Collette Rinehart from Linx explained the transportation service at a meeting in Riverton on Wednesday morning. (Ernie Over photo)
(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Wind River Connection of the regional Linx transportation cooperative will be known as the “Purple Line” and will run from Riverton to Jackson three times each week beginning on June 4th. The Wind River Transportation Authority, WRTA, joined the four-state cooperative this year, closing a gap in service from Fremont County into the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park area. The Purple Line will start in Riverton with stops at the Wind River Casino, The NOLS Noble in Lander, Rocky Mountain Hall at Fort Washakie, Lamb Park in Dubois, Moran Junction, the Moose Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park, the Jackson Hole Airport and terminate in the town of Jackson. The bus returns to Riverton following the same schedule in reverse 4.5 hours later, allowing riders to keep medical appointments, shop, eat, etc.
Fares for the Purple Line are $25 per leg, with one leg being Riverton to Dubois and the second leg being from Dubois to Jackson. A round trip would cost $100. A transfer to the Green Line from Moran Junction to Yellowstone would also be a $25 fare, one way into the park, where travelers could then connect with a South Loop shuttle to visit park attractions.
The benefit to WRTA is that its route system will be promoted on the Linx webstore where travelers can purchase advance tickets on-line for regular WRTA service within Fremont County and for connections with other Linx providers. Tickets for the service will also be sold by WRTA in Riverton and by the chamber of commerce offices in Lander and Dubois.
“We’re somewhat unique in that we’re a bus service that doesn’t own any buses,” said Linx marketing representative Collette Rinehart, who explained the service at a Riverton meeting Wednesday morning. “We used a co-op model for our service, and we have 16 different providers who have signed on to carry passengers in our four state area. The four states are the original three, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, plus the recent addition of Utah. Linx was established three years ago to help provide connections between the gateway communities around Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks. Utah was added when Salt Lake Express joined the cooperative, with routes to Idaho Falls and Jackson.
The new service by WRTA is being partially funded by the Wyoming Department of Transportation with a grant of $145,155, that requires a $100,000 match from Linx. Rinehart said the cooperative has raised half of that amount through sponsorships and and destination partners. The Wind River Development Fund at Fort Washakie and Wyoming Services for Independent Living in Lander are both social service investors in the cooperative.
Rinehart said the Linx route system serves international visitors well, as they are used to public transit systems from their home countries. “It’s a learning curve for local residents who are mostly unfamiliar with transit systems,” she said.
The Linx system began three years ago primarily serving employees within Yellowstone National Park who provided the system with 45 percent of its ridership. In the systems 53 day-long service that year, 754 rides were provided at at $95,000 loss. In 2012, the route system was dramatically reduced to two loops of Yellowstone each day with the connecting services into the park from the three surrounding states. “Ticket sales went up by 74 percent. Our goal this year was to close the gap into Fremont County, which we’ve done and to provide year-around service to the regions major airports. She said the Salt Lake Express service now serves Utah’s capitol city. Another new route this year is a daily round trip from Jackson to Cody.
WRTA Manager Ben Eastmond said he originally wanted to extend the service to begin in Shoshoni, “but there is simply not enough demand for twice a day service there.” However, Easmond also noted that WRTA provides “on demand” service to and from Shoshoni with advanced reservations. “It’s something we’d like to overcome if we can find the funding.”
“These are all baby steps,” Rinehart said, “but the service we’ll offer this year is so much better than what we began with three years ago.”