The Mountain Rides Transit Authority board is entertaining the idea of offering free bus fare with certain purchases from local businesses to advertise its service.

Called “transit validation,” the concept could be applied to Sun Valley Suns games, Baldy lift tickets or summer concerts, Hailey City Councilman and Mountain Rides board member Juan Martinez said at a board meeting last week.

If the program is rolled out, ticketholders could take the Valley Route for free on game or concert nights.

“Of course, right now with the way our system works, we’re not going to be able to move thousands of people out of River Run,” Martinez said. “But we can build [the program] to scale and increase our connectivity between valley towns.”

The still-conceptual transit rewards program could also extend to restaurants. Customers could find “free bus fare” vouchers on their receipts, for example, or redeem free items with the purchase of one-way or round-trip bus fare.

“In my mind, I’d be more incentivized to go to a restaurant knowing I could get a free drink or dessert,” Martinez said.

Board members agreed that a gamified program, like accumulating points at participating retailers, could be attractive to riders. Free offers could also encourage people to forgo their cars for the bus.

“I think it’s a very intriguing idea, and if it brings revenue into the organization, that’s just a cherry on top,” said Grant Gager, Ketchum finance director and Mountain Rides secretary.

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