When it comes to getting around the North Tahoe and Truckee area, it is obvious that fewer vehicles on the road makes for a quicker and more hassle-free experience. With winter storms and weekend and holiday traffic choking local thoroughfares, residents and visitors alike are turning to microtransit options to keep traffic lean, reduce their impact on the environment, and quickly get where they need to go.
“Carpooling and taking shuttles is better for the environment and better for the traffic that we see in this area,” said Kat Walton, public relations coordinator at Palisades Tahoe.
The American Public Transportation Association says that microtransit solutions “improve the rider’s experience by operating small-scale, on-demand public transit services that can offer fixed routes and schedules, as well as flexible routes and on-demand scheduling.”
In addition to the typical resort shuttles that transport skiers and riders to and from parking lots, hotels, and town centers, public funding and nonprofits are enabling a blanket of microtransit options to be draped over the region, making connections between established routes more accessible.
TART Connect, a free, on-demand shuttle service, is currently in its third operational phase. The app-based service has seen steady interest since its launch last summer. In its first phase, from June 24 to Sept. 6, 2021, TART Connect transported 49,490 total passengers. Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents reported that they used the service for work. And 56% of users from that data were full-time residents of the Tahoe/Truckee region.
As with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, riders can request a shuttle by using a downloadable app. A shuttle will pick them up anywhere within their zone in as little as 15 to 20 minutes and take them anywhere within the zone.
Hubs between zones include Dollar Hill and Crystal Bay. Users in those vicinities can then utilize traditional TART services or other microtransit options. They can even request another TART Connect ride in the next zone. Additional zones are available on weekends and more details are available online at tahoetruckeetransit.com.
Sara Monson, executive director of the Truckee/North Tahoe Transportation Management Association, said TART Connect emerged as a need in the local public transportation system.
“Our mainline bus service can get you around North Lake Tahoe and Truckee. However, we were needing that first mile, last mile connection,” Monson said. “We want this to be a way to reduce cars on the road.”
TART Connect is funded by the Transient Occupancy Tax made available by the passage of the Truckee Tourism Business Improvement District.
Another free, app-based microtransit option, the Mountaineer shuttle, operates in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows. Owned and operated by Squaw Alpine Transit Company (SATCo), a nonprofit that includes the homeowners associations in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows, the Mountaineer began operations this ski season on Dec. 10 and will run through April 10. Its full schedule is available on the SATCo website.
The Mountaineer shuttle is funded by a 1% assessment on on-site lift ticket sales at Palisades Tahoe (which includes the Alpine Meadows side of the resort) and a 1% assessment on transient lodging and vacation rentals in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows.
Palisades Tahoe still operates its regular service shuttle between the areas of the resort daily, and TART now offers a free park and ride from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends from both Tahoe City and Truckee to Olympic Valley.
Diamond Peak’s shuttles, which take the resort’s guests to and from the Hyatt and to other stops in Incline Village, are funded by the Incline Village General Improvement District.
“We see [shuttles] as a service we provide to the community,” Paul Raymore, marketing manager for IVGID, said.
In addition to Diamond Peak’s shuttle service, IVGID runs a 55-plus senior transportation program in collaboration with Washoe County’s Regional Transportation Commission and the Nevada Department of Transportation. The Senior Shuttle can be booked by calling (775) 886-1020.
“We’re excited to see more and more transit options coming online,” Raymore said.
The many microtransit options are resulting in increasing connections in the region, making dependable and cost-effective, door-to-door transportation solutions realistic for North Tahoe residents and visitors.
“We really need ridership to continue to grow so that we’re getting more and more trips off of the road and we’re noticing a difference in traffic,” Monson said.
TART Connect zones and operational hours:
8 a.m. to midnight daily
Zone 1: Tahoe City/West Shore
Zone 2: Carnelian Bay/Cedar Flat/Tahoe Vista/Kings Beach/Brockway
Zone 3: Incline Village/Crystal Bay
5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Zone 4: Olympic Valley/Tahoe City
Zone 5: Northstar/Kings Beach
Download the Mountaineer Shuttle app at mountaineer.app.link/download
Download TART Connect’s app at tahoetruckeetransit.com/tart-connect-2