Tahoe shuttle already making connections

Johnson Lane resident Jordan Hallstrom drives one of microtransit shuttles between the Tahoe Transportation Center in Stateline and the South Lake Tahoe Community Center.

Johnson Lane resident Jordan Hallstrom drives one of microtransit shuttles between the Tahoe Transportation Center in Stateline and the South Lake Tahoe Community Center.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Three teens carrying a basketball took advantage of the microtransit shuttle to ride from Stateline to South Lake Tahoe’s Community Center on Wednesday morning.

Driver Jordan Hallstrom said that younger residents were early adopters of what is essentially a rideshare program between the two locations.

“They found out they don’t have to get on the bus,” she said.

Hallstrom, a Johnson Lane resident and member of Douglas High’s Class of 1998, said she enjoys driving the shuttles because they give her an opportunity to meet all sorts of people.

Hallstrom grew up in Carson Valley and her job hearkens back to the days when a significant number of Valley residents worked at Tahoe.

The shuttle was a requirement of approval for the Lake Tahoe Events Center, which is taking shape along Hallstrom’s route on Highway 50 and Lake Parkway.

Tuesday was the busiest the shuttle has been since its soft opening on July 15 with 287 passengers out of the total 1,920 passengers.

Wednesday seemed a bit slower, but Hallstrom said she gets a lot of folks in the middle of the week who work weekends.

She is one of seven or eight drivers of the shuttles that comfortably seat 9-12 passengers and are equipped with bike racks. There are also ski racks, but it will be a while before those see any use.

Riders use the Tahoelakelink app to call for the shuttle. So far, the average wait time has been eight minutes, but on Wednesday it was closer to four.

The shuttle’s goal is to reduce the number of motorists at Lake Tahoe, where tourist traffic tends to clog up the roads.

“What makes it particularly compelling, and we think likely to support very high ridership is, it’s free to the consumer,” said Lake Tahoe Visitor Authority attorney Lew Feldman. “It’s free to the user whether you’re a local or a visitor.”

Nothing is free, really, and there are a score of organizations contributing about $600,000 to the service, including $200,000 from El Dorado County and $150,000 from the City of South Lake Tahoe.

“I have never seen a community come together with that broad range of stakeholders to support something that is voluntary,” Feldman told Douglas County commissioners at a May 23 workshop.

The Authority is seeking $600,000 from the county from the Transient Occupancy tax that is already generated at Lake Tahoe.

“This is money that must be spent for transportation that is not in Douglas County’s general fund that can only be spent at the Lake,” Feldman said. “We are completely isolated in that this money can only be spent at the Lake for transportation.”

Feldman pointed out that the half percent of the transient occupancy tax, which is raised on hotel and VHR rooms at Lake Tahoe, was the amount dedicated to paying off the bonds for the parking garage at Stateline.

County commissioners approved a resolution committing the money in April 2020, but that approval required an interlocal agreement.

When the events center opens, $3 of every ticket will go to support the shuttle.

“This is something that has been needed for years,” Commissioner Wes Rice said at the workshop. “I’ve lived here 31 years and I’ve seen the traffic go from tolerable to ‘are you kidding me.’ I see this project as a start and it’s going to go from there. I truly believe that we have to take the first step.”

The on-demand system is accessed and scheduled through the Lake Link app, www.tahoelakelink.com, and operate 365 days per year 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays in summer and winter.

“Lake Link is a new tool to help alleviate congestion in our tourist core and at some of the most popular recreation access points,” said Lake Link Program Manager Raymond Suarez. “It will connect visitors and residents to trails, beaches, entertainment, nightlife, and be a resource for general commuters. This service will prove convenient, and by reducing vehicle traffic and getting more people to use public transit, we’ll improve our environment and help protect the lake.”



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