My view: Questions regarding traffic and tourism on Tahoe’s South Shore
March 1, 2017
One of the biggest challenges this winter has been the level of traffic and congestion, especially leaving town on Sunday. It's not like traffic is new. The stories from residents spending hours to get back to their homes out in Meyers is really concerning.
The departing traffic on Sunday has been around for years both during the summer and winter seasons. The difference is now visitors have mapping apps that show them alternative routes that were previously used by residents. Given the level of visitor demand, should lodging properties be charging more? Are they leaving revenue and taxes on the table that this community desperately needs?
It also raises another question about this destination: Are more visitors desirable or should we look to attract fewer total visitors in order to target those willing to spend more dollars. It's a fundamental question we need to consider.
The second issue that is raised by these traffic levels is: Will there be an impact on the real estate value of homes sold in the county that are impacted by this traffic? I can just imagine real estate agents using this as a selling point to sell houses in the city.
Recently the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) released a study that indicated there were 24 million visitors to Lake Tahoe. That's right 24 million. Just for perspective here are some other destination visitor numbers: Disneyland 18.2 million, San Francisco 24.6 million, Grand Canyon 5.5 million, Reno 4.7 million and Yosemite 4.2 million.
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In my email exchanges with representatives from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) and the TTD, they indicated they have developed a new "cutting edge" way to measure visitors to the destination. I see several problems. First, this new methodology was developed in a vacuum. The TTD did not estimate visitor numbers using a traditional methodology — one that has been developed over years in destinations and universities across the country — and compare the approaches.
Maybe. The TTD may have developed a cutting-edge approach, or maybe not. We don't know. Second, these numbers have now made their way into the TRPA transportation plan. We are unsure of their reliability, yet these numbers are influencing transportation policy. Whether the TTD has developed something truly innovate or this is a bust, we don't know and that casts doubt on the credibility of the 24 million visitor number.
The Big Picture
Civil war in America. One of the things I have noticed is that we in this country are at a level of functional civil war. Blue Amurca vs. red America. This conflict can be seen in the press every day. But this warfare has taken a turn to the products we as consumers buy.
Recently there was an effort to organize consumers to not buy products made by a company owned by President Trump's daughter. Fair enough — free speech and how you spend your dollars is your right, but are we just further splitting this country? Where does it end? Are we next? Will tourism destinations be classified as blue or red destinations that should be avoided based on your political leanings?
Lots of good Academy Award-nominated and winning movies. Grab some popcorn and check them out.
It's a Wrap
There has been a lot of changes in this country since Jan. 20. Some people like others not so much. Despite these differences, we as Americans have lost our civility toward one another. Having political differences is part of the democracy, but the way we go about it must change.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at email@example.com.