Transportation district considers cuts to Tahoe ski shuttles
Understaffing and funding are just two of the reasons that Tahoe Transportation District is facing major cuts to its bus services — including the possible reduction of four winter shuttle routes to Heavenly Mountain Resort.
At Friday’s Tahoe Transportation District meeting, staff explained to the board of directors how difficulty retaining a full workforce, an aging fleet and a reduction in federal grants necessitates cuts to the district’s transit system.
“Less support for transit is coming from our states and federal government, at the same time they are imposing performance measures which make the ability to provide the services that meet those with less money virtually impossible,” said TTD board chair Steve Teshara. “Then we have the complicating factors of the age of our fleet and the ability to get enough operators and mechanics.”
The Nevada Department of Transportation said it would be reducing its Section 5311 contribution, which was just under $1.4 million this year, by 40 percent. TTD also no longer qualifies for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds amounting to $400,000 under new guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Staff recommended two different scenarios that would limit the number of buses and hours in operation.
Both options eliminate four winter shuttles to Heavenly, including Routes 11, 13, 14 and 15. Most notably, it would end service up Kingsbury Grade to Heavenly’s Boulder and Stagecoach lodges. The year-round service up Kingsbury Grade to Ridge Resorts, Route 23, also is up for elimination.
The remaining winter shuttles would follow Route 10, which travels along Pioneer Trail between the Heavenly California Main Lodge and the Heavenly Gondola, and Route 12, which goes up to the main lodge, down Ski Run Boulevard and through the casino corridor.
Both scenarios also suggest splitting the existing Route 50 serving the U.S. 50 corridor into two routes, 50A and 50B, with the added benefit of serving Lake Tahoe Community College in both directions.
They also both propose a 20-percent pay increase to drivers and maintenance crew to help maintain a full workforce with competitive wages. Currently the district is understaffed and operating on overtime hours.
The first option, dubbed the “Balanced Approach,” would replace the existing Route 53 with two separate routes. The proposed eastern Route 54 would connect Meyers to the South Y Transit Center, Tahoe Verde, Sierra Gardens, and LTCC. The western Route 55 would link LTCC and midtown to Stateline.
The second option, or the “Most Sustainable Approach,” suggests eliminating Route 53 and implementing just the eastern Route 54 in its place.
Because these scenarios constitute “major” changes to service, TTD is required to put them forward for public comment. The board of directors asked for another meeting in May to hear different variations of these scenarios before opening it up for a 30-day public comment period.
The board did agree to open up public comment until May 11 on a handful of other changes, however, including limiting discounted fares, discontinuing the youth fare, and ending general public access to the free paratransit system, among other provisions.
TTD is expected to hold public meetings and presentations during this time to get feedback from the community.