A request for increased funding was in the cover letter accompanying her talk, but the leader of the local bus service happily informed her listeners that she was scrapping that higher dollar amount.
Terri Lindenberg, executive director of Treasure Valley Transit, which operates local service Snake River Transit-Idaho (SRT), called the Payette City Council’s attention June 3 to her letter’s inclusion of a request for $20,000 in the next fiscal year. That would have been a $3,000 increase from the $17,000 the service currently receives from the City of Payette. The City of Fruitland also pays $17,000 annually, while Payette County’s contribution is already at the $20,000 level.
When she wrote the letter, Lindenberg told councilors, SRT was “facing a potential funding shortfall due to the loss of the advertising revenue” from SRT’s buses. She said SRT’s advertiser since 2011, Malheur Federal Credit Union, wasn’t planning to purchase advertising on SRT’s newest bus, which arrived in April.
Placing an ad on a new bus involves covering the cost of producing the vinyl display known as a “wrap.” This cost alone is substantial, roughly $5,000 for the new SRT bus, Lindenberg explained. She said Malheur Federal Credit Union’s decision was to continue advertising, “but only on buses that are already wrapped.”
With the new bus projected to provide 90 percent of the route’s service, SRT was confronting a likely plunge in advertising revenues if the new bus couldn’t carry advertising. Following a suggestion from Fruitland City Administrator Rick Watkins, Lindenberg contacted Farmers Mutual Telephone Company in Fruitland to see if FMTC would be interested in purchasing the wrap and then advertising. She said FMTC said yes.
“It’s been locked in, and the advertising is secured, so we do not need that increase that I had asked, so we will just ask for the regular funding that we had last year,” Lindenberg told the Payette council.
Lindenberg later added: “I’d like to say again that this (SRT) is the star system to the Idaho Transportation Department, that we serve almost nineteen thousand rides a year for Payette and Fruitland in a small rural area. That’s a big success, and we’re very pleased. And, when our new bus comes, and the wrap is finished — it’s going through the drafts right now — we would like to put out an invitation and have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for that.”
Lindenberg’s cover letter noted that ridership on SRT this year is up 2 percent from last year. “This increase has occurred even with the Ontario City Route cutting its service hours by 17%,” Lindenberg wrote.
Although Payette and Fruitland are currently funding SRT equally, three years ago the Payette City Council decided to cut Payette’s contribution for the 2016-17 fiscal year to $10,000, hoping to spur the service to find more private sector funding. SRT reduced the Payette portion of its route to help close the resultant funding gap, but the service also sought financial support from Woodgrain Millworks, which had a number of employees who were bus riders. Payette councilors, seeing that SRT was trying to line up more private dollars, relented, resuming payment of the city’s full share for 2017-18.