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The Valley County Sheriff's Office is initiating evacation stages in areas near the Four Corners fire as it continues to scorch more than 5,500 acres.

Twin Falls explores microtransit program as city grows

Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls from below.
Rachel Cohen
Boise State Public Radio
After the 2020 census, Twin Falls is estimated to have more than 50,000 people, putting it over the threshold for a federally-designated urban area.

The Twin Falls city population crested above 50,000 in the 2020 census, making it a federally-designated urban area.

The official census results, set to be certified early next year, require the forming of a Metropolitan Planning Organization, or an MPO, to oversee transit in the Twin Falls area.

Crossing the population threshold also means the city needs a plan for public transportation.

A study commissioned by the Idaho Transportation Department found a regular bus route might not be the best option for Twin Falls, according to Mandi Thompson, the assistant to the city manager.

“A traditional fixed route system in Twin Falls would not be effective and we would likely have empty busses driving around Twin Falls," she told city council members.

Public transportation options in Twin Falls, at the moment, are limited. A small bus service, operated out of the College of Southern Idaho, has been around for a few decades.

It primarily serves seniors and people with disabilities, and only on weekdays. In the past six months, ridership has slowed to fewer than 600 rides per month. And the program, called Trans IV, is set to sunset in September as Twin Falls moves into the urban area category.

That leaves the city trying to figure out which direction to go next.

Thompson shared at this week's council meeting that ITD recently approached with an opportunity: a pilot program for “microtransit” funded by federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

Thompson said the concept is like Lyft or Uber — an on-demand form of public transportation that someone could order through an app, website, or call center, with an effort to group rides together.

"So we have a very defined service area, set service hours that are characterized by, really, whatever we deem important," said Thompson, "whether it's helping people get to work, helping people get to the hospital, to the doctor's appointments, grocery shopping."

A microtransit program recently took off in Idaho Falls, with help from ITD, so Twin Falls is monitoring how it’s going there and could propose something similar for a pilot.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.