Marketing to the Next Generation of Transit Riders

Dec. 9, 2013

It’s no surprise members of Generation Y — aka the Millennials — entering colleges and universities around the nation are uber “multi-taskers.” In fact, making the most of every minute by emailing, texting, reading and talking could be considered their version of achieving maximum efficiency.

This multi-tasking mania could contribute to this generation’s increasing interest in public transit, as it allows them to move about while maintaining a social networking presence. The most recent data shows that youth drove 25 percent less than their peers 8 years earlier, while at the same time their distance traveled on public transit increased by 40 percent.

Southern Nevada has more than 17 public and private higher education institutions, including the three state institutions — the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), and Nevada State College (NSC). UNLV, the oldest of the state institutions, is a thriving urban institute located a few miles from the famed Las Vegas Strip with more than 28,000 students and 3,100 faculty and staff. As the campus has grown, parking has become limited. Thanks to a strong partnership with UNLV and the evolution of today’s transit rider, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) created a solution to this issue by make public transit more accessible and appealing to students, faculty and other members of UNLV staff.


RTC opened a brand new transit center on UNLV’s campus in fall to support current demand and provide support for the university’s long-term urban development plan, which includes additional campus housing and a proposed stadium for football, concerts and special events. Transit service to the growing campus is so important that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) as well as other local officials all touted the significance of the facility to the area and the greater Las Vegas Valley at the transit center’s grand opening ceremony in September.

Appropriately named the UNLV Transit Center, the facility is a 6,460-square-foot open-air facility featuring bike racks, shaded seating areas, ample lighting and native landscaping.  The facility is within walking distance of key UNLV facilities, including various academic and administrative buildings, Cox Pavilion and the Thomas & Mack Center – a 18,500-seat event facility that serves as not only the school’s primary sports arena, but also as a major events stadium for the entire Las Vegas Valley.

The new transit center will promote public transit on campus as a viable option and reduce dependence on personal vehicles to commute to campus. It will also significantly improve public transit connectivity throughout the surrounding community, which is comprised of a dense residential population, many of whom rely heavily on RTC’s existing transit services.

An express transit route serves the UNLV Transit Center, taking passengers from UNLV to the RTC’s transit hub, the Bonneville Transit Center in downtown Las Vegas, where riders can connect to other transit routes serving destinations across the valley. 

Through the RTC’s growing bus rapid transit and express route system, students at the campuses of the College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College in Henderson also have convenient access to transit that can take them to the downtown areas of Henderson and Las Vegas. The express routes BHX (Boulder Highway Express) and HDX (Henderson and Downtown Express) debuted in 2011 offering fewer stops and faster service, making commuting to work and classes even easier.

Providing transit connectivity through routes and stops is just one component of the RTC’s effort to attract students to the transit system. The RTC continues to make transit more accessible by expanding the number of local retail locations that sell transit passes. The RTC sells passes at the three CSN bookstores located throughout the Las Vegas valley and at more than 300 retail outlets like Circle K, 7-Eleven, Walgreens and Albertsons.


RTC has also introduced a new student transit pass program, UPASS, tailored just for college students at all three of Southern Nevada’s major higher education institutions. The new transit pass will offer students a 50 percent discount on a 30-day monthly pass or more than a 60 percent discount for an entire semester transit pass. The UPASS can be used for any transit route and to any destination.

Established to improve access to the transit system among Southern Nevada college students, the UPASS will also help the RTC to better understand college students’ transit usage and behavior and the needs and demands for transit services. Not only will the discounted pass make transit more economical for financially strapped students, but it will also introduce them to public transit at a younger age, hopefully keeping them as riders well beyond graduation.

The RTC continues to work with universities to develop innovative public transit solutions that meet the needs of a growing student population. As one of the youngest transit systems in the United States, the RTC is expanding its reach and capabilities so that students living in Southern Nevada today become and remain transit riders in the future, no matter where their future takes them after college.

Tina Quigley is the general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC).