Wednesday, January 29, 2014

P&Z mulls Mountain Rides bus hub

Designers say local businesses support concept

Express Staff Writer

A Mountain Rides van pulls away from a bus stop in front of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Visitor Center, near where the new hub would be located. Photo by Roland Lane

   The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission took its first look Monday at conceptual designs for a new Mountain Rides transit hub planned for central Ketchum.
    Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said he is pleased the project is coming to fruition.
“This project represents over three years of planning, public outreach and more input from the community that I haven’t seen as long as I’ve lived here,” Miller said. “There’s a tremendous amount of work we’ve done to get to this point in balancing our goals of having a safer environment for us to operate in, more opportunity for transfers and interconnectedness on routes, making it safer for pedestrians and a central point that can help drive ridership and increase revenues.”
     Miller said Mountain Rides met representatives of the Federal Transit Authority earlier on Monday to show them the site and discuss the project, with the FTA walking away very impressed.
    “The FTA came away very enthused with what they saw, which is very encouraging for us,” Miller said. “We got all the pieces in place. We’ve talked to all the building and business owners, and we’ve received positive comments throughout.”
     The lead designer of the project, Kurt Eggers of Eggers Associates, said he has already received strong support for the transit hub from the surrounding businesses.
    “We’ve had face-to-face sit-downs with all four businesses,” Eggers said. “This project has been very well-received by all of them with no issues on the proposal.”
    The hub would be built on Sun Valley Road, on both sides of the intersection of Sun Valley Road and East Avenue. A conceptual design provides parking for up to five buses, sidewalk extensions at all four corners of the intersection to facilitate pedestrian traffic and islands in the middle of East Avenue for bicycle parking or public art. The hub would serve as a transfer point for the six bus routes that serve the Ketchum and Sun Valley areas. Two of them are year-round routes and the other four are seasonal, operating during peak winter and summer tourist seasons.
     During his presentation, Eggers said the transit hub will be safer for both pedestrians and riders.
“This design will bring all of the vehicles closer together,” Eggers said. “There will be better eye-to-eye contact with drivers and pedestrians. The direct transfer is fairly small—it will only be for people who go from Warm Springs to River Run. We don’t have a direct route that makes that trip, so this is the point of where they would make that.”
     Eggers said six parking spots would have to be eliminated as a result of the project. Commissioner Jeff Lamoureaux said he had no problem with the loss of parking spaces.
     “I think you guys are doing great work,” Lamoureaux said. “If this thing runs efficiently, it will more than offset the parking spaces you’re losing. I think once this is operational, those parking spaces will be negligible because there will be so much more bus traffic.”
    P&Z co-chair Rich Fabiano bemoaned the potential loss of parking spaces.
“We can’t continue to lose parking spaces without adding in a parking structure,” Fabiano said.
    Eggers said that one of his biggest challenges with the design has been incorporating trees in front of the Visitor Center and the Elephant’s Perch store that are in conflict with buses pulling in.
The total cost of the hub, including design and engineering, has been estimated by Mountain Rides at $437,000, and 70 percent of that amount would come from grants on behalf of the FTA.

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