Placer County to pilot rideshare service
This summer, North Lake Tahoe residents and visitors will have a new microtransit rideshare service available through Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit.
The Placer County Board of Supervisors has authorized spending $465,000 to implement this new service as a pilot program this summer.
Jaime Wright, Placer County’s Transit Services Public Works manager, said the program is piggybacking off the free Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit system in order to continue the public effort to reduce seasonal traffic.
“We need to continue to enhance public service,” Wright said. “Whether it’s the summer or the winter, we’re challenged by a good amount of congestion. We need to reduce the vehicle miles traveled and the vehicles on the road.”
Wright said the door-to-door option of the rideshare pilot program could be the difference between visitors feeling the flexibility to come up from the Bay Area by train as opposed to their personal vehicle. The app could incentivize visitors to carpool and help reduce stress induced by traffic that locals experience on weekend trips to the grocery store.
“Locals can take a break, a timeout, and head to the grocery store or out to lunch — let us do the driving for you,” Wright said.
Wright said the door-to-door option makes public transit particularly convenient in the winter, when navigating icy sidewalks between bus stop and workplace make a normal commute feel like an epic.
Potential passengers can request free, on-demand shuttle service through a mobile app not dissimilar to Uber or Lyft, Wright said, or through a local phone number. Both app and phone number aren’t yet available.
Wright said the TART will operate eight nine-passenger Ford Transit vehicles a day that can complete an estimated 350 trips total in Tahoe City and Kings Beach.
“This is part of our larger effort to meet the growing transportation needs around North Lake Tahoe,” said District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson in an April press release. “It is vital that we reduce traffic impact throughout the basin through innovative programs such as microtransit.”
Supervisors in October approved the Resort Triangle Transportation Plan, which identified two possible microtransit zones.
The microtransit will connect the regional TART bus routes allowing people to travel between zones, in addition to taking passengers from their origin to destination within the same zone.
“If you need to go out to Squaw Valley or Truckee you could take the buses, but being able to take microtransit will really help with convenience,” Wright said.
Wright said the two zones were kept small to prevent the service from being impacted by requests.
“We look forward to launching this pilot and doing our part to help reduce congestion and parking frustrations currently experienced in the basin,” said Deputy Director of Public Works Will Garner in an April press release by Placer County. “During this trial period we intend to adapt to the needs of passengers that use the service and leverage regional partnerships to hopefully grow the program throughout Tahoe in the future.”
Wright said Uber and Lyft drivers show up in the North Lake Tahoe region to service big events that draw large crowds, but otherwise the local, private rideshare options are unreliable and slow to respond.
“It’s pretty minimal availability, but it’s there,” Wright said.
Squaw Downtowner, LLC, contracted with the county to provide the vehicles, drivers and software to operate the service beginning July 1 through Sept. 6. According to a press release, the pilot program relies on $1.1 million in transient occupancy tax funds previously allocated to implement projects and services.
Placer County officials are working with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association to increase mobility in the region.
“This program is another tool in the toolbox,” Placer County Public Information Officer Lauren Faulkenberry explained, adding that the county hopes to tackle transportation issues through improving road mobility, alternative transportation, pedestrian support and public transit incentives.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sun.
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