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As We See It

[The Strip Sense]

Signs of trouble: Finding the Monorail isn’t easy

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Don’t believe this sign.
Photo: Steve Friess

I just couldn’t stop staring at the blurry image on TMZ.com showing Paris Hilton being arrested for allegedly possessing narcotic-flavored Trident or something like that. No, I don’t care what becomes of vacuous stoners; what caught my eye was a sign behind her, indicating a Las Vegas Monorail station somewhere to the south.

Hilton was collared, you see, in front of the Wynn. You don’t have to be packing cocaine to think, seeing that sign, that you’re close to getting out of the 115-degree heat and onto public transit.

Except you’re not. The nearest stop from that sign sits behind Harrah’s, nearly a two-mile hike once you’ve wended through the casino. Not undoable, certainly, but far enough away that pedestrians ought to know so they can decide if they should cab it or just walk to their destination.

The press has flogged the Monorail for years. Stuff used to just fall off it. Its founders sold the public and lenders a bill of goods based on ridiculous ridership projections and unfunded expansion plans. Its circuitous route and distance from the Strip sidewalk renders it useless in many instances. It’s in bankruptcy and could be demolished soon; I’ve argued in this space that the public should take it over and keep those 20,000 people a day out of cars and off our clogged streets.

But now they don’t even want to help you find it! Or, even better, they want you to be livid, exhausted and drenched in sweat by the time you do. What an awesome business plan!

There are now 24 green directional signs along the Strip, and pedestrians complain to me regularly about feeling misdirected. The Wynn example is one of many; there’s a sign in front of Mandalay Bay indicating a station due north which, in actuality, is at MGM Grand. One sign points to a stop at Planet Hollywood, an outright lie because Harrah’s actively prevented one from being put there back when the Monorail was being built and before Harrah’s owned the resort. That stop is behind Paris.

Monorail vice president Ingrid Reisman explained that one by saying that pedestrians who come over the crosswalk towards P-Ho will see more signage to help them. But why is this an Easter egg hunt in the first place?

Reisman said the culprit is a federal law barring public signage to reference private businesses. That means the sign can’t say the stop is at Bally’s.

That’s true, but Reisman also claimed she can’t even indicate the Monorail is, say, 1.4 miles away or on the corner of Jackhole Avenue and Nowhere Place. Clark County spokeswoman Jennifer Knight disagreed: “You can definitely do that. You can describe it by cross street or by distance. The only thing you cannot do is have the actual name of a hotel.” (The feds, by the way, do allow states to customize these rules. California does, which is why they have directional signs indicating where, say, Disneyland is.)

There’s also evidence that the Monorail has long been in the bait-and-switch business. Such destinations as the Trump are listed as being “near” stops on the official map, and Caesars Palace is listed as an actual stop when it’s not, snookering people into thinking the system is more convenient than it is. On that official map, in fact, the only destination that is “not within walking distance” is McCarran Airport, listed as an option under the MGM Grand. Did they fear a parade of people lugging suitcases up Tropicana or vacationing locals parking at the MGM?

“We think it’s important that there’s some additional signage on Las Vegas Boulevard,” Reisman said. “We do think it would be more helpful and beneficial to have additional signage that’s more specific.”

Specific would be nice, yes. But accurate’s not so bad either. Right now, in many places, they’ve got neither.

Follow Steve on Twitter at TheStripPodcast or head to VegasHappensHere.com for his blog and weekly celeb-interview podcast, The Strip. E-mail him at SteveFriess@aol.com.
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Steve Friess

Steve Friess is a freelance journalist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His work has appeared in the New York Times, ...

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