March 12th, 2021

Tonopah Westercon

Another One Rides the Bus

As many of you reading my journal should know by now, Tonopah has not had any form of scheduled public transportation service for some years now, and the one operator that announced a service during our bidding period turned out to be... sketchy at best. So when I saw this news story on a Tonopah local news group, I wasn't going to jump in head first, but instead started asking other people, especially those who were ready to consign us to the slag heap of fannish history, to make sure there weren't landmines I was not seeing. Initial signs are promising. Salt Lake Express appears to be a reputable, established operator, and the news article says this service is in partnership with the Nevada Department of Transportation.

I put in dates for July that would have matched the dates that Westercon 74 would have originally happened this year. Fares from Reno or Las Vegas to Tonopah are around $50-$55 one way. The service runs from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport to Tonopah (at the Tonopah Station Hotel on the south end of town) to Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and also serves the Greyhound bus stations at both Las Vegas and Reno and also the Reno Amtrak station. The schedule currently shown going to Tonopah is:

Lv Las Vegas (Airport) 3:05 PM
Ar Tonopah (Tonopah Station Hotel) 6:50 PM

Lv Reno (Greyhound) 3:00 PM
Ar Tonopah (Tonopah Station Hotel) 7:00 PM

It looks like the two services actually meet here at Tonopah with a scheduled 30 minute layover. Lisa and I speculate that the buses switch drivers in Tonopah so drivers go home every night rather than having to lay over at the opposite terminal. Arrival in Las Vegas is 11:15 PM and in Reno is 11:10 PM, so I reckon most people would need to lay over and leave the next day on any connecting service.

This could prove to be very much a game-changer for Westercon 74, as you won't necessarily have to drive yourself or form a carpool to get to Tonopah. On the other hand, such group trips are likely to be more interesting, because you can then explore the various side trips like the Nevada State Railroad Museum coming from the Reno area or the Extraterrestrial Highway coming from the Las Vegas area.

We're still more than a year away from Westercon 74, but I'm feeling much better about the convention now, especially if this new bus service proves successful.