Here’s what you can expect with GIFT – the new Idaho Falls microtransit service
IDAHO FALLS — A microtransit program will soon launch in Idaho Falls providing transportation within city limits for community members.
Downtowner will contract with the city of Idaho Falls to offer Greater Idaho Falls Transit — the rideshare service. The city’s new transit coordinator Kade Marquez told EastIdahoNews.com microtransit fits in the middle ground between mass public transportation and solo private service and was designed to be “highly flexible” in routing and scheduling.
“We want to get people where they need to be, on time and safely, and that’s what this microtransit system is designed to do,” Marquez explained.
The city’s previous public transit system closed in 2019. Marquez said between how busy the Emergency Medical Services have been with nonemergency transports, the region’s growth and issues surrounding traffic and parking, a transit system is needed.
“There is no better time than now to think outside the box to address and serve the public’s transportation needs,” he said. “I’m being contacted every day about how soon rides can be scheduled on this service.”
The plan is to have the service operate Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., according to Marquez. Any person within city limits will be able to either call for a ride, schedule on an app or go through a website portal to book.
“That should cover the larger portion of commuting times, typical scheduled appointments and enable riders to engage in general commerce within our town,” Marquez noted.
He said Downtowner has an “excellent history of customer service and training for professional friendly service.” Marquez also pointed out the company currently operates in other locations that have similar weather challenges as Idaho Falls.
Negotiations about the specific fleet makeup are ongoing, but Marquez said it’s likely the vast majority of vehicles will be wheelchair accessible.
“The most important thing I want everyone to know is that this service is for absolutely everyone. If you need a ride to work, need to go shopping … (or if you) want to get downtown for dinner,” Marquez said. “This service is designed to be very inclusive. Everyone should be able to use it and get some benefit from it.”
The pilot program is funded federally through a grant — no further taxpayer dollars are necessary to have it operate — and the grant money is projected to last a minimum of two years, according to the city.
“We’re hopeful that we can be smart about fares and matching dollars and potentially getting more grant money to keep that service in place if it’s successful,” Marquez said.
Fare costs are expected to be “affordable and convenient”, according to Marquez and contracts should be completed by March 31. After everything is finalized, it’s projected to take eight weeks to get the service up and running.