Transit project stalled
Efforts to create a centralized transit system for the South Shore have slowed to a crawl, despite six years of planning and collection of more than $1 million in funding.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has worked on the Coordinated Transit System since 1995. Trapeze Software Group, which was hired to design the software for the project, was dropped May 24 after completing a preliminary blueprint for the system.
The CTS would track the exact location of each transit vehicle including buses, casino shuttles and trolleys. Residents and visitors could use kiosks or telephones to find the best mode of public transportation to reach South Shore destinations.
The program – instituted by the TRPA and contracted to the South Shore Transportation Management Association – includes several stakeholders: the city of South Lake Tahoe, Area Transit Management, Heavenly Ski Resort, El Dorado County, Douglas County, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Harveys Resort and Casino.
But some say the transportation system, which was originally intended for completion around 1996 or 1997, has taken too long and is more complex than it needs to be.
“The fact of the matter is we made it too complicated,” said City Councilwoman Brooke Laine.
Councilman Tom Davis said the system is the only one like it in the world, but he doesn’t understand why an area as small as the South Shore of Lake Tahoe needs such a complex system.
“Why at Tahoe?” he asked.
Delays in the project, which is a traffic mitigation measure for 16 projects including Park Avenue Redevelopment, have caused concern for Rochelle Nason, executive director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe.
“We are committed to making sure TRPA obeys its environmental mandates, and if they break the law in such an important issue we would consider taking action,” she said. “We hope that doesn’t become necessary.”
A total of $1.4 million has been contributed to the TRPA specifically for mitigation fees tied to the Coordinated Transit System. Of that amount, $156,106 was paid to Trapeze for the initial design.
Pam Drum, public affairs coordinator for TRPA, said schedule delays and excessive cost estimates prevented TRPA and Trapeze from agreeing on a second contract. She said the project is scheduled to be completed in early 2003, with limited service expected to begin in as few as eight months.
Steve Teshara, chairman of SSTMA, said, “We were unable to reach an agreement on a contract with (Trapeze) for Phase 2 that was acceptable to the stakeholders of Lake Tahoe, so we are searching elsewhere for someone to do the job.” Teshara said he will meet with Orbital at the end of the month, which was the second choice in 1995 when Trapeze was initially selected.
But not everyone thinks Trapeze is to blame for the slow pace of the project.
“This is not just a situation where the software vendor is the cause of the problem, but they are the easiest ones to take the fall, and I think that is what we are seeing,” Laine said.
Mark Miller, executive director for Trapeze, sent a letter dated June 20 to Juan Palma, executive director for the TRPA. The letter alludes to a financial dispute between the agency and the software vendor.
“Trapeze tried to accommodate all the changes requested by the TRPA even though some of these changes were not referenced in the original (contract), complicated the project and consequently adversely affected the project cost and implementation schedule,” Miller wrote.
Teshara is confident the Transportation Management Association will find a new company to implement the blueprints Trapeze has laid out. He said he cannot predict when the project will be completed, but it will depend on the timeline set out for whatever company picks up the project.
“The past is not important,” he said. “What is important is the future.”
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