Bus Plus versus STAGE
The city of South Lake Tahoe is struggling to maintain a public transportation system which, given limited resources, could adequately address the needs of the community.
City Council is evaluating the possibility of reinstating scheduled bus service to Barton Memorial Hospital, the Senior Plaza and Lake Tahoe Community College. Financially, however, according to a report submitted to the council by assistant city manager Sue Schlerf, that would only be possible through the elimination of the Bus Plus demand/response van service.
“Basically, the bottom line is we don’t have the funds to service Barton, the Senior Plaza and the college while still using Bus Plus,” Schlerf said. “It’s either one or the other at this point.”
Another problem, according to Area Transit Management general manager Ken Daley, is that the current Bus Plus vans are old and overused.
“To continue using both Bus Plus vans and STAGE fixed bus service at this time, at the current funding levels, is impossible,” Daley said. “There has been a desire to expand fixed route service back into the neighborhoods ever since we eliminated it in 1996. But to keep things exactly as they are, and just to add another bus for new routes, is not feasible financially. The current fleet of Bus Plus vans is used up and there is no more extra money available.”
According to Schlerf’s report, when the Bus Plus system was implemented in January 1996, it was with the understanding that the Coordinated Transit System – an environmentally friendly transportation system involving local stakeholders – would be running by now, replacing Bus Plus vans with its own fleet. The Coordinated Transit System however is only scheduled for completion by October 2000.
Councilmembers Brooke Laine and Hal Cole, who formed a subcommittee to examine these issues, both said they felt expanded, fixed-route bus service was a viable solution to financial and mechanical constraints. The STAGE fleet currently has one new bus on order, in addition to three new diesel and one new compressed natural gas bus. The city is also keeping three old buses as backup.
According to Dick Powers, executive director of South Shore Transportation Management Association, eliminating Bus Plus would be a mistake.
“Expanding demand/response transportation is a cornerstone in the development of South Shore transportation,” Powers said. “It’s important not to discontinue that before we can implement the (Coordinated Transit System).”
Mayor Judy Brown stressed the importance of continuity and reliability in public transportation.
“Eliminating Bus Plus affects public confidence in the system,” Brown said. “I would hate to abandon Bus Plus, just to turn around and have to start all over again in one year when (Coordinated Transit System) takes off.”
After further research into possible funding sources, City Council will make a decision on the issue Oct. 6.
BREAKOUT: Questions, input: Call Sue Schlerf at (530) 542-6048
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