START will add a fourth bus to its Teton Valley route, giving commuters another public transit option for traveling to and from Jackson on weekdays.
The START board approved the addition to its Idaho commuter route at a meeting Thursday. The new bus will depart from the Driggs Community Center at 7:40 a.m., arriving in Jackson by about 8:30. The return bus will leave the Snow King Center at 7:30 p.m., dropping riders back in Victor by 8:30 and Driggs by 8:45.
“This START board,” Director Darren Brugmann said, “is committed to providing regional residents with safe, efficient and affordable transportation options, to help deal with local issues such as housing.”
The expansion of one of START’s two commuter routes is in line with officials’ goal of making it easier for residents of neighboring towns to work in Teton County. About 40 percent of the Jackson workforce lives outside of Teton County, predominantly in Teton Valley and Star Valley.
The start date for the service expansion has not been set. The board originally planned for the return bus to leave at 7:15, Brugmann said, but St. John’s Medical Center negotiated a later departure to accommodate its employees’ schedules.
Though the change may seem simple, Brugmann called it a “big decision.”
“Just moving 15 minutes is a major undertaking for us,” he said, “as far as maneuvering our … employees and vehicles.”
Brugmann said that bus drivers have downtime in the middle of the day, and they remain in Jackson until their return trip to Teton Valley, meaning the extra quarter of an hour makes a long day a little longer.
“That’s why it’s difficult for us to make these accommodations,” he said. “From the time they leave to the time they get back is considerable.”
Funding for the expansion comes from the Federal Transit Administration, funneled through the Idaho Department of Transportation. Brugmann said there are no plans as of now for establishing a fourth commuter line to Star Valley.