never visit the BTC again.

If before we leave, we write down a portion of the bus schedule for the WAX for the rough times we would expect to arrive at ground zero, we can use it to make informed decisions on which bus to take once we know our actual arrival time at ground zero.

WAX does not run an hour apart on the hour. That is just an estimate.
Consider your airport arrival times to get a sense of how long you might wait.
Times between WAX buses can be as short at 26 minutes and so shorter than the wait for the 108.
For example, I expect on my usual run from Albany to Vegas that I would most likely catch the 5:42PM WAX at ground zero. If I miss it, the next bus is 26 minutes later at 6:08PM.