Train Idea Off Track

What is it about trains and Boise mayors?

Brent Coles flitted around the globe riding the rails and came home with the famed “REGGIO SPRINTER” which was doomed even before the city spent $250,000 on a sales pitch.

Now Dave Bieter wants to sell locomotives for local trainmaker MotivePower. He appeared in a video wearing an engineer’s striped hat and proclaims that “rail must be a part of any transit solution.”

We all like trains and most guys over 40 even had one as a kid. We like horse.jpg
horses, donkeys, llamas and camels as well. Camel.jpgSome people say camels have bad breath, and llamas spit . Fact is, none of these critters are practical transportation in today’s world and neither are trains.

The GUARDIAN well recognizes we have a major traffic problem in the Valley. It has been created by local governments overly friendly to developers and businesses–those creating jobs and those selling retail. Eagle Road is one place that qualifies for FEMA disaster funds.

There seems to be an overwhelming consensus on the part of all these frilly “planning” agencies that we need to stop building roads and start building tracks for trains. First off, we have had both local and regional planning for well over 30 years and it has done nothing to prevent the transportation mess.

To name a few: Association of Idaho Cities, Ada Council of Governments, COMPASS, VAL TRANS, Treasure Valley planning“retreat”, Chamber of Commerce government parties at Sun Valley, Blueprint for Growth, Smart Growth—the list goes on.

The solution is to take all the existing buses we can find and make trial runs for a month or two from Caldwell, Nampa, and Meridian “park and ride” spots like the Idaho Center. Here is how it is done and it can start in a week:

–Buses will make dedicated NON STOP runs to big employer spots like MICRON, HP,
CAPITOL MALL, DOWNTOWN, and PARK CENTER offices as an example.

–Each bus will have a strobe light like the fire trucks to turn the traffic signals green (get behind a bus and cut your commute drive time).

–Buses will leave every 15 minutes for their assigned destinations during rush hour…same thing for the return run from Boise.

–Each full bus will eliminate close to 50 cars on I-80.

–Take the buses off the circuitous routes and pay for taxis, mini buses or commuter vans for the poor and infirmed.

–All of this will be far cheaper than trains which run ONLY ON TRACKS, duh! You still have to get people to their destination off the tracks and there isn’t enough money in the combined budgets of every town in the valley to pay for mass transit via train AND an efficient bus system along the train route.

Bottomline. People probably won’t use mass transit no matter how frequent or convenient. At least by experimenting with existing buses taxpayers won’t be on the hook for a massive expense for something folks won’t use.

If it works, refine the system and make it permanent. Buses NOT trains.

The valley is too spread out. Schools, government, shopping, work, and recreation are all on different points of the compass. Big City we ain’t no matter how hard we try.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Your comments about the bus idea is right on. If you look at the cost of the “trains” in all the other cities that the Mayor keeps talking about the cost per rider is way out of line.

    Noboby is going to get on a train and ride to the Boise Depot and then get on a bus to ride downtown! And just last week the City Council said OK to having 78 “high end condos” that cost $375,000 to $500,000 each built right next to the “tracks”. Boy I’ll bet those folks will be happy – NOT!

    The train idea is nothing more than a grab for federal funds – just as the Mayor announced today. Almost evey community with a “train” ends up raising taxes to support it because it does NOT pay for itself. So eveyone pays so a few can ride.

    Even the Urban Land Institiute states in its own research that people in the west WILL avoid public transportation and pay more to move OUT of the city so they can own homes.

    The other “assumption” that the Mayor and Council make is that businesses will locate downtown – – which is a false assumption and is not happening. The ONLY way it might happen is if the city gives away services via the CCDC.

    If you think your property taxes are high now just wait until the train arrives!

  2. Sharon Ullman
    Sep 16, 2005, 8:04 am

    It’s so nice to see the GUARDIAN poke the appropriate holes in this hare-brained train idea! Why does this idea keep popping up? It defies logic! This area has neither the total population nor the population density necessary to make rail commute a viable alternative. At most, preserving a rail corridor for possible use in the distant future is all our local elected officials should be doing in this regard at this point in time.

