Bus system leading to future of transit | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Bus system leading to future of transit

by Sally J. Taylor

A high-tech transportation system planned for the South Shore could lead the way to the future in public transit.

“(The Coordinated Transportation System) represents something that’s never been done in the country before,” Dick Powers, executive director of the South Shore Transit Management Association, told the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association on Thursday. “The individual technologies (it is comprised of) are used throughout the country and the world but they’ve never been combined to achieve the immediacy of response time (for public transportation).”

South Shore projects proposed by Heavenly Ski Resort, the South Tahoe Public Utility District and two city redevelopment projects arose at the same time all with the need to provide environmental mitigation. Normally such mitigation involves widening a road or installing street lights, something counter productive to environmental goals of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“It made sense to create something that would be an alternative to the automobile,” Powers said.

Through a meeting of the minds, they conceived something new and unique.

The Coordinated Transit System proposes to combine the existing buses used for public transportation and business shuttles into one system.

With automatic vehicle locators used in satellite global positioning, the planned Transit Management Center can track the locations of all buses.

At Advanced Traveler Information kiosks with computers connected to the dispatch center via dedicated telephone lines, riders will request service to a specific location, advise how many people are in the group and whether wheelchair access is needed.

Using Computer Aided Dispatch, the central dispatcher locates the closest available bus, taking into account the riders already on board, where they are going and how long the longest-riding passenger has been on board. The new stop is added, in order, to the bus driver’s screen and a return message tells the prospective rider when to expect is arrival.

According to Powers, the maximum response time would be 10 minutes during the day and 20 minutes at night.

Besides the on-demand vehicles, some buses would run regular routes along the main highways with enough time between stops to make short detours for pickups.

“The potential exists for a tremendous overlap of routes. Vehicles would be coming by every 6 minutes,” he said. “One of the areas we could make significant impact in, is in gaining efficiency in peak hours.”

With the concept sketched out plus more than $1.1 million in private dollars and $2.5 million in public grants promised, Powers began the search last week for a technology company to put it all together. Such well-known companies as Hewlett-Packer and Rockwell have expressed interest, as well as other respected companies less known to the general public.

Proposals are due in June. Powers expects the project to be awarded by June 22.

The system will be deployed in phases with full operation expected by Aug. 1, 1999.

While Powers does not see the system as a vacation attraction, except for transportation professionals, the CTS will be a showcase system.

“There’s going to be some significant things here,” he said. “And hopefully it will make (visitors’) stays more comfortable.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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