Riders, volunteers, community leaders, longtime advocates of public transportation from the Riggins area, representatives from the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), and organizers of the Connecting U-McCall bus service met at St. Luke’s McCall Medical Center on Friday to celebrate the successful implementation of the free weekly bus from service from Riggins to McCall.
Brooke Green, of the Community Transportation Association of Idaho (CTAI), said the trial period was "a complete success that exceeded all expectations. Part of our goal is to support a holistic approach to living life, and we’re pleased that riders used the service for much more than medical appointments.”
During the trial period, every passenger went to multiple destinations in McCall, including pharmacies, restaurants, grocery stores, thrift shops and St. Luke’s McCall. With stops in both Riggins and New Meadows to pick up passengers at their homes, the approximate 46-mile commute takes about 90 minutes. An average of six passengers per week used the service during its two-month trial.
Riggins resident Nightfeather Bogan, who coordinates rides and reservations, was cited as the “spark plug” whose dogged determination pushed the project to fruition. Former Riggins Mayor Bob Crump thanked St. Luke’s for “funding the bus service and keeping the family medicine clinic in Riggins open four days a week.”
St. Luke’s McCall Administrator Mike Fenello noted that St. Luke’s financial support is just one part of a much-larger grassroots effort to help residents of remote areas gain access to services that are otherwise unavailable. Bogan partnered with CTAI, St. Luke’s staff from both McCall and Boise, the current and previous city leaders in Riggins and New Meadows, and many others to develop and implement the service.
The funding comes from St. Luke's Community Health Improvement Fund.
Mayor Glenna McClure from Riggins and Tony Koberstein from New Meadows noted that winter drives through the canyons can be especially challenging for the high percentage of elderly persons who live in their towns.
Berneice Morrell, who lives four miles from Riggins and has limited walking and driving capabilities, commended the organizers for the service’s door-to-door component.
New Meadows resident Carol Hale-Siuce became emotional when discussing the liberating effects of the transportation option.
“I was in dire need of transportation to McCall and relied on my daughter-in-law to get me everywhere. Now she doesn’t need to take care of me along with everyone else in her family,” she said.
In an example of the service’s innovative approach, Bogan and St. Luke’s staff customized scheduling and transportation arrangements for Siuce’s outpatient surgery and subsequent return home later in the day.
ITD Project Manager Mark Bathrick praised the public safety aspect of the service, citing the number of accidents that occur along that route each winter and the reluctance of many to drive to needed medical services when road conditions are hazardous.
Priority is given to passengers who have medical appointments, but anyone of any age who needs transportation to McCall can ride the wheelchair-accessible bus. The bus departs the Riggins Community Center every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. and picks up passengers in New Meadows at 9:30 a.m. Returning passengers arrive in Riggins around 3:15 p.m. Passengers from both communities can reserve a seat, arrange for pick up from their homes, or both, by calling Bogan at Salmon River Transport (208-628-2394) 48 hours in advance of their trip.