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Not such a nifty year for Tribune

For the first time since its inception, the Nifty “50” Trolley program this year had a decrease in riders over the previous season.

Changes, more-than-usual breakdowns and possibly a slow visitor season are among reasons transportation officials cite for the 12-percent decrease.

“It’s the first time we’ve had to look at a decrease over previous years,” said Dick Powers, executive director of the South Shore Transportation Management Association. “I don’t think there was any single reason why; it was an accumulation of many reasons. We will use the information gathered and hopefully get it back to where we want it.”



The Nifty “50” Trolley is a program that consists of a series of trolleys that carry visitors from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay.

Last year the program was operated for 81 days – June 19 to Sept. 7 – and there were 76,170 riders. This year, from June 18 to Sept. 12, the 82-day season had 61,649.




This year, however, Nifty “50” Trolleys started running two weeks earlier for the Renaissance Festival. Almost 11,000 riders were counted during that period.

The total number for the summer was 72,324, still below the 76,170 during the shortened 1998 season and barely above 72,302 from the 1997 season.

In the past, the “A” route consisted of two trolleys traveling in a loop from Stateline to the “Y” and then to Camp Richardson. Last year that route was often filled to capacity, so officials added a third trolley this year. The problem, however, was three vehicles meant a trolley would reach each stop every 40 minutes. Powers said that likely confused people when in the past trolleys have come along every hour. The “A” route was down 23 percent this year.

The other routes were up. The “B” route – up 1.7 percent – traveled from Zephyr Cove to Stateline and then to the Heavenly Ski Resort tram. The “C” route – up 13 percent – was a shuttle from Camp Richardson to Emerald Bay.

The cost of riding the trolley changed this year. Previously, the cost was $2 a day with a $1 charge for each time riders changed routes. The Emerald Bay shuttle was $2 a day.

This season the charge was $3 a day for use of the whole system. The transfer fees were eliminated.

Powers said he didn’t believe the price change hurt business. He heard no complaints all summer.

Other potential reasons for the ridership decrease include:

In past years, an extra trolley was available when the others broke down. By adding the extra vehicle to the “A” route, the program had no back-up trolley. And this year, for reasons unknown, there were more breakdowns than previous years. A normal van was often put in to replace broken-down trolleys, Powers said, but people were often less likely to ride those.

The total number of visitors coming to South Shore this year could have been low, too. Powers said most of the larger lodging properties have reported good seasons; the smaller and mid-sized ones haven’t been so fortunate.

“It just seemed like there weren’t as many people around this year,” he said.

Also for reasons unknown, the trolleys seemed to have more-than-typical problems being on time.

“We had some on-time issues this year that affected us more than they did in the past,” Powers said.

“These are things we can fix for next year,” he added. “We’ve learned some lessons from this.”

Nifty “50” Trolley riders

Year Riders

1994 21,432

1995 49,131

1996 58,812

1997 72,302

1998 76,170

1999 61,649


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