New on-demand transit service increases ridership by 20%
AUBURN, Calif. -- On-demand transit service in eastern Placer County is receiving high marks for its performance and is viewed as a major reason why the Tahoe Truckee Area Regional Transportation service has seen a 20% increase in ridership over pre-COVID numbers.
Since June 2021, the app-based microtransit service known as TART Connect has been providing point-to-point service within three lakeside zones from Crystal Bay and Incline Village on the north shore all the way to Sugar Pine Point on the west shore. TART Connect also operates two limited-service zones to resort destinations in both Olympic Valley and Northstar.
In both Placer and Washoe counties, the pilot service provided a total of 211,000 rides in its first year of operation and of those rides, 125,792 were taken in Placer County. The average wait time was 12 minutes during peak season service, which is three minutes less than the service goal of 15 minutes. Passengers in all zones rated their experience 4.92 stars out of 5 stars.
According to data collected by the TART Connect app, nearly 60% of all trips were completed by residents and 40% of the rides were taken by visitors. The data also indicate that passengers are using the service to get to work 54% of the time with the remaining 46% of the rides dedicated to recreational trips.
“Given the high price of gas and the public's interest in protecting our environment, I am pleased to hear that our residents are taking advantage of this free transportation service,” said District 5 Supervisor and Board Chair Cindy Gustafson. “I am not surprised by the excellent reviews. I regularly hear from residents who share that they use the service and think it’s great!”
The data also suggests that 78% of passengers have used the fixed-route service in conjunction with the microtransit service to reach their destination, leaving transit industry professionals to conclude that the service is being used to solve transportation challenges related to the first and last mile.
“Transit-dependent passengers are now more easily able to reach our fixed-route service,” said Placer County Transit Manager Jaime Wright. “We also learned that it’s critical to keep our zones small so that residents can travel within a zone quickly and easily connect with our fixed-route service if they are looking to take a longer trip around the lake.”
Within the three lakeside zones, the average trip is between 2 and 4 miles long, while the service to resort destinations within Olympic Valley and Northstar tends to be on average 8 miles long.
TART Connect is free to passengers and is funded 100% with revenue raised by the transient occupancy lodging tax. The average cost per ride is $15.39 but Wright anticipates that price tag will go down when ride-sharing increases.
During the first year of service, the average number of rides shared in Placer County ranged between 33% and 39%, depending on the zone. County officials would like to see at least 50% of the rides shared with a goal of 70% as TART Connect matures. Increased ride-sharing will also help to reduce vehicle miles traveled, which is a major environmental goal of the service.
TART Connect plans to implement advanced booking technology in the months ahead to allow passengers to make early reservations with advanced pickup times to provide more certainty for traveling to scheduled appointments and dinner reservations. The TART Connect App will also be implementing real-time tracking of its fixed-route service in the year ahead, which will allow patrons to make travel arrangements that coordinate with both fixed route and microtransit services.
In June, the Placer County Board of Supervisors authorized funding for another year of service in Placer County and most recently, the Town of Truckee decided to fund TART Connect for the summer season, which began June 25 and will continue until the end of Labor Day weekend.
TART Connect’s schedule is broken into peak and non-peak categories with lakeside zones operating from 8 a.m. until midnight during the peak winter and summer seasons and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. during the fall and spring. Service for the peak-season resort zones operates from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. For more scheduling information visit https://tahoetruckeetransit.com.