The number of riders taking the bus between town and Teton Village increased 23.5% this summer after Teton County doubled the frequency of its service.
Passenger trips totaled 63,290 from July 15 to Sept. 29, according to START. Doubling summer service meant buses ran on the half hour rather than on the hour, as in past summers. START Director Darren Brugmann said the increase beat expectations and demonstrates the need for continuing to improve transit service.
“Even though our vehicles must wait in the congestion at peak times of the day, more passenger trips were taken with our expanded service,” Brugmann wrote in an email. The bump in riders “shows the support of this community to choose alternative modes of transportation when service is offered and improved.”
Teton County commissioners opted to pay the full $52,000 cost of a pilot program that increased green line trips from May 25 through June 30. Commissioners then authorized $124,000 to expand the service for the rest of the summer.
The Jackson Town Council decided not to contribute, citing a lack of funds.
“Given our priorities and the constraints of the town budget, as well as the uncertainties regarding how much the entities at Teton Village should contribute, we couldn’t justify paying for the additional bus service at this time,” Mayor Pete Muldoon said in July.
The results pleased county Commissioner Luther Propst.
“It certainly validates the decision the county commission made to fund that route,” Propst said. “It’s good evidence that START can grow and that it can play a more meaningful role in reducing congestion, and that Jackson can be like so many mountain towns all around the world where the bus system makes a significant contribution.
“We simply need to make it more convenient to ride the bus,” Propst said.
Likewise, Commissioner Mark Barron said: “I’m glad the county commission stepped up to provide it. It’s a lot of single-occupancy vehicles off the road.”
For Commission Chair Natalia Macker, while increased ridership is a good sign, she stressed the importance of ensuring the service is available from year to year so that riders can change routines and habits in the long-term.
“Regular, consistent service is critical for building the ridership mass that will eventually start to produce tangible results on our roads,” Macker said.
Software purchased by the town in July 2018 to monitor fare sales electronically hasn’t functioned since July 15, reports said. Brugmann said the summer season’s ridership figures were manually recorded by operators and are “very accurate and reliable.”
START is currently in the midst of a route analysis study, aiming to evaluate how START might reallocate its existing resources in order to increase ridership and get more cars off the roads.