New buses, more riders … no money
TAHOE CITY “-When community members discussed ways to improve the region’s public transportation Monday afternoon at the Community Rideout Center in Tahoe City, the conversation ranged from reaching more side streets with buses to trying out new technology to lure new riders.
Residents directed questions and concerns with Tahoe Area Regional Transit at John Andoh, a member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Transportation Team and BlueGo Transit Administrator.
TART service community members addressed the idea of having a fleet of smaller busses that would be able to go on the small side streets to pick up riders.
Citing Colorado tourist communities Crested Butte, Aspen and Vail as areas where transit has expanded into neighborhoods, Ron Grassi of the Sierra Club asked why bus services only stick to Highway 28 and 89.
“I have seen these other communities that have 20 to 30 small buses that go to the smaller side-streets,” said Grassi. “It just makes it really convenient for people who live off the main roads.”
Flavia Sordelt, a member of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, agrees.
“I live way up on a hill, and having to walk down when it’s covered with snow and ice is not only inconvenient, it’s dangerous,” she said.
But while Andoh said the issue of neighborhood service is on the minds of local transit authorities, it would be at the expense of cutting services elsewhere.
“TART has evaluated neighborhood shuttles; it is in future plans, but it all comes down to funding,” said Andoh. “If TART implemented neighborhood shuttles they would have to reduce service elsewhere to account for the cost.”
Andoh said that TART is allowed a $2.8 million budget each year. And while they could apply for a discretionary grant to get more funding, he said Placer County does not like to add services that are not meant for the long term.
But in the current economic climate, with budget cuts expected throughout the state of California, expanded service does not seem probable in the near future.
“TART might be facing service reductions in the next year,” said Andoh.
TART may even have to reevaluate their service frequency, looking at certain days, even seasons, that could possibly see reduced services, according Steve Peterson, operational manager for TART.
Though these ideas are far from becoming realities just yet, the main issue most could agree on is that the amount of people who use local transit needs to be improved.
“Funding is only part of the problem; the bigger problem is getting people to use the bus,” said Planning Agency Spokesman Dennis Oliver.
As the discussion turned to ideas about boosting ridership, some community members think having new, environmentally-friendly technology will give people an incentive to ride local transit. And as funding for new technology is an obvious hurdle
the idea of partnering with the companies that make “green” vehicles was touched on.
“Tahoe should be a place where people want to show off new technology,” said Oliver.
But while the idea of new buses might entice people to ride local transit, Andoh warned about the downfalls of new technology, especially around the steep hills and harsh environment many of the buses are subject to during winter months.
“You always have to be careful when experimenting with new technology,” Andoh said. “You don’t want to make a $9 million mistake.”
Comments about local transit issues can be sent to John Andoh in any of the following ways:
Mail: P.O. Box 5310, Stateline, NV 89449
Visit: 128 Market Street, Stateline, NV 89449
Phone: (775) 589-5284
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