Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ketchum OKs funds to study transit hub

Design services agreement could pave way for construction later this year

Express Staff Writer

Having a central place to go for transit information and access would increase bus ridership, facilitate transportation for locals and visitors, and decrease bus and vehicle conflicts, according to supporters of a transit hub.

Jason Miller, executive director of Mountain Rides, made a successful pitch to the Ketchum City Council on Jan. 3 for $6,185 toward a contract for services between Mountain Rides Transportation Authority and LSC Transportation Consultants.

The agreement is for design services for a transit center in an as-yet undetermined Ketchum location.

"It's something we hope to have done very quickly," Miller said.

Mountain Rides will kick in the remainder of the contract's $12,370 price tag.

The contract will include data collection, such as how many buses could and should be accommodated at a center; what amenities would be needed, such as benches and bike racks; and a hub's impact on general traffic flow and parking.

"It's taking a really broad concept of the hub and putting it into what might be possible, what could be the look and feel of it, what the options are while taking into account our system and the way things could connect," Miller said in an interview.

A public workshop, final report with recommendations and site plan also are part of the agreement.

"They'll create a good visual as well so the community can ... have a couple different options to look at," Miller said.

The transit hub—which would not be a depot where buses are stored—would require improvements to curbing, sidewalks and lighting, and the addition of shelters and kiosks. Miller said he hopes work on those features could begin this summer.

Where that work would start, however, remains to be seen. Mountain Rides and LSC will study possible locations for the hub, but likely will focus on the center of town.

"We've got some ideal locations relative to our system and relative to downtown," Miller said. "For this hub to function effectively, it really needs to be in the core."

Ketchum's 2004 parking master plan calls for improvements to downtown transit services, an idea also noted in the 2006 downtown master plan, according to a city staff report.

"We can narrow it, then bring forth the best option, the second best option, and (say) here's why," he said.

The contract comes on the heels of a $200,000 U.S. Department of Transportation grant awarded in October to Mountain Rides for a transit hub. The grant will require a future 20 percent local match for construction. Mountain Rides may look to the city, the Urban Renewal Agency, its own budget or outside sources for that funding.

"The match will be shared in some way," Miller said.

The transit center could be built by the start of next winter's ski season.

"I think it's possible," he said. "If everything goes well, my guess is we'd be good to go by ... November."

Rebecca Meany:

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