The future of Tahoe transportation
The Heavenly Gondola in the Park Avenue project and the convention center in Project 3 may be the flashiest pieces of the city’s redevelopment projects, but the Coordinated Transit System and Intermodal Transit Center are probably the most innovative and ground-breaking portion of the plan.
All the existing bus services operated by the casinos, hotels, ski resorts and the city will be combined into one large fleet and dispatched from a central transit terminal in the Park Avenue Redevelopment Project.
“CTS is a true state-of-the-art integration of proven technologies that have not been utilized simultaneously anywhere in the rest of the world,” said Lewis Feldman, the attorney for the redevelopment developers.
What’s so special about a fleet of buses?
Each bus, large and small, transmits a locator signal to the satellite global positioning system. The dispatch center knows exactly where each bus is located and how many passengers are on board. Visitors to the Intermodal Transit Center will even be able to watch the bus movements on a giant map of the community.
That real-time locator information is used to ensure would-be riders get the best service possible.
Would-be riders can go to a bus stop and wait for the next fixed-route bus to come by, just like they do know. But those who need a lift off the main route or who have a long wait for the next bus can use the interactive touch-screen computer kiosk to tell the dispatch center where they are headed and how many in their group. Using the global positioning information, the dispatch center computer locates the closest on-demand bus with room for everyone and sends instructions to the bus driver. At the same time, the kiosk computer informs the would-be riders how long before the bus arrives.
“It’s a more responsive and in many cases, fun-to-ride system than exists anywhere else,” Feldman said.
All the elements needed for CTS have been successfully employed elsewhere. South Lake Tahoe is the first to put all those pieces together into a much more efficient use of public transportation vehicles. Due to its innovation, the project has been awarded $72 million by the federal government to get it off the ground.
“An estimated 52,000 vehicle miles will be saved each year with the system,” Feldman said.
Some of the traffic savings are in the redevelopment area. Visitors staying in Stateline-area lodging will find it easier to get around town. Even if they arrive by car, they may park it and leave it there until it’s time to go home.
By coordinating all the buses in one dispatch center, it will save shuttle-bus miles by ensuring only one bus is dispatched to someone waiting for a ride to the casinos at a city motel. They often call all the casinos, Feldman said, and take the first shuttle to arrive. The rest return empty.
The Intermodal Transit Center in the Park Avenue Project, will also serve as a stop for Greyhound buses and, in the distant future, it is hoped that a light rail system will stop at the central station. The center itself is part of Phase 2 of the Park Avenue Project with groundbreaking in May of 2002 and completion expected in 2004.
The CTS will actually begin operation before then. By next year, visitors and residents alike will be riding the wave of the future on city buses.
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