Boise Mayors and Trains Page Two

Someone PLEASE explain what it is with Boise Mayors and trains!

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter is now floating another attempt at a downtown trolley to run from the Depot–which is closed to the public most of the time–to downtown among other routes.

He tells the business “leaders” at the charity speech for the Chamber of Commerce that it will cost a mere $50,000,000 for starters. He supports Councilor Clegg’s goal of getting it up and running in four years.
The trolley at Ybor City in Tampa, Florida is colorful, fun and goes to and from nowhere. It is an expensive colorful novelty. Amsterdam by contrast has an extensive–and expensive–trolley system. That one runs on the Euro, not the U.S. tax dollar.

We have done this drill in the past. For his $50 mill the GUARDIAN will offer citizens 100 buses…enough to cover 25 routes about every 15 minutes–and it is flexible because you don’t have to run on tracks with overhead wires.

Instead of running to and from downtown, how about doing shuttle buses up and down Fairview and Milwaukee? How about running from neighborhoods to the Cole-Overland CostCo-Edwards-WalMart area and Vista Village? You wanna get folks out of their cars, give them transport to places they shop.

We hate to be first to punch holes in this ill conceived idea, but someone has to get the word to Team Dave that trains are NOT a good idea.

We haven’t gotten the official word from the Highway District which is in command of the streets of Boise, but staffers only laughed when we asked if Team Dave had sought permission or studies for the latest trolley scheme.

Anymore ideas like downtown trolleys and the legislature will NEVER allow local option taxes for transportation.

From the GUARDIAN 2005

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. G-Man is right on this one. Team Dave , Team Brent both love trains. Thehy spent all sorts of tax money “planning and studying”
    but can’t even get a decent bus system to operate. Pathetic people those planners.

  2. Guardian says “someone has to get the word to Team Dave that trains are NOT a good idea.”

    Interesting how the Guardian can take a look at one idiotic idea for a useless train and conclude that *trains* are not a good idea.

    I spose if Team Dave proposed a special airflight from, say, the Boise Airport to the Capitol, the Guardian could conclude that *airplanes* are not a good idea.

    Lighten up, Dave. Your extreme prejudice against wheels on rails is getting the best of you.

    GORDON–Perhaps I am too strident. “Trains as proposed by local mayors for the Boise area are NOT a good idea given their limitations and cost.”
    Sorry for the broad brush.

  3. I love trains. But a trolley from the Depot to downtown does what? What people will be emerging from the Depot to get on the trolley? Is the mayor smoking something?

    I would love to see the 21st century version of getting people moving without having a car for every person. And I think it can be done with gas prices going higher and higher and people getting older and older. We need to start with interstate transportation, as in trains, and then to central city transportation, such as trolleys and a bus system. Leave flying to business people and the rich.

    The main problem as I see it is that employment is scattered around the community which does not lend itself to efficient public transportation routes.

    When I was young I lived in San Francisco for a number of years and public transportation was great. I have read that even that system is not so good as it used to be. Is the human race getting dumber? I really feel there are good answers to these problems. Smart people with good ideas need to come forward.

  4. I am very supportive of a public transportation system that is effective for our area and demographic….just not trains. The problem with benchmarking train use from other cities to see how Boise “would” be impacted is that it is NOT an apples-to-apples comparison. Factors, such as sprawl and demographics, are important ones to consider when analyzing how Boise could potentially benefit from the impact of another city’s train experience. Taking train data from an inner city of 2.5 million people vs. Boise just is not a fair comparison.

    Besides, the cost of a lightrail system for Treasure Valley would exceed its value (Dave is right. The same cost could fund an extremely effective bus service…perhaps even one that does not spontaneously explode). Besides, lightrail use across the valley would require intercounty/intercity cooperation. When we can’t have a civil COMPASS meeting, how can we expect an interagency transportion cooperative to control the budget and operations of a valley lightrail service?

