A small rustic cabin near Grand Jean Junction awaits the occupancy of its owner and part-time resident. It has no electricity; the refrigerator and sparse lighting is powered by a gas generator. Light rail does not stop there. Neither does a public transit bus.
The haven for hunters will become more than a weekend retreat for Larry Falkner after he retires as administrator of ITD’s Division of Public Transportation. It will become a second home. The forest and a quiet stream will be his closest neighbors.
Falkner has experienced the masses in mass transit. During 11 years with Morrison Knudsen (now Washington Group International), he marketed public transportation services to some of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas – Washington, D.C., Atlanta, San Francisco.
The past 13 years he and the other nine staff members in the Public Transportation division have reached out to some of the most remote, least populated regions of Idaho. Their goal was to provide the same service – transportation options that efficiently move people from where they are to where they want to go.
“Our goal is to have public transportation services in all of Idaho’s 44 counties,” Falkner explains. “Right now, we serve about 30. We’re in the business of supporting and marketing public transportation options. The other big challenge is serving the 18,000 to 20,000 households in Idaho that have no form of transportation available.”
During the life span of the current federal transportation authorization, Idaho’s Public Transportation division will allocate and monitor nearly $100 million in local grants and administer the state-sponsored Vehicle Investment Program that helps provide vans and small buses to public and non-profit organizations.
Programs serve the elderly and disabled and, if used properly, Falkner says, will help reduce congestion and air pollution. Public transportation in Idaho accounts for more than 5 million boardings annually.
The work is far from finished, but effective Aug. 31, Falkner will surrender duties to an undetermined successor. Senior grants administrator Monty Montgomery will serve as interim administrator until a permanent selection is named. He joined the Division of Public Transportation in 1995 as coordinator of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise coordinator in the Civil Rights section. He transferred to Public Transportation a year later.
“One of the most gratifying parts of my job the past 13 years has been the privilege of working with these folks in the division. And it has been a privilege.”
He also leaves the position encouraged by the growing support public transportation is generating among members of the Idaho Transportation Board. The board supports legislation that would provide dedicated funding for public transportation.
Falkner has helped lay that foundation. Now he’s ready to step aside.
But if there’s one thing that he has planned as vigorously as public transportation, it’s retirement. About six years ago, Falkner began a personal campaign to be debt free after his final paycheck. Through sound stewardship and judicious investments, he enters retirement free from the financial worries that plague many retirees.
No mortgage payment; no car payment; no credit card payments. And no payments on investment properties in New Mexico and Wyoming. The future is free and clear.
Retirement has been so carefully calculated that Falkner says he could write a book for others nearing the end of their careers. “I’d charge 25 cents for it,” he said.
Although the cabin at Grand Jean and a few fishing appointments along the stream beckon immediately, Falkner also looks forward to a two-month tour of Sweden early in 2008.
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Friends and colleagues will gather Wednesday in the auditorium at Headquarters to offer their best wishes in retirement. Refreshments will be available at the drop-in event from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.