Car Sharing Comes to Vegas

Vegas has long been known as the land of risk and excess. So when Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh announced that he would be investing nearly $350 million into an ambitious redevelopment of Sin City, many were surprised to see that an economical, environmentally friendly car share program would be included. What does the city of decadence and discarded dreams want with an affordable alternative to personal transportation?

Lots, according to the man behind the largest online shoe retailer in the world.

By giving residents and travelers access to manifold transportation options, Hsieh hopes to revolutionize the way people get around in the nation’s center for entertainment. The experiment, which will see a complete overhaul of the city’s 1.5-square-mile commercial center is called the Downtown Project. Focused on attracting technologists and artists to an area overwhelmed by decaying parking lots, dirty bars and vacant buildings, the for-profit venture hopes to breathe a little life into Death Valley.

Project 100 and Car Sharing in Sin City

Three years into the project and change is already evident. Project 100, the most ambitious part of the overhaul, is currently in the rollout phase. A major new transportation service that incorporates shared vehicles, like those here at our Brooklyn car share, Project 100 is focused on car-free travel. Incorporating shared electric vehicles, bicycles, shuttles and chauffeured vehicles. Project 100 will be available to residents of the city for a flat monthly fee. No more taxi fees, or carting around a heavy bike lock, Project 100 is designed to make travel easy, efficient, and multifaceted. Launched on the hood of 100 Model S electric sedans from Tesla Motors, Hsieh hopes to have a network of 150 to 200 shared bicycles, 100 chauffer-driven electric cars and 150 car share vehicles available to subscribed members. Several Sprinter vans will also be available to shuttle members throughout the downtown core.

It’s an effort that many hope will help shift energy use away from the thousands of gas-guzzling personal vehicles that dominate the Las Vegas community. As readers of our Brooklyn car share blog know, people who participate in a car share community don’t just enjoy the cost savings, convenience and other benefits that come along with the car-free lifestyle, they often end up deciding to sell or postpone a vehicle purchase thanks to their convenient new lifestyle.

The Growth of Sharing

Project 100’s use of car and bike shares is nothing new. As many as 300 bike share systems are currently in operation globally, with the world’s largest program in Paris boasting some 20,000 community cycles. In most cities, an operator provides bikes in exchange for ad dollars. These bikes are then provided to the general public for free for the first 30 minutes. An increase in car share programs has also become evident over the past year. Like our Brooklyn car share, many of the operators feature affordable memberships that are designed for short-term car usage.

The neat thing about the Project 100 program is that it plans to combine various modes of traditional transportation, like chauffeured drivers, with these relatively new forms of shared travel. What’s more, the program plans to charge a fixed monthly fee for all of these services, similar to our Brooklyn car share.

Mobility on Demand

This unique combination of transportation options is believed to the one of the largest real-world deployments of what transportation experts and scholars are calling Mobility on Demand. Coined by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Smart Cities Research Group, this new approach to travel calls for spontaneous and easy access to a wide variety of transportation options. A main component of the system? One-way rentals and a large inventory of vehicles. It’s an ambitious project, and one that hopes to solve one of the oldest issues to plague public transportation: the so-called first and last mile, which would help connect residents and workplaces with transit options to eliminate the need for a personal vehicle altogether.

While Project 100 is focused primarily on improving connectivity within the urban core, developers also hope to see a ripple effect into the outer suburbs. As the fleet grows, increased accessibility will expand to more than two miles outside of the central downtown area. That being said, the program doesn’t have plans to service a larger area. Maintaining a small, densely populated area of operations is what will ensure a smooth operation. If shared vehicles and bicycles were allowed to be taken outside the central core, Project 100 would be forced to pay to redistribute them downtown – a costly expense.

It’s a big project, and one that’s sure to encounter a few hiccups along the way. That being said, the folks at our Brooklyn car share are in total support. We all benefit when car share programs succeed, so here’s to the new and improved Las Vegas – who’s looking forward to visiting in 2014?

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