Idaho Falls city officials are still working on what the city’s bus system will look like.
The Eastern Idaho Community Action Partnership has signed contracts with several transportation companies to offer medical rides to people who used to receive them through the Targhee Regional Public Transportation Authority. However, city officials are still working on a fixed-route system to replace the service TRPTA used to offer.
Councilman Michelle Ziel-Dingman, who is the city’s liaison to the agency, attended a conference in Boise last week where she met with officials from the Idaho Transportation Department and the Federal Transit Administration and discussed the city’s options.
“There was a lot of really positive news about our options,” Ziel-Dingman said at a City Council work session Monday.
Ziel-Dingman said ITD has agreed to help TRPTA financially. The TRPTA board, which now consists of Ziel-Dingman and a few other local officials, is scheduled to meet Thursday and will discuss its future course more then. Ziel-Dingman said she expects to make a more detailed presentation to the City Council in the near future.
The local bus service, which had been around since the 1990s, ended services abruptly this spring as the agency was in extensive debt and the FTA had placed restrictions on its spending due to a number of audit failures. Since then, local officials have been working on paying off the agency’s debt and figuring out how to deal with its remaining assets.
Idaho Falls officials have said consistently they want to see a fixed-route bus system in the area and have left the $140,000 a year they spent on TRPTA in next year’s proposed budget. However, the participation of other local government agencies in any future bus system is less certain. Bonneville County commissioners are putting together next year’s budget now, and they don’t plan to include any funding for public transportation, said commission Chairman Roger Christensen. He said commissioners would need to see any plans for a future bus system before deciding whether the county would take part.
“We’d have to take a look at what they’re proposing and how it may serve residents outside of city limits,” Christensen said.
Rexburg residents who had gotten medical rides before can get them again through EICAP’s contracts and the city also has some privately run public transportation systems, said Mayor Jerry Merrill. Several apartment complexes, Merrill said, have shuttles for the Brigham Young University-Idaho students who live there, and Walmart also runs a shuttle service. He said the city doesn’t have any plans to invest in its own fixed-route system.
“Public transportation systems are very, very expensive and complicated, and that’s just not something that we have the budget for or any plans to do anything with at this time,” he said.
The city of Ammon had contributed $1,000 a year to TRPTA over the past few years, said Mayor Sean Coletti.
“I think that amount obviously is not very much,” he said. “We were a little disappointed in what we saw as the direction for TRPTA for quite a long time, and didn’t feel like it was something, at least the Council didn’t feel like it was something that was worth investing a lot of money in.”
Coletti, who is part of the remaining TRPTA board, said Ammon would need to consider how to be involved in any future bus system.
“I think we definitely want to be a part of any solution,” he said. “I don’t know what our involvement will be. … I think there’s a lot of questions we still need to answer before we determine what needs to happen with the organization.”
Editor's note: This article has been updated to state correctly that the Idaho Transportation Department has agreed to help TRPTA financially.