With 100 Teslas, Las Vegas looks to reinvent urban transit

Business leaders in Las Vegas are building a first-of-its-kind urban transportation model.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has a grand vision to revitalize the Las Vegas downtown , where the headquarters of his company is moving to. And it's not just talk and advocacy; he's allocated $350 million for the Downtown Project which looks to "create a vibrant, connected urban core." And, of course, in a dense downtown, that can't happen without a strong mix of transportation options. So Hsieh bought 100 Tesla Model S electric cars.

But that's not all. The Teslas are the cornerstone of an ambitious, first-of-its-kind urban transportation model that would combine the best of services like Zipcar, Uber, and bikeshare under an umbrella organization.

Project 100, as the venture is being called, would let participants living in the urban core choose from a number of ways of getting around. As the project's website envisions it, users could be picked up by a driver in a Tesla in three minutes; pick up a low-range electric car that's 0.2 miles away; use a bike that's 0.1 miles away; or catch a shuttle bus that will arrive in four minutes. Using a smartphone app, users can tell the service where they want to go and how they want to get there. The goal, of course, is to reduce the number of cars downtown and connect people with the neighborhood.

Okay, so maybe it sounds like services that are already available in your city. But the major difference is the membership model. Instead of paying per ride, per mile, or per hour, users pay one monthly fee and have access to any of the services. Because it's taking the place of a car and provides numerous services, membership would be costly. The project is still being developed -- it will be launched in beta in the coming months -- but the website says that it imagines membership costing about as much as a monthly car payment plus insurance (about $400), except no worrying about gas or repair costs. Membership tiers are also being considered.

There will no doubt be challenges -- namely building EV infrastructure and tech infrastructure essentially from scratch, without the already existing expertise that a company like, say, Zipcar could provide -- but if the project is successful it could have a major impact on how urban transportation is managed in cities around the world.

[h/t Fast Company]

Photo: Flickr/ThunderKiss Photography

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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