Links: University Libraries, Contact Special Collections

Southern Nevada's Planes, Trains, and Automobiles by Stefani Evans

By Su Kim Chung on September 14, 2018 4:55 PM | Permalink


Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County Director of Aviation

The UNLV University Libraries Special Collections and Archives launched the Building Las Vegas collecting initiative in 2016 to collect and preserve evidence about this dramatic growth. This focused effort ensures future students and researchers -- urban planners, geographers, architects, historians, sociologists, and others -- can study and learn from our unique built environment. Stefani Evans, a UNLV doctoral student in history, is Project Manager.

Planes. Trains. Automobiles. They all move. What or who keeps them from bumping into each other? The directors of Southern Nevada’s air, rail, and transit infrastructure keep us moving smoothly, and they served up some surprises when they recorded oral histories for UNLV University Libraries' Building Las Vegas initiative.

Rosemary Vassiliadis, Clark County director of aviation, earned her leadership stripes after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, when all North American airports and airspace shut down and then director, Randy Walker, was stranded in Montreal. When the Federal Aviation Administration closed airspace, all flights to or over Southern Nevada were grounded at McCarran. With 72 grounded planes, thousands of stranded passengers, and no available rental cars, Vassiliadis shares, "We didn't know when we were going to reopen, but . . . we had to figure that out, because these people had to get home!" As deputy director she "assembled a team and liaised with the Convention and Visitors Authority," which found rooms for marooned travelers. After closing down, all airports had to recertify and sweep for explosives. She recalls, "My little accountant mind just split it up in all these different categories and divvied it out, and we were the first airport to be recertified." In all of North America.

Curtis L. Myles III, CEO and president of Las Vegas Monorail Company

Curtis L. Myles III, CEO and president of Las Vegas Monorail Company, gives a history of hotel mergers and monorail schemes that explains why the Monorail did not begin at the airport and may never go there. The abridged version begins in 1992, when Bally's and MGM installed Southern Nevada's first rail for "mothballed Disney monorail trains" running 0.8 miles between the properties. Mergers, mergers, mergers, and the monorail connected six hotels and the convention center. Mergers, lawsuits, state legislation, and behold the privately held Las Vegas Monorail Company. Recalls Myles, "This thing didn't start because somebody had a grand master plan . . . It started because . . . [Bob] Maxey and [Arthur] Goldberg" at MGM and Bally's built their monorail and figured "'it would eventually go to the airport.'" But according to Myles, until Monorail connects all major hotels, "we're not going there."

Tina Quigley, general manager, Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada

Tina Quigley, general manager, Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, explains RTC's Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation (FAST) and partnership with automaker Audi. FAST and Nevada Highway Patrol monitor and control traffic from one central location via feeds from throughout the county. For example, if NHP attends to a major accident on I-15, FAST can electronically avoid backups by directing traffic onto nearby roads and back onto I-15 through a series of arrows and green lights. While Quigley credits Bruce Woodbury for encouraging Clark County to regionalize traffic and for RTC to develop FAST, "none of us could have seen coming" vehicle-to-infrastructure (V21) communication technology and the economic and desirability advantages that accrue when automakers like Audi seek partner locations. Audi, Quigley explains, selected Las Vegas "because of [our] FAST center; because [we]'re one fully integrated system." So within Las Vegas city limits, subscribed owners of new Q7 Audis enjoy dashboard countdowns of seconds before stoplights turn green and alarms at four seconds before green, which increase driver alertness, thus allowing more cars per cycle through intersections.

Want to know more? See who else donated their Building Las Vegas stories to the Oral History Research Center, Lied Library Special Collections and Archives.