My turn: Transportation must be a regional priority at Tahoe
Anyone traveling between Truckee, Squaw Valley and Tahoe City after a big snowfall, at a busy time of the winter season or after Fourth of July fireworks knows that we have transportation challenges in our region.
More than 4 million people visit each year, with estimates that more than 90 percent of these visitors travel by car.
We need more people traveling by public transportation so that they spend less time in their cars and more to time skiing and snowboarding, hiking, biking, swimming, eating and shopping locally.
The discouragingly low number of people arriving by public transport is not for a lack of effort. For example, last year Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows led the effort and played a substantial role in funding a transit system for the entire region.
We understood when we agreed to lead and become major funders of this effort that we were beginning a journey to bring more viable transportation to our world-class communities.
Our approach was undertaken on behalf of our local community members, our employees and the many businesses located in our resorts; it was very much a coordinated effort which included the NLTRA and transportation experts — truly a collaborative, regional effort.
Unfortunately, we learned that on average five people were riding on the 30 person buses between Truckee, West Shore, North Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley.
The free shuttle cost per person, on average, was about the same as a round trip ticket from Truckee to San Francisco on Amtrak ($55.00).
This level of ridership is not sustainable and does not represent the true opportunity of getting more people out of their cars and into buses, bikes, or rideshares in order to spend more time enjoying the mountains.
Regardless of the immediate outcome last season, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows remain committed to supporting development of transit systems more like what we see in place at other resort towns in Utah and Colorado.
At Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, we have made a serious commitment to approach the improvements that we are making at the resorts with the preservation of our natural environment as our top priority.
We believe these improvements demand a creative approach to transportation in the region. In short, if we in Truckee, North Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley are going to work towards attracting people from all over the world, we all will have to work towards developing an innovative way to move them around.
While the shuttle service is not the only answer, it was a step in the right direction. It will help us find the solutions we need to accomplish a near universal goal in the region: get as many cars as we can off the roads.
We are 100 percent focused on helping Tahoe become a 21st century hub that supports all types of public transport, improves our transportation infrastructure, and focuses on innovation.
We look forward to continuing discussions with our elected officials, businesses and residents in a search for the right solutions to problems which have vexed planners in the region for decades.
Andy Wirth is president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, which owns and operates Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts.