Options for transit available | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Options for transit available

Jeff Munson

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Ridge Tahoe employees board a company-provided shuttle bus at the bottom of Kingsbury Grade in Carson Valley on Thursday.

Fueled and ready for the drive up Kingsbury Grade, Chris Chambers arrived at the Park and Ride at the corner of Highway 207 and Foothill Road at 7:15 a.m. on Thursday, 15 minutes before his first passenger would arrive.

It was his first day in a car pool among Tahoe Regional Planning Agency colleagues who live in the Carson Valley. He didn’t want to be late.

“I know you’re not always going to be on your own time when you car pool, but now more than ever – with the gas prices and for the environment – it is the realistic thing to do.”

Joined by TRPA colleagues and longtime car-poolers Birgit Widegren and Linda Allen, the three were among about two dozen people who met at the Park and Ride on Thursday morning to catch a bus or a ride to the Lake Tahoe Basin.

With gas prices hovering around $2.43 in the valley and nearing $3 a gallon on the South Shore, transportation planners anticipate a spike in carpools and bus ridership in the coming weeks.

“I would imagine that when gas prices do go up, especially what they are now, you will see an increase of people looking for other modes of transportation whether it is carpools or buses,” said Scott Magruder, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation, which maintains the Park and Rides at Kingsbury Grade and at the bottom of Spooner Summit, both on the valley side.

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Most of those who were at the Park and Ride on Thursday were Ridge Tahoe employees who catch a bus that takes them to the resort which cradles the mountaintop between the Lake Tahoe Basin and the Carson Valley.

The free bus service for Ridge employees began about five years ago on the Carson Valley side, with a ridership of about 20 to 25 people a day. For employee Lynn Potter, the shuttle is worth it.

“When I drive up myself, it usually takes one gas tank a week and a lot of wear and tear,” the Gardnerville resident said. “But with the gas prices the way they are now, I’d just as soon catch the bus.”

TRPA securities administrator Linda Allen has been carpooling between the valley and the basin for about six years, saying that the practicality of it outweighs any inconvenience.

“For environmental reasons, I feel it’s important to carpool no matter how much the gas prices are,” she said. “You save yourself gas, time, wear and tear and it’s nice to have someone with you when you are going over the hill in bad weather.”

The South Shore’s bus service, BluGo, has been fully operational for about 18 months. And while ridership has increased each month since it began, the likelihood is there will be more people who will choose the bus over their cars to commute.

“If you look at $3 for door-to-door service, $1.75 for fixed route service and $3 for a gallon of gasoline, it almost makes sense to take the bus,” said Nick Haven, BluGo spokesman.

While it’s too early to tell whether the high gas prices have already made an impact in ridership, BluGo is in the midst of a study to determine how many riders it serves and which routes are the most used.

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