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Benjamin Spillman

CES by bus, limo and foot

10 January 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- It took Dale Logue nearly two hours to catch a cab from McCarran International Airport on Sunday, one day before the opening of the International Consumer Electronics Show.

"It was horrible," said Logue, of Racine, Wis., of making his way to the opening of North America's largest trade show.

Fortunately for Logue, and the rest of the estimated 140,000 delegates, there are more than a half dozen ways to get around the gigantic show and the nearby Strip, including by foot.

Show organizers are using everything from double-decker buses to golf carts to move people around the event.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which produces the show, spends more than $1 million annually on transportation services for the four-day event.

"It is kind of our own public transportation system but not public," said Mark Prestage, chief operating officer of CMAC, the company that manages transportation for the show. "We use every available vehicle in Las Vegas ... and we bring some in from out of state."

Although transportation doesn't get as much attention as the debut of new big-screen televisions or smart phones, it is a major factor in making the show a success.

Logue, for example, decided one two-hour cab wait was enough and walks or uses a limousine to get around.

"It is well worth it," Logue said about spending $45 on a limo, "compared to two hours waiting for a $20 cab ride."

He had plenty of choices. Prestage said there are 150 sedans and limos serving the show.

That's in addition to 300 buses that serve the show from 33 hotels. Buses also run all day between the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo and Convention Center at The Venetian, where part of the show is staged.

The hotel buses carry about 60,000 delegates per day and about 25,000 people use the shuttles between the convention center and The Venetian.

There are also shuttles that carry about 6,000 people per day around the Las Vegas Convention Center and a golf cart service that moves about 4,000 people daily.

The Las Vegas Monorail does not disclose daily ridership numbers, but the show provides one of its biggest ridership surges of the year.

Prestage estimated there is also parking for about 5,000 to 6,000 cars within a few blocks of the convention center for people who drive.

And, of course, there is foot power.

"I like to walk," said Lucy Kron, of Chicago.

Kron said she walked about a mile from the her hotel to the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday morning.

"I wasn't alone," she said. "There were a lot of other people walking along."

Kron planned to walk back at the end of the day, rather than brave the crush of postshow and regular rush hour traffic.

"At 4 o'clock in the afternoon nothing is great," Kron said.

While show organizers can predict surges and lulls in the crowds waiting for a ride, there are other circumstances that are tougher to predict. For example, show organizers didn't know there would be construction on Koval Lane until they noticed workers blocking lanes the first day of the event.

"That is the frustrating thing," said Laurie Lutz, operations director for the show. "Not knowing what kind of construction we are going to walk into when we arrive."