Transportation: Truckee-North Tahoe bus service safe from cuts – for now
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – While an unanticipated funding boost has stopped cuts this year to Tahoe Area Regional Transit’s Truckee routes, officials says securing appropriate money in the future could be an annual struggle as the economy continues to fluctuate.
Placer County Transit had plans this year to eliminate 14 route times from Tahoe City to Truckee along State Route 89 and an additional 16 route times from Truckee to Crystal Bay along State Route 267, said Will Garner, PCT manager.
However, when the town of Truckee received a favorable bid from El Camino Trailways – a Northern California based bus transit services that operates Truckee’s municipal transit services – unanticipated funds were made available, allowing the town’s contribution to the county to match previous years.
Truckee will provide TART with about $94,000, instead of $68,000, said Alex Terrazas, Truckee assistant town manager.
“When I was looking at the town’s transit budget, I anticipated an increase in the hourly rate for running our transit services,” he said. “However, we received a very favorable bid, lower than the budgeted-for amount, and this allowed us to restore funding to 2009-10 levels.”
Jan Colyer, executive director of the Truckee-North Tahoe Transportation Management Association, expressed gratitude during at the October meeting of the Placer County Board of Supervisors in Tahoe.
“I was sweating bullets (over these potential reductions),” she told the board. “I am really glad we managed to avoid service cuts.”
Terrazas said the town’s contract with the transit service runs for three years – a standard contract length – although the contract does contain yearly escalators in the hourly cost of operation, meaning Truckee’s new-found ability to contribute dollars to TART may not stretch beyond this year.
However, Terrazas said he will look at the budget when the time comes.
The routes proposed to be cut during this winter were during the mid-day, from about 10:30 a.m. to noon, according to Garner.
“We attempted to identify the routes with the least ridership, thereby presenting the least impact to the public,” he said.
Tahoe Area Regional Transit receives funding from a variety of sources. Below are the sources and amounts for the Fiscal Year 2010-11.
Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission – $151,000
Local transportation fund collected through Placer County sales tax – $1,065,858
Federal transit funds funneled through California – $180,000
Federal transit funds funneled through Nevada – $225,000
Town of Truckee – $93,000
Local ski resorts – $50,000
Transient Occupancy Tax funds – $900,000
Fare revenue – $454,300
“TART is an important part of the North Shore economy,” Garner said. “Lake Tahoe is pretty spread out compared to other similar resort communities, so public transit provides transportation for workers, tourists and service workers.”
Garner said TART is in sound financial shape, but its future solvency is dictated by sales tax, which, in turn, is guided by the overall health of the regional and national economy.
“Ridership is so cyclical,” he said. “In 2008, we saw peak levels due to various factors. In the last two years, as unemployment has risen, ridership has declined.”
Garner said the ski resorts’ recent trend of employing locals as opposed to foreign workers in town on a work visa means less demand for public transit.
Still, Garner said he is optimistic TART will continue to be able to provide cost-effective transportation.
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