Welcome to our Sweet 16 Round of the Strongest Town Competition. We invite you to read the answers that representatives from these two towns provided to questions about transportation, incremental growth, adapting to challenges, and more. Please scroll down to the bottom to vote!


Photo by Finetooth

Photo by Finetooth

Truckee, CA

Entry submitted by: Morgan Goodwin, Vice Mayor; Tony Lashbrook, Town Manager; Cassie Hebel, Truckee Downtown Merchants Association; Jaime Wright, Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Mgmt Assn.; Lynn Saunders, Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce; and Colleen Dalton, Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce.

Describe your town's transportation system and what transportation options are available for residents.

Truckee is conveniently located with easy access right off Interstate 80, providing easy access to the San Francisco Bay Area / Silicon Valley or to Reno, Nevada as well as close proximity to nearby Lake Tahoe via Highway 89. This major hub benefits from a powerful system of transportation. Arriving by air is easy with the Reno-Tahoe International Airport just 35 miles away. The Amtrak California Zephyr train runs daily between Chicago and San Francisco, and stops in Truckee once a day eastbound and once a day westbound right in the heart of historic downtown Truckee. Amtrak, and Greyhound, also have several buses that stop in Truckee daily. The region is connected via the TART (Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit) bus system. TART has routes connecting the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, Tahoe City, Squaw Valley, Northstar, Incline Village, and Truckee. During both winter and summer, TART offers free night service along the West Shore, between Squaw Valley and Crystal Bay as well as connections to Northstar.  During the winter months free ski shuttle service provides connections for visitors and resort employees from the North and West Shores to Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Homewood. TART’s Truckee local route offers service in the winter months throughout Truckee with connections to Donner Summit ski resorts daily. The Truckee local route offers service throughout the remainder of the year within the Town of Truckee Monday-Saturday. In addition the Truckee Dial-A-Ride service is available year-round to the general public as well as seniors and persons with disabilities.

The Senior Shuttle - North Tahoe/Truckee Transport offers out of the area inter-regional ADA accessible senior shuttle services. This service provides transport to essential needs appointments. There are several private limo, shuttle, and taxi services with Uber and Lyft recently starting up in the Truckee-Tahoe region as well. The past few years, collaborative public/private partnership efforts have increased the number of shuttles to and from events such as Truckee Thursdays (a signature downtown street festival held for 11 weeks in the summer) and restaurants and bars in downtown Truckee on New Year’s Eve. Last year, law enforcement reported zero DUI’s on New Year’s Eve and attribute much of that success to the shuttles offered.

Through years of hard work and a partnership with a determined developer, “The Railyard” has won infrastructure grants from the state and is moving ahead to build both affordable and market-rate housing with street-facing commercial in the downtown.

Give an example of an incremental project that your town has undertaken.

Truckee has steadily and incrementally revitalized it's historic downtown, starting with the town's current general plan, adopted in 2006. That plan stated a goal of infill development, reversing sprawl, and creating a town square. Based on that plan, the town has explored two distinct strategies. First, we set out to create the conditions for infill development to take place, including a multi-year community planning process, for a brownfield Union Pacific property directly adjacent to downtown. Through years of hard work and a partnership with a determined developer, “The Railyard” has won infrastructure grants from the state and is moving ahead to build both affordable and market-rate housing with street-facing commercial in the downtown.

Second, the town has pursued a streetscape program in several stages. This project began with sidewalk, landscaping and public art improvements to the most iconic downtown buildings, and has expanded in several stages to cover over half of the downtown commercial properties. We expect that the streetscape projects will continue with strong community support based on this success. Together, these projects have been key in turning Truckee from a pass-through town on the way to Lake Tahoe, into a destination unto itself. By investing both redevelopment and general fund dollars in the downtown core, Truckee is succeeding in creating a walkable and livable town center.

The founding leaders of the Town developed an approach to governance that was coined “The Truckee Way”, a set of principles that hold strong today.

Describe how residents of your town are actively involved in local decision making.

