Public Transportation Pilot Project Is Extended In South Central Idaho
A pilot project for a new public bus route in south central Idaho just received more funding, allowing it to continue into next year.
Mountain Rides, a free public bus service in the Wood River Valley, started a trip to Twin Falls three days a week in April thanks to a federal grant. The goal was to help seniors in Blaine County get to medical appointments an hour and a half south in Twin Falls.
One Wood River Valley woman frequently takes the bus to visit her mom, who's undergoing cancer treatment at St. Luke's Magic Valley, said Kim MacPherson, the community development director at Mountain Rides.
In the first three months, there have been about 150 riders. Anyone can take the bus — not just people going to appointments.
Users live in both the Wood River Valley and the Magic Valley, and they're seeking out public transportation for a variety of purposes.
“I took a call from a guy in Twin," MacPherson said. "He wanted to come up to visit his mom up here so he put his bike on the bus and he’s going to stay for a couple days and take our bus back down to Twin.”
She said international employees from Sun Valley Resort even took the bus down to Twin Falls to sort out some of their important employment documents.
The Twin Falls pilot route will continue through April of next year because of grants from the St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation, the St. Luke's Magic Valley Community Health Improvement Fund and the Spur Foundation.
"You really do need a longer time period to assess how the route is going," MacPherson said.
The twice-a-day fixed route has some new stops in Twin Falls, too. The bus will stop at the Target parking lot on request and an additional medical office building.
Mountain Rides will apply for federal grants in the future and needs to keep rider numbers up to show there’s a need for this public transportation option. In the long run, the organization wants to offer daily options for commuters to get between the Magic Valley and the Wood River Valley.
MacPherson said a more regular bus schedule could help ease some of the burden on the Wood River Valley's housing crisis.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio