Our View: Transit that works for us all
A quote in Sierra Sun reporter Julie Brown’s story, “The public transportation challenge,” Friday about transit service in the North Tahoe-Truckee region struck us as particularly telling: “People support public transportation,” said Dennis Oliver, spokesperson for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. “But they support it for other people. They want it, but they want other people to ride it.”
If Jan Colyer, Steve Teshara and Ron McIntyre are any indication, Oliver’s opinion may not be too far off the mark. In Brown’s story, Colyer, director of the Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association; Teshara, director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association; and McIntyre, who sits on the resort association’s Transportation Committee, all said they are infrequent Tahoe-Truckee bus riders. Yet all three are involved in trying to get more residents and visitors (and money) into public transportation.
This is not a criticism of those three people. Other than one reporter writing a story, a look around our Truckee and Tahoe City newsrooms doesn’t find any bus commuters. It’s likely that a survey of your office or household doesn’t appear much different.
Yet passengers boarded buses, trolleys and shuttles in the Tahoe-Truckee area more than 500,000 times during the 2006/2007 fiscal year ” a 10 percent increase in ridership from the previous year, according to the transportation management association.
Even with those numbers, public transportation in the region is heavily subsidized. Fares cover just 20 percent of the total cost for service, the remainder is paid for with state and federal funding. Or, to put it another way ” tax money, which essentially backs up the quote from Oliver of the TRPA.
The problem is we are paying for something that doesn’t work for many Tahoe residents “-including the public transportation advocates themselves.
This shouldn’t be an argument to ditch public transportation. We believe it calls for a more comprehensive and workable transit system that will lure more drivers from their cars.
Recent efforts to add more bus routes have started us in the right direction. But we haven’t reached the tipping point were transit is convenient and comprehensive enough to work for the majority of our residents.
We’re paying for it; we might as well pay for something that is workable and convenient for us all.