Comment period for Tahoe bus route changes
In response to concerns voiced by members of the public, the Tahoe Transportation District opted to extend the public comment period on likely changes to the district’s routes and services.
The concern came during the board’s July meeting, which saw a crowd of about 30 people.
The district previously announced it would be changing the bus routes due to lack of funding and workforce development and retention issues, among other reasons. The public comment period began in May and, despite the extension, TTD still plans to enact the changes by Nov. 1.
District officials issued three proposals for public comment: the “baseline,” “balanced” and “sustainable” approaches — all three of which would see reductions in operating hours as well as route changes.
At this point in time, the district is leaning toward the baseline approach with some modifications, according to George Fink, TTD’s transit system program manager. These would include modifications to service hours, paratransit and routes on the Nevada side.
Fink said functional changes to the routes are partly a geographic issue, but that changes to the service hours will be more dramatic. Service hours will likely go from 20 to 12 hours per day.
This includes hours for the Demand Response Service, which services people with disabilities in accordance with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). In addition, Demand Response would no longer service Round Hill Village, the North Upper Truckee area and Christmas Valley.
Some of the public comment at the hearing concerned the winter ski shuttles to Heavenly Mountain Resort, which will be cut ahead of the 2018-19 ski season. TTD had an agreement with the resort to keep the shuttles free, but this meant the fares from other routes would have to compensate for some of the losses. This coupled with TTD’s shortage of drivers means the winter shuttles are unfeasible.
Some people suggested TTD charge for these rides because many of the riders are visitors who would be willing to pay for the service. Fink said this would not fix the labor shortage, and to have people pay as they are loading a bus with ski and snowboard equipment could disrupt the bus schedule.
Other comments were in support of Route 23, which connects Heavenly Village and the The Ridge Resorts, adjacent to the Stagecoach Lodge. As a result, TTD is looking at maintaining a form of this service.
TTD also received many comments in favor of the routes connecting Lake Tahoe to the Carson Valley, Fink said.
For now, this service is protected; TTD recently received $1.6 million from the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), allowing the continuation of route 19x between Carson City and Minden/Gardnerville for one year. This bus connects riders to Route 20x, which goes to South Lake Tahoe.
The future of the route beyond one year remains uncertain, but it’s possible that TTD could receive the grant again.
Route 23 and 20x would be merged together under the modified Baseline Approach to accommodate requests that TTD keep these services.
The public comment period will remain open until Aug. 10, the date of the next board meeting.