Lake Link forecasted to service 120,000 in 1st year

A Lake Link vehicle has extended seating and bike rack.
Bill Rozak/Tahoe Daily Tribune

STATELINE, Nev. — Lake Link is forecasted to serve 120,000 people in its first year, said Raymond Suarez, project manager and executive director of South Shore Transit Management.

The South Shore microtransit application has been operating since July 22 thanks to the funding from 20 organizations, businesses, and agencies like Keep Tahoe Blue League to Save Lake Tahoe, city of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, among others. 

Recently, the Lake Link Board of Directors approved the addition of a fifth vehicle to the fleet and Suarez told the Tribune conversations have begun regarding expansion of the service area, all within six months from its launch date.

“We had immediate success from the start, carrying up to 500 people daily with wait times averaging 15 minutes,” Suarez said. “We’re just getting started.”

Suarez added Lake Link is part of a basin-wide plan.

“It’s part of an intermodal mobility plan we’re working towards,” he said. “It’s not easy to put in roads, it’s much easier to create more forms of mobility.” 

The intermodal mobility plan Suarez references is Linking Tahoe; Explore Tahoe by foot, bus, bike or water.

With continued snowfall bikes and scooters are no longer options which puts more pressure on other transit systems.

“Lack of alternative public microtransit has led to an increase in ridership,” Suarez said after a slight dip in ridership in the fall of 2022. 

Not only tourists are benefiting from the service. Many people who live, work and play within the zone have opted in.

Lake Link is providing approximately 400 rides per day with an increase in wait times to 20 minutes due to inclement weather and traffic adding time.

Coming in the new year Suarez said he will be focused on finding additional funding sources to enable expansion of the service area and capacity. 

While the program doesn’t have a long term dedicated funding source, the new event center, Tahoe Blue Center, is expected to provide considerable contributions but it is not expected to fund it in its entirety. 

Douglas County initially was expected to help fund the program but have commissioners have not yet committed.

“There are ongoing conversations with the Douglas County Commissioners regarding funding,” Suarez said. “I believe the next conversation is planned for early February.”

The League has provided $100,000 of funding while also volunteering work hours for support and promotion. The League’s passion for the lake drives their support for Lake Link.

Gavin Feiger, The League’s senior land use policy analyst, said, “Endless traffic crushes Tahoe’s roads into fine dust and debris that flow into the lake, damaging its water clarity. Tailpipe emissions fuel climate change, which exacerbates all the environmental challenges facing Tahoe. As part of our mission to combat transportation-related pollution, we focus on reducing reliance on the private car by creating data-based, lake-friendly transportation alternatives.” 

Local businesses are encouraged to contact Suarez to discuss rallying support if so driven. An increase in funding would help to keep rides free within the service area. Community members can also show support by contacting officials and encouraging them to continue supporting the program.

Suarez said, “I’m just really excited to be a part of it, it’s not often you see what makes the fabric of the community: the city, the county higher education health care tourism board, hotels, and private businesses including entertainment, all come together to be a part of this service.”

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