Bus riders will wait less | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bus riders will wait less

Robert Stern

Bus riders will have less time to wait at bus stops starting this November, said Ken Daly, general manager for Area Transit Management.

The South Lake Tahoe City Council unanimously approved funds that will increase the frequency of buses on U.S. Highway 50 and in the Gardner Mountain and Barton Memorial Hospital areas.

“We are very pleased with (the council’s decision), and we are very happy with being able to move forward and provide additional service,” Daly said.

The additional funds will equal nearly 55 more hours of service per week. Wait times on U.S. Highway 50 will be reduced from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, and the additional service includes a “Y” bus that will reduce the wait from one hour to half an hour at the Gardner Mountain and Barton Memorial Hospital areas. In the Bijou area the decrease will be from 40 minutes to 30 minutes.

“I think that is good news for the riders,” said Councilman Tom Davis. “It gives them a little bit more flexibility in their schedules.”

The increase in service is a result of an additional $100,000 that became available through the Transportation Development Act, funded by state sales taxes. An additional $40,000 was contributed by the Coordinated Transit System Oversight Committee until CTS can be implemented.

The city has a contract with ATM, a private company that services the Lake Tahoe Basin, to provide the South Tahoe Area Ground Express for South Lake Tahoe – which includes bus service and bus plus service. Transportation funds the city receives from the state are dedicated to paying for the contract with ATM. When extra funds became available the City Council directed ATM to come up with some options for increased service, Daly said.

The council wrestled with the possibility that funding could drop due to the economic downturn, but decided increased service was the best option.

“The council unanimously agreed that when we do receive excess funds we want to put greater efficiencies back into the community,” said Councilwoman Brooke Laine.

The time between buses on U.S. Highway 50 was as low as 15 minutes in 1996 but has since increased due to decreased available funds. Schedules changed most recently in 1995, ’97 and ’99.

“At this point we owe it to the community to provide as much service as we can with the funds available,” Daly said. He predicts increased ridership from between 30,000 and 40,000 passengers, if the new schedule can be maintained for the next two to three years.

City Council also discussed the $21 million preliminary budget for the next year and concluded that revenues would need to be increased.

“I can’t find a tax the city has increased in a long time,” said City Manager David Childs.

The preliminary budget suggests increasing the hotel and motel tax outside of the redevelopment area from 10 to 12 percent. It also suggests increasing the $20 parcel tax, which has not been increased since 1989, specifically for core services such as snow removal and the fire department.

The city would need the voters to approve revenue increases because of limitations imposed by the state of California.

The budget proposes giving $603,000 to the airport in the next fiscal year, a figure that received mixed reviews from the City Council.

Until additional revenue sources can be identified, Childs suggested taking excess money from the employee retirement system, which is superfunded, to make up for budgetary shortfalls. The money would be used to fund one-time expenses such as setting money aside for a new city hall, funding retiree medical benefits, vehicle replacement and capital improvements.

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