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Mountain Rides expanding service to Twin Falls in April

The transportation provider’s new route will benefit the Wood River Valley’s elderly population and those needing help getting to medical appointments
Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 10:35 AM MST
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BELLEVUE, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Mountain Rides in Blaine County is going to be expanding its service further south for riders in April, and the transportation provider’s new route will benefit the Wood River Valley’s elderly population and those needing help getting to and from medical appointments.

Mountain Rides has been serving Wood River Valley residents and tourists for about 14 years, with routes and stops in Sun Valley, Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue, but Kim MacPherson, who is the director of community development for Mountain Rides, said in the last nine years riders have been asking for additional stops.

“We have taken a number of calls,” MacPherson said. “People asking us if we go to Twin Falls. People who need to get there for doctors’ appointments and medical appointments of some sort.”

To address their customers’ needs, Mountain Rides applied and received a $30,000 grant from the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center to start a pilot program.

“We have enough money to do eight weeks currently, so we start it on April 5 and it will go through the end of May,” MacPherson said.

When the new pilot program launches on April 5 people who live in the Wood River Valley will be able to take bus rides all the way to Twin Falls. There will be two stops in Twin Falls. One will be at the Visitor’s Center and another at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center. There will also be a stop at Sawtooth Market in Shoshone.

MacPherson said the route will run Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and it will have two northbound and southbound trips per day. Morning departures will leave Twin Falls around 10:15 a.m. and afternoon departure will leave around 3:30 p.m.

Mountain Rides Twin Falls route. Not an official schedule.
Mountain Rides Twin Falls route. Not an official schedule.(SK)

“Our goal is with this project is to increase the access to medical appointments in Twin Falls for Wood River Valley residents and also improve the quality of the transportation from Wood River Valley to Magic Valley,” MacPherson said.

Cecelia Osborn, who is the mobility and safe routes coordinator for Mountain Rides, said it is also worth mentioning that some of the residents who rely on medical care in Twin Falls can’t drive themselves because of their medical conditions or medical treatment, so the service they are providing is really alleviating the travel burden for their caretakers — the burden in cost and time in getting to Twin Falls.

“People from the rural community of the region and people in the Wood River Valley need access to critical health care in Twin Falls,” Osborn said. “And some of that health care includes dialysis treatment, cancer treatment, eye appointments, ear, nose and throat appointments, along with substance abuse and rehabilitation.”

MacPherson added options are limited for a lot of people when it comes to transportation. People have a hard time finding ways to get to Twin Falls, and when they do some people have to come five days a week, which costs them a lot of money, so this is a chance for them to save some money because the service is free for all riders.

Jan Smith, who is a Ketchum resident, said she is a big advocate for the new route because her wife needs to go to Twin Falls monthly and sometimes weekly for dialysis treatment due to kidney failure.

Smith has a job at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, and she said she is grateful that her employer allows her time to drive her wife to medical appointments when necessary, but the new bus route will give her and her wife another option.

“When it came out that Mountain Rides Transportation Authority was looking at providing this nonemergency medical transport service, I was like, ‘I am all over it,’” Smith said.

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Posted by Mountain Rides on Monday, February 15, 2021

Again the pilot program is only funded for an eight-week run, but MacPherson said Mountain Rides is actively seeking funding through federal grants and locally. She said they have estimated $10,000 a month would keep the service going. MacPherson said she is optimistic they can get the funding, and they would really like to make the route a permanent part of their system.

MacPherson said Mountain Rides had more than 560,000 riders in 2019, and they were expecting more in 2020 before COVID-19 hit. Currently, buses are capped at 15 riders and everyone has to wear a face-covering on the bus.

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