Carson City-Minden/Gardnerville bus route funded for another year
A bus route that connects Carson City to Lake Tahoe via Carson Valley received funding needed for another year, but its future remains uncertain.
The Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) is getting about $1.6 million in funding from the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) for its 19x bus route, which runs between Carson City and Minden/Gardnerville, where riders can catch a 20x route bus that goes to South Lake Tahoe.
In late 2016, TTD’s 21x route, which was a direct connection between Carson City and the lake, ceased to operate after funding for it dried up. The money funding it is for rural bus routes and the Lake Tahoe district was re-designated as a metropolitan planning organization. The same money funds the 19x route, but that route primarily serves Douglas County, a rural area, so it’s still eligible.
George Fink, transit system program manager, TTD, told the Carson Area Metropolitan Planning Organization on Wednesday TTD is looking to readjust its system.
“We have run into a declining ability to retain licensed operators and mechanics. And there is a lack of capital funding to replace our fleet. Fifty percent of our fleet is beyond its useful life,” said Fink.
But, he said public comment indicated riders want to maintain the 19x route. That route has annual ridership of about 8,000 while the 20x ridership is 27,000. The now defunct 21x route that took passengers from Carson City directly to the lake had annual ridership of 35,000, he said.
Sondra Rosenberg, the NDOT representative on CAMPO, encouraged TTD and other districts to start looking for alternative funding sources.
NDOT receives a set amount from the federal government annually and over the years was able to build up a reserve when rural areas didn’t apply for all the funds. Those reserves are about exhausted so the amount of available money will drop. The grants are competitive and riders in some rural areas rely on bus routes for healthcare and other essential services, so they’ll likely get priority.
Supervisor Lori Bagwell, who sits on the CAMPO and Regional Transportation Commission, asked if the casinos had been approached to help. Many of the riders live in Carson City or Carson Valley and work at a business in Lake Tahoe.
“It’s been clear there is no interest in direct support. They do buy passes for their employees,” said Fink. “It was not for lack of asking.”