South Lake Tahoe residents want public transit improvements
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Some South Lake Tahoe residents are concerned about public transit, including pedestrian safety, long waiting times and a lack of connections or transfers to other transit services.
Residents and representatives from South Lake Tahoe stakeholder groups addressed the issue at a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 30, as part of the TRPA’s annual unmet transit needs evaluation.
“Our transit system here in the South Shore is lousy and a joke,” South Lake Tahoe resident Juan Chavez said during the meeting. “Instead of getting better, it’s gotten worse.”
Tahoe Transportation District oversees public transportation in the Lake Tahoe Basin, including the BlueGo bus service.
The average waiting time for a bus is one hour, according the current BlueGo schedule.
“That is a long time for someone just wanting to get down Highway 50,” resident Russ Dahler said.
BlueGo operates two routes in South Lake Tahoe and Stateline, Nev. Route 50 runs from South Lake Tahoe’s “Y” area at Raley’s and Kmart to Kingsbury Transit Center in Stateline. Route 53 travels through the neighborhoods.
A third one, Route 23, serves Stateline from Heavenly Village to neighborhoods and resorts on Kingsbury Grade.
Carl Hasty, Tahoe Transportation’s District’s manager, said different routes run depending on the season. During summer or winter, up to 20 buses run during the peak demand. Overall, the district has 40 vehicles in its fleet.
Another issue is the lack of transportation to and from Meyers. South Lake Tahoe buses don’t service the El Dorado County community.
Kelly Ridge, South Lake Tahoe’s affordable senior apartment complex on Herbert Avenue and Pioneer Trail, wants its bus stop back and started a petition to secure it. More than 100 people have signed.
Larry Matzkin, a Kelly Ridge resident, said the apartment complex isn’t well connected and riders have to walk to the nearest bus stop in an area of town that lacks sidewalks.
“Adding that stop back at the top of Kelly Ridge would improve safety for everyone,” Matzkin said.
According to Kelly Ridge administrator Kelly Shanks, the bus stop only lasted approximately 18 months.
Other senior citizens commented on the transportation district’s on-call service. BlueGo’s demand service needs to be scheduled in advance and costs $3 per ride.
Lake Tahoe Community College
Lake Tahoe Community College would like better proximity and a better bus schedule for students who don’t own a car, according to ESL/GED coordinator and instructor Maxine Alper. Some classes take place at the Family Resource Center on Spruce Avenue, near Kelly Ridge Apartments.
“For many of our students, the buses are their sole means of transportation other than walking,” Alper said. “We have students who live at the ‘Y’ and it takes them more than an hour to get to a class.”
Buses only hit the college every two hours Monday through Saturday.
Marta Sternal, the college’s international student program director, said she often hears many of her charges are tired during class periods. She said this is due to students having to get up at around 4:30 a.m. to catch a bus for an 8 a.m. class.
Funding and solutions
Like all public needs, everything comes down to funding, or a lack of it.
According to Judy Weber, a TRPA transportation planner, the Tahoe Transportation District received 100 percent of its funding from public sources. For California, those funds are split based on population. El Dorado County services receive 65 percent and Placer County gets 35 percent.
Hasty, the district manager, said his organization’s $5 million annual operations budget comes from different pots, including federal funding through Nevada and California, private payments from Vail Resorts and rider fare.
“What we don’t have necessarily is more localized sources and our aim is to establish funding sources similar to other resort towns,” Hasty said.
Douglas County chips in a small contribution, and Heavenly Mountain Resort pays the transportation district to provide free transportation for its seasonal workers.
Other entities, like the City of South Lake Tahoe, no longer provide funding, though elected officials from those jurisdictions sit on the district board of directors.
Many of the residents at the unmet needs workshop weren’t opposed to a special tax to improve services.
Hasty said the unmet needs meetings help gauge public needs so they can be addressed in long-term goals.
“Demand is outpacing capacity, and that is an issue we are all facing around public transportation,” Hasty said.
Hasty added that communities are attempting to tackle the issue locally.
“It’s a continuous effort and we try to provide all we can in terms of service,” Hasty said.
People can weigh in on public transit needs by emailing Judy Weber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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