Downtowner to provide on-demand rides in Squaw, Alpine

Courtesy Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

The new nonprofit Squaw Alpine Transit Company, SATCo, has chosen Downtowner, an app-based microtransit service to provide on-demand rides to ease traffic congestion in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows year-round. The service will run from Dec. 1 to April 30, 2019.

The on-demand system with bridge gaps in existing transit lines and ease parking and traffic congestion. Downtowner’s algorithms are constantly optimizing driver work flow, picking up riders and grouping those headed in the same direction to help cut down on traffic. The service is already being successfully used in Aspen, Colo., and Tampa, Fla.

SATCo’s goal is to reduce in-valley trips within Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows by providing convenient, year-round, free, shuttle service. The intention is that the system will also integrate into the existing Tahoe Area Regional Transit system.

Residents and guests in Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows will be able to use the in-valley transit service at no cost by downloading the Mountaineer app. Mountaineer will run daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Olympic Valley and on Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Alpine Meadows through April 30. Dog-friendly and ADA vehicles are available.

SATCo approved the arrangement following the Placer County Board of Supervisors’ recent approval of the formation of a Tourism Business Improvement District created specifically to provide transit services. The SATCo will use tourism-generated funds to implement new year-round, small-scale, mass-transit services within Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows that operate at no cost to the rider. Operations will begin as soon as the 2018-19 winter season.

The SATCo board of directors includes representatives from homeowner associations in both Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows, a representative of the lodging community and representatives from Placer County, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and the community at-large.

SATCo will fund the micro mass-transit system through the combination of a 1 percent assessment on lift tickets sold on-site by Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and a 1 percent assessment on transient lodging and vacation rentals within Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows.

SATCo will operate on these assessment funds alone in the first year, but could seek partnership with Placer County in subsequent years to pursue additional funding from Transient Occupancy Taxes collected by the county. The program will be put in place for a minimum of five years with an option to renew and will include ongoing oversight by its new board of directors, comprised of local stakeholders.