In one of his final acts as mayor of Victor, Jeff Potter decided to bypass a deadlocked city council and authorize a $2,500 outlay to Grand Targhee Resort in order to support regular winter shuttle service to Victor.
The resort usually houses its seasonal employees in the Driggs area but because of a last minute change, the ski hill made an agreement with Teton Valley Resort in Victor to house up to 80 seasonal staff members. Therefore, this season the resort committed to providing limited service to Victor, with two early morning stops and two evening stops, to transport its employees. But then Grand Targhee decided to explore providing hourly service to the south end as well.
The shuttle is funded primarily through a federal grant that’s facilitated by START, the Jackson transit authority, but that grant does not include funding for Victor service this season. That means the resort will bear the full cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance for the added mileage. At a Victor City Council meeting on Nov. 13, Greg Mottashed, the Grand Targhee director of base operations, requested $9,000 from the city, an estimated half of the fuel costs for the Victor stops that are above and beyond the employee-specific service.
The council members requested more information on ridership, so at their Nov. 25 meeting, Mottashed provided a more complete analysis that showed how many guests and employees were riding the shuttle daily. Employees made up around three-quarters of the total ridership last season, while the public made up 15 percent and resort guests made up 9 percent.
While Councilwoman Molly Absolon and the mayor supported the idea, Councilman Will Frohlich recused himself due to a possible conflict of interests, and council members Dustin Green and Tim Wells stood firm in their opposition to, as they put it, subsidizing private business. Wells suggested that the resort start charging for parking to both encourage ridership and help fund the shuttle, but Mottashed said the resort isn’t yet ready for that. Green asked if Teton County and Driggs have chipped in for the shuttle, and Mottashed said he would soon be asking those governments for support as well. Because two of three voting members of the council were against any funding, Potter advised Mottashed to bring back the proposal in January, when newly elected councilors Amy Ross and Emily Sustick will be in place and Frohlich will have taken over as mayor.
On Nov. 26, however, Potter announced that he would authorize the city to provide $2,500 to Grand Targhee for the 2019/20 season. The amount, which will come from the city’s resort tax fund, is the maximum the mayor is allowed to expend without the council’s oversight.
“It’s not an authority I’ve used much before, if at all, but I don’t think the justifications for not funding the shuttle were very strong,” he said. “I’m optimistic the new council will be willing to consider this again in January and potentially provide more support. And hopefully Targhee will have some real data from the first month of service.”
Potter had several reasons for his decision. “I feel like supporting this program is absolutely an appropriate use of resort taxes. We can accommodate guests while providing a significant benefit to residents, and it fits with our comprehensive plan, which encourages us to promote and grow alternative modes of transportation.”
Grand Targhee could potentially fill some of the gaps left when TRPTA, the regional bus service out of Idaho Falls, abruptly shut down earlier this year. It could be a convenient way to travel between Driggs and Victor, Potter noted, especially for seniors, kids, and people who don’t want to drive in winter conditions. Also, lodging guests at Grand Targhee might use the shuttle to dine and shop in Victor.
He added that by enabling the expanded service, Victor and the valley will benefit from having a season’s worth of data, which other entities including START can use to seek future funding.
Opening day, Nov. 27, was the first day the resort started offering a full slate of pick-ups in Victor, at three locations: the depot, Teton Valley Resort, and the corner of Dogwood and Main. New this season, the Grand Targhee shuttle is free for season passholders. Visit grandtarghee.com/shuttle for a complete schedule.