A new regional bus system, one busy week into a Reno-Carson route, is expected to extend to Lyon and Douglas counties in three months.
Since its inaugural run Monday, PRIDE buses have attracted more riders each successive day. The first day had 256 riders, with 330 people hopping aboard on Tuesday, 342 on Wednesday and 352 on Thursday.
Riders have one more week to ride the bus for free before a $3 one-way fare goes into effect Aug. 28. Seniors pay $1.50 and youths $2.
PRIDE expects to have buses running to Minden/Gardnerville, Dayton-Stagecoach-Silver Springs, Fallon and Fernley within 90 days, said Sandi Stanio, the state transit planner.
"When this system is all in place, you can leave Carson City and go anywhere," Stanio said.
Carson City and state officials, along with the Carson City Area Chamber of Commerce's Ambassadors, celebrated the first week of service Friday with a ribbon cutting at the bus's Nevada Supreme Court stop.
"This type of service is always in demand," said state Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, Nevada's longest serving legislator and the senator who sponsored Senate Bill 415, which furnished the $300,000 in federal funding for PRIDE. "You never know until you live in a rural area what's missing."
Jacobsen remembers growing up in Gardnerville in the horse and buggy days and the era of a one-ton truck and gurney serving as an ambulance. Jacobsen stressed that people living in the region must support the bus service for it to survive.
But he really had cantaloupes on his mind. The melon is in season, he reminded those in attendance.
"Wouldn't it be nice to jump on a bus and take a ride to Fallon and buy some cantaloupe that are locally raised?" Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen, however, made sure to credit John Amundson, without whom PRIDE likely would never have come into existence. Amundson is the legislative chairman of the Nevada Silver Haired Legislative Forum, formed by the Legislature in 1997 to get direct input from senior citizens.
"What we found out was that one of the critical needs in rural areas as there is no transportation," Amundson said. "The message really was you could go to some places like Pahrump and Tonopah and there was no way for seniors to get to the doctor or dentist or go shopping and go to school."
Amundson credited Jacobsen with holding his cards close to his chest to secure success for the bill.
"Jake wrote a bill draft request that was known as a mystery BDR because nobody knew what it was about," Amundson said.
It was about funding for rural transportation for senior citizens and the disabled. But the Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission and Nevada Department of Transportation, which administer PRIDE, have marketed the bus system as a commuter service for employees.
So far, though, seniors seem to outnumber commuters as riders. PRIDE should also open doors for the disabled, said Maynard Yasmer, administrator of the state Rehabilitation Division within the employment department.
"It's necessary to get disabled people to work to make a better community for everyone," said Yasmer, who has lived with polio since 1952.
Jacobsen and Carson City Supervisor Robin Williamson both look at PRIDE as an example of the region joining together.
"We talk all about regionalizing and working together," Williamson said. "This is an extension of all those ideas. If we talk about comprehensive transportation planning, we need transit as part of the puzzle."
Jacobsen said, "We share a lot of services. We share fire, police, juvenile services. I think we're accustomed to sharing and more important to caring."
Buses leave Monday to Friday on Clearview at Wal-Mart at 5:30 a.m., 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.
PRIDE has only two stops in Reno: at Meadowood and in front of the National Bowling Stadium at Fourth and Center streets. The Meadowood stop is the shelter farthest from JC Penney at the Citifare transfer facility in the south parking lot.
The Carson City stops are at the following locations, each marked with a white-and-blue PRIDE sign:
-- Clearview Drive at Wal-Mart
-- Koontz Lane near Raley's
-- Stewart Street, northbound in front of Nevada Department of Transportation, southbound at the Carson Mall
-- Stewart Street at the Nevada Supreme Court
-- Robinson Street at the Carson Nugget
-- North Carson Street, northbound in front of Safeway, southbound across the street
-- North Carson Street at College Parkway, northbound in front of JM Furniture, southbound 200 feet south of College Parkway.
People may find their own way to a bus stop or get a free ride from Carson City Community Transportation. To make use of the shuttle service from home, riders must call 887-2323 at least 24 hours in advance and schedule a pickup.