Tahoe drive-through ban upheld
April 21, 2003
At the request of a South Lake Tahoe city councilman, Lake Tahoe Basin planners re-examined a 1987 ban on drive-throughs and determined the air quality concerns associated with the law remain valid.
City Councilman Tom Davis requested staff look at the issue because he believes automotive technology may have improved enough so that idling cars would not be as harmful to air quality as they were in the 1980s.
Davis said he was mainly interested in the possibility of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency allowing drive-throughs at a business such as a pharmacy, where it would benefit seniors or the disabled.
The staff report will be discussed by the TRPA Governing Board when it meets Wednesday.
In investigating the claim that newer cars and trucks produce fewer emissions, staff found the results of existing studies to be inconclusive and not applicable to Tahoe’s colder temperatures and thin air. Staff reported those factors cause more carbon monoxide emissions because automobiles burn more fuel when started in colder weather, and the cold can render emission-control less efficient.
Staff also cited a 1989 report that states drive-throughs at fast-food restaurants increase the number of vehicle trips in an area — which is contrary to TRPA’s goal of decreasing the number of miles traveled in the basin. Staff also concluded that more drive-throughs would mean increased congestion at intersections and in vehicle-circulation patterns.
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The TRPA staff report also indicated that the basin is home to a large number of older cars, which lack emission technology; and SUVs, which have less strict emission requirements than cars.
As an alternative to the ban, staff recommended that business owners who want a drive-through organize a program that uses one vehicle for home delivery or find a way to tap into home-delivery service already provided by U.S. postal service and various grocery stores.