Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mountain Rides carries the loads

Transportation authority named chambersí Nonprofit of the Year


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Jason Miller

Last in a series on winners of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau and Hailey Chamber of Commerce Community Awards.

The Wood River Valley's Mountain Rides Transportation Authority is the nonprofit entity of the year for 2007 Community Awards as selected jointly by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau and the Hailey Chamber of Commerce.

Though many of the services provided by Mountain Rides have been available for a long time, technically the organization is still in its infancy. Under its new banner, the organization only came into being last summer in a consolidation of the Wood River Valley's KART and Peak Bus systems and Rideshare.

In addition, Mountain Rides has vanpools, oversees bicycle and bike path programs, coordinates "Safe Routes to Schools" and provides an emergency ride program for people who need a quick ride home.

The joint chamber award describes Mountain Rides as "the complete alternative transportation provider in Blaine County. The board and staff of Mountain Rides is working hard to bring transportation alternatives to the valley and to help individuals make a difference for the betterment of the environment."

Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller is thrilled with the award.

"It's great," he said. "I was very surprised. I was excited. It's great to be recognized. I think we're just at the beginning of doing a lot more good stuff."

Mountain Rides employs 29 people during ski season and 18 to 20 during "slack." Eleven "active" buses shuttle commuters and visitors around the Wood River Valley on the Mountain Rides' "Around Town" and "Down Valley" systems.

Discussions are in the works to combine Mountain Rides' bus systems with the yellow skier shuttle buses now operated by Sun Valley Co. The exact arrangement is yet to be settled, but "we're looking at a merging of some sorts," Miller said.

The Mountain Rides' Vanpool service, which carries commuters from the Magic Valley to the Wood River Valley, has nearly quadrupled since its origin just over a year ago when it had two vans.

"We'll have seven active routes and a spare vehicle as of next week," Miller said.

Community Awards

The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau and the Hailey Chamber of Commerce will present a joint Community Awards Night today, April 23, at 7 p.m. in the Sun Valley Inn's Limelight Room. Cash cocktails, accompanied by piano music by R.L. Rowsey, will precede the dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for $50 may be purchased through Nichole Britt, chamber office manager, at 725-2103.




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