START Bus Barn

The Teton County Commission allocated $124,000 to expanding the summer service for the START bus, shouldering the entire cost for the town and county.

Teton County allocated $124,000 to expand summer service on the START route that runs from town to the Stilson Park and Ride and out to Teton Village. Buses will continue to run on the half hour through Sept. 29.

The expansion comes despite Jackson Town Council’s decision not to contribute, saying it didn’t have the funds to throw toward the service.

“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.

The Board of County Commissioners “believes it is important for the county to continue moving forward with uninterrupted services of the green line for the remainder of the 2019 summer season,” stated a letter from the board to the Town Council seeking approval for the $124,000 expense.

Teton County commissioners opted to pay the full $52,000 cost of a pilot program that increased green line service from May 25 through June 30. In the fiscal year 2020 budgeting process, the board voted to continue funding the program through START’s summer 2019 season.

“I think all public transportation starts with small steps,” Commissioner Greg Epstein said. “Even though the town is choosing not to fund this, I think it’s important for the county. I think it’s setting good precedence moving forward.”

In the first month of the expanded service, the route saw roughly the same number of passengers as in the previous year, from 15,707 in 2018 to 15,716 in 2019 between May 25 and June 24, START Director Darren Brugmann said.

“There really has been no change in the amount of ridership,” Brugmann said. “The interesting change we have seen, though — there has been a slight increase in those boarding at Stilson and either going to the Village or town.”

For that same time frame this year, 831 passengers boarded at the Stilson Park and Ride destined either for the Village or the town of Jackson compared to 396 in 2018, Brugmann said.

Brugmann said getting results from new route structures is always a challenge, so he was encouraged to see some additional trips over last year during the pilot program.

“It always takes a year, sometimes two, for runs to get established,” Brugmann said. “As a transit agency, it’s still difficult for us to change people’s behaviors or mobile patterns by getting off at Stilson to ride our bus when we are still sitting in the same traffic that the public is as well.”

Epstein was encouraged that people are boarding at Stilson, “whether it’s people dropping their kids off and the kids are going to the Village or town, or people who just don’t want to drive the extra miles. I think that was the goal behind this pilot program ... to see if there would be an increase in utilization of Stilson during the summer.”

The Stilson Park and Ride is heavily used by skiers during the winter season, and increasing use of the park and ride during the summer season is a goal of the town and county’s 2015 transportation plan.

Contact Allie Gross at 732-7063 or county@jhnewsandguide.com.

Allie Gross covers Teton County government. Originally from the Chicago area, she joined the News&Guide in 2017 after studying politics and Spanish at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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