- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

KETCHUM, Idaho (AP) - A central Idaho bus service plans to offer free late-night rides in the resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley starting Friday.

Mountain Rides Transportation Authority’s “Night Owl” service will run until the bars close at 2 a.m. The city of Ketchum is paying $15,000 for the bus service in the ski and vacation destination that draws many tourists during the holiday season.

“Ketchum on Friday confirmed that they will back it and provide the funding, so we are moving forward,” Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller told the Idaho Mountain Express (http://bit.ly/1zTOZS7). “We hit the ground running on Friday to get the word out.”

Flyers advertising the new service scheduled to run through Feb. 28 were distributed to local businesses over the weekend. Miller said that he hopes the Night Owl service will attract enough riders that it can become a permanent part of the group’s service.

Plans call for free bus service every half hour to Warm Springs and Elkhorn Springs, as well as points in between in Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Sun Valley Resort’s Bald Mountain is one of the nation’s prime ski destinations, and the area has an active night life when the slopes close for the day.

“It’s a great addition to the busiest part of the winter season, and we have good support from the business community, the police and the community as a whole,” Miller said. “It’s not only for people going to the bars, but also for people who want to go out to a late dinner or a late movie or who work late. I think we’ll see all types of people using it.”

Sun Valley Police Chief Walt Femling said the service will likely lead to fewer drunken drivers.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” Femling said. “It will definitely cut down on DUIs. It’s a great step. It’s a move in the right direction.”

He said he would like to see the service extend south to the town of Hailey, about 12 miles away.

Besides the Night Owl service, the bus company is also extending hours on New Year’s Day.

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Information from: Idaho Mountain Express, http://www.mtexpress.com

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