    The bus experiment sounds like a good idea as well. Maybe with the lights all turning green, and non-stop routes, more people could be encouraged to actually commute this way.

    Another pro-active step our local elected officials could take would be to identify permanent transportation corridors and implement zoning that pushes the higher density housing projects (i.e. apartments and condos) to these areas. For mass transit to function economically, you need a lot of people in a limited area. Otherwise, fuhgedaboutit!

  3. See, there you go thinking again. What a wonderful idea you have presented. Because
    it has real merit however you can be sure it is going to be pushed aside. Idaho’s
    political leadership, nothing different than the rest of the country, has no ability
    to think nor has any business sense what so ever. It is not their intention to do
    what would be sound practices but see how many dollars they can attract from the
    federal level (as though these dollars were picked from a tree somewhere in
    Washington). COMPASS, Ada Planning, et al, think only in terms of how to study the
    need by spending huge sums of money on programs they were supposedly hired to know
    something about. We could have a bus system in place with all the dollars Treasure
    Valley has spent on transportation studies. I urge you to continue to present your
    idea before the people so leadership gets their foolish idea of a rail system out of
    there heads.

  4. As Ada County just had a big press conference Friday unveiling their new fuel efficient vehicles I wondered how people would feel about the fact that Sheriff Gary Raney is running around in a brand new hemi-powered gas guzzling Dodge Charger.

    They say that he’s testing it as a future patrol vehicle. That makes zero sense as the sheriff is not involved in any actual police work and is not in a position to
    see how the vehicle would perform in an actual ongoing patrol capacity. I’m sure it has more to do with the sheriff’s large ego. Apparently money spent on gas isn’t an issue when it comes to the top dog. Nice way to lead by example Gary.

    Ed note–Top cops are often given free demo cars to test since they are the ones with the authority to BUY the cars from manufacturers and the patrolmen love to complain about the boss not having to ride in an uncomfortable vehicle all day. Give Raney a chance since about all there is out there today is the Ford Crown Vic.

  5. Finding cars with rear wheel drive, and enough power to serve cops is a trick. Guardian said it correctly that crown vics are about it. Good for Raney for taking it upon himself and not delegating it down the foodchain to determine if these cars meet the need.

  6. Treva Hamilton
    Sep 22, 2005, 12:04 am

    I’m in favor of trains, but only if I can take one to Portland, Salt Lake, Chicago, and east.

  7. People in Seattle and Los Angeles also pooh-poohed light rail just as Dave (Boise Guardian) does now.

    Meanwhile, the citizens of Portland stopped arguing with each other and did something.

    Now the people in Los Angeles and Seattle are crying because their cities are transportation nightmares – in spite of their bus systems.

    Read this Seattle Times cover story (and weep):

    Boise arguably ranks as the third largest city in the Pacific Northwest:

    So the choice is clear.

    Should Boise adopt the Los Angeles/Seattle model (as you seem to suggest)?

    Or should Boise adopt the Portland model?

    As much as I love Boise, I suspect our people, with their fake, phony, pseudo-conservative political orientation, will not permit Boise to adopt the Portland model.

    Boise will stifle infrastructure required to support a creative, thriving, entrepreneurial class and will repeat the failures in Los Angeles and Seattle.

    Federal tax policy needs to be reformed to provide an incentive to increase urban densities nationwide.

    Density is not a dirty word.

    Density means spending LESS as a community on UNWISE EXTENSION of government infrastructure (sewers, roads, bridges, etc.) to support urban sprawl housing and commercial development projects.

    The current model – under republican control – encourages people who are desperate for home ownership to snap up cheap houses away from the city centers.

    This is a failed model.

    Unfortunately, current federal tax policy – under republican control – results in bleeding heart, liberal, wasteful spending on SPRAWL.

    Idaho conservatives need to rethink their positions.


    Jerry Jones

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: