Crazy is on the Bus: A Plea for Corporate-Sponsored Wi-Fi Love

“Spit in one hand and wish in the other and see which one fills up the quickest,” goes the old proverb. This one doesn’t work for me for several reasons, not least of which that I don’t actually want to spit on my hand to prove that wishes are basically useless unless you act upon them.

Another reason I don’t agree with the sentiment is Neighborland, a new website where you’re invited to post “ideas and insights for your city.” The Vegas page is already filling up with urban insights—most of them from Downtown Project people, though James Reza and I somehow managed to sneak a couple in there—that could remake this city if put to use. It is, in essence, a wish list. And it seems to be working.

Some of the wishes on Neighborland may never come to fruition. I’d be surprised indeed if Dyrt Jones’ desire for a Zipcar presence in Vegas and Laura Gryder’s hope for a “reliable and extensive” elevated rail network connecting up the city’s outliers were served in our lifetime. But others, including Peter Hedlund’s notion of a dine-in art house theater and my fervent wish for free Wi-Fi on RTC buses and at the Bonneville Transit Center, have opened up helpful dialogues.

Here’s what we’ve figured out through discussion: the Wi-Fi thing won’t happen, can’t happen, without corporate sponsorship. The RTC is strapped; according to the agency’s website some 41 percent of its budget “comes from sales tax revenue, which has declined by $40 million during the
recession.” If that figure is accurate, we’re lucky to have buses running at all.

But I maintain that Wi-Fi is a necessary step if we’re going to convince anyone to give up their cars, even for one or two days a week. “Offering a commute that is productive is a huge difference,” said Neighborland commenter Alan Joseph Williams, and I could kiss him for putting it so well. To get the likes of you on the bus, savage reader, RTC has to offer you something you can’t get from your car, aside from transportation from point A to point B, saving you gas and headaches, and enabling you to drink your weight in vodka on First Friday. Complimentary Wi-Fi—the ability to make your ride productive and/or sexting-friendly—should just about do it.

But as RTC itself will tell you, the money isn’t there. There needs to be a semi-benevolent corporate sponsor to make this happen—and Neighborland/Downtown Project stalwart Graham Kahr has an excellent idea on that order: “Verizon sponsors VegasStreats and has been looking for new ways to promote their products. Could be worth a shot.”

I would, therefore, like to address this entire column to the marketing people at Verizon—or to those at Google, who have been running driverless cars
on our streets. There’s a tremendous opportunity for a tech company to promote themselves with banners on RTC coaches, while simultaneously fostering goodwill in the community by allowing us to use our iPads on the Strip/Downtown Express. This is my wish, yes, but it’s not as crazy as wishing for a magical unicorn or an elevated rail system that connects downtown Vegas to the goddamn airport. This is something you can, and should, do.

Meanwhile, life will go on in downtown Las Vegas, and in Neighborland. Great things are happening in the former, and some of the ideas that will shape it are collecting in the latter. It would be a wonderful thing if, this time next year, I could check that website using the free Wi-Fi at the Bonneville Transit Center—and note with satisfaction that most of the wishes on
Vegas’ list have been fulfilled.


● Do you have Vegas bus stories? I want to hear them, even if they’re of the “there was this drugged-out weirdo in the back” variety. E-mail me from this page, and don’t judge me too harshly from my ridiculous fashion-plate author photo.

● Food trucks have begun parking at the Bonneville Transit Center. As soon as I have something like a regular schedule for them, I’ll post it here.

● Last week I took the bus from the Huntridge neighborhood to the airport: about a half-hour, all told. That’s about half the time Google Maps predicted it would be, which means two things to me: 1.) We really, really need that real-time arrivals and departures app, and 2.) Dude, the next time you fly out, park at my place. I have a carport and everything.