  5. The baboon wants to do WHAT??? Holy Rolling Wheels Batman!! He’s gone certifiably insane!! When will we realize that this maniac couldn’t run this city anywhere but deep into the ground.
    A trolley from nowhere to nowhere, $50,000,000 bucks, 40-50 rocks in the river so less than 100 kayakers can save gas from the trip to the Payette $4,000,000 more,a public/private partnership for a downtown library,(sound like a certain courthouse around here?)for God knows how much more? I think we have finally found a good use for the ACEMS fiasco. We can pay them to put the baboon’s white jacket on and take him out for a walk everyday.
    The only thing for sure here is “It’s a helluva way to run a railroad!”

  6. So what is going on with public transportation in Boise? We got another light rail transit line in Mpls-St Paul but it was very difficult with the governor who opposes public transit but most metro residents want it. People will ride trains but they hate buses. The mayor has the right idea. Probably the train hooks into buses that feed passengers from the Bench. dz

  7. Dear Guardian,

    To quote you:

    “Instead of running to and from downtown, how about doing shuttle buses up and down Fairview and Milwaukee? How about running from neighborhoods to the Cole-Overland CostCo-Edwards-WalMart area and Vista Village? You wanna get folks out of their cars, give them transport to places they shop (June 4, Giardian).”

    This statement almost completely misses the point, but only to the growthophobe. The Humanphiliac immediately looks at the human habitat for an explaination of why people need to drive all over the place…
    Lack of Density and Mixed Use.
    The Treasure Valley is such a hodge-podge of uses, people NEED to DRIVE all over. It seems that propogation of the “driving problem” is the solution of the growthophobe, but in your credit “places to shop” was stated -just not in the correct context. Providing the population with goods & services in close proximity to where they live is the way of the Humanphiliac. Solve the problem, empower people to live locally.

    Jeez, can we think cause and effect…. THINK!

    RYAN–We don’t really disagree. It was local politicos who created the mall, the Edwards complex, and the Eagle Road crawl. Now that it is a done deal, it seems counterproductive to ask all those property owners to fund a DOWNTOWN system. Folks already live in the burbs. If trolleys are good, put them where the people live and shop–which is NOT downtown.

    I admit to having a problem with the preoccupation with DOWNTOWN at the expense of the rest of the citizens.

  8. Rather than arguing semantics, lets express the good idea we are dancing around using all true statements: this one is for mr logic too, pay attention.


    1)The downtown is the most dense area in the state.
    2)The downtown is has the highest mass of mixed uses in the state.
    3)If Transit, then high density (see previous comment) and massed mixed uses AND If no high density and massed mixed uses, then NO TRANSIT.

    :. THEREFORE: Transit in downtown is appropriate.

    … there, a cogent statement, and we didn’t even need to garbage-up the equation with actualized economic drivers, fiscal significance or the fact that public investment ALWAYS preceeds private investment…

  9. Rail transit lacks “flexiblity” in assignments to move people. Busses with good schedules and the right price for riders will still not pay for themselves but come a lot closer to actually meeting commuter needs.

    Portland, Oregon is a great example of how this works well for commuters to downtown Portland and the locals that ride free in the downtown corridors.

  10. An intercity light rail isn’t really the answer, Boise just isn’t big enough for it. Ditto to a trolley. The congestion of cars is on the freeway not in town. Weekend mornings you can fire a cannon down Main and not hit anything. Better bus routs are the answer here. I can’t get the four miles from my house to work without switching buses and that’s rediculous. I live on The Bench and work in West Boise but I have to take a bus downtown to catch a bus that goes where I want to go. It’s a terrible system.

  11. I don’t think transit can be boiled down to a few truths. Transit is a diverse topic because people have diverse opinions and expectations about transit. To me transit is about trip reductions in single occupancy vehicles. The Boise downtown is so small, once you are there you can reasonable walk to the major destinations. Transit to me means stopping vehicles by the freeway in canyon county and Meridian, and bringing them to downtown. So to me, a shuttle that circulates just downtown is of little value since it really does not have a significant impact on trip reductions. Now build a large Multi-Modal Center in Canyon County near the Idaho Center and fund a good shuttle between that and Boise, and you have my vote.

