Mountain Rides Transportation Authority could add several late-night trips on the Valley Route between Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey and Bellevue in the upcoming year, depending on the money provided by local governments for fiscal 2020.
The agency’s board of directors met Wednesday afternoon to discuss options for its upcoming budget year, and wants to present the cities of Ketchum, Hailey, Sun Valley and Bellevue and Blaine County with a range of funding amounts.
For example, if Ketchum provided $704,500, Mountain Rides would add two weekend nights of service on the Valley Route, plus a summer Silver Route that would run between Baldy View Circle and the River Run base area. The late-night trips on the Valley Route would be at 1 a.m. and would occur on Friday and Saturday nights, or on Saturday and Sunday nights.
If the city supplied $745,800, then Mountain Rides would run that late-night trip every night of the week, according to an agency staff report. It could also provide $686,400 and keep the current service levels.
The options were also presented to Hailey, Sun Valley and Bellevue. Sun Valley could supply $352,500 and secure the summer Silver Route and two weekend late-night trips on the Valley Route. It could spend $389,400 for seven nights of that late-night trip each week. Or it could spend $342,100 to maintain current levels.
Hailey could spend $84,700 to add the weekend late-night service on the Valley Route, $91,000 for seven nights a week or $82,000 to maintain current service. Bellevue’s options include spending $6,500 for late-night weekend service, $8,300 for seven nights a week and $6,300 to maintain current levels.
The funding request to Blaine County is $185,000 and doesn’t include the range of options, according to the staff report.
The cities and the county will be setting their fiscal 2020 budgets over the summer to begin on Oct. 1.
Representing Hailey, board member Jim Finch questioned the benefits of adding more late-night service, relative to its additional cost.
“Why are we focusing on night service?” Finch asked. “In our strategic plan, we’re looking for 30-minute frequency for peak service. That’s a significant cost.”
Board member Grant Gager, representing Ketchum, responded that the late-night service is important for workers in restaurants and bars in the north valley who need to commute south to their homes in Hailey or Bellevue at the end of their shifts.
He said that frequently, employers or managers need to drive their employees south at the end of the shift.
“We are an increasingly late-night service economy,” he said. “We have a gap in the late-night service. [The workers] don’t have another option.”
Board member Rick Webking, representing Sun Valley, said the late-night service is worth the cost.
“It seems like a rather insignificant increase in cost for that increase in service,” Webking said. “I hear people asking for this kind of thing.”
Board member Tom Blanchard, representing Bellevue, said the board should gauge the effectiveness of the late-night trips’ ability to garner ridership, if the cities supply the extra funding.
“We’re concentrating our money in a lower-ridership market,” Blanchard said.
In a unanimous vote, the board approved an $18,000 contract with Fonnesbeck Electric Bus Solutions of Sandy, Ore. The firm will make recommendations for transitioning Mountain Rides’ fleet of buses to alternative fuels that result in low- or no-emissions operations, such as electric buses.