Yellowstone Regional Transportation Assessments - Southwest Montana and Tetons

Under contract to the Yellowstone Business Partnership (YBP), Current Transportation Solutions conducted two related studies assessing commuter transportation needs in eight counties in three states surrounding Yellowstone National Park. The studies were part of YBP’s Seasonality Project, a year-long effort to leverage social, economic, and natural assets to jump-start the region’s non-summer economies. 


Commuter flow between and within different southwest Montana and Yellowstone communities. Click to enlarge image.

This study focused on commuting patterns in four counties in Southwest Montana including Yellowstone National Park. Several survey strategies were used to collect data on commutes, along with perspectives from employers and employees. The study identified commuter patterns in the region, documented existing strategies to promote alternate transportation, quantified the region’s perceptions of commuter costs, and gauged willingness to fund transportation. Combining housing and transportation costs, an affordability index was developed using data for major locations in the region. The four counties included in the study were Beaverhead, Madison, Gallatin, and Park County.


Recommended expanded transit services between Teton communities. Click to enlarge image.

This study focused on understand the existing mobility systems, needs and trends in three counties in Wyoming and one county in Idaho. The study assessed existing transportation systems and facilities; the availability of alternative transportation modes; and analyzed transportation demand, augmenting existing studies with surveys. The study provided stakeholders in the Teton Subregion with a collection of baseline information, an understanding of challenges and opportunities facing the sub-region, and a foundation for future decision-making to help residents and businesses address some of the region’s transportation and housing problems. The four counties included in the study were Teton, Lincoln, and Sublette Counties, Wyoming and Teton County, Idaho.

Information compiled and integrated into the Teton Subregion study included Census 2000 Journey to Work data for commutes between counties; traffic counts from the state departments of transportation; demographic and economic and housing data from U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and city-data.com; information about the transportation providers that we extracted from the IMAP survey of existing services; and demand estimates for the transportation disadvantaged that we calculated following a national methodology. We also conducted a survey of stakeholders in the four counties to develop an inventory of services and needs. 


Recommendations

YBP was exploring the concept of a Greater Yellowstone transportation cooperative incorporating Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.  As a first step, the Southwest Montana project recommended funding a regional coordinator to help agencies and other stakeholders collaborate to improve the regional system. The Teton Subregion study included the following list of recommendations for service changes, capital needs, and funding resources:

  • Identify additional funding for transportation in the region.
  • Identify and help the champion to address state insurance pool policies that restrict insurance across state lines. Build reciprocal agreements with the neighboring states. 
  • Improve the Teton region residents’ knowledge of available transportation in the region through a transportation directory, travel training, and trip planning assistance.
  • Continue growing pathways by promoting appropriate land use decisions, complete streets, and other tools that lead to a livable community, one where people feel comfortable walking, biking, or bussing.
  • START Transit in Teton County, Wyoming is the leading public provider in the Greater Yellowstone region. The county policies and actions that have led to greater investment and greater ridership can be adapted to fit the other parts of the region.
  • Sublette and southern Lincoln Counties do not need fixed route transit but can benefit from more coordination between the public transportation offered by the senior centers, people with disabilities, and the human service agencies. These public transportation services should be open to the general public.
  • Northern Lincoln County can build additional park and ride lots and consider providing ongoing operating funds to START. Possibilities of organized car/van pool in the area can also be explored.
  • Teton County, Idaho appears poised to greatly grow its alternative transportation infrastructure and operations. There is an opportunity to take advantage of a potential partnership with Grand Targhee to leverage federal funds. If the community finds local funds to leverage federal dollars for pathways, and if the county can implement smart growth and complete streets policies, Teton County can be a state leader in livable communities.
  • To start bus service in the Grand Teton National Park requires funding, something neither the Park nor the Town of Jackson have at this moment. The two parties, along with START and the Grand Teton Lodge Company, should review the options in the Park’s transit feasibility analysis study to identify the funding source. Until then, the limited shuttle offered by Grand Teton Lodge Company and open to the public can be better promoted.

In 2010, building on these previous studies, Current Transportation Solutions consulted on a feasibility study that led to the three-year LINX pilot project that tested the Greater Yellowstone transportation cooperative concept. 

Elements for growing a rural transit system - community involvement, engaged political leaders, adequate funding, effective organizations, and a charismatic leader.

Elements for growing a rural transit system - community involvement, engaged political leaders, adequate funding, effective organizations, and a charismatic leader.