Free bus fares en route to North Lake Tahoe

Hannah Jones
Free bus rides across North Lake Tahoe may be starting as early as December.
Placer County

Free bus rides across North Lake Tahoe could start as early as December.

The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved a two-year program Tuesday that will offer free fares for Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transit bus routes in eastern Placer County.

The program would cost around $240,000 a year. If it moves forward, up to $500,000 in transient occupancy tax funds would be allocated to fund it.

Over the past five years, TART has averaged $416,500 in fare collections per year, with $125,000 per year coming from large resorts that fund fares for their employees. Those resorts are expected to contribute the same level of funding.

Transit systems in other areas that have eliminated fares … have seen ridership increase by 50%.

Truckee has proposed to pay Placer County for fares on Highway 89 and Highway 267 routes that are within town boundaries, an estimated $21,000. That would leave $220,000 in remaining annual costs for the county to cover.

“A two-year allocation in TOT funds would cover it, assuming some growth in ridership,” said Will Garner, Placer County public works manager.

The program should also save the transit system $10,000 to $12,000 per year by eliminating the need to collect and count payments, as well as accounting services, according to a staff report.

The county is in discussions with Truckee and the Truckee Tahoe Airport Board to share some of the cost, which their board is expected to vote on by the end of the year.

“Besides running an airport they are interested in general benefit particularly for transportation things, but other things as well,” said Garner. “They do way more than operating that airport.”

The program is expected to have multiple benefits to the county, according to a staff report, including improving mobility, air quality and access to jobs.

According to research conducted for the TART Systems Plan in 2016, transit systems in other areas that have eliminated fares, including Mammoth Lakes and Park City, Utah, have seen ridership increase by 50%.

The plan also states the North Lake Tahoe region has fallen far behind other mountain resort areas when it comes to transporting its employees and visitors.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at or 530-550-2652.

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