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TEAM Tahoe looks for funding

Greg Risling

The pros and cons of last summer’s East Shore Shuttle program were weighed at a TEAM Tahoe meeting on Wednesday as the bus system gears up for another season.

Group members re-hashed parking, access and erosion control concerns along State Route 28 but it was the transit project that stirred the most responses about the short-term future of the East Shore.

Richard Hill, executive director of the Tahoe Transportation District, said the shuttle will operate on the weekends, June 20 through the end of August for eight hours. However, first on Hill’s list is locating the money to re-start the project. He indicated donations, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 by private organizations, may be the shuttle’s savior.

“If the private contributions fall through we will be pursuing public dollars on a parallel track,” Hill said. “We want to have a tactical plan in place by mid-April.”

The East Shore Shuttle met some resistance last year by regular beach-goers who said the system wasn’t timely and didn’t operate efficiently. The shuttle picked up more than 500 passengers at Incline Village and Spooner Summit who made roundtrips to the beach. When there wasn’t enough public response to the shuttle, another half-mile of shoulder parking was eliminated.

“We knew people weren’t going to ride it voluntarily,” Hill added. “We induced people to use it.”

Hill projects it will cost $20,000 to run this year’s project but some TEAM Tahoe members cautioned that better planning prior to the shuttle launch will rid some of last summer’s problems.

Jennifer Merchant of the North Shore Transit Management Association said a marketing plan and attractive vehicles are two ways that ridership can be boosted this year. She mentioned that Area Transit Management can run the shuttle with a trolley instead of a school bus at the same rate. The South Shore transit agency recently purchased two trolleys that can be used in the basin this summer.

“We are still up against the reality of trying to gain popular public support,” said Don Lane, who represented the U.S. Forest Service. “Until we do that, we will have the same problems.”

The shuttle was endorsed by many Tahoe organizations last year because it attempted to take people out of their cars and onto mass transit. According to North Swanson, member of the Tahoe Area Naturists, said the reality was that people only used the shuttle after they found shoreline parking lots full.

“We need much more education this time around,” Swanson said. “Transit is a good idea but let’s be honest with the figures that are put out.”

— Bridget Cornell, a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency planner, announced that Wednesday, March 11 will be the next date for the public meetings about the future of SR 28 access. The meeting will be held at the Horizon Casino, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The final of the three forums will be held on Thursday, Apr. 23 in Carson City.

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

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