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  • Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Travis Largent, left, and Luke Purvance of Lake Tahoe gather apples from the trees at Pin O Mine orchard in Apple Hill in El Dorado county on Tuesday, October 18, 2011.

  • Tony Bizjak

Back-seat Driver: Apple Hill shuttle bus canceled – too much traffic

Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 - 10:50 am

For a quarter century, the Apple Hill area offered a free shuttle-bus service during the peak of the tourist season in October. No more.

El Dorado County officials this week announced they are canceling next year’s shuttle service because the area’s traffic is so bad on October weekends that the bus was stuck in traffic with everyone else.

“The bus was not effective,” said Mindy Jackson of the El Dorado County Transit Authority. “It was a customer service issue.”

The problem is that Apple Hill’s ranches – and their fresh donuts, fritters and pies – have become so popular with autumn visitors that some of the area’s lovely hill-country roads are getting clogged, notably Carson Road, which serves as the area’s main conduit.

It’s gotten so bad that Evelyn Abel, owner of the popular Abel’s Apple Acres, hires a couple of off-duty CHP officers for several October weekends to do traffic control at the intersection in front of her business. Abel says she’d like the shuttle bus to keep running to ease congestion.

Jackson said her board might be willing to start the bus up again, but said she hopes to talk with Apple Hill organizers about ways of managing October’s peak weekend traffic. Possibilities include: encouraging drivers to use more back roads and visit smaller ranches, encouraging visitors to come up in September and November when crowds are lighter, and asking them to arrive earlier in the day on weekends.

Runaway train

A San Francisco Muni streetcar took off into a tunnel this week with passengers, but no operator. The operator had gotten out at the station platform to close a door. Officials are investigating, but initially said the train apparently was in automatic drive mode, and the closure of the door signaled it to go. A passenger pulled an emergency brake, stopping the train in the tunnel, KGO-TV reported. Muni officials said the train was programmed to come to a stop at the next station.

Could that happen here? No, says Sacramento Regional Transit’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Lonergan. Sacramento’s light-rail trains do not have an automatic mode. They operate more old-school, with two hand-held devices, a “dead-man” switch and a throttle stick.

Sacramento light-rail operators have to press the dead-man and continuously hold it down for the train to run. The trains have two dead-man switches: one that operators can press with their hand, and another pedal they can press with their foot. If the operator takes pressure off them, the train just stops.

You can probably guess why they call the switch a “dead-man.” If the operator dies, the train stops. Some people call it an “operator presence control.”

Sacramento light-rail trains also have a throttle stick. The driver must manually push the throttle forward for the train to move.

Light-rail operators sometimes do get out of their cabs to slide a small bridge device out of the front passenger car door to help people in wheelchairs get aboard.


Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

Read more articles by TONY BIZJAK



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