The East Shore Express saw a significant increase in ridership this summer.
In its second year, the shuttle transported 14,652 passengers to and from Incline Village to Sand Harbor State Park on the East Shore, a 21 percent increase from last summer’s 12,155 riders, said Curtis Garner, transit manager for the Tahoe Transportation District.
The service ran 70 days this year, which averages to 209 riders per day.
Garner attributed the increase in part to people being more aware of the service, helped by launch of a new social media campaign this summer.
The statistics are encouraging, he said, considering ridership was down almost 65 percent for the final 22 days of operation, believed to be a result of heavy smoke in the area from the Rim fire near Yosemite.
When asked of the likelihood of the service returning next summer, Garner said he is “optimistic.”
“Too many agencies have too much invested in this to let it die on the vine,” he said.
The service was initiated as a two-year pilot park-and-ride program prior to last summer as a partnership among TTD, U.S. Forest Service, Nevada Division of State Parks, Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Highway Patrol, Washoe County School District and others.
A Federal Transit Administration grant through NDOT funded 60 percent of the project, with the rest coming from USFS under the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act.
Since SNPLMA money is drying up, a new funding source is needed for the service to continue, Garner said.
Also unclear is how much the FTA grant may fund the program.
Depending on available money and levels of service, TTD anticipates the East Shore Express costing between $200,000 and $300,000 annually, Garner said.
Should it return, its Sand Harbor service will be “roughly similar” to this past summer, Garner said, with a vision of extending service to Spooner Summit to serve other East Shore beaches.
The East Shore Express is part of an effort to improve safety along Highway 28 and mitigate environmental impacts to Lake Tahoe caused by transit.