Come Thanksgiving Day, Mountain Rides Transportation Authority's free bus service in the Sun Valley-Ketchum area becomes a lot more complicated, but provides a greater level of service.
Where there were only two routes—one permanent and one seasonal—the Around Town bus service now has six, with three of them permanent and the other three to be added during tourist seasons.
The routes are color-coded and the new map has most of the colors of the rainbow.
"It is going to take people a little time to get used to the new schedule, but once they take that time I think they'll be happy with the new service," said Jim Remke, Mountain Rides marketing and outreach coordinator.
Whereas past bus service to the south ended at the intersection of state Highway 75 and Elkhorn Road, the new system runs south past St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and all the way to the entrance of The Meadows trailer park.
The longstanding permanent route—deemed the blue route—that runs from Elkhorn Village through Ketchum and Sun Valley to Warm Springs remains unchanged, except that it will take Dollar Road in Sun Valley rather than looping through Sun Valley Village. However, service will be only once per hour except in winter when buses will run on the half-hour. In the past, buses ran from once to three times per hour depending on the season.
A new permanent line with hourly service, deemed the green route, will run from Thunder Spring in north Ketchum all the way south to The Meadows. The route will dip through west Ketchum residential areas, and detour to the River Run Lodge area, but otherwise provides bus transportation where it was previously unavailable.
A second new permanent line with hourly service, deemed the yellow line, will run from Sun Valley Village through Elkhorn Village, around the Morning Star Road loop and all the way along Elkhorn Road to Juniper Road. Those buses will be 15-passenger vehicles purchased by the city of Sun Valley for exclusive service in that city.
There are also red, purple and brown routes that will be added to the system seasonally.
If all that sounds confusing, Mountain Rides has printed new brochures with schedules and a color map that can be found at many bus stops, on the buses themselves or at many retail and business locations in the Sun Valley and Ketchum area. Riders can also visit the Mountain Rides Web site at www.mountainrides.org or call 788-7433.
Also, Remke said Mountain Rides keeps schedule signs current at bus stops.
"The ultimate goal is to create ridership and a greater level of service," he said.
The new service was created for several reasons. One, Mountain Rides received extensive public comment during an open house in October.
"That was directly a factor," Remke said. "There were a lot of people who came and commented there and that opened our eyes to some needs."
Two, the city of Sun Valley purchased two 15-passenger vehicles for exclusive service in Sun Valley.
Three, an agreement was reached with Sun Valley Co. for Mountain Rides to take over the "yellow bus" service that the company provided to shuttle skiers to Dollar Mountain and to the Warms Springs and River Run ski lifts.
Four, Mountain Rides recognized the need to provide service to the hospital and to The Meadows area where many workers live who commute daily to Sun Valley and Ketchum.