Friday, October 2, 2009

Hailey bus service on track for 2010

Mountain Rides plans Twin Falls route spring opening


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

A Mountain Rides valley service bus cruises through downtown Hailey. The organization plans to have town bus service up and running in Hailey by February. Photo by David N. Seelig

Mountain Rides Transportation Authority plans to have "around town" bus service in operation in Hailey early next year.

"It's a go," Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said Wednesday. "Up and running February 2010—that's the goal right now."

Miller said it's expected that the service will be free, as is "town" service provided by Mountain Rides in Ketchum and Sun Valley.

"That's the thought at this point," Miller said. "The city has endorsed this in a big way—they endorse the free concept."

Mountain Rides is in the process of purchasing a 20-passenger bus for Hailey town service from the $1.6 million in federal economic stimulus funding the organization received for new bus purchases and old bus replacement.

Funding to get the Hailey service up and running is coming from a $167,000 grant from the Federal Transit Authority and matching funds from the city of Hailey.

Routes and timetables have yet to be decided. Miller said a series of public meetings is being planned to receive public input. However, he said the route will likely link major activity centers, such as the Community Campus, Senior Connection, the downtown area and a new clinic being built by St. Luke's hospital on Airport Way.

Routes will also be linked and coordinated with Mountain Rides' valley service, which runs daily from Bellevue to Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Miller said he expects that the service will be widely used, basing his prediction on free ridership in Hailey already available with the valley service. Riders who get on valley buses within the city and get off within the city are currently not charged.

Miller said when the free city service started about two years ago, 300-400 riders per month used the service. Now about 2,200 riders per month are taking advantage of free Hailey rides.

"Our existing bus has almost acted as a Hailey circulator, but it has a limited route," he said.

Overall ridership throughout the entire Mountain Rides system is about level with last year, Miller said. Mountain Rides recorded 380,000 rides 2008 and has recorded 262,813 rides from January through August of 2009.

Twin Falls service

Mountain Rides is also working toward establishing bus service connecting Twin Falls with the Wood River Valley.

Miller said he expects the service to be in place by March or April. Start-up funds for the service were provided by a $240,000 grant from the Federal Transit Authority.

Miller said the organization plans to start with one bus making a daily round trip and later expanding to two.

He said the single-trip price will likely be about $10.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com






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