Lakewide transit scrapped
Officials point to low shuttle ridership and rising costs
By Gregory Crofton
Tribune staff writer
A lack of passengers and rising transit costs prompted officials to shut down a trolley route that linked the North and South shores.
It costs about $30,000 a summer to operate a trolley between Emerald Bay and Sugar Pine Point, which has connections to Tahoe City. Officials decided the money would be better spent on the most traveled route, which runs from Squaw to Tahoe City to Crystal Bay.
“The ridership just wasn’t there,” said Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. “With the dollars we have, it made more sense to concentrate service on the corridor where ridership exists.”
Statistics show that the Emerald Bay-Sugar Pine shuttle, which operated for five years, only served about three people an hour. The Squaw to Crystal Bay route averages about 12 riders per hour, according to Jennifer Merchant, executive director for the Truckee-Tahoe Transportation Management Association.
The number of riders who take the Nifty “50” Trolley, which runs from South Shore to Emerald Bay, is not likely to be affected by the change in service.
“The ridership over the years has been very, very minimal,” said Ken Daley, president of Area Transit Management, which operates the Nifty “50” Trolley. “I don’t have an exact number but it had maybe 15 or 20 riders over the entire season.”
The few people who did use the Sugar Pine-Emerald Bay shuttle were hikers, said Steve Grover, supervisor for Tahoe Area Regional Transit. Transit officials said they had envisioned the West Shore shuttle service helping to alleviate the congestion and parking problems at Emerald Bay during the summer. They also said they were eager to connect the North and South shores with public transit.
“People who don’t ride are really hard to talk to,” Merchant said. “But I think it’s a really good guess to say that it’s too long of a trip.”
The escalating cost of operating the shuttle, which increased about 45 percent over the last two years, was also a determining factor in the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association’s decision to shut down the shuttle.
“The same amount of money doesn’t go as far as it used to,” Merchant said. “Workers’ comp, insurance, fuel – all the operational costs for transit are more expensive now.”
The West Shore isn’t the only shore that failed to support a North-South transit link. Merchant said that several years ago a shuttle service project on the East Shore fizzled after a couple of months.
– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org