Downtown Project’s new downtown project

April 17th, 2013

Originally published in Las Vegas Citylife on April 3, 2013

Downtown Project has announced that they are in the process of purchasing one hundred Tesla Model S electric vehicles to be used as part of Project 100, a private transportation and ride-share system that aims to reduce area residents’ need for vehicle ownership within our very car dependent city.

What they don’t say is that the range will be restricted to Fremont Street, with Las Vegas Blvd on the west on 7th Street on the east. Basically, picture a merry-go-round of Teslas, powered by serendipity and slowly circling Downtown HQ, stopping occasionally to let passengers off once they’ve reached their destination across the street.

I kid, I kid.

Interestingly, the story was actually broken by Business Insider a couple weeks ago during South by Southwest, but the potentially thunder-stealing news was initially denied (with Tony Hseih replying that he hadn’t actually purchased 100 Teslas, as the deal had yet to be inked), allowing Downtown Project to finally push the news through their own channels this week.

This is big news. First, the purchase will be largest ever order of Teslas by the single entity, so congratulations to Zack Ware of Downtown Project and Elon Musk and crew at Tesla Motors for making the sale. Second, if you live downtown and have the estimated $400/month to plonk down, there’s a chance you may find yourself driving (or riding in) one before the year is out.

So this is how it’ll work. Once you’re a member of the service, powered by VegasTechFund beneficiary Local Motion (the same team that runs transportation across Google’s sprawling Mountain View campus), you’ll be able to launch the app on your phone and be given multiple options, depending on both your location and transportation needs. Alongside the Teslas (both with and without a provided driver), other vehicles will be offered, including shuttle buses for pick up services and even bicycles for door to door travel.

The aim of Project 100 is to serve as a complete replacement for car ownership, providing (nearly) immediate access to (fancy) transportation without the planning and mixed availability often seen with typical car sharing programs. To meet this goal, Project 100 will launch with “100+ on-demand drivers, 100+ shared cars, 100+ shared bikes, and 100+ shared shuttle bus stops,” all within the same monthly membership program. That’s a slew of 100s, and those numbers will only grow if the project is successful.

The initial plan calls for what they call a “hub and spoke” system, with most of the vehicles based around a high traffic hub (like say, Fremont Street), aided by spoke locations throughout downtown and other areas as the service grows.

As a born and raised Las Vegan, I’ll admit, the thought of not owning a car is the sort of fear that strikes deep into one’s soul. But hell, I’m excited, and if Project 100 can successfully pull this off, along with perhaps introducing more reasonably priced tiers for the less demanding (and less cash flushed) residents of downtown, this could bring our big spread out town just a little bit closer together.

Question for the class:

  1. Where will all these vehicles live?
  2. How will the downtown parking landscape change as a result? Once Project 100 launches, will it be easier or more difficult for existing car owners to find a parking space downtown?

  3. How will the infrastructure be handled? Will private electric car owners be able to refuel at the same stations as those used by Project 100?

  4. When can I drive a Tesla?

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