Tahoe transit officials: ‘Definitely momentum’ with future plans | SierraSun.com

Tahoe transit officials: ‘Definitely momentum’ with future plans

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com

Downtown Kings Beach was a sea of slow-moving cars and pedestrians over Fourth of July weekend last summer, especially on July 3, as seen here above the western roundabout.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — In a given summer month, somewhere between 10.8 and 11.8 million visitor trips are made from one point to another within the Lake Tahoe Basin, according to new data recently released by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the Tahoe Transportation District.

Another 4.4 million trips are made by residents and commuters. To say there is a need to address transportation issues moving forward might be an understatement.

"We've made a lot of progress," TRPA principal transportation planner Karen Fink said, "but there's a lot of room for improvement."

As part of an ongoing effort to address future transportation needs, the TTD and TRPA hosted a pair of joint public comment sessions in May on both shores, releasing information on their most recent traffic study as well as proposed future plans for the basin.

The traffic information released was compiled by the research firm AirSage, and was based on tracking anonymous cellphone pings over the course of a few months.

"The data has given us a view of how Tahoe is used in ways that maybe we didn't as fully see before," TTD director Carl Hasty said. "It's interesting. It's new. We're still exploring how to use this information."

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"It's really highlighting for us that there are a lot of trips out there that we haven't captured for public transit," Fink added.

The research is expected to be released online in the coming weeks along with other aspects of TRPA and TTD's long-term goals on their joint website, http://www.linkingtahoe.com.

"This is the early stages of input for the regional plan," Fink said.

The groups expect to hold additional public forums later this year and will also collect comments online.

Among early comments received, Fink said people had suggested more bike capacity on buses, increased public transit options and more suitable parking for backcountry access points.

"I would say there are still a lot of hurdles, but there is definitely momentum now," Fink said of future considerations. "We've started to see new projects all around the lake that make our communities more bikeable and walkable."

Officials from both organizations said changes in federal policy that now allow for new funding sources should be beneficial to making future projects a reality.

FUTURE FERRY?

In addition to travel data, the groups in May presented a host of proposed future projects, including expanded regional and local transit options.

Among the more intriguing ideas was the proposal for an integrated cross-lake ferry and water taxi system.

"To have a cross-lake piece would really be a keystone," Hasty said. "It's instrumental to having an interregional transportation."

Under the proposal currently up for environmental review, the ferry would connect the South Shore to Tahoe City and be integrated into public transit along each shore. The plan could also include a water taxi network with stops along the South Shore.

"It's as realistic as any project," Hasty said. "It would provide a unique aspect for a lot visitors and commuters."

Hasty suggested that it could potentially become a reality in the next five to eight years.

More online

Visit linkingtahoe.com for information on the joint effort, future plans and more.