It’s difficult to project the long-term effects of the pandemic on transportation and our communities. While Las Vegas, NV, USA is a rather unique place, with its primary reliance on gaming and hospitality, there are trends and factors that may be relatable to other communities as we emerge from the pandemic.
Despite an unemployment rate well above the national average, the Las Vegas housing market is on fire. Inventory is low and prices continue to climb. According to a January 2021 article in Forbes, Zillow reports more than 60 percent of searches for Las Vegas homes come from outside the valley, and of those, about a third come from the southern California area. There are likely a number of reasons for the phenomenon, but one factor is the ability to telecommute. The Nevada tax environment is attractive to out-of-state workers—coupled with historically low mortgage rates, the buying ensues. This has a few impacts on transportation. The first is obvious—fewer work-related commutes due to a higher percentage of telecommuters. The second is related to inventory for locals. Should the trend continue, new inventory is constructed on the edge of town at greater volumes. These newer communities are longer distances from the Strip, the primary employment center, and have no transportation alternatives beyond the personal automobile. Thirdly, community members who have given up their commutes may be more desirous of transportation infrastructure that allows walking and iking to nearby amenities.
A Trip Advisor review in 2006 of the Red Rock National Conservation area listed two stars, and stated that traffic was awful. Visitor volume has since tripled. The pandemic exacerbated the issue. Parking lots were overflowing, and gate traffic queued onto the highway. When other recreation options were closed and many were stuck indoors, the ability recreate outside has proved enticing. However, this emphasized the fact that most areas are only accessible by car, with insufficient facilities, resulting in disturbances to natural areas as a result. Fortunately, a multi-use trail is planned for Red Rock in the near future, but other areas aren’t so fortunate.
Las Vegas is asking the same questions about conferences as ITE. An in-person event requires attendees willing to travel, employers willing to fund, and vendors and sponsors willing to showcase. In 2019, more than 6.6 million people attended conferences in Las Vegas. Interestingly, while convention attendance decreased by 74 percent during COVID, visitor volume was down about 55 percent, indicating that the desire to travel still exists. Additional statistics from the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority show that while airport traffic was down 56.9 percent for the year, vehicle traffic was only down 16.2 percent. Backups continued on I-15 at the California border during busy weekends. Air travel may rebound at a slower rate, affecting taxis and ride-share companies as well as arterials throughout the resort corridor. The ability for tourism-based communities to recover will depend on vaccine distribution and trust in air travel. However, if anything is apparent by our smothering love of local outdoor spaces, people want to get away.
What phenomenon are you seeing in your communities as a result of the pandemic and how may they affect transportation? Find me on the ITE e-Community or on Twitter: @a2reyrod, and let me know.
This is reprinted from the ITE President's Message from the April issue of ITE Journal.