Truckee’s incorporation effort, in 1993, is still fresh in the mind of many Truckee citizens. The creation of the Town of Truckee (a city under California Law) was driven in large part by local residents frustration with governance provided from an out of touch and distant county government managed from the other side of the Sierra. The sense in Truckee was that the County was happy to collect significant tax revenue from our community but was out of touch with the road maintenance and snow removal needs of our growing town. In addition, the County was challenged to understand the local’s vision of Truckee’s future and struggled with long range planning. In response, the founding leaders of the Town developed an approach to governance that was coined “The Truckee Way”, a set of principles that hold strong today. “The Truckee Way” calls for Town officials, residents and advocates to work toward interest based solutions based upon non-adversarial dialogue, a commitment to transparency and no surprises, guided by a shared understanding of common goals. “The Truckee Way” has effectively guided Truckee decision making for 22 years.

Tell us a story about how your town adapted to a challenge in some way.

When Truckee incorporated in 1993, it inherited 150 miles of public roadways to maintain but only about ½ mile of sidewalks and no formal trails or bikeways- really a model of a sprawling, automobile centric community. This challenge was recognized in the 1996 Truckee General Plan which directed the preparation of a Trails and Bikeways Master Plan to address the lack of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in an otherwise active and healthy community. Completed in 2000, this plan was used during the development boom that occurred from 2002 through 2009 to partner with private development to construct 10 miles of paved multi-use trails. The Trails Plan also guided the solicitation of local, state and federal funds that constructed another 10 miles of paved multi-use trails by 2014. These successes lead to the formation of a coalition of interests including the Town, advocacy groups and interested citizens that developed a ballot measure to gauge the willingness of Truckee voters to tax themselves to fund trail construction and maintenance. This measure passed with a strong 76% yes vote and will generate well over $10 million over 10 years which will allow for the completion of much of the backbone trail system in Truckee. Truckee has found the weaving together widely spaced neighborhoods with a well-designed trail system has resulted in a more cohesive, healthier and more livable community.

Does you town have a central "downtown" or district? If so, please describe this place.

Known as the “heart and soul” of Truckee, historic downtown Truckee provides a place for locals and visitors alike to enjoy through unique shops, eclectic restaurants, and beautiful art galleries -- all set in charming historic buildings with magnificent views of the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountains. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, historic downtown Truckee embraces our heritage and proudly protects and restores historic buildings located in the district. Originally a stop along the first transcontinental railroad, the California Welcome Center and transportation hub is located in a 100+ year-old train depot set right in the heart of downtown. With recent streetscape projects, there are several community gathering places, complete with unique public art, for patrons to meet with friends and enjoy the Sierra sunshine that blankets the town. Truckee Thursdays, a street festival held for 11 weeks in the summer, brings people together to celebrate community and our historic downtown.

Truckee is an authentic town that people love passionately, and a community that welcomes those who feel the same.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

Truckee is an authentic town that people love passionately, and a community that welcomes those who feel the same. Everyone who lives here has chosen it very intentionally, and I think that act of choosing runs deep. This is a town is friendly and welcoming, attracting healthy-minded outdoor enthusiasts such as skiers, climbers, hikers, bikers, runners and boaters, but also is a Base Camp for a Big Life for artists, entrepreneurs and families. Sometimes it isn't easy. Advice to those moving here may run along the lines of “bring your own job”, and the housing market is not responding very quickly to the demand for the “missing middle”. And yet, people love it. It is a place where everyone has a story of how they “found it”, or for the smaller number of folks who were born here and continue to live here, a story of why it's the best place to live. Those stories often give way to passionate pursuits. Pro-skiers mingle with innovative designers. Locally owned coffee shops far outnumber those found in a standard urban shopping center. Locals have started businesses to make candles from re-purposed wine bottles, hand-made glass fishing lures, flashy trucker hats, home-brewed kombucha, playful art pieces of athletic figures made from railroad spikes, and the list goes on. We are a caring community-minded town that has high family values and are environmentally conscious. This is reflected through the staggering number of non-profit organizations offer services and seek to create community change on dozens of topics, supported by a community foundation committed to seeing all of these groups excel through funding, training and mentorship.

