IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Local policymakers met Tuesday evening to discuss what is going on with the Targhee Regional Public Transportation Authority. TRPTA closed earlier this month due to a lack of funding. It is now being run by a group of five volunteer board members, who are tasked with paying off nearly $250,000 in debt.
"If the funding is frozen, but the costs keep going up, you can see how this has, you know, failed," said Dave Radford, TRPTA board member.
The meeting was also to discuss what to do next. TRPTA was established by an election and the law states it must be dissolved by an election. It also says, a new public transportation entity cannot be formed in the TRPTA territory unless TRPTA dissolves. However, the Idaho Transportation Department says there are ways to work around that using nonprofits to provide transportation. One option is to keep TRPTA and give it a new look, name and management, but the debt would not go away. Another option is to have voters dissolve it and establish a new agency with voters approval that would be debt free. A third option would to be just dissolve TRPTA, but not replace it. Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper hopes they will be able to come up with a solution, but it will be a difficult task.
“The most difficult thing that we learned is that everything costs money," Casper said. "And that public transit, it never pays for itself, no matter how much you are charged when you hop on a bus, it’s never going to be enough to cover the cost for providing that ride. And that’s at the heart of the dilemma is trying to figure out how to afford to go forward"
Tuesday night’s meeting was a chance to get local policymakers together to work together on finding a solution. ITD has also stepped in to help. It provided examples of public transportation from cities and counties around Idaho that has worked. Idaho Falls City Councilman Jim Francis says they need to take small steps and must show that they are all working together.
“When it comes to guarding the purse strings for any given city or the county elected officials tend to be very careful about sharing their own money outside of their own boundaries until they see the return for that investment," Casper said. "And that takes a lot of dialogue. And so I’m just hoping that tonight we kick some of that off."
Idaho is one of two states that does not provide state assistance for public transportation.
The TRPTA board says it has paid employees paychecks and is still working to pay their paid time off. It is still working to figure out the Persi benefit retirement plan.