The Game Day Express that transports fans to and from Allegiant Stadium for Raiders games is set to be run heavily off government subsidies.
Operated by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, the Game Day Express buses carry Raiders fans to games and then back to five area resorts: The M Resort, Green Valley Ranch, Red Rock Resort, Boulder Station and Santa Fe Station.
Documents submitted to Clark County show the RTC originally expected to use 17 buses on game days that would transport a maximum of 1,277 passengers in each direction per game, or 12,270 riders annually for the 10 Raiders home games.
With a round trip on the express buses costing $4, the RTC would collect $49,080 from riders using the service.
However, the RTC projects the cost of running 17 buses for 10 events will total $152,606 a year. With costs expected to rise each year, the agency estimates its expenses over five years to be $810,204.
Francis Julien, RTC deputy CEO, said raising the price charged passengers isn’t an option because the system is considered a residential route and federal regulations prohibit the RTC from charging more than its residential fare.
Julien noted that the RTC’s projections were made before it carried out any rides. Now, through the first two Raiders games, ridership has exceeded expectations.
“Now that the service has started, we have learned a few things,” Julien said. “For the Raiders games, demand is higher than anticipated. However, given the scheduling of the service, we have the ability to do multiple trips with each bus. This was not accounted for in the initial projection.”
For the Raiders first home game at Allegiant Stadium, the Game Day Express buses carried approximately 3,250 passengers. For last week’s game, the system carried about 2,900 passengers. This compares to about 383 riders for the Golden Knights Game Day Express for an NHL game at T-Mobile Arena later that day.
At $4 a round trip, the RTC would have made around $24,600 for the two Raiders home games. Still, as is the case with the bus system at large, most of the operations for the Game Day Express will be paid for by subsidies.
“Public transportation systems across the country operate on subsidies and this service is no different,” Julien said. “Other communities that provide these types of services use similar types of local and federal funding to help provide mobility options, manage congestion, reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve air quality in their regions.”
The Board of Clark County Commissioners on Tuesday is set to approve up to $275,469 to go toward the Game Day Express to help fund its operation for five years. The money will come from the county’s Air Quality Transportation Tax, as getting fans to take buses takes vehicles off roads and therefore reduces emissions.
“These are people who would have otherwise driven their cars or taken an Uber or Lyft, causing further congestion in already very busy corridors,” Julien noted.
The RTC will equally contribute up to $275,469 from sales tax and fare revenue while a federal contribution of $259,265 will account for the rest of the projected $810,204 five-year total.
With the ridership exceeding expectations, Julien said RTC officials aren’t exactly sure how much subsidy will be needed for the season.
“This is our first year in operation and we are unsure of demand, so it’s difficult to determine what the subsidy will be, as it is dependent on ridership and fare revenues,” Julien said.