Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Share the 'transportation vision'

Guest opinion by Cathy Baer

Guest opinion by CATHY BAER
Cathy Baer is special projects coordinator for the Blaine County Recreation District.

Because we live in a resort community of international renown, we consider ourselves fortunate to count on world class winter sports as core features of daily life. Bald Mountain downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and over 200 kilometers of Nordic skiing on impeccably groomed trails are all amenities that many of us take for granted. One such amenity gets us to the slopes and trails—public transportation. The transportation vision emphasizes efficiency and reduced reliance on personal vehicles so that the high quality of life we all enjoy will continue into the future.

The transportation thread that connects us with winter recreation grows stronger each year. KART was established in 1980, as the Ketchum-Sun Valley owned transit system to deliver us to the slopes of Baldy. The Peak Bus was launched as a county venture in 2002, providing affordable commuting to the working community between Bellevue and Ketchum and reducing traffic congestion on the highway corridor. Then in 2003, the Blaine County Recreation District added another transportation link to the chain, the North Valley-Galena Express, connecting the northernmost facilities of the valley to our communities.

The North Valley-Galena Express costs $250 for each northbound run made for the Wednesday through Saturday service. At full capacity, the 45 passengers are charged $5 each for the round trip to and from Galena Lodge. If one does the math, even the $225 collected on a full bus does not cover the costs. Fortunately, local businesses that share the community transportation vision are underwriting the balance to make this important service possible. Considering current gas costs, riding a shuttle the 48 round trip miles to Galena without the hassle of driving is very affordable.

I encourage northbound skiers and snowshoers to utilize the North Valley-Galena Express service whenever possible. Parking at the Warm Springs Park and Ride lot really helps reduce the parking congestion at the SNRA Headquarters, a growing issue for Forest Service management. As support for the Express grows, expanding the service with additional days, runs and stops can occur. For example, this winter Sunday runs are slated for Sunday, Jan. 23 and Sunday, Jan. 30 to give Boulder Mountain Tour racers additional training time.

We as individuals have a wonderful opportunity to participate in a community project that makes good sense.

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