Friday, October 18, 2013

Mountain Rides to cut bus services

Approved plan shows 5 percent reduction in service hours

Express Staff Writer

Members of the “Red Route Bus Buddies” praised Mountain Rides Transportation Authority on Wednesday for not reducing service to the Red Route, which connects south Elkhorn to Ketchum by way of River Run Plaza. Bus Buddy Dave Galloway, a part-time resident from the Puget Sound area of Washington, is shown here boarding a bus in 2011.

   Faced with declining federal funding, the Mountain Rides Transportation Authority board of directors on Wednesday approved a service plan with a 5 percent reduction in bus services for fiscal year 2014.
    The new plan reduces total bus operation hours from 28,030 in FY13 to 26,000 for FY14.
    The service changes will not go into effect until Thanksgiving weekend starts on Thursday, Nov. 28.
    The plan maintains a comparable level of service for the organization’s most popular bus routes, but shows reductions for routes with lower ridership.
    The largest cut is to the Green Route, a service in the west Ketchum area, which will be reduced from the 2,850 hours it had for FY13 to 2,000 hours for FY14. Bus service on the Green Route will start later and end earlier and will be eliminated altogether at midday.
    “We’d love to run a Green Route all day long, but something has to give,” said Mountain Rides Operations Manager Jim Finch in response to questions from the board.
    Also showing reduced service is the Bronze Route, a seasonal service that shuttles skiers from Sun Valley to the Warm Springs base of Bald Mountain. Instead of 750 hours, the service will have only 500.
    The Red Route, which connects the south Elkhorn area to Ketchum and serves River Run Plaza, will remain the same at 2,800 hours but will shift service slightly for later skier service. Bus service on the route was reduced last year to eliminate operation altogether during fall and spring slack tourist times.
    The Red Route has been popular, mainly with part-time Elkhorn residents, for access to the ski slopes. Some of the regular riders during ski season have informally organized as a social group, calling themselves the “Red Route Bus Buddies.”
    Three members of the group attended Wednesday’s meeting to thank Mountain Rides for maintaining the service.
    “You do hear from us when we have complaints, so we did have to come to tell you thanks,” said Dave Galloway. “I just wanted to thank you for retaining the winter hours. We move a lot of people and it’s a good service.”
    “Thank you, we have a good partnership here,” said Ken Viafore.
    “We do appreciate the efforts you’ve made because we have 1,500 homeowners out there and some of them ride the bus and some of them don’t,” said Cara Viafore.
    The new service plan also maintains the same level of service for the Blue Route, which serves the Ketchum and Sun Valley area, the Hailey Circulator Route, which serves the city of Hailey, and the Silver Route, a seasonal service that is mainly used to shuttle skiers from Sun Valley to River Run Plaza.
    The Valley Route, which runs between Bellevue and the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, will have minor service reduction, going from 9,000 hours in FY13 to 8,600 hours in FY14. Eliminated from the service will be one midday southbound trip and one midday northbound trip.
    All routes are free for riders, with the exception of the Valley Route. Fares vary, depending upon how far a passenger travels on the system, with the maximum fare being $4 for a one-way trip between Bellevue and the Ketchum-Sun Valley area.
    The Mountain Rides board of directors in September approved a $2.4 million operating budget for FY14, an amount $20,000 lower than the operating budget for FY13. With reductions and uncertainties in future funding from the Federal Transit Administration, Mountain Rides has been implanting money-saving service changes for the past year.
Terry Smith:

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