This opinion column was submitted by Keith Vogt, chair of the Tahoe Regional Arts Foundation; and Mike Luken, executive director of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency.
The Lake Tahoe Basin attracts more than 25 million annual visitors, most of whom arrive almost exclusively through the use of private automobiles. These 50 million annual vehicle trips into, out of, and within the Basin lead to extreme traffic congestion at peak times. They have economic consequences by discouraging visitors and decreasing quality of life for all who reside in or visit Tahoe. Environmentally, vehicle pollution results in poor air quality, greenhouse gases and algal blooms in the lake from particulate matter that washes off roadways and parking lots.
Solving these mobility challenges to and from Lake Tahoe is certainly not a new concept, but it will require coordinated action by the entire bi-state mega-region that straddles the Lake. This mega-region includes the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento metropolitan area in the Central Valley, the Tahoe Basin and the Reno metropolitan area of Northern Nevada. Trips to and from Tahoe begin and end throughout this mega-region, with no single jurisdiction able to solve the problem alone.
Based on existing transportation plans from agencies throughout the bi-state mega-region, the Tahoe Regional Arts Foundation convened state, regional and local public officials, business leaders, national transportation experts and advocates to devise solutions to this longstanding issue. Based on the groups’ input, three important, promising solutions were recommended to address mobility challenges, including: software solutions to fill empty seats in vehicles traveling to and from Lake Tahoe; first/last mile “micro- transit” shuttles and vans within the Tahoe Basin; and in the long-term, expanded mega-region passenger rail and bus options to and from the Tahoe region.
For these ideas to become reality, policy makers and stakeholders should consider the following steps:
► Partner with Tahoe resorts, mega-region employers and other destinations to develop a rideshare app for Tahoe travelers with incentives for use, such as discounts on ski passes, lodging and parking
► Introduce convenient and free micro-transit shuttle systems from key destinations, such as from the Truckee rail station to area ski resorts
► Launch a rail feasibility study to boost convenient and fast passenger rail service from Emeryville to Reno, identifying the key needs and infrastructure upgrades
To operationalize these recommendations, public sector action and private sector mobilization is needed, including among business leaders, employers, and advocacy organizations. Success would benefit everyone, with less traffic on Interstate 80 from the Bay Area to Tahoe/Reno and the long-term preservation of the crown jewel of the region, Lake Tahoe. The Foundation sponsored the new report “Solving Mega-Region Mobility For Lake Tahoe,” which can be viewed at www.tahoearts.net.
Keith Vogt is chair of the nonprofit Tahoe Regional Arts Foundation, which is pursuing development of a world-class performing arts theatre in North Lake Tahoe. Mike Luken is executive director of the Placer County Transportation Planning Agency.
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