For me, the culture of Truckee is captured by this story told to me by the owner of the local lumber yard. Years before when his father ran the company he was asked for a “locals discount” by a man buying lumber. He frowned, and asked the customer “what makes you a local?” The man replied, “Well, I just moved here but I really care about this place and I want to make it better.”  The discount was happily granted.  Unlike any other small towns I have encountered, Truckee welcomes those who love the place and are eager to contribute. There’s an authentic small town vibe here, friendly and vibrant, that is inspiring to be a part of. It’s a Truckee thing.


Photo by Joe Wolf

Photo by Joe Wolf

Pasadena, CA

Entry submitted by: Paul Little, Amy Foell and Leanne Waggoner

Describe your town's transportation system and what transportation options are available for residents.

We are served by Los Angeles Metro for bus. We have a light rail system that connects Pasadena (and our business and residential districts) to adjoining towns and Los Angeles. The City of Pasadena also operates its own local bus service providing public transportation options to areas underserved by the county transit agency. There are also bike lanes in many areas of town and our downtown is very walkable.

Give an example of an incremental project that your town has undertaken.

Pasadena and our transportation department have been raising awareness and implementing a complete streets program that identifies roads and street usage based on not just traffic flow and volume but the built environment, land use, population, economic development, shared road usage and more. The project is a long term effort to redefine and repurpose streets in Pasadena for appropriate and multiple uses.

Describe how residents of your town are actively involved in local decision making.

Pasadena residents are very involved in decision-making through neighborhood associations, citizen advisory commissions, issue oriented groups and other advocacy efforts aligned with specific issues or programs. We have citizen groups that advocate for better bicycle access, more aggressive environmental stewardship, better conditions for the poor. Officially empaneled citizen commissions (there are dozens) advise the Pasadena City Council on issues as varied as development, transportation, the environment, senior issues, economic development. There are three downtown business improvement districts with their own governing structure, staff and boards.

The Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority was able to build the project with available funds, open the light rail on time and return tens of millions of dollars in unspent funds to the local municipalities.

Tell us a story about how your town adapted to a challenge in some way.

When METRO refused to build the light rail line to Pasadena, despite allocated funding, the City of Pasadena and local advocates worked with state elected officials to remove the project from METRO/MTA control and give the funding to a separate agency to construct the light rail from Union Station in Los Angeles, through South Pasadena to Pasadena's eastern border. The Los Angeles to Pasadena Metro Blue Line Construction Authority was able to build the project with available funds, open the light rail on time and return tens of millions of dollars in unspent funds to the local municipalities to improve station access and usability. (The second phase to Azusa, east of Pasadena, opens for public use in March, 2016)

Does you town have a central "downtown" or district? If so, please describe this place.

Yes. We have a traditional small city downtown with three business improvement districts. With city support, each district has been able to attract businesses and residents. Old Pasadena is a focal point for shopping, dining and businesses. Easily accessible by light rail and transit, with parking provided by the City, Old Pasadena grew from a decrepit and aging area to a vibrant district for residents and visitors. The Playhouse District has attracted restaurants, office development, galleries, shops and entertainment venues. South Lake Avenue is anchored by a mid-century modern shopping destination, Macy's, and has seen investment in stores, restaurants and office development.

You can get almost anything you want here.

What is your favorite thing about your town?

You can get almost anything you want here. It is a great place to live with wonderful historic neighborhoods and local access to everything from all types of music, theater, restaurants, movies, sports to outdoor activities in the the local mountains and wilderness. We have top universities in Caltech, Art Center and Fuller Theological Seminary, a diverse economy and lots of fun things to do. Oh, yeah, we have a huge New Year celebration with the Rose Parade and Game.


Voting is now closed.