City Government

Streetcar Desire At CCDC Prompts Notice

A short little legal notice in the Daily Paper Friday includes an invitation to engineering firms to submit a “Statement of Qualifications for conceptual design consultant services” for a downtown streetcar project.

No budget is mentioned for the six month contract, but it looks like local officials are forging ahead with their “street car named desire” whether anyone likes it or not. They previously hired a PITCHMAN to sell the idea of a downtown trolley–reported in the GUARDIAN December 2.

At a time when Boise is trying to convince the Idaho Legislature to allow local option taxes, it seems ill-advised to spend public money on a novelty trolley in the downtown area while steadfastly refusing to implement any improvements to to the local bus system which would benefit the entire community and not just downtown businesses–at a fraction of the cost.

If Boise’s Team Dave continues to work behind the scenes to promote a trolley without public hearings, specific budgeting authority from the city council and “filtering” their plan through the urban renewal agency, they will never get a local option taxing authority from the state.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Jim of Boise
    Feb 6, 2009, 3:17 pm

    I for one would like to see a trolley system in Boise and if we start downtown, then lets start it now. The Guardian would perfer to kill the idea by talking it to death. In Idaho a viable downtown is a plus for our entire state.

    EDITOR NOTE–Jim, the GUARDIAN would like to kill it because it is a bad idea. For the $35 million price tag contemplated by Team Dave, we could have 70 buses worth $500,000 each circulating not only downtown, but to most of the city! We could also change the routes without tearing up steel rails planted in our streets. Transit lines are supposed to move people, not create business development opportunities for developers.

  2. In response to Jim’s comment, there are a lot of things that government could do for Boise. I think the most important point the Guardian has made is that–no matter what the project–the process should be a public process. The public is more than business interests. Public debate is a good thing, in my opinion.

  3. Tom Anderson
    Feb 6, 2009, 4:24 pm

    The little trolley would go round and round to nowhere, and be on the cover of all of the Idaho promotional literature sent to every state in America.

    The objective of the trolley is to bring more people and more businesses so as to GROW more, which is what makes the amazingly rich folks into fabulously rich folks.

    IF we lived in a Democracy, our government would place the people first, and we would have a great place to live. We would have clean air, pure water, and locally grown organic food.

    BUT, since we live in a Fascist state, where a seamless joining of business and government rules, things are just kept up appearance-wise so as to keep those property values up.

    Team Dave is kind of like a sock puppet for local business interests.

  4. What's the Point?
    Feb 6, 2009, 4:42 pm

    The last time I read up on success factors for public transit systems, particularly of the rail / trolley variety, I found that it was important to have the access points about 0.5 miles apart. Since the entire Boise core is less than 0.5 miles across, I am at a loss as to where we would put the second stop.

    That said, I would be all for a trolley/rail system if we could put all of CCDC on board and give them a one way ride out of town.

  5. Alicia Ritter
    Feb 6, 2009, 5:01 pm

    Boy, I am sure glad most of you weren’t around at the turn of the century when Boiseans taxed themselves and stuck their necks out to build the first street car system, a canal system, an indoor swimming pool, the electric lights, on and on. We’d be another Winnemucca, not the great place that it is. Get behind good ideas, hell, come up with them and make them happen. But, quit tearing everything down.

  6. I’d love to see a trolley too – as soon as the most pressing transportation needs are met.

    I hardly think moving people from 13th to 4th and from the river to State Street is where our transportation problems lie.

    The powers that be need to be concerned with moving people from Nampa, Caldwell, Eagle, Southwest Boise, and Meridian into downtown Boise, east Boise, St. Lukes, and Micron, and alleviating traffic on the interstate, Connector, State, Fairview, Eagle, and Meridian roads.

    In my opinion it would be better to deter people from moving so far from their homes by creating disincentives for doing so, but that will never happen. So we might as well do what is best for all of us, and not just those that commute. Reducing the number of vehicles on the road should be the priority, if it’s bus or train I don’t care.

    Honestly, if they created and enforced a two lane bus/car pool lane (3 or more per car) that would be a great first step. Reduce single car commuting to just one or two lanes and let them have double the commute.

  7. Right On Guardian! Jim,we are against the trolley system because it will be a TOTAL waste of money!
    Money that would be better spent developