Tahoe transit needs to be Macy’s, not Walmart, consultant says | SierraSun.com

Tahoe transit needs to be Macy’s, not Walmart, consultant says

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. — A vision for an improved regional public transit system is in place, but for it to become a reality, funding is key, officials said Thursday.

"We don't start early enough on our system right now to get people to work on time in the morning, and we don't go long enough to get them home, so right now it's not working for anybody," said Sandy Evans Hall, CEO and executive director of North Lake Tahoe Chamber/CVB/Resort Association.

Hall was among several officials who spoke at the third annual transportation summit, put on by the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association, at Truckee Tahoe Airport.

There, officials discussed the Resort Triangle Transit Vision, which includes a bus running every 30 minutes — rather than the hourly service provided on most routes — elimination of rider fares, year-round service on Highway 267, and year-round evening service throughout Truckee, North Tahoe and down the West Shore.

That vision is estimated to cost $7.2 million, which is $2.9 million more than what's spent on the existing transit system, Evans Hall said.

"Right now we have a lot of skepticism about transit working here because most people don't have the opportunity to go and spend a few days in Park City … and see how it works in these other areas," said Gordon Shaw, principal of LSC Transportation Consultants, Inc. "They just see what they see on the ground now, which is as much as we can possibly do effectively with the funds that we have available.

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"What that buys you is a bus an hour, 12 hours a day, which is kind of the generic Walmart of public transit, unfortunately. We would like to at least get to a Macy's level."

Successful resort transit systems rely on a variety of public and private sources. For instance, Utah's Park City transit system relies heavily on sales tax and resort sales tax, Shaw said, and less on federal grants.

"For better or for worse, resort transit systems, they're a function of local support in the long run, and there's not someone who is going to come in and solve our problems for us," Shaw said.

Roughly 45 people, including regional transportation officials, attended the summit.

As for what's next, putting together potential funding plans and doing outreach on those plans to test community sentiment are among tasks to be done in 2015, with additional work ahead, Evans Hall said.

If funding were to be established, things like extending service hours and eliminating fares can happen "relatively quickly" — within a year, according to FAQ sheet provided at the summit.

Increasing service frequency will take longer — roughly three years — since additional buses will need to be ordered, and the capacity of maintenance facilities will need to expand.

Thus, a timeline for the Resort Triangle Transit Vision becoming a reality is unknown at this point, Evans Hall said.

"This is probably the most challenging part of everything that we have done so far," she said. "It's fun to dream, it's fun to put that vision out there, but when you really try to get together with people and say, 'OK, we're going to have to implement this, and how much are you willing to put forward to do this?' That's where we're going to meet the challenges."