A new federal grant will help people in the Wood River Valley get to non-emergency medical appointments in Twin Falls. It’s part of a larger vision to expand transportation in south central Idaho.
Mountain Rides, which operates daily routes from Bellevue to Sun Valley, received a $30,000 dollar grant from the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center. The money will allow the public transportation provider to test out a new route to Twin Falls starting in April.
“People are always trying to find someone to take them," said Kim MacPherson, the community development director at Mountain Rides, about people in the Wood River Valley needing transportation to Twin Falls, about an hour and a half south of Sun Valley.
"That person has to take the day off, and it ends up becoming a big deal,” she said.
The grant will make the round-trip route available twice a day, three days a week for eight weeks. The bus will start in Sun Valley and end at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Twin Falls.
The main goal of the grant is to bring people to non-emergency medical appointments, such as at the St. Luke’s Cancer Institute. About 20% of Blaine County’s population is 65 years of age or older, and MacPherson said it’ll make a difference for seniors who have regular appointments in Twin Falls.
But the initiative could help more people, too, because the bus won’t be limited to those seeking medical care. With additional stops at the Twin Falls Visitor Center, in Shoshone and south of Bellevue, the route could connect people in rural communities without public transportation — like Richfield, Fairfield and Carey — to Twin Falls.
MacPherson and the Mountain Rides team visited Lincoln County on Monday to scope out the interest in the pilot program.
“What we found out by going down there and reaching out to Lincoln County and Shoshone is that there is a need down there as well,” she said.
During the eight-week trial period, Mountain Rides will collect data on the usage of the service. To make it an option for longer would cost around $12,000 a month, so the agency is applying for local grants and asking for support from south central Idaho cities and counties.
Correction: This story originally said extending the bus service beyond the trial period would cost $10,000-$12,000 per week.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
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