Moscow’s SMART Transit Grows Fleet

14-Jun-2013 Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News

SMART Transit has purchased a new bus for its transportation services in Moscow through a grant from the Walmart Foundation State Giving Program that could one day be used for adding a third route in the city, however, there are still funding hurdles ahead simply to continue current operations next year.

Helena Probasco, Moscow Walmart store manager, said she helped the city track down funding after her appointment to the store.

"It wasn't about sales or profits. My boss, the first thing he wanted me to do was go out to the community and find out what was important to them," she said, adding improved public transportation was recommended by Mayor Nancy Chaney and City Supervisor Gary Riedner. "From then on, I started talking to different people who had the actual influence to make that happen."

SMART Transit applied for the Walmart grant through the Idaho State Giving Council and was awarded $87,500 to go toward the purchase of a new bus.

The bus will be used immediately to offset operational costs associated with the current fleet, said Wayne Krauss, SMART Transit board president and city councilor, but it would take an additional $150,000 annually to implement a third route.

"This goes on as an annual cost," he said. "The city's already funding it $110,000, which is a huge level. ... We're certainly looking at that same level of participation from the University of Idaho. One of the big reasons for that, of course, is SMART Transit provides service to the UI."

The board is also preparing to launch a marketing plan, which includes seeking sponsorship from local businesses that may see a benefit from improved transportation in the city.

"Right now we don't have any real corporate sponsorship, and we're going to need that," Krauss said.

But the board needs to fill a $134,000 funding gap in its 2014 operations budget, he said, adding he is not in favor of discussions about potentially charging for bus rides.

"It's really not something that I, as president of board of directors, am looking to do right now. I really want to keep it as a free public service, but it really is going to be determined by funding," Krauss said. "If you start charging for ridership, your numbers are going to drop."

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