Transit sales tax may solve traffic woes
After only two stops in Kings Beach the TART bus is full. With no empty seats, those going to work and heading to Tahoe City seem used to the crowded bus as they hold bars above to steady themselves for the 20- to 30-minute ride.
“We will fill the bus to the point it is standing room only,” said Steve Grover, supervisor for TART.
The maximum capacity of the TART buses is 32 seated.
On Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. over 40 passengers crowded onto the bus; many standing for the ride to work.
But this isn’t crowded, said Grover. The first TART stop at 6:45 a.m. is often so crowded that some are left behind.
“There is no way with one bus we can carry that many people,” said Grover.
Close to 80 people catch the early morning bus as they make their way to work, he said.
To keep people from being left behind two buses now have to run behind each other
stopping at every other stop.
Voters will be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax on Sept. 19, if approved the tax referendum will generate close to $1.1 million annually for the North Lake Tahoe Transportation Authority.
Currently, Placer County is picking up the funding for this extra bus in the morning, but if Measure E is passed that will be unnecessary.
Measure E needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
If passed, the money will go to half hourly bus routes, evening transit service, an airport shuttle service, ski area shuttle service, expanded bus service and a summer trolley service. The average person is expected to pay $28 a year according to the Placer County Executive Office.
The rest of the money funding the plan will come from visitors and businesses.
After 10 years with Tahoe Area Regional Transportation, Grover has seen bus passengers increase and he feels Measure E would be a step in the right direction.
“With this sales tax initiative, if the locals would get out and vote for the tax it would behoove the locals here,” said Grover.
But some locals believe the tax wouldn’t benefit locals.
Placer County voters will be asked to vote Sept. 19 during a special election on this measure.
“The tax itself seems to be a stealth tax,” said Dennis Schlumpf, board member for the Tahoe City Public Utility District.
Schlumpf was one of the authors of the argument against Measure E.
“We are still going to be in our automobiles when all things are said and done,” Schlumpf said.
Schlumpf agreed that traffic was a problem in the North Shore but believes expanded bus service isn’t the solution.
“If I could get some of the cars out of my way when I’m on the road, that would be great,” said TCPUD Board President Erik Henrikson.
The TCPUD recently voted to support Measure E. The vote was 4 to 1, with Schlumpf in opposition.
“The problem is trying to get people before they get in their cars,” said Grover.
But before this will happen people have to learn to trust the transportation system before ridership increases, said Jennifer Merchant executive director of the Truckee-North Tahoe Transportation Management Association.
But Grover said it will happen and the money from Measure E will ensure the success of the transit system.
“Even with the inconvenience of our frequency today, people still ride the bus,” said Grover.
Cathy and Cameron Davidson were camping at Sugar Pine Point State Park on Tuesday on vacation from the Los Angeles area.
Because they drove a motor home to the park they were using the bus system. Usually they would bring their car with them but this time they decided to try the public transportation system.
“Why be in a hurry? You’re supposed to be on vacation,” said Cathy. “This is a time to relax.”
The Davidsons have been visiting the Tahoe area for years and often get caught in traffic. They said riding the bus is much more relaxing than driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
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