A transit system for Highway 395 is moving along, putting the state a step closer to connecting the region with buses.
The new transit program has been in planning stages since spring of 1999. Recently the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission teamed up to fund and oversee the portion of the transit system between Washoe and Douglas counties. Both Carson City and Douglas County have supervisory roles in the plan to provide public transportation between the three counties.
When the transit system opens it will enable small urban and rural residents to access health care, shopping, employment, recreation and other public services as well as provide commuting potential between the counties.
Sandi McGrew, state transit coordinator, said she hoped the system would be up and running by June 1. The program was to be running in February, but several snags held the project up, she said, including a personal illness.
She said the state is getting ready to bid routes along both Highway 395 and Highway 50. The state will run the Highway 50 corridor which will connect Virginia City and Lyon County from Silver Springs to Dayton to Carson City. Washoe County will administer the Highway 395 program.
Dave Jickling, public transportation principle planner for Washoe County RTC, said Washoe has always considered the Highway 395 corridor as a way to expand services. He said he gets several calls a week requesting a route between the capital and Douglas and Washoe counties.
Washoe County began working with the state on the program in early 1999, and Jickling said as the system took shape he realized the Washoe should take a bigger role in the program.
"Anyone coming in from the rural areas on transit will need to have a way to get around," he said. "Clearly, they need to connect to our system. We felt the success of the new system hinged on being able to connect to our system.
"Another key to the success to this system is the quality. The key to quality requires a great deal of oversight. When you look at the active participants, the state, Douglas and Carson City, it became obvious that none of them are quite equipped the way we are to track and monitor this type of service. We really feel bringing our expertise into the system will ensure its success."
McGrew agreed that giving Washoe County a higher role was a benefit.
"They already manage a transit program and have the expertise to do this," she said. "They're bringing money to the table, and we have their expertise."
The state received $840,000 federal money to be used over two years as part of the federal welfare-to-work program, and Washoe County will kick in $100,000 of congestion, mitigation and air quality money.
The transit system will be open to everyone even though the bread and butter of the system will be commuters and transporting those without means to get to an area where they work or can find work.
Backers say it would reduce pollution, ease the stress of driving and would help reduce the number of vehicles on the highway both for people who live in Reno but work in Carson City or vice versa or for residents to the south who want to go to Reno to shop.
Routes for the buses aren't finalized, Jickling said, but buses will run almost hourly from 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.Fares will be $3 one-way between Reno and Carson City and $2 from Douglas County to Carson City, McGrew said.
While McGrew is optimistic about the June start date, Jickling said he thought a July date was more feasible.
"It is not as simple as people think to get a service of this nature up and running," he said. "When it starts, we don't want it to have any problems."
The state-funded transit routes in Elko and Fallon are both highly successful, McGrew said. The Elko system is giving 2,000 rides a month and Fallon's is doing 1,000 rides a month.