Davis not giving up on drive-through issue
May 6, 2003
Cars and trucks at South Lake Tahoe are putting less carbon monoxide into the air than they did in 1991 but the state requires the improvement to be maintained for 10 years.
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency staff on Friday informed city officials that South Lake Tahoe only attained its goals as of 1996 and therefore hasn’t met the state’s 10-year requirement.
City Councilman Tom Davis and City Manager David Jinkens requested the meeting with the TRPA to discuss a report issued last month to explain why drive-throughs remain banned at the basin despite improvements in air quality at South Lake Tahoe.
“We expressed our concerns and issues and explained the reason for the ordinance,” said Alfred Knotts, associate transportation planner at the TRPA. “It’s due to our high elevation, cold temperature and topography.”
The city says it shares the agency’s concern about protecting air quality, but says it may be possible to reduce levels of carbon monoxide at South Lake Tahoe without banning all new drive-throughs.
“The TRPA is committed to improving air quality, we share that goal,” Jinkens said. “We’re saying drive-up windows potentially contribute to pollution but maybe under some circumstances there may be other ways to improve carbon monoxide … that’s something we’re working on.”
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Ketchum, Idaho and Aspen, Colo., have a ban on drive-throughs because of similar factors, Knotts said.
Davis said he believes the report lacks applied science specific to South Lake Tahoe. If any damage to air quality is caused by a new drive-through, Davis said, the impact could be compensated by another project such as the city’s existing plan inspired by the city councilman to convert all of its vehicles to compressed natural gas.
Vehicles fueled by natural gas produce much cleaner emissions than gasoline or diesel-burning engines.
Davis did not attend Friday’s meeting but Jinkens briefed him about it.
“I’m not giving up,” said Davis, on Monday afternoon. “I want to see applied science for today’s technology and today’s vehicles.”
Drive-throughs, improved automotive technology or not, still mean more idling cars and increased pollution, Knotts said. He added that if South Lake Tahoe fails to maintain its air quality, the city may no longer be eligible for federal funds for transportation projects.
Davis said his push to re-examine the drive-through ban is based on a desire to make businesses like pharmacies accessible to people from a car, especially people who are older or disabled.
The TRPA staff report on the drive-through ban, in effect since 1987, will be presented to its Governing Board on May 28. The city plans to provide written comments regarding the staff report.
The report will be the same as one shelved last month, Knotts said, but it will include updates on the TRPA meeting’s with the city and the Tahoe Area Coordinated Council for the Disabled.
“You bet there is a need for seniors and for the disabled for this drive-up window,” said David Kelly, president of the Tahoe Area Coordinated Council for the Disabled. “If they cannot give up a drive-through window for that pharmacy we said we wanted some reasonable accommodations.”
Alternatives to a drive-through window suggested by the TRPA include the use of money set aside for air quality improvement projects to set up curbside or home delivery service for businesses.
— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org