SANDPOINT — The Selkirks-Pend Oreille Transit bus system sped past another benchmark this month.
SPOT officials are celebrating a new all-time best with the recent transportation of more than 1,400 individuals over the course of a week. The achievement follows a similarly auspicious occasion in October, when the transit system gave 6,200 rides over the month for the best four-week numbers in its existence. For SPOT manager Marian Johnson, the numbers are particularly significant because they occurred during times of the year outside the heaviest tourism seasons.
“That means that locals are using the bus,” she said.
According to Johnson, bus drivers are reporting an increased number of individuals are using SPOT to get to work. They’re also seeing plenty of skiers and snowboarders, as bus system officials have opened the seasonal connection to the base of Schweitzer Mountain Resort, which allows winter sports enthusiasts to grab the resort bus to the top of the mountain. That has been good for everyone seeking to hit the slopes, Johnson said, but especially for those unable to drive.
“Now mom and dad don’t have to take the kids to Schweitzer anymore,” she said.
SPOT officials are also planning to expand their Schweitzer coordination by Dec. 26 with an extended run. Johnson said the plan is to add one more Schweitzer run to the blue route that is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. in order to accommodate night skiers and snowboarders. Otherwise, the Schweitzer route will operate as expected this year, with the first run beginning at 6:52 a.m. and more continuing each hour.
Those who depend on SPOT to get around the region should also be glad to know that the system will operate according to the standard schedule during the holiday season. Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will all operate on the standard schedule, with the only time off set for Christmas Day.
Funded through a combination of resort city local option taxes and Federal Transit Administration grants, the SPOT bus system started out slow. Two hundred and fifty individuals took a ride in the first week of service. That number jumped to 500 in the second week, which is what a 2007 transportation study of the area predicted for average weekly ridership. But the growth didn’t stop there. Johnson now has her eyes set topping the 1,500 riders a week mark. Meanwhile, District 1 mobility manager Clif Warren believes that 100,000 riders a year could be possible in the near future.