After receiving a $30,000 grant from the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center in September, Mountain Rides Transportation Authority will be piloting a fixed-route bus service to Twin Falls for non-emergency medical transportation starting in April, the organization announced Wednesday.
The service will be geared toward older adults and people with disabilities in the Wood River Valley and surrounding areas, many of whom rely on regular rehabilitation, dialysis and cancer treatments in Twin Falls.
“We are fortunate that Mountain Rides has received this important grant,” Sun Valley Mayor Peter Hendricks—also a Mountain Rides board member—said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is a significant step in helping our citizens, especially our veterans, in receiving the necessary health care that they may need.”
The pilot bus route will resemble an express service with a limited number of stops and reduced travel time, Mountain Rides’ Mobility and Safe Routes Coordinator Cece Osborn told the Express in a Thursday email. A bus stop will be placed in Shoshone, with other stops added along Highway 75 and 93 for connections to Carey, Jerome and Gooding.
“We are partnering with other transportation services to connect people to and from the bus stops, their homes, and medical facilities in Twin Falls,” Osborn said.
Such partners include the Twin Falls-based Living Independence Network Corporation, the Senior Connection and St. Luke’s.
The pilot is projected to begin in April 2021, run three days a week and last for at least eight weeks. Mountain Rides Executive Director Wally Morgus said on Wednesday that the organization is currently pursuing opportunities to extend the pilot bus service into summer and fall 2021.
“It is important to give this pilot a fair shot at being successful,” he said. “In the transit world, it is widely accepted that pilots require at least 6 months to indicate whether or not they can be successful.”
In a non-pandemic scenario, the maximum seating capacity of the route would be 20-30 people, Osborn noted. Like all of Mountain Rides’ other bus routes, the service will run fare-free.
MRTA touts clean COVID record
In a discussion on Wednesday, Transit Operations Manager Stuart Gray reported that the organization has recorded zero cases of COVID-19 associated with its operations. Morgus said that could be partly attributed to its decision to seal off its buses’ cockpits from passenger areas.
Hendricks said Mountain Rides’ safety record spoke to its drivers’ off-duty conduct.
“This says a hell of a lot about the dedication of our drivers to act safely and accordingly when they are not behind the wheel,” he said. “COVID cases are blossoming right now because of home and family gatherings. Clearly, our employees are acting responsibly and being great citizens in their home environments—good on them.”
Mountain Rides continues to limit its passenger counts to 15, offer complimentary masks to passengers and deep-clean buses every day, Gray said, noting that “very few” people have been left behind by the 15-person cap.