Boise Bus Blog

Julie Fanselow has a lot of time on her hands after her Demo candidate lost his bid for congress to Bill Sali.

It’s a good thing she has extra time because the activist has taken to riding the bus and doing a blog about her travels.

We wish her all the luck in the world with the project. A brief read tells us that like most things run by local governments, the bus system is inefficient and eats up time, LOTS of time.

Hopefully her blog will shine some light on the shortcomings–as well as the good points–of the bus system. At this point the GUARDIAN would never trust these local politicos to use public money for something as far fetched as “light rail” when they can’t even run a bus system.

Check out the Bus Blog HERE...

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Fraz,

    Thanks for the nod. Yes, I definitely will be pointing out the system’s myriad shortcomings.

    I also plan to cover upcoming action in the state legislature over the drive for local option taxation authority for public transit.

    Most of all, I hope people will use the blog as a place to share/vent their own public transit stories and ideas for how the system could be improved. I think that an enhanced bus system (especially with more evening routes) – coupled with some cool add-ons like a circulator trolley downtown – makes more sense for Boise than light rail, at least in the short term.

    Keep up the good work, Guardian.


  2. Julie–great idea… the state,city and county have enough tax money to provide us with a much better bus system! Please let me work with you as a volunteer. The people of this great town need a better bus system, the drivers are great, now all we need is the politicians and administration of valley transit to give the people what they deserve. Joe moran 1150 Miller St. Apt. 108, boise id 83702, e-mail

  3. Bus ridership/service is one of those “chicken and egg” things: “We have crappy service because we have poor ridership because we have crappy service. Just as soon as ridership increases we’ll add more routes to increase ridership.”

  4. Thanks, Joe. Despite what Fraz says, I don’t have THAT much time on my hands, so I might be able to use your help in some way. The main thing you can do is post your thoughts and experiences re: transit in the Treasure Valley.

    Right now, for example, I have a “New year’s resolutions for Valley Ride” thread up, so head on over and post yours, please!

  5. Naznarreb, you speak the truth, of course.

    So how do we change that? I believe if Valley Ride would take a chance and add evening service, it would help turn the tide. Boosting the way-under-market-value parking prices in downtown Boise could help, too.

  6. Good luck to Julie in discovering Valley Ride (is that still their name this week?) services – or lack thereof. It will be interesting to follow her adventures on her blog.

    As usual the Guardian has made another astute assessment of the situation. The current bus system is inefficient under public management. It eats up not only a lot of time but also a lot of money with little to show for the expenditures.

    Run a bus system? Heck, based on Julie’s comments on her blog, Valley Ride can’t even keep their web site current. No annual pass because they don’t have smart card technology. Come on, give me a break. There was an annual pass years ago – long before smart card technology. Another Valley Ride excuse.

    Naznarreb, you’re right, ridership is a chicken and egg story.

    Julie, you ask how do you build ridership? By allocating scarce resources (bus hours) where they achieve the highest return both in terms of ridership and revenue. And night service isn’t the highest return by a long, long shot. That idea has been tried here several times (as recently as a few years ago) and failed because of the lack of ridership. This is Boise, Idaho not New York City or Chicago.

    Routes and schedules built correctly for your target market will bring riders – and revenue. Witness Boise’s transit ridership growth in the late 1970s. Other transit systems have had similar success stories when they build their services for their target markets.

    And Julie, I really don’t think it’s good public policy, or a good management practice, to “take a chance” when it comes to spending public monies.

    Boise City, and perhaps Nampa and Caldwell for service in those cities, provides funding to Valley Ride. It’s my understanding that Boise City pours about $ 7 million into the system each year. The county could use property tax dollars to fund transit if it wished to. The same applies to Meridian, Kuna, Star and other cities in both Ada and Canyon counties. Businesses could also contribute if a tax deductible mechanism was set up. The State could provide funding if authorized by the legislature.

    Nampa issues bonds for road projects. Why not issue bonds to buy transit equipment and turn it over to Valley Ride to operate?

    Go to
    to view the proposed sales tax increase. It’s wide open with no accountability. Clang, clang, goes the light rail.

  7. When I was called for jury duty last month I called the jury people to explain that I can’t drive when it is dark (early morning and early evening) and could I please serve when the days are longer. I checked into bus service and found none existed. The jury administration told me they would send a cab for me!!!!! Since I live north of Eagle I can’t imagine what that would cost or how long it would take. They don’t give you much time to get there once your number is chosen. Fortunately I didn’t have to take up their offer for a cab ride.

