Shelter from the elements

Citylink customers no longer have to wait outside for driver breaks

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COEUR d'ALENE - Two weeks after challenging the Citylink transportation system, 73-year-old Marie Rippetoe still takes the bus.

And she no longer has to wait in the cold.

"We now have buses to stay in down at the gravel pit (at Riverstone)," said Rippetoe, who left a message with The Press on Friday. "Anytime there's that 40-minute transfer, we have a place to stay."

Rippetoe made news on Oct. 16 when she refused to get off a Citylink bus parked at the Riverstone stop. She was asked to leave the bus, to wait outside in the dark while the driver took a break, and she said no.

She was eventually driven home by police.

Citylink managers, realizing the problem at hand, almost immediately set to work on a solution. Coeur d'Alene Tribe spokesman Marc Stewart described the planning as a work in progress.

"Citylink is committed to customer service, and safety, and providing the best possible experience," Stewart said. "The final product of what this will be is not determined yet."

The free bus service is funded by The Coeur d'Alene Tribe, federal grants and the state of Idaho. Citylink is headquartered in Worley; bus routes serve the Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls area.

Due to a gap in the schedule, Citylink service is interrupted at Riverstone for 30-40 minutes. Drivers normally take a break there, often leaving the stop to grab a bite to eat. Rippetoe refused to leave her bus because there's no shelter at Riverstone - just an empty gravel lot with a portable toilet - and on a cold, dark night the place is inhospitable.

Citylink plans to build a shelter eventually, Stewart said. In the meantime, the bus service is looking for an interim solution.

Once Rippetoe's story came out, "It definitely put a light on the fact that there is a gap," Stewart said.

A few options are being discussed, he added, but there are a number of considerations. If commuters are allowed to stay on unattended buses, damage or vandalism could occur. In fact, Stewart revealed, one of the buses was recently vandalized when the driver took a break and the passengers stayed aboard. A seat was damaged, he said, and trash was strewn about.

"It's just a matter of trying to figure out what works best for everyone," Stewart said.

He mentioned two more possible options: Passengers riding with drivers while they're on break, and drivers eating in a separate, nearby bus.

As for Rippetoe, she's happy that passengers don't have to wait outside anymore. Her brief protest seems to have made a difference.

"I've had the bus drivers tell me I'm their hero, and I've gotten a couple phone calls from people," she said. "It's wonderful."

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