Lake Link exceeds goal, discusses expansion

Lake Link launched Friday, July 22, offering free, on-demand rides to both locals and visitors daily 7am - 10pm.
Madison Schultz/Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Last month the local micro-transit service, Lake Link, celebrated one year in service while also celebrating “overwhelming” success, exceeding their original goals by more than 20K riders, equally distributed between locals and visitors. In one year 141,200 riders used the app-based transit service in South Lake Tahoe within its designated area. 

33% of all riders surveyed were locals, 33% were overnight visitors and the remainder answered as day trippers, or seasonal visitors/renters, according to survey results provided by Executive Manager for the South Shore Transportation Management Association’s Lake Link service, Raymond Suarez.

Suarez noted “roughly 28% of Lake Link users integrate TTD Fixed route and micro-transit,” suggesting there is further work needed to seamlessly integrate the two.

The service started with a limited service area at the heart of South Lake Tahoe and has since expanded into Douglas County, with current discussions with the board to expand to Round Hill Pines. 

Preliminary discussions with the city have begun for expansion toward the ‘Y’ as well.

“Everyone on the SSTMA board recognizes that and is working with the TTD on a short range transit plan that does a better job of making fixed route more frequent,” Suarez added and they’re looking at the bigger picture of transit. 

“It’s really about optimization from a value perspective, all modes of transportation are important; fixed route, micro-transit and van pools are all important to make travel more efficient and get people further distances,” Suarez said it’s a collaborative effort that requires multi-modal transportation solutions not just microtransit.

Suarez also acknowledged the hourly transit schedule is “not good enough”.

SSTMA is working with the Tahoe Transportation District, and Tahoe Regional Protection Agency, as well as the City of South Lake Tahoe in a collaborative effort to bring lasting change by expanding the service area.

Expanding too soon without sustainable funding could mean trouble for the service in the long term. 

“What we’re doing with the conversation with the TTD, TRPA, and the City is finding what’s the best way to expand. We affect people who take jobs if we’re not able to sustain it,” Suarez said a driver shortage also poses threats to sustaining larger service areas.

Preliminary discussions with the City of South Lake Tahoe have begun for expansion toward the ‘Y’ as well, according to Suarez.

Ongoing discussions are also being held at level of the Board of Supervisors for Douglas County and the board of Tahoe Transportation District to expand to Round Hill Pines. 

Suarez told the Tribune sustainable financing is the main challenge, with a smattering of other obstacles such as a shortage of qualified drivers.

“The federal/state pot of money isn’t getting any bigger so we have to figure out how to best leverage public and private funding options to deliver the best service possible,” Suarez said there are additional discussions about ways in which the transit system can not only expand but evolve to do, and be, better.

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