TAHOE/TRUCKEE - While ridership numbers for the free North Tahoe-Truckee Coordinated Ski Shuttle are lower than expected, they are anticipated to rise substantially over the coming Presidents' Day week, officials said.
During the shuttle's first 23 days of service, 1,814 passengers - at an average operator cost of $47.83 per rider - were taken to and from various North Shore ski resorts by way of a five-bus fleet, averaging nearly 79 riders a day.
"I'd like to see double that," said Jan Colyer, executive director for the Truckee/North Tahoe Transportation Management Association, referring to the number of daily users.
The most popular route is Incline to Squaw Valley, which two of the five buses travel, Colyer said in a presentation to the TMA board Thursday. The first bus had a total ridership of 875 as of Feb. 3, putting the operating cost per passenger at $12.89. The second bus had 516 riders, making the per-passenger cost $22.35.
The less-popular routes are: Homewood to Squaw, with 230 riders as of Feb. 3, costing $122.74 per rider; Squaw to Northstar and back to Squaw, with 102 riders for $177.07 per rider; and Northstar-Squaw-Northstar, with 91 riders for $193.47.
"The standard that we always like to reach with a new program is between seven to 10 passengers per service hour," Colyer said. "I do not believe we're going to get close to that on three of the routes, perhaps on two of them we might."
The first Incline to Squaw bus averages 17 riders per service hour, while the second bus averages 10 riders. Homewood to Squaw averages 2 riders per service hour, while both Squaw to Northstar and Northstar to Squaw averages 1 rider.
Peak ridership times are in the afternoon, with a total of 1,204 afternoon riders, compared to 610 morning riders, as of Feb. 3.
"We're still analyzing why that is," Colyer said.
To help increase ridership, Colyer said more public outreach is being done in the form of social media, advertising, flyers and radio, all of which are within the shuttle program's updated budget of $245,346.
The shuttle program had its highest ridership during New Year's week, with numbers ranging from 81 riders on Jan. 1 to 127 on Jan. 3.
During Presidents' Day week, the shuttle service will run every day from Saturday, Feb. 16, to Sunday, Feb. 24, and riders will be asked to give feedback on the service.
"How can we better serve you next year is the bottom line," Colyer said.
Delays in pick-ups and some mechanical issues with the buses have occurred since the service started in late December, she said, but the "bugs" are being worked out.
"I think it's going pretty well in general," Colyer said. "We just need more people to know about it."
The free shuttle service will run to March 31 on weekends and holiday weeks only.
To learn more about the free North Tahoe-Truckee Coordinated Ski Shuttle and to view its route schedule, visit www.laketahoetransit.com/home and click the link on the front page at the top right.