  12. Anything a train can do, a bus can do with greater efficiency, flexibility and lower cost. Rail technology is a holdover from the 1830s to 1900, when the only machines that could convert matter to motion weighed dozens of tons and there were no road systems. There is an argument that if you want to promote compact, efficient development – the traditional American development style of the North End and downtown – then trains are the only way to entice the private sector into make that investment. So far, though, I don’t hear the mayor making that connection. He’s just caught up in the romance of obsolete transportation modes.

  13. I am not real excited to pay for any style of train/transit until we can figure out the BUS system. He should focus on the proposed route with enhanced bus service first. The branch library(leased) at Collister is a great example of an enhanced service. Try it, before you buy it.

    If a new style of transit is warrranted, it makes most sense to start downtown first to easy traffic and parking woes.

    Looking at the facts-
    -36,212 employees work downtown. (Highlands, Boise Heights, West Downtown, North End, Downtown, East End, Central Rim, Depot Bench and South Boise Village) (Source – City of Boise, January 2006)

    -51,000 people live downtown and near downtown in the surrounding neighborhoods: Highlands, Boise Heights, West Downtown, North End, Downtown, East End, Central Rim, Depot Bench and South Boise Village.(Source City of Boise January, 2006)

  14. Why not run the current buses (that we are paying for now through our taxes of many kinds) in some semblance of order on the roads, streets and highways that have the most traffic at specific times and days? ACHD keeps track of the traffic numbers on all of their main roads, streets and highways so it isn’t rocket science to plan the bus routes on the busiest roads, streets and highways at specific times and days.

  15. Team Brent brought us the Regio Sprinter, no doubt about it that was a huge waste of taxpayer money. What Mayor Bieter has proposed makes much more sense. A trolley giving access from the west end to downtown could be just the investment needed to spur higher and better uses for the vastly under-utilized west end. The city could even offer parking, for a small fee, at the lot at 30th and Main, from there people could ride to downtown.

    The guardian makes much ado about the downtown urban renewal districts being off the tax rolls. Technically speaking, the under-utilized properties of the Fairview/Main corridor are not paying their fair share either.

    Goodman oil pays 11 cents per square foot per year on a river front property zoned C2. I pay 16 cents per SF per year on a lesser zoned R2 property on busy 27th Street. How is this fair?

    Like it or not, we have to spend (invest) money to make money.

    Cyclops, never mind, Boiseguardian, could you ban Cyclops. How many times do I have to tell you cyclops, the River Rec Park is not just for kayakers. And the money offered up by the city is about 1% of the annual budget. 1% of 1 year’s budget for something that will last 100 years or more. That works out to be 6 dollars per Boise resident. Or 6 cents per year per resident extrapolated over time. Quit being so cheap!

    No wonder I’m a cynic.

  16. The flexibility that electric power offers is the flexibility in the power source. If we could have electric-powered buses, I would agree with you. But buses that rely on one kind of fuel would be a bad investment. There is no guarantee that that fuel would remain cost-effective. Instead of concentrating on the form of the vehicle (trains, buses, whatever), perhaps we should focus on ensuring that we can take advantage of the best source of power as time and economics change things. Then population tends to follow where the transportation is.

    If the economics of it penciled out, I would support an electric-powered trolley that runs North End to Downtown. And I don’t live in the North End.

  17. Devon Campbell
    Jun 4, 2008, 5:22 pm

    Too bad that Team Dave (and Mr. Zarkin) is incorrect about people not riding buses. In Portland, bus ridership on a daily basis outpaces rail ridership 2-to-1 (and they call Portland a “Rail mecca”?). In Denver, bus ridership eclipses bus ridership 10-to-1; it’s about the same for Houston. Salt Lake City bus ridership has a 60-40 advantage over rail ridership, as does Sacramento. Even in Chicago, the bus system carries more riders per day than the rail system – and it’s one of the most comprehensive rail systems in the United States.

