Action coming on transit system | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Action coming on transit system

Michael Green

The city wants action on the Coordinated Transit System, and it looks like it’s going to get it.

The South Lake Tahoe City Council voted Tuesday to ask the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to assume direct control of the CTS project. Douglas County commissioners are expected to do the same today.

That’s just fine with Juan Palma, TRPA executive director. He’s already scheduled a Tuesday meeting with CTS stakeholders to hear their concerns.

“We are not only ready but poised to take leadership of CTS and make it happen,” Palma said.

CTS is designed to integrate casino shuttles, city buses and demand-response vans through a central tracking and dispatch system. South Shore riders could find the best way to travel by phone or by accessing one of dozens of computer kiosks.

But the project has been in the works since the mid-1990s and its participants, which include the Stateline casinos and El Dorado County, are growing impatient.

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“This project was envisioned to be completed, on the ground, up and running in 1997 or 1998,” said Councilwoman Brooke Laine. “This is 2001 – the delays are unacceptable.”

Douglas County Commissioner Don Miner predicted the board would endorse the city’s action.

“I think there’s a very serious concern on the lack of progress on the Coordinated Transit System, all under the auspices of TRPA,” he said.

Millions of dollars in traffic mitigation fees and grant funds have been designated for CTS, but so far none of its elements are in place. Some of the blame for the delay has focused on the South Shore Transportation Management Association, which TRPA contracted to manage the process.

In fact, local government is effectively calling for an end to South Shore TMA’s involvement.

“The commission has called in the management of the CTS on several occasions and been less than satisfied with their ability to make something happen,” Miner said.

Laine said the council doubted SSTMA’s ability to complete the project.

“I value what they have contributed, but from the city’s perspective we need someone who can finish the game,” she said.

What SSTMA has contributed is a preliminary blueprint for the transit system, completed by Trapeze Software Group. The Trapeze contract was terminated, however, and TRPA is negotiating with a new software vendor. A new contract is expected within 60 days.

Steve Teshara, chairman of the SSTMA board, said the nonprofit organization isn’t taking the criticism personally.

“We have done everything we’ve been asked to do, and if we’re going to be asked to take a different role, we’ll do that too,” he said. “People should articulate if they have an issue with the project concept, which is what I think is really going on.”

Palma said many of the players have changed since CTS began, bringing new questions about the project. He acknowledged that technology alone won’t solve the South Shore’s traffic problems – it will also take more buses and ongoing funding for operations.

“What we really want is better access by the public to the system,” Palma said. “In the end, this new technology has to allow for better, more prompt service to our customers; otherwise, the technology is for naught.”