Wednesday, August 2, 2006

RideShare gets federal grant for vanpool

Group seeks $39,700 from Ketchum

Express Staff Writer

Federal grant money will allow new vanpool service for Carey and Shoshone commuters, but Wood River RideShare still made the rounds to cities and counties, hoping to be a part of their budget allocations.

Executive Director Jason Miller presented RideShare's budget request to the Ketchum City Council during a workshop last month.

"The city of Ketchum has repeatedly stressed the importance of alternative modes of transportation and transportation demand management strategies for the future health and vitality of the city," Miller said in a letter to the mayor and council. "As the city of Ketchum moves forward with the downtown master plan and continues to work on making the city more pedestrian friendly, transit oriented and less congested, (strategic) efforts will remain vitally important in accomplishing these goals."

Miller requested $39,700 for contract services from the city, or 3 percent more than last year's request, to help manage transportation demand.

The figure represents approximately 37 percent of RideShare's current budget. That percentage may be lessened in the next fiscal year, depending on grants and other funding sources.

RideShare focuses on public outreach, marketing and education to help public and alternate means of transportation replace personal vehicles on the road.

"We have going forward a few big things," Miller told the council. "Implementation of vanpool service for south of Bellevue. I also have vans approved from a statewide ride share program."

Miller wrote a grant request earlier this year to the Idaho Transportation Department hoping to get one of three scenarios: One was for a new van, the other for a used van, and the third for administrative and marketing funds.

Results were better than expected.

The amount awarded will help buy three vans, two used and one new. The money will allow RideShare to begin vanpool service for commuters.

Carey and Shoshone commuters traveling to the Ketchum/Sun Valley area will be the first candidates for the routes, but RideShare hopes to add more routes and vehicles as demand for the services develops and more funding becomes available.

"This is exciting news for us," Miller said in a news release. "Vanpools have been on our radar for a long time, and this Statewide Rideshare grant will give us the funding needed to jumpstart the program."

The grant also includes a small amount of funding for public education and administration of the vanpool program. Funds for the vanpool program are 100 percent federal dollars through the Federal Highway Administration with no local matching funds required.

The vanpool could be operational by the end of September.

RideShare also hopes to expand to all elementary schools their Safe Routes to School program.

A new position through AmeriCorps—a national service program that allows people to earn help paying for education in exchange for a year of service—was approved beginning Oct. 1.

Online ride-matching and monthly traffic counts during peak hours are also stated objectives.

The long-term goal is to integrate RideShare into the KART/PEAK bus system.

"Your organization is going to become very busy in the next five to 10 years," said Mayor Randy Hall. "All kinds of possibilities are out there."

A public hearing on Ketchum's budget will take place on Aug. 21.

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