Funding still lacking for future Tahoe transit
A growing number of residents and visitors in the Tahoe Basin continues to be a driving factor for transit projects in the region geared to get fewer vehicles on the road.
“While we can all handle a lot of people, we can’t handle a lot of vehicles and that’s our issue,” Tahoe Transportation District Manager Carl Hasty said at Tuesday’s Truckee Town Council meeting.
The district is currently looking to expand and improve the transit system over the next 20 years to alleviate issues that come with more vehicles on the road. However, a large funding gap still exists for desired projects.
To locate additional money the district established the One Tahoe initiative in January, aimed at involving community members and stakeholders to help narrow that gap.
“The transportation vision we saw in the ’80s is very similar to what we’re looking a today,” said Derek Morse, lead consultant for One Tahoe. “It calls for huge increase in investments in transit, ferries, bike facilities, ped facilities. A complete integrated system.”
‘A LARGE NUMBER’
After assessing the goals in the current transportation plan, Morse said the district has $3.11 billion in needs. With the existing revenue around half that amount there’s a shortfall of $1.53 billion which they will have to come up with by 2040, equating to $67 million a year.
“It’s a large number but it’s only 1 percent of the basin economy,” said Morse.
Morse said one issue with the funding gap is having to work across two states, five counties and 17 General Improvement Districts.
“The problem is you have money limited to certain uses,” he said. “Money limited to certain jurisdictions where it’s collected and you can’t spread it around. We’ve got to have something where we can work on the entire system in the basin.”
According to Morse, it is estimated that more than 50 million vehicle trips are taken in, out and within the basin annually.
“There’s a dependence on motor vehicles to travel,” said Morse.
MORE VISITS, MORE VEHICLES
Of those trips taken, about 75 percent are being made by visitors and 25 percent by residents. If the quality of experience Lake Tahoe brings to visitors and residents remain the same, Morse said the basin could expect a 25 percent increase in visitation by 2035. He noted issues with increased visitation, including traffic and build up of parking on the roadways creating unsafe conditions as well as air pollution.
If the transportation district can encourage more people to stop using personal vehicles, Morse said it can have a huge impact on congestion and overall transportation in the basin.
“We have to invest in ourselves like any resort would do,” he said. “This community as a whole needs to invest in itself.”
One Tahoe has already conducted community outreach through focus groups, public meetings and social media. Morse said the initiative will continue to do so until a plan is solidified. The next public listening session will be held 4-7 p.m. March 27 at the Fairway Community Center in Tahoe City.
To offer feedback on the future transit project, as well as funding sources, Morse encourages residents to visit OneTahoe.org.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that Derek Morse called for investments in pedestrian, or ped, facilities not pet facilities.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.