TAHOE/TRUCKEE - After some funding uncertainty, the free North Tahoe-Truckee Coordinated Ski Shuttle is a go for launch next Saturday, albeit with a smaller fleet.
The main issue stemmed after budgeted funds from two area ski resorts - Northstar California and Diamond Peak - didn't materialize, officials said.
Since Northstar California runs its own shuttle fleet, including routes that travel from Incline Village and Tahoe Vista to Northstar, the resort recently decided to continue with its existing service and not contribute money to the coordinated shuttle, said Brooke Rose, communications coordinator for Northstar.
Northstar will act as an "in-kind partner" to the program, however, by providing its Castle Peak Park and Ride lot as a pick-up and drop-off station, said Jan Colyer, executive director for the Truckee/North Tahoe Transportation Management Association.
Gordon Shaw, principal of LSC Transportation Consultants, a company that provides consulting services in transportation planning and traffic engineering, said an $86,800 investment from Northstar into the program had been budgeted. Without that funding, it affected the number of buses the program could finance, he said.
Originally, it was planned for Diamond Peak to have a 4 p.m. departure time, but with the elimination of a bus from the free shuttle's fleet, the departure changed to about 5 p.m., and the resort "thought that was too late," Shaw said at a Dec. 6 TMA meeting.
The number of runs for Diamond Peak also decreased from two to one during days of shuttle operation, Colyer said.
As a result, Diamond Peak decided not to be a part of the program this year, pulling approximately $7,000 in budgeted funds, Shaw said.
Helping to fill some of the financial gap is Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows by putting an additional $40,000 into the program, upping the resort's total investment to $169,000, said Chevis Hosea, Squaw Valley's vice president of development.
"Squaw Valley/Alpine are committed to promoting and funding efficient and effective transit programs to (and) from our ski resorts," Hosea said. "Successful transit programs reduce traffic, parking and emissions, while usually improving the overall skier/rider experiences."
Additional program funding is provided by the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association through local Transient Occupancy Tax funds and from Truckee Tahoe Airport, the town of Truckee and other lodging partners outside of Placer County.
The total price tag for the shuttle program is $253,100, Colyer said, allowing for five buses to be financed instead of the six originally planned. Squaw/Alpine's additional $40,000 allows for the fifth bus to exist, Shaw said.
The schedule for the five-bus fleet is still being tweaked, Colyer said, but the resorts being serviced are: Sugar Bowl, Boreal, Soda Springs, Royal Gorge and Donner Ski Ranch, by way of Truckee's Donner Summit Shuttle, which has two buses in its fleet, as well as Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Homewood and Northstar.
Additional stops are planned to be made along the shuttle's route, including lodging establishments, transit areas and the old Sierra Mountain Middle School on Donner Pass Road, Colyer said, essentially providing skiers and riders a door-to-door service to the area's various mountain resorts.
The shuttle will run to March 31 on weekends and holiday weeks only, for a total of 46 days. Amador Stage Lines will be the program's operator.
"I think everybody's working as hard as they can to the vision (of a fully coordinated ski shuttle), so we just have to be patient," said TMA chair Steve Teshara at the Dec. 6 meeting. "If this was a slam dunk, it would have been done 20 years ago."