Sunday, November 29, 2015

Learning to Walk in Las Vegas. "Traffic Calming" in Action.

There is a famous book Learning from Las Vegas, by Venturi and Scott-Brown.

There is more to be learned. Las Vegas, on The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard), is actually one of the most programmed walking experiences I know of. Yes, there is the snakelike path you make through an IKEA store, with little chance of cutting across, or getting to just the furniture you wish. You have to see it all. Usually on two levels. And there are attractions at amusement parks that are also so programmed. And many a museum exhibit is also without a way of cutting across various rooms.

Las Vegas shows what can be done with "traffic calming," the term of art from city planning, but now with an ironic twist-- For there is now compression and congestion, frenzy and disorientation.

In LV, they have made traffic calming appear much less programmed, but it is actually much more deliberate. If you want to cross a street, there are elevated walkways between buildings/across-streets, reminding me of the elevated walkways in Minneapolis downtown among the buildings (especially useful when it is very very cold). The walkways in Minneapolis create a whole second level of commercial activity.

In LV, in order to allow for the fluid flow of vehicles on LV Blvd, The Strip, much of the time you need to use an elevated walkway to cross the street E/W. Often, you cannot cross a side-street, N/S, unless you use another elevated walkway. And these elevated walkways guide you to floors of commercial establishments, and you can look down on the ground floor for more such establishments. Of course, it helps that the environment on the street and in the signage/buildings/iconicity there is much to see through the windows of the walkways.

Moreover, in most of the hotels on The Strip, you cannot get to anyplace without going through the gaming/casino area. Often, you have an entryway on The Strip, but you will go through the gaming area to get to the Registration or other such, and even then you may also have to go through the commercial areas as well. Many of the hotels are actually about a block in from The Strip, and you are really entering a low rise building housing gaming and shopping, before you can enter the hotel. (You may be able to enter the hotel from the rear of the complex, about two blocks to the east or west of The Strip, and go directly to Registration.) Sometimes one hotel's complexity is directly linked to another (Paris to Bally, so you get a second dose of gaming and commerce).

It gets better. While hotels are arranged so that it is difficult to find your way out to the street (usually The Strip), with no significant signage (no big EXIT signs), since you are buried by commerce and gaming--once you are on The Strip, you find nothing but more hotels, more gaming, more ways of expending money, time, energy. Moreover, the highly articulated ground floors are often accompanied by further articulated second or third floors. If you ask for directions, they will get you to the next step, but at that point it's not so clear where to go next. There is always temptation--gaming, shopping, eating, gawking--at every such decision/walking point.

The hotels share many of the same high-end shops (sort of Rodeo Drive/Fifth Avenue), the same food-court eateries, and for all I know the same slot machines. So if you cannot find just the exact Louis Vuitton purse you want, another hotel's Louis Vuitton might have it.

If you choose to use the elevated monorail, you will find that it connects with the rear of hotels, and often the monorail station is sufficiently out-of-the-way, you may get tempted and distracted further, never to leave your hotel. But if you do get to the monorail stations, you will get a tour of backstage LV, so for example you see a very large parking structure just for the employees of Wynn LV, at the back of the back of the back of the site. And if you go to one end of the monorail, you find yourself at the SLS hotel, wondering why it is so far from the main action. But there is even more. If you walk out of the SLS to the Stratosphere Hotel, to go to the top (104 stories, they say), you have to walk through a rather more seedy area, with the world's largest souvenir shop and at least two wedding chapels (the hotels have them, too). Looking down, you see how much of LV is flat and residential, how much you have have been guided to attend to this small sliver of LV that is The Strip.

By the way, The Strip is adjacent to the airport, and right off the main highway from Los Angeles (I15).

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