Transit sales tax vote slated for Sept. 19 |

Transit sales tax vote slated for Sept. 19

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.

A recently released operating, capital and administrative plan outlines the proposed services that could be offered if the sales tax is passed.

The services are part of an effort to improve a big problem in the North Lake – traffic.

“According to visitor research, transportation is the number one thing people would like to change,” said Jennifer Merchant, executive director of the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association.

“We’re trying to help the congestion and the environment,” Merchant said.

The tax referendum needs a two-thirds majority to pass, and if passed, the money will go toward half-hourly bus routes, evening transit service, an airport shuttle service, ski area shuttle service, State Route 89 service and a summer trolley service.

The average resident is expected to pay $21 to $28 a year in taxes according to the Placer County Executive Office. The rest of the tax generated will be from visitors, part-time residents and businesses.

The current administrative plan, released on March 8, is only a draft and representatives for the proposed North Lake Tahoe Transportation Authority are still looking for public input before finalizing the plan in May.

Some of the services outlined in the plan are:

— Half-hourly TART service between 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

NLTTA will provide funding for two additional buses to service areas between North Stateline and Tahoma, seven days a week. Operations on the West Shore will reflect the amount of ridership in the off-season, but operate every half-hour during the summer and winter months. This service will offer half-hourly trips from Tahoe City and the Hyatt Resort in Incline Village throughout the year.

“If you miss the bus now you have to stand there for 55 minutes,” said Merchant, who added that she has often seen hitchhikers standing at bus stops because they have missed the bus and don’t want to wait.

Merchant added that the half-hourly service is one of the most popular services.

“It will attract about 53,000 new passengers per year,” Merchant said.

— Evening transit service

During the summer and winter months between 6:30 and 11:30 p.m., transit service will be provided every 30 minutes between Olympic Valley and North Stateline and every hour between Tahoma and Tahoe City. During the off-season, evening transit will be limited to hourly service.

This is another popular feature for people who work the night shift at hotels or resorts and with those who like to go out for dinner and a movie at night.

“Currently we can take people to work (late shift) but we can’t take them home,” Merchant said. “We can take people to the movies but we can’t take them home.”

— Reno airport shuttle service

The proposed transportation authority will contract with private transit providers to operate one route connecting the Reno/Tahoe International Airport to Truckee, Olympic Valley, Tahoe City and the West Shore with a second connection to Incline Village, Kings Beach/Tahoe Vista and Northstar-at-Tahoe.

— Ski area shuttle service

A free shuttle service will be operated to local ski resorts during the winter months. The service will be operated from approximately 6 to 11 a.m. and from 2 to 7 p.m. This service will require the purchase of five additional buses.

Operation costs for this service will be funded by the ski resorts. Currently, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association and the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association have grants to buy three buses that run on compressed natural gas for this program.

“We could sell lift tickets on the buses to encourage use,” Merchant said. Riders that buy their tickets on the bus won’t have to wait in line once they get to the resort of their choice.

Currently, free ski shuttles do exist for most of the ski resorts. But this plan will consolidate all of the different shuttles and will be operated by one company.

— Improved marketing of transit services

Brochures, lodging room material, print advertising, radio advertising and Web site development are just some of the ways the transportation authority plans on increasing ridership. This program should cost $40,000. The draft administrative plan cites a study in Idaho that identified an 11 percent increase in ridership after using some of these marketing techniques.

— Hourly peak season State Route 89

During the summer and winter seasons, service will be hourly between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. between Tahoe City and Truckee. This route will also serve Olympic Valley, the entrance to Alpine Meadows and the Gateway Center.

— Summer trolley service

A rubber-tire trolley service will be offered between Tahoe City and Olympic Valley and between Tahoma and Emerald Bay.

The Resort Association will buy three new trolleys this year.

“You’re not just getting on the bus, but it’s fun too,” said Merchant who added that the trolley is popular for tourists because of its destination to Emerald Bay and its on board narration.

Passengers can also ride to South Shore from Emerald Bay because of connecting services.

For information or for a copy of the operating, capital and administrative plan, call Merchant at 581-3922 or fill out the survey below.

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