The City of Idaho Falls is pleased to announce that they are one step closer to making a microtransit pilot program a reality and at no additional cost to taxpayers.
At Monday’s City Council work session it was announced that Downtowner was selected as the vendor that will contract with the City to provide the new rideshare service within city limits.
The microtransit program, commonly referred to as rideshare, is a new division within the City’s Public Works Department where the contract will be managed by Transit Coordinator, Kade Marquez. The Greater Idaho Falls Transit (GIFT) Board of Directors will serve in an advisory capacity.
City’s first transit coordinator takes helm of microtransit project
“Downtowner is a microtransit provider with a turnkey operation that includes software, fleet, and drivers who are employed by Downtowner and have set schedules rather than the independent contractor model often seen with other rideshare services,” explains Marquez. “Consistent and reliable service delivery is what is needed in Idaho Falls,” adds Marquez.
The new microtransit program will provide high quality transportation for the public, operating Monday through Saturday, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The pilot program will launch later this spring with seven multi-passenger vehicles for on-demand rides scheduled through a smartphone app, online, or by a phone call. Unlike other popular rideshare services, Downtowner has ADA accessible vehicles with drivers trained in basic medical transport to assist people with disabilities from doorstep to doorstep.
Microtransit can be used for rides to and from work, the airport, doctor’s appointments, shopping, or even to community events where parking may be limited. Downtowner is ideal for those who want to carpool to a rideshare location for bus pick-up, business professionals who care about emissions and want to reduce their carbon footprint, and those who are without a driver’s license or do not feel comfortable driving but are in good health.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable taking Downtowner,” states Marquez.
“Over the past three years there’s been a gap in transportation services for individuals with disabilities who need non-emergency rides to and from doctor appointments or other medical facilities,” states Idaho Falls Fire Department EMS Division Chief, Eric Day. “This program will help those individuals while alleviating some of the pressure on our EMS system currently experiencing very high call volumes,” explains Day.
More details about the contract, including low-cost fares, will be discussed at the City Council meeting on March 31. Once contract negotiations are complete, it will take approximately eight weeks to launch the program.
City Council President Michelle Ziel-Dingman states, “We need to be prepared for high demand for these services. We will use the seven vehicles as efficiently as possible with the budget we have available,” explains Ziel-Dingman. “There is flexibility in the contract to make adjustments based on demand, market conditions, and additional funding,” explained Ziel-Dingman during Monday’s meeting.
The two-year pilot program is funded entirely by a $4.2 million grant from the Federal Transportation Administration that the Idaho Transportation Department applied for in 2021, with an additional $327,000 recently announced by ITD. Funds not used in those two years can be rolled over into year three.
ITD will reimburse the City for the cost of managing the transit service contract for two years. During that time, GIFT will collect utilization data, apply for more grants, and research additional funding mechanism, such as sponsorships or private funding to support the program into the future.
“Keeping the fares as affordable as possible while managing the program efficiently and continuing our due diligence to plan for the future of this program is very important to us,” adds Ziel-Dingman.
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Media Contact: Public Information Officer, Kerry Hammon, (208) 612-8122.