    I did become very aware of the lack of public transportation. If I still worked in downtown Boise like I did for much of the last 35 years I wouldn’t be living in Eagle. You can’t get to Boise from here without a personal vehicle.

    In a few short years, when all the “boomers” start to retire and, contrary to their expectations, start to develop various disabilities, they are going to wish we hadn’t created a society where it is every man for himself when it comes to transportation.

    Our society has made a really bad mistake when it gave up the bus and train systems.

  8. Treva,

    Your taxi ride might have been pretty quick compared to taking a city bus. And the cost difference may not have been that great either.

    According to information Valley Ride filed with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for 2005, it cost over $ 5 per mile or about $ 79 per hour to operate a Valley Ride vehicle. Those are Valley Ride figures, not mine. The information is available through the FTA website. I believe the per mile cost for a taxi ride is much less than that.

    According to the same report, Valley Ride passengers pay only about 10% of the cost of operating the system. And that is after a fare increase. The 10% cost recovery may be an all time low for the system.

    If you live in Eagle city limits,ask your Mayor or City Councilperson if Eagle contributes tax dollars to Valley Ride. If they do, ask how much and what do they get for those dollars. If Eagle doesn’t contribute, that’s probably why there are no public transportation services in Eagle.

    If you live in the county, ask the Commissioners the same questions. I believe the County has chosen not to contribute to Valley Ride.

  9. Thanks, 4523A. Guess I should check out what a taxi ride would actually cost. (I think the county would have picked up the tab for jury duty, incidentally.) In all the years I have lived in this valley, I have never taken a cab, so have no idea what the cost is. (Isn’t that why we have friends or family?) I will check out what Eagle is contributing to the public good. It would give me a great sense of security to have the convenience of public transportation as I get older so that I don’t have to beg rides. Or I can endanger myself and my fellow citizens by continuing to drive well beyond my ability to do so. I am sure that is happening every day.

  10. What Boise needs is to work with both Ada and Canyon county to come up with a plan. For starters, the Boise Bench branch should be used for DMU service that would run from Caldwell to Micron (check out Salt Lakes new line). A potential spur could be built to get commuters closer to Micron. From this, a stop would be at the Boise Depot where streetcars would run between the Boise Aiport, down Vista to the Depot and on downtown to the Capitol. From the Capitol, future expansion could be done down State St. Eventually, a line could turn down Eagle and connect back up with the DMU service. There are many possibilities.

    The DMU service would have stops at Caldwell, Nampa, Idaho Center, Eagle Road, Boise Mall, Boise Depot, and Micron. On top of this, the bus system could be reorganized to feed into the DMU and streetcars instead of trying to do cross county treks. I believe this would be a great thing for the Treasure Valley (remember, we had it about 100 years ago). That would be an excellent list of stops to attracted riders. I hope this gets going and I would love to be involved with it.

  11. Joe,

    Your suggestions sound wonderful. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into them. Yes, the valley did have an extensive interurban and streetcar system 100 years ago. And it made a profit. Today, local taxpayers cover almost the entire cost of the current bus system. Users contribute virtually nothing to operating costs.

    Ada and Canyon Counties, through Valley Regional Transit, have already come up with a rail plan. A rail plan that is very costly and accomplishes little other than to give the local politicos a train set to play with. Current vanpools carry almost the same number of passengers as the proposed rail system would and at far less cost – like almost zero cost to local taxpayers.

    DMUs (nee RDCs or Budd Rail Cars)? Cost of a DMU is over $ 4 million a unit and the fuel mileage is 2 mpg (yes, that’s 2 mpg) with 90 passengers on board.

    A rail extension to Micron from the current tracks at Yamhill Way? Figure about $ 16 – 20 million. Maybe $ 12 – 16 million if we’re lucky. Or buses could shuttle from Yamhill Way to Micron. Probably two buses per DMU unit assuming the unit was near capacity. Convenient, time competitive, cost effective? Probably not. And for how many people twice a day?

    Like several people lately, you mention the Salt Lake transit system (Utah Transit Authority). I would suggest comparing Salt Lake to Boise is like comparing apples to oranges. Besides the difference in the size of the transit systems there is the difference in population between the two areas. Population, and more importantly population density, is a significant factor affecting transit ridership. According to Census figures, the population density for Boise is about 2,500 and for Salt Lake it’s about 3,800. About a 50% difference – quite a lot when it comes to transit.

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