Teton County has officially allocated $124,000 toward continuing expanded summer service on the START route that runs between town, the Stilson park-and-ride and Teton Village.
That's despite the Jackson Town Council's decision not to contribute toward the service, which is running buses on the half hour through Sept. 29. Mayor Pete Muldoon said he felt that "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."
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," a letter to the Town Council asking for approval said.
Teton County commissioners opted to pay the full $52,000 cost of a pilot program that would increase green line service from May 25 through June 30. In the fiscal year 2020 budgeting process, they voted to continue to fund the program through the rest of 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 precedents moving forward."
According to START director Darren Brugmann, in the first month of the expanded service, the route saw roughly the same amount of passengers as the prior year: from 15,707 in 2018 to 15,716 in 2019 between May 25 and June 24.
"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 compared to 396 in 2018, Brugmann said. Those riders were destined either for the Village or the town of Jackson.
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.
"Any route structure, 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 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, was to see if there would be an increase in utilization of Stilson during the summer," he said.
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.