GPS-savvy tourists clogging Lake Tahoe residential streets |

GPS-savvy tourists clogging Lake Tahoe residential streets

Claire Cudahy
El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novasel hosted a meeting for residents to discuss traffic issues stemming from tourism.
Claire Cudahy / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

Most South Shore residents, especially those living in the Meyers area, know it’s best to stick close to home on Sundays or risk getting caught in the great U.S. 50 migration back to the Bay Area.

At a Monday night meeting hosted by El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novasel, residents were given the opportunity to express their frustration over — and offer up solutions to — various traffic issues stemming from tourism.

A recurring complaint was the issue of GPS apps redirecting drivers onto residential roads to avoid traffic, resulting in car-clogged neighborhoods and vehicles that inadvertently by-pass chain control and get stuck further up on Echo Summit.

Novasel said the county is aware of the issue in neighborhoods — which other traffic-heavy places like Los Angeles and San Francisco are also experiencing — and has been in contact with Apple and Google.

“They says they are ‘looking at this’ and they will ‘get back to us,’” said Novasel with a degree of skepticism.

Over the last few years Google’s traffic and navigation app Waze, which crowd sources data from its users, has grown in popularity — but its also garnered criticism for increasing congestion in neighborhood streets as drivers attempt to avoid gridlock.

“I think we have to shut down the apps with a class action lawsuit,” suggested one meeting attendee.

Another proposed skewing the app’s data by reporting fake accidents and false traffic conditions.

Sawmill Road and North Upper Truckee Road are two of the residential streets leading to U.S. 50 that are experiencing major congestion. Attendees asked if law enforcement officials could turn non-residents away from this road (they can’t; it’s a public road, said Lt. Matt Underhill with the sheriff’s office) and whether it would be helpful to meter people onto the highway from these roads (they do try this from time to time, Underhill noted).

“It’s just the sheer numbers we’re dealing with — the traffic has to go somewhere,” said Underhill.

Though the long-term solution for the South Shore’s traffic problem is not clear, Novasel said she is in the process of getting one initiative off the ground that could deter visitors from taking shortcuts through neighborhoods.

“Right now [the county] does not have the ability to have chain requirements,” explained Novasel. This falls under the jurisdiction of Caltrans and California Highway Patrol.

Novasel said she is working to pass a “traction ordinance” which would require snow tires or chains on streets of the county’s choosing.

“We can put [signs] up anytime and then our sheriff will be able to go in and start citing people,” explained Novasel.

This measure is not likely to go into effect for at least another couple of months.

Additional signage advising people to follow the main corridor of U.S. 50 was another proposed solution, though Novasel noted these signs are “very expensive.”

“Until we have something stable, I hesitate to say too much, but we are trying,” she said. “But trust me, I know what’s going on here. I drive these streets every Sunday.”

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