Get the facts straight
If individuals and columnists are going to comment on a project or the work of people who have actively participated in developing the Coordinated Transit System (CTS), let’s be honest and accurate in reporting the facts. Here is some background.
The CTS Project was conceived in 1995 within a group that included key representatives from Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, redevelopment interests, the city, Heavenly, South Tahoe Public Utility District, the casinos, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and South Shore Transportation Management Association. The work of this group was to address the air quality and traffic impacts of planned redevelopment projects, the Heavenly Master Plan and the STPUD plant expansion. Customary and usual mitigation efforts would not achieve the required levels of project mitigation. Something creative was necessary and the CTS concept surfaced as an innovative strategy that could potentially achieve the required mitigation goals. This project was not the dream of Steve Teshara or any other individual. There was a collective committee decision to pursue CTS; although, Steve played a major role in encouraging the casinos and others to support the concept by merging their fleets into this community transportation solution.
Along the way there have been and continue to be critics of CTS – largely individuals who have never been closely involved with the project and thus have minimal knowledge of the background or operating details of CTS.
So, let’s “pull back the curtain” that some feel has been closed, and get the facts straight!
First, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune:
“… all the systems would be combined into one on-demand transportation system. That would cut down significantly on the environmental impacts of a lot of buses on the road and save businesses a bundle money.”
Wrong. The fleets will be combined into one system that will utilize five transit strategies, not simply on-demand. These include fixed route, flex route, dial-a-ride, dedicated dial-a-ride and deviated route service. More buses and vans will be operated under CTS, not fewer, and the overall operating cost will likely be more than is currently expended. The benefit of CTS is in the operating efficiency that will be achieved by combining the fleets. More service will be available, greater convenience will be afforded customers, which translates to a potential 40 percent increase in ridership following the second year of operations. These benefits could not be achieved without utilizing the planned technologies.
Second, according to the Tribune:
“More than three years later, with $1.4 million in mitigation fees as well as at least $150,000 out-of-pocket costs to the vendor …
The project “is no closer to the future than it was in 1998, or 1995 for that matter.”
“Teshara … can’t close the CTS deal.”
“the wizard of CTS has no real solutions for the future.”
“Where’s the plan B? Is there a plan B?”
These statements and others relating to costs, time frames and project management are grossly misleading. TRPA contracted with the Systems Integrator on July 29, 1999 to define, design and plan the CTS system. This Phase One Contract was to be completed within six months. In reality, it took 22 months to complete Phase One. It would be inappropriate here to go into the details of the significant and ongoing efforts that were invested by many to bring Phase One to completion. Ultimately, attempts to reach agreement on a Phase Two agreement were unsuccessful, and on May 24, 2001, TRPA notified the vendor that TRPA would not contract with them for Phase Two of the project. The Phase One Contract value totaled $177,350. The amount expended will be approximately $166,000, since project expenses were less that originally budgeted. This is a far cry from the sums inferred in the above statement.
Shortly thereafter, “Plan B” was initiated, and we are currently negotiating with another company to build the system that was designed during Phase One. Again, Steve Teshara was not the sole person representing the interests of South Lake Tahoe. TRPA, its attorneys, and the CTS Oversight Committee rendered a collective decision to change vendors after exhaustive negotiations with the previous contractor. The product of Phase One is the technical design of the system. This complex document represents substantial progress and enables us to hand the project design to the new vendor. We anticipate proceeding with Phase Two within 30 to 60 days.
Finally, according to the Tribune:
“But the vision may have exceeded the capacities of the visionary.”
“In the meantime, the number of software companies that can and have created tracking systems have increased.”
“Why can’t CTS, which is only required to track a limited number of buses in an area only half the size of Carson City, work here?”
Not so! It is very clear to those of us who understand the CTS Project and its complexity, that many others still fail to comprehend what the project must deliver. First, the expectations were defined during an extensive, collaborative process of all the project proponents in South Lake Tahoe. Many individuals were involved in this effort. Technical guidance was provided by one of the vendors. Maximizing ridership through the convenience of the system was the fundamental objective that determined the design. It was not the sole vision of Steve Teshara.
Second, the original vendor submitted a proposal, along with three other companies, that asserted their ability to deliver the CTS System. Subsequently, they signed a contract to deliver the CTS System and all of its technical requirements. Over and over, we have been assured that the CTS concept is realistic; although, such a system has never been implemented.
Third, vehicle tracking is not the issue. GPS tracking systems are now widely used throughout the world to track vehicles. The heart of the CTS System is “scheduling,” which means gathering the customers’ trip requirements, assessing the location of the fleet vehicles and the passenger assignments they are currently working on, and then assigning the new ride request to the most appropriate vehicle in operation. This must be accomplished, on average, within 3 to 5 seconds. Name one community in the United States where such a system is in operation.
Unfortunately, members of the media and others in the community have invested very little effort to learn what’s really happening with CTS, and repeatedly “shoot from the hip” with their criticism of the project. This is uncalled for! Where did the Tribune get its information? What’s their motive in publishing a story about a community project and effectively using the column to attack an individual?
Insofar as Steve Teshara’s role in our community, Steve has been and continues to be involved in CTS and a wide range of other community and basin issues. However, he is consistently an outspoken advocate for improvement and progress and hardly deserves to be sarcastically characterized as the “Oz of South Shore transportation” or the “man behind the curtain.” In my opinion, the Tribune, and your columnist, owe him a public apology.
Dick Powers is the executive director of South Shore Transportation Management Association in South Lake Tahoe.
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