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Bus route?

John Seelmeyer

The possibility of mass transit to link the fast-growing employment center at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center with the residential neighborhoods of Sparks and Reno is getting

a fresh look.

No one knows yet whether bus or van service to the industrial center would make economic sense, how the service might be structured or who would pay for it.

But the question is getting a fresh look as employment continues to grow rapidly at the center 13 miles east of the Vista Boulevard exit from Interstate 80 and as gas prices continue to rise.

About 8,000 people currently work at Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, home to big distribution centers run by

Wal-Mart and PetSmart as well as a host of smaller manufacturing and distribution operations.

The majority of those workers come from Sparks and Reno.

Grant Sims, managing director of the CB Richard Ellis office in Reno, said the distance between the

industrial center and residential neighborhoods sometimes has led to questions whether companies at TRIC

will be able to attract a workforce, especially as gasoline prices have risen.

So far, that doesn’t appear to have become a problem in reality, Sims said, although the perception persists.

Sims, a former city councilman in Reno and a former member of the board of the Regional Transportation Commission, is helping to shepherd discussions of mass transit service.

Felicia Archer, a spokeswoman for RTC, said the agency is conducting a survey of employers in the industrial center to gauge the interest of the companies and their employees in transit service.

A survey about a year ago, she said, found insufficient interest to support RTC service. But the number of workers at the industrial center has grown since then as new companies have moved in.

If the survey finds enough interest, Archer said the transit agency would begin designing service. Possibilities would range from point-to-point van service to a schedule of buses to the industrial center.

The RTC’s work, Archer said, has been slowed in recent weeks as its management’s attention has been diverted to wage negotiations with the Teamsters Union local that represents its drivers.

The studies of possible transit service to the industrial center are welcome by Storey County. Tahoe Reno Industrial Center accounts for more than half the area of Storey County.

“We definitely have an interest in working with the business that are out there and the businesses that are yet to come,” says Pat Whitten, the county administrator.

Separately, he said Storey County is preparing to launch its own transit agency to deal with transportation questions in the Virginia City area.

Among the questions still to be answered would be financing of any transit service.

Some federal subsidies might be available, both Archer and Sims said, and employers might be asked to pony up as well.