Las Vegas, Nev. has taken to smart technology solutions to not only respond to new pressures on urban infrastructure but also proactively plan and build for the future. “The city of Las Vegas is not unlike any other city in the United State in our transportation challenges,” explains Joanna Wadsworth, registered professional engineer and program manager at the City of Las Vegas. “Safety is definitely the number one priority.”

Following public safety, the city’s attention is on capacity. People want to get wherever they are going in the most direct, efficient and fastest way possible. But, the goal isn’t solely on efficiency and decreasing delays – it’s also about increasing the number of choices for the mode of transportation itself. Las Vegas seeks to enhance choices of transportation and change the way people are commuting.

Paving the way

Currently, a leader in the nation's implementation of urban smart technology, Wadsworth emphasizes their proactive strategy. “Our city really wants to provide a place that people want to live, work, and visit.” By looking ahead five, ten and twenty years, the teams anticipate rising challenges, so they can strategize and prepare adequately. For example, Wadsworth recalls the team’s planning efforts for future mobility enhancements in 2015, which recognized a projection of population growth that would heighten demands on roadway infrastructure. In response, the city used smart technology to strategize developing and encouraging transportation capacity beyond vehicular use to meet growing commute demands.

Facing challenges

Las Vegas seeks to enhance choices of transportation and change the way people are commuting.

While rideshare use is on the rise with mobile apps, Wadsworth emphasizes the way these changes in transportation use will continue to alter city-wide transportation going forward. Driverless, autonomous vehicles are another change in transportation use that may increase transportation options, safety and efficiency. But, in turn, they create more demands on roads and infrastructure with increased vehicle-use. These models will, therefore, need to focus on ridesharing as well.

Roadways are of course not the only challenge faced by increased usage. Intelligent transportation systems also allow the city to better manage the infrastructure to improve traffic flow, for both everyday use and high-traffic times like events and road closures. The regional transportation management center operated by the Regional Transportation Commission manages the timing of traffic signals and sends out messages via dynamic message signs to reach drivers more efficiently. “We manage the roadway infrastructure, but now we’re see the merging of infrastructure to vehicle communication,” says Wadsworth. With this technology, teams like Wadsworth’s will be able to push messages directly through to the car itself to ensure the driver receives important updates. “I think it will definitely enhance our transportation systems and take transportation management to the next level.”

Looking ahead

It’s not just technology that makes intelligence systems work, but smart cities are also extremely data-driven, helping with city operations and planning. To improve their technology, Las Vegas is focusing on its own fiber-based Internet of Things network. “We designated our downtown as our innovation district to pilot these technologies, but it’s really all about data and using that data to make informed decisions,” states Wadsworth. “It’s data-driven decision making.”

The city has identified six focus areas that they prioritize and plan their decisions accordingly. Public safety, economic growth, education, mobility, medical, and social innovation are the pillars of their technology implementations. Internet of Things will enhance the city’s ability to address these focus areas. Ultimately, Wadsworth emphasizes, the most crucial step is to identify a particular city’s needs. “Define the needs first and then look at the technology, so you’re not deploying technology just for the sake of it,” she says. “It needs to serve a purpose.”