START wants to improve bus storage, maintenance
Lack of space is costing taxpayers money, director says.
By Cara Rank, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
June 30, 2010
If the START bus system is ever going to offer more routes around the valley, it needs more than $3 million to help fund new facilities near Karns Meadow, officials say.
Michael Wackerly, START director, said his agency is seeking $3.25 million in specific purpose excise tax money to pay for road construction, infrastructure and facility planning. Leaders hope a federal grant will pay for the new building.
When the project is complete, START and the town of Jackson’s public works maintenance facility would be located together.
“The biggest reason we need SPET is the fact that the buses are stored outside,” Wackerly said.
START began operating in 1998, transporting just shy of 200,000 people. Last year, it served 821,000 riders. Wackerly said that in 2009, START took 461,000 cars off the road and saved 95,000 gallons of fuel.
With that growth, START says it can no longer operate from its location in the town’s public works facility. The three bays are not enough to service all 27 vehicles. The department needs 15 bays to serve its fleet, which is estimated to grow to 40 buses by the third phase of construction.
The lack of space is costing taxpayers.
Buses are stored outside year-round. In winter, that means buses are started two to three hours before their first run so they can warm up. When temperatures reach minus 10 or colder, buses idle all night.
Idling uses about 7,790 gallons of fuel, which equals about 173,000 pounds of carbon emissions, he said.
“We’ve got $7.5 million worth of buses, and they are just sitting outside all winter,” Wackerly said.
A garage also would allow the department to use biodiesel year-round. Now, because buses are left outside, they can’t use biodiesel in winter because the fuel separates in cold temperatures, he said.
In 2008, voters awarded $2.5 million to START, which was used to purchase land.
The $3.25 million sought this year would pay for phase one of the project, which includes building a road from Snow King Avenue to the site, adjacent to Karns Meadow. That money also would pay to install utilities and do some environmental mitigation.
Finally, it would pay for designing the new facility and the permitting process. In phase two, START would construct the facility. In phase three, it would build a maintenance facility.