Tribune tests success of TART Connect

Laney Griffo
The TART Connect is currently running its fall pilot program.

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Transportation has been on the mind of Tahoe visitors and locals for many years, decades even. Several programs have failed but this last summer saw a huge success with the TART Connect on the North Shore.

So, the Tribune, along with employees of the League to Save Lake Tahoe decided to spend an evening riding the micro transit buses to see what makes it such a success.

TART Connect is a network of vans that can pick up riders and drop them off anywhere within the zone. There are three zones, Zone 1 is Tahoe City, Zone 2 is Kings Beach and Zone 3 is Incline Village and Crystal Bay.

The Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau funded the initial summer pilot program on the north shore Nevada zone and also committed funds for the fall program. Other partners included the Tahoe Transportation District, Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association, and Downtowner as the operator.

While transportation funding isn’t a normal service IVCBVB provides, President Andy Chapman saw no one stepping up to fund this pilot program and felt it was an important service.

“It was wildly successful across all three zones,” Chapman said.

Half of the riders were in the Incline Village, Crystal Bay zone. About 50% of all riders were residents, the second largest ridership group were second homeowners and about 15-20% were visitors.

“That’s a group we’d like to see more of,” Chapman said, adding that its hard to break people from the habit of driving their cars.

During our test run, we used the TART Connect app to have a ride pick us up from Alibi. The app was incredibly easy to use. It asked where we were being picked up and dropped off, as well as the number of riders in our group.

The van picked us up within five minutes and took us to Tunnel Creek Cafe.

Immediately, our van driver, Todd Young, shared how much he enjoyed his job. Without prompting, he told us how much fun he had, how much people seemed to enjoy the service and how easy it was for both operators and passengers.

After the success of the summer pilot, IVCBVB agreed to fund a fall pilot program as long as they weren’t the sole funders. The program runs from 6 to 10 p.m. each evening.

After being dropped off at Tunnel Creek, we walked on the bike path for a while then requested another ride. There was a hiccup when our location sharing told the driver to pick us up in the woods. Luckily, the app also allows you to type in an exact address to avoid mishaps like ours.

Young picked us up again, along with two Hyatt employees on their way home.

He told us that over the summer, because the vans have bike racks, that many people used the service to get to the trails. He said he was excited to see what the winter looks like, with people bringing on their skis and snowboards.

There will be an additional pilot program for the winter which launches on Dec. 9.

The League helped fund the fall program and they are interested in bringing the program to South Lake Tahoe as well.

Several years ago, they helped fund the Chariot pilot program that ended up not being successful.

“That’s why you do pilot programs though, to see what works and what doesn’t,” Chapman said.

After using the program, the Tribune thinks its a huge success and should be tried in South Lake.

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