NICE puts brakes on rural service

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SANDPOINT — Local transportation officials are scrambling to restore services after North Idaho Community Express announced the cancellation of its rural presence.

Community Transportation Association of Idaho mobility manager Clifton Warren informed the Bonner County Area Transportation Team on Wednesday that NICE was halting rural transportation in Kootenai, Bonner and Shoshone counties as well as intercity travel between Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene. The termination of services ultimately boiled down to a lack of local funding, Warren said.

“We are trying very desperately to find candidates that can restore services,” he added.

The precise details behind the service cancellation are still unknown. According to Warren, an abrupt chain of events resulted in the suddenness of the dropped routes.

“I can confirm that no malfeasance was involved,” Idaho Transportation Department information office spokeswoman Susan Kiebert said. “Otherwise, I’m not sure of the details.” 

The end of the services come as bad news for many individuals in Bonner County. Around 20 Sandpoint students used the system to attend classes at North Idaho College, according to school associate Kathy Kraus. Many elderly or infirmed residents also relied on the bus to make their doctor appointments.

Warren suggests that former NICE clientele find an alternative means of transportation like Sandpoint’s taxi companies, American Carriage Transportation or White Tail Transportation. Meanwhile, IDT and CTAI are working to find an alternative service provider. With some state funding available, the organizations are currently searching for the right candidate to step in as a service provider.

“We’re hoping to have something in place by the end of January,” Warren said.

But Kiebert said that establishing new transportation infrastructure is no mean feat, especially given the unexpectedness of the situation.

“We were all taken by surprise,” she said. “I had always enjoyed a really good working relationship with NICE.” 

Warren said that IDT and CTAI are fully committed to addressing the situation and advised concerned individuals to check for updates on the i-way.org blog.

“I’m really sorry that this happened, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure the situation is resolved,” he said.

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