Ridership up on North Tahoe transit buses | SierraSun.com

Ridership up on North Tahoe transit buses

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun

Transit opportunities in North Tahoe continue to grow, as does ridership.

Free night services in North Lake Tahoe and Truckee and the airport shuttle made their debut this season and so far have been well-received.

“We had to fight to get night service for our residents, visitors and employees … and hope the final numbers will show that there is a sufficient need for the service,” said Jan Colyer, executive director of Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association.

Overall, Tahoe Area Regional Transit ridership increased by 9 percent in December, compared to last year during the same time. The increase in ridership can be attributed to winter employees, Colyer said.

“Hopefully it’s working smoother for the employees this year than last year with the improvements TART made this winter,” she said.

Returning Squaw Valley USA lift operators find the night buses useful compared to last winter, said director of lift operations Dave Pierce. And employees working later hours at their jobs, such as serving at restaurants or managing night skiing, now have access to public transportation after they get off work.

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However, morning transit is still difficult because the buses are full and people are forced to hitchhike, Pierce said.

The North Lake Tahoe Express, which connects the Reno-Tahoe Airport to the North Shore and Truckee, sold a total of 2,530 tickets over the holidays from Nov. 15 through Jan. 2. The Red Line, which includes areas from Tahoe City, down the West Shore and into Squaw Valley, was the most popular.

The airport counter has been extremely busy with walk-up passengers, Colyer said.

Half of the reservations are made online and the other half by phone or in person.

Both North Tahoe and Truckee’s free night service programs were funded independently but meet at Northstar to connect the two areas. They are first-time programs and are currently running on a trial basis. If ridership is not good this season, Colyer said, it won’t be available again next year.

“I think what’s really gratifying is the whole community supporting … the transit service improvements,” said Steve Teshara, executive director of North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.

“Letting people know these services are available is really paying off,” he said.

In the next few months TART and the Town of Truckee will work on summer plans in an effort to provide more year-round services.

Additionally, the resort association wants to create a plan to improve transit shelters.

If more transportation opportunities exist, the accompanying infrastructure needs to support that growth, Teshara said. Such improvements would include making the shelters look better, more comfortable and keeping them shoveled from snow.