El Dorado Countyh supports satellite transit plan | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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El Dorado Countyh supports satellite transit plan

Rick Chandler

Did you miss the bus? Don’t worry, another one will be along in a minute … make that six minutes, to be exact. The red tape has been swept away and the major city agencies and businesses are all on board, paving the way for Lake Tahoe’s revolutionary new satellite-driven transit system to take to the road within a year.

“We’re now looking at a target of sometime in October to begin building the system,” said Dick Powers, executive director of the South Shore Transit Management Association. “We’ve been at this for about three years. We’re now finally seeing a time when we can get it on the road.”

The Coordinated Transit System is a fleet of buses that will provide door-to-door transportation in South Lake Tahoe, all connected by a computer tracking system. Powers presented the progress of the ambitious plan at the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting at the South Lake Tahoe City Council Chambers on Tuesday.

The Transit Management Association and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which is in charge of the project, recently awarded the software contract to Trapeze Software Systems of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. In what is considered a formality, Trapeze would approve the contract and begin designing and building the tracking system, which would be fazed in as early as March 1999.

The entire system, with 52 vehicles on the road, would be fully functional by October of 1999.

Transit agencies, all four major casinos and Heavenly Ski Resort will all be part of the plan, a merger that should do much to remedy Tahoe’s tangled transportation problems.

“Currently, (public transportation) ridership in the area is at about 1.4 million passengers a year,” Powers said. “We should drive that number up to about 2 million within a year, and by year 5 more than 2 million more people will be taking public transportation than take it now.”

Stakeholders have spent the past three months hammering out operational and technical details – one of which has been the casinos’ request to get the same customer guarantees they currently get with their own shuttle services. A scenario has been agreed upon in which the casinos would receive a “first-drop” share of passengers 30 percent of the time. Caesar’s Tahoe was the final big player to jump on board.

CTS is considered state-of-the-art technology even though some municipalities have used the satellite tracking device for other purposes. CTS works like this: Buses will be equipped with a transponder that will bounce a signal off of a satellite, re-transmitting it to a dispatch center. Each vehicle will be shown on a monitor map, and the dispatcher will select the nearest bus headed in the requested direction. A fleet of buses and smaller shuttle vehicles will run fixed and demand-response routes within a five-zone area of the South Shore – roughly covering the areas from Camp Richardson through Meyers and Christmas Valley up to Zephyr Cove.

Zones 1 and 2 – encompassing the city limits to Stateline – will run 24 hours a day.

About 40 kiosks will be installed at visitor-dense locations which will include a phone line and computer touch screen.

Approximately $1.1 million has been set aside for CTS from traffic mitigation funds, and the federal government has kicked in $2.52 million from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Transit Administration, thanks to lobbying last year by the Transit Management Association.

When running at full capacity, CTS aims to have fixed-service transportation on Highway 50 at a rate of one bus every six minutes. Smaller shuttles would be available on a door-to-door basis. A one-time ride on CTS will cost $3, while a day pass will cost $5.

Among other presentations to the board on Tuesday was the result of an action plan for a county park at Tahoe. Five sites are currently being considered, including land at Lake Tahoe Community College, the Meyers landfill and a parcel on Sierra Boulevard.

“We’re currently trying to determine how to best go about surveying and presenting these sites to the voters,” said Dennis Crabb, a consultant to the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Plan Committee. “We started with 444 possible sites, and we’ve narrowed it to five. We’ve had meetings with more than 20 public agencies and community groups. Hopefully, we’ll have a final plan soon.”

The board also voted down a recommendation of support for the California Children and Families First Initiative (Prop. 10), which would provide funding for family programs through a 50-cents per pack tax on cigarettes.

“The tax would provide an estimated $1.7 million for county programs,” said Fifth District Supervisor John Upton, who presented the item. “I think it’s a meritorious measure.”

But Second District Supervisor Ray Nutting, one of three supervisors to vote against the measure, had reservations.

“It doesn’t make sense to attach critical funding to a measure like this,” he said. “With a projected decrease in smoking, where will the revenues come from in the future?”

Two supervisors also expressed reservations that the measure was being endorsed by director and former television star Rob Reiner.

“I’ve seen a lot of bad laws connected with celebrity endorsement,” said First District Supervisor Sam Bradley, who also voted against the measure.

The board also voted to rename a community park after its founder, Marie Sluchak, who was the driving force behind the creation of Tahoe Cedars Park in Tahoma.

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

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