    Guardian Dave – why not also pose the question about how Team Dave will fund the streetcar? Even with CCDC and a special taxing district, there is no way they can get $50 million in 4 years and use pay-as-you-go. That leaves bonding as the only option, either through the city, CCDC or this “special taxing district”. You have the best background on how that gets done in Idaho.

  18. sam the sham
    Jun 4, 2008, 10:30 pm

    Before I address the train, may I please ask the mayor to find someone to keep the Depot clock running on time? When the power goes out, the clock stops and it takes weeks for anyone in the parks department to put the time right. Bad show! Now if it were in the North End someone would be on it as soon as the power was restored.
    The inner kid in me loves trains. The adult sees the value of a train that has some use to it. I loved riding the train in Tokyo… let me call it mass transit. It had purpose other than a tourist attraction. It took people from one area of Tokyo to work or to a distant town or to a distant mountain. Portland also has that kind of train…. mass transit. It appears that you are wanting a train for the fun of it, not for the value of a working mass transit system. Is it federal dollars you are after or a working system for people to use (instead of their CARS) to help clean the air in this valley.
    Mayor, let’s also look at logistics. Most people who will use the train will need to park their car, prior to getting onto the train… because there is no bus for them to ride from home to where ever there is a train.
    IF were were in Japan we may need a parking lot to park our bikes or we may actually walk from our home to the train, but we are not in Japan, we are in Boise where most people feel that they would rather drive around the block 12 times looking for someone leaving a parking spot than to park (and walk) two blocks. Don’t get me wrong, we love our exercise just as long as it’s fun… treadmill =ok, walking two miles to get to a train = not ok.
    So what land it the city going to buy to create a parking lot for this train idea? Then where is the train going and how would it fit into a larger picture – or is this just a small one track train idea.

  19. Rod in SE Boise
    Jun 5, 2008, 7:45 pm

    Fifty Million Dollars!!

    That is the only number you need to consider. Portland is a big city, as are Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, to name a few. Boise is NOT. Not even close. Probably never will be. Humans will go extinct about the same time the world population gets so big that Boise can be called a big city. Anything more extravagant than our present bus system is unthinkable. Yes, I said unthinkable!

    Not one dollar of my taxes, ever.

  20. Guardian, please indulge me for just a minute while I respond to Boisecynic.
    Cynic, you just don’t understand! I don’t care if the whitewater fiasco costs 1/000% and it worked out to be $0.06 per citizen per year. It is a waste of vital taxpayer monies that could be better used keeping roots from eating up the greenbelt, some actual grass for the 100 acres of parks that the baboon brags about acquiring, new play ground equipment , ballfields, soccer fields, or any other of the numerous ways that the city could enhance the lives of the people that live here. Just as you and I disagree about the whitewater park, there is usually more than one opinion on an issue. For you to want to ban any opposition to your precious little “wading pool” is truly sad. I would hope you could make a more forceful arguement for your position.

  21. A BUS update from a coworker that rides a couple of times a week. The #10 bus coming downtown on State was full this morning, people were even standing.

    Why don’t they look at which routes are being used and enhance service.

  22. Cyclops:

    I will make a rational argument rather than forceful, regarding the reconstruction of the near 100 year old decrepit diversions at Thurman Mill and Farmer’s Union. Frankly, I think the 2 canal operators should have to pay for it but monkeys will fly before that happens.

    Back to the rational argument, in a word, history. The greenbelt has proven to be wildly popular and has attracted higher and better uses to river front property. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just have a look at the video made by Bill Onweiler in 1970. This forum is not the place to post all the stuff written by Mr. Onweiler and others, but I suggest you spend some time at the Library, Idaho History Archives and Boise City Historian’s office.

    Bill Onweiler’s 1970 Greenbelt promo:

    Yeah, that video is pretty bad, but it’s his words that are important.

    Just as today, with respect to the River Park, in the 60s there were people who railed against the geenbelt and used the same “why are we wasting money on this.” How about we try returning all that greenbelt land to the adjoining property owners? The outcry would make the foothills dog leash broohaha look like a sunday school class.

    The greenbelt is nearly done in Boise, the River Park is a logical adjunct to the greenbelt.

    One of the functions of government is to do for the people that which they cannot do for themselves. Since the Boise River is public property, how could a private developer of a River Park get repaid for use of it?

    Last, let’s look at what other cities have done, Reno for example. News reports from Reno have noted that their River Park is not only popular, with thousands of people, not just a 100 as you put it, and their River Park has attracted new business to the area.

    Cyclops, I will give you 12 cents a year for the rest of your life if you change your mind. This is double the price of your forced contribution to the River Rec Park.

  23. Bob Blurton
    Jun 6, 2008, 8:27 am

    If you are awake and paying attention to the energy news coming out of the Wall St Journal and other investor publications, you will notice that they have declared the “Peak Oil” people were /are right.

    Once you find out what Peak Oil means, then you need to look at the implications.

    Thousands of experts from around the world have been writing on this subject for a lot of years and have come to many shared conclusions published in books and papers.

    The main conclusions as applies to Boise are that:

    1. There is no future for cars & airplanes. Even if we developed a 1000mpg wonder car, the roads are quickly going to break up due to ACHD being unable to provide even the barest minimum of maintainance.
    2. Food will cease to be imported in any meaningful quantity in the near future due to the roads being unuseable for timely delivery. We will therefore need to grow the majority of our food locally, or starve.
    3. Commuting will not be an issue, people will mostly be involved in food production and farmers do not commute, never have.

    It is time to stop worrying about the price of gas, commuting, & transit, and start thinking about how to keep the food coming.

    Reading List:
    1. Powerdown by Richard Heinberg
    2. The Long Emergency by James Kunstler
    3. The Party’s Over by Richard Heinberg
    4. Twilight in the Desert, by Matt Simmons
    5. High Noon For Natural Gas, by Julian Darley
    6. Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak by Kenneth Deffeyes
    7. Half Gone by Jeremy Leggett
    8. The End of Oil by Paul Roberts
    9. The Coming Oil Crisis by Colin Campbell
    10. Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil by David Goodstein
    11. The Oil Factor by Stephen Leeb, PHD
    12. The Coming Economic Collapse by Stephen Leeb, PHD

    Below is a brief page detailing the problem.

  24. “Besides, the cost of a lightrail system for Treasure Valley would exceed its value (Dave is right. The same cost could fund an extremely effective bus service…”

    I have never seen a bus service worth a darn and busses are fuel and money gobblers of enormous size for the entire time they run. A trolly system runs on electricity and the cost is far less when the routes are established. Ask New Yorkers if they would trade the subway for busses.

    How about a single route down park center, through the city center and then on out down Fairview with a spur to the Mall. Someone said it well. The rail has to go from where folk live to where they shop or work to make money

  25. One could make an argument that a better transit system is needed in what is commonly referred to as the downtown core. However, a trolley? Mayor Bieter, if you want to play with electric trains, keep them in your garage or basement, don’t ask the taxpayers to foot what will burgeon into a $20 million plus dollar project to serve a very small area. There are a plethora of better ways to handle this with far less impact both dollar and infrastructure-wise.

    Unless everyone complains, and loudly, to the Mayors office and City Council, this WILL be pushed through. Sick!

  26. Boise Cynic, I guess the short story here is that you favor spending 4 million bucks, of someone elses money, so that the people using the “wildly popuar greenbelt” can watch the fewer than 100 kayakers playing in the “wading pool”. It sounds like a bunch of trained seals performing at Marine World. Will there be scheduled performances or just catch as catch can performances?
    But more to the point. I fail to see how you could possibly argue that the water park equates to the greenbelt. Something that directly benefits the entire population does not compare with something that directly benefits so few.
    It is just too expensive of a project in today’s economic situation. And just a word of caution for future discussion. Unless phase 2 of this project is to line the river with 25-30 casinos, I wouldn’t make a comparison with Reno. Not quite “apples for apples”!

  27. Ryan said, “The downtown is the most dense area in the state. ”

    I have to disagree. I think the mayor’s office is the most dense area.

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