Environmental Stewardship and Tourism Impact Mitigation – NTCA
North Lake Tahoe is Making Progress on Traffic Solutions 

Thu | Mar 7, 2024

North Lake Tahoe is Making Progress on Traffic Solutions 

In early March, NTCA president and CEO Tony Karwowski penned the op-ed you’ll find below. This op-ed was recently published in the Sierra Sun.

North Lake Tahoe is making progress on traffic solutions (Opinion)
By Tony Karwowski

Traffic congestion has been a challenge in North Lake Tahoe for decades, but this season in particular, we have seen some remarkable improvements thanks to the collaboration of public and private partners throughout the region. The progress we’ve seen is also a direct result of the willingness of residents and visitors to actively participate in these transportation and parking management solutions.

While there’s widespread agreement that there is still more work to be done, it’s important to take a moment to recognize and appreciate the progress that has been made, embrace the concept of “progress over perfection,” and take note of the positive impacts on our environment, economy, and quality of life.

New Initiatives Are Helping to Reduce Congestion and Change Behaviors

One of the most significant changes this season has been the introduction of resort parking reservations on weekends and holidays at both Palisades Tahoe and Northstar California. These systems have ensured that no cars with the requisite reservations have been turned away, and no standstill gridlock has occurred on the roads leading to the resorts. It has also encouraged residents and visitors to plan ahead, carpool, or use alternative modes of transportation, such as the Park & Ride program, which thanks to resort-led incentives and community participation, has seen an increase in usage from 35 riders per season in previous years, to nearly 500 riders per weekend this season.

By spreading out the traffic flow by giving reservation holders confidence they’ll have a place to park when they arrive, the system has helped to ease the pressure on our major roadways throughout the region.

Palisades Tahoe has reportedly experienced a 57% increase in headcount per car during reservation periods, meaning that more people were sharing rides and leaving their vehicles at home or at the Park & Ride locations. Mountaineer has also seen increased usage in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows this season, which Mountaineer Transit Company attributes to Palisades Tahoe’s parking reservation program. At Northstar California, there has been a 39% reduction in cars parked per skier visit, thanks to carpooling and use of the resort’s neighborhood microtransit system.

In addition to the efforts of area resorts, the North Tahoe Community Alliance and Placer County have invested significant TOT-TBID Dollars At Work funds in programs designed to change behaviors and expand shared transportation options. One of the most successful examples of this is TART Connect. The microtransit service, which started in North Lake Tahoe and now operates throughout the Tahoe region, has provided over 1.2 million rides since it started in 2018 with Mountaineer in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows.

TOT-TBID Dollars At Work have also been used to:  expand the Park & Ride program from two to 26 days of service through mid-March, pay for snow removal at 64 Acres in Tahoe City to open 70 more parking spaces, expand TART Connect service hours, and support a new workforce vanpool program in Eastern Placer County, among other things.

What’s Being Done to Keep the Momentum Going

As we look ahead, we should not lose sight of the achievements of this season and the lessons that have been learned. It’s important that we all continue to support and participate in the initiatives that have helped our region make progress on the traffic congestion problem, and also be open to new ideas and opportunities that may arise. 

North Lake Tahoe is a beautiful and special place that we all love and want to protect. By working together and continuing to take decisive action, we can make a difference and ensure that our region remains a desirable and enjoyable destination to live, work and visit both now and in the future.