Officials for the Tahoe Transportation District say they hope that means they'll be able to come up with funding to continue the two-year pilot project next summer between Incline Village and Sand Harbor State Park a few miles south on state Highway 28.
A total of 14,652 passengers boarded the East Shore Express this summer, a 21 percent increase from last year's 12,155, district transit manager Curtis Garner said. He told the Sierra Sun (http://tinyurl.com/q66bepx) that the numbers are especially impressive because ridership was down by nearly two-thirds the final three weeks of operation as visitation dropped off due to the smoky haze in the basin from the wildfire near Yosemite National Park.
Garner attributes the success to more people becoming aware of the service and a new social media campaign that helps promote it.
The shuttle ran 70 days this year, averaging 209 riders per day. It operated on the last two weekends of June and then daily from June 29 to Sept. 3 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The buses run every 20 minutes. Roundtrip tickets are $3 for adults, $1.50 for seniors, the disabled and children ages 5 to 12. Kids under 5 ride free. The fare includes the entrance fee to the park that typically costs Nevadans $10 and out-of-staters $12.
In addition to easing traffic, Garner said the shuttle is intended to reduce air pollution and road runoff resulting from automobile traffic. He said he's optimistic the service will return next summer, although the funding remains up in the air.
"Too many agencies have too much invested in this to let it die on the vine," he said.
The service was initiated as a two-year pilot park-and-ride program prior to last summer as a partnership among the transportation district, U.S. Forest Service, Nevada Division of State Parks, Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Highway Patrol, Washoe County School District and others.
A Federal Transit Administration grant through NDOT funded 60 percent of the project that cost a total of about $200,000. The rest came from the Forest Service under the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act.
Garner said the transportation district estimates it would cost between $200,000 and $300,000 to operate the shuttle on an annual basis. He said it could eventually be expanded to Spooner Summit on U.S. Highway 50 and other East Shore beaches.