He had a very individual case of the shakes. He shook his head by twisting his shoulders to and fro; at the end of each motion he would crane his neck to look in whatever direction the inertia had taken him. His hair was long, blonde and stringy, partially contained under a baseball cap with the insignia ripped off. He sat on the bench with his legs crossed at the ankles, clutching a burner phone, and he muttered the word “animals,” urgently, over and over again.
I didn’t have to clock his smile to know that I’d met one of Las Vegas’ methamphetamine achievers. Truth to tell, I didn’t engage him at all; I stood a full two methheads’ length away from him as we two awaited the arrival of RTC Transit Route 206, westbound from the Arts District to McNeil Estates. This fucking guy was about to get on a bus with me, 11 p.m. on a Thursday night. Excelsior.
As it turned out, he didn’t follow me upstairs — many of RTC’s route buses are double deckers, purchased from UK coachbuilder Alexander Dennis — and the ride back to my friend’s house was quiet and uneventful, which meant that I had plenty of time and opportunity to think about the month ahead. I have elected to get around Las Vegas using public transportation from now until June 15, at which time I’ll begin pooling my resources to buy a car. Any fucking sort of a car, as long as it moves and has working AC. Hubcaps desired, but optional.
I’m doing this to prove a few things. I’d like to demonstrate that it’s possible, for one thing. Four years into a recession that more or less broke this town, Vegas has caught civic improvement fever. All of a sudden, this city wants to be a city, as opposed to a city-themed resort. The city’s downtown core is being redeveloped by young entrepreneurs, most prominent among them Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh; I’m too lazy to provide links, so just Google his name along with “Las Vegas” and brace yourself for a flood. The people here seem to want walkable neighborhoods at long last, and the way you get those is by A) creating a concentration of businesses, residences and civic amenities that are worth walking to, and B) leaving the car parked at home. Or getting rid of the car entirely, as I did when I moved to Seattle ten years ago. I want to prove to myself, and maybe to you, that it’s possible to do the same in a town that was built for, and probably by, single-occupant vehicles.
I’ve been back in Vegas less than a week, but in that time I’ve taken the bus almost a dozen times. I’m already beginning to learn the pluses and minuses of Vegas’ sprawling bus network, and I’ll be weighing them in this bl-g under the heading “Crazy is On The Bus.” (If I’m to do this fuckin’ dumbshit thing in the heat of a Las Vegas summer, at least I’ll feel like Samuel L. Jackson while I’m doing it.) I hope to demonstrate to you that the first step to building a pedestrian-friendly town is by taking an actual step. Yes, right past the carport; that’s a good fella. The bus stop is only a few minutes’ walk from your door, and thanks to a certain heavily medicated vigilante, it’s completely animal-free. You’ll be fine.
If you can, get on the upper level of those double deckers. The view really is something else — and half the people who ride RTC either can’t or won’t navigate those stairs.
I’ll say this right now: The RTC is nowhere close to covering this town the way Metro Transit covers Seattle. The 15-minute drive from McNeil Estates to the offices of Wendoh Media, where I now work, takes 50 minutes by “express” bus — and there’s an additional 25-minute walk after I disembark. Glad to meet you, June heat. Please don’t cook my brain; I may need it for stuff.
I know I’ve ripped on this before, but … the Strip bus is called The Deuce? Seriously?
The Bonneville Transit Center is really nice. Once some of the empty lots surrounding it are built up with apartments — and once the gub’mint pulls its head outta its ass regarding Juhl — it will become a very highly-valued civic asset. There’s a bike shop inside the terminal! Cool cool cool.
I’m not too proud to take a ride home, or to the grocery store, if one is offered. I don’t think it’s a huge dereliction of my purposes. Are you, um, are you offering a ride? I got five dollars you can put in the tank.