Free shuttle a safe option for New Year’s | SierraSun.com

Free shuttle a safe option for New Year’s

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunPhil Harris begins his 6 p.m. to midnight shift Saturday night. The free shuttle service in the Truckee-Tahoe area will extend its service to 3 a.m. on Tuesday morning for the New Year's Eve celebration.
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Tahoe-Truckee authorities say they hope tipsy party-goers, who might otherwise get behind the wheel, will take advantage of a free New Year’s Eve shuttle that will run throughout the area until the wee hours of the morning.

The free transportation alternative will continue making stops until 3 a.m.

The California Highway Patrol plans to deploy its maximum enforcement for the holiday, with four-fifths of its force patrolling the area’s roads looking for drunk drivers, said Officer Steve Skeen.

The Truckee office has not scheduled any DUI checkpoints, but its officers are aware that the alcohol is often associated with year-end parties.

“With all the people out there celebrating the New Year, there is more inclination for people to be impaired and driving out on the road,” Skeen said.

The North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, Placer County and the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association are sponsoring the free nightly shuttle service from 7 p.m. until midnight through the winter. This is the shuttle’s third year of operation.

To accommodate the additional demand on New Year’s Eve, the shuttle will continue picking up passengers until the early morning hours.

“[The night shuttle] is adding a real enhancement to the visitors and the employees of Lake Tahoe,” said Ron Treabess, the resort association’s director of community partnerships. “[That’s] to have a decent nighttime transportation system that allows you to get around without having a car.”

Funded by the Transient Occupancy Tax added to lodging bills, the night shuttle’s ridership has increased each year, Treabess said. Last year, passengers boarded the night shuttle in the North Tahoe, Truckee area more than 15,000 times.

“And we’re expecting a much greater [use] this year,” he said. “As people become aware, they then utilize [the service] a lot more.”

Chief Duane Whitelaw of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District said the fire departments are staffed beyond usual requirements for the holiday to prepare for additional emergencies.

“We expect that as we move closer to the New Year, our call volume will move up,” Whitelaw said. “It’s a crystal ball, but typically it’s a good one because of the additional people that are here.”

But the number of alcohol-related accidents on the New Year are declining, Whitelaw said.

“I’ve been here for a number of years, and just anecdotally, it appears that the number of emergencies that occur on New Year’s and in particular New Year’s Eve have been on steady decline,” he said. “In particular, the reduction in vehicle accidents is a result of people being more conscious of drinking and driving.”

The positive trend is good news for Whitelaw and the fire district.

“We would much rather be bored on New Year’s Eve, than be busy,” Whitelaw said.