Tahoe Transportation District South Shore bus routes to change | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe Transportation District South Shore bus routes to change

Maggie Mayer
mmayer@tahoedailytribune.com

As a result of unsustainable funding, the Tahoe Transportation District has proposed three new approaches to bus routes and is seeking public comment.

The district's board is set to meet on July 13 to consider the three different options. Assuming one is chosen, TTD plans to put it in place by Oct. 1. The three options have been labeled the “baseline," "balanced" and the “sustainable” approaches.

Two of the three account for electric buses, because the TTD plans to implement three electric buses by the end of 2019. All three would provide service to Meyers, something the existing system doesn't offer.

Operating hours will be cut.

Each of the three approaches is designed to create routes that cost less while serving the most trafficked areas of South Shore, according to Transit System Program Manager George Fink.

"There's been more (proposals) but it's been whittled down to what's the most practical," he told the Tribune.

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TTD has been receiving input from the public, but the comments haven't been assessed in full. At this time the TTD has not identified a frontrunner, Fink said.

There are a number of factors that put pressure on the district's ability to provide a sustainable service. The four main challenges identified by TTD are:

Funding; TTD does not receive funding from the county or city, which makes it harder to secure sustainable and adequate funds from solely federal and state sources. Lack of sustainable funding is the root of most other challenges.

Maintaining the workforce; TTD suffers a shortage of employees and can't compete with the wages in Placer County and the North Shore. In June, pay for TTD drivers, mechanics and utility workers increased by 20 percent, but is still lower than the competitors' wages, according to Fink. Lack of affordable housing also poses a threat to worker retention.

Fleet and asset replacement and improvement; TTD has 34 buses, more than half of which qualify for replacement. The current funding will only allow TTD to replace a bus every two to three years. Three electric buses will be added to the fleet at the end of 2019, which will require changes to infrastructure.

Meeting performance measures; transit funding can be reduced if the TTD doesn't meet a standard of compliance. Some of these include environmental standards and financial quotas, which require revenue fares to compensate for a certain proportion of operation costs. According to Fink, the operations cost or June, July and August of 2017 was more than $1.3 million, and fare revenue made up for about $190,000, which is a 14 percent farebox recovery ratio. The average recovery ratio for U.S. transit systems in 2015 was 36 percent, according to the National Transit Database.

The following lays out the existing approach and the three alternative approaches:

Existing Approach

The existing transit routes are not sustainable at this time. It provides 20 hours of service, while the new approaches only suggest providing 10 hours of service. Commuter routes to Minden and Carson run year-round, and there are seasonal routes from South Shore to Tahoe City in the summer (the Emerald Bay Shuttle), as well as routes to Heavenly Mountain Resort in the winter. Finally, the East Shore Express runs from Sand Harbor to Incline Village in the summer.

Baseline Approach

Goal: Redesign transit to focus on sustainable services, does not account for electric buses

Funding: Secured funding which is already available

Changes: Fink called the Baseline Approach the most conservative of the three. It increases the frequency of buses by securing four local routes that will operate every 30 minutes, but is only operative for 10 hours per day. The plan eliminates the summer seasonal route from South Shore to Tahoe City, the commuter bus that runs through Carson City and Minden and the winter route to Heavenly. It maintains the East Shore Express and adds service to Meyers.

Balanced Approach

Goal: Increase frequency, access and use of electric buses

Funding: Relies on discretionary funding and one-time only funding, which will serve to avoid an operating deficit

Changes: The Balanced Approach provides more opportunities than the Baseline and would operate for 16 hours per day. It keeps the commuter routes through Carson City and Minden and the route to Tahoe City. It provides three local routes (including service to Meyers) and eliminates the winter shuttles to Heavenly.

Sustainable Approach

Goal: Increase frequency, access and use of electric buses

Funding: The Sustainable approach will rely on discretionary and one-time only funding

Changes: The Sustainable approach would operate 12 hours per day and establishes three local routes that will operate every 30 minutes. It maintains service to Carson City and Minden, the Emerald Bay Express and provides service to Meyers.

The public hearing will be held July 13 at 9:30 a.m. at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency office; 128 Market St., Stateline.

Info & Comment

To learn more about the proposals, click here. Public comments can be emailed to planning@tahoetransportation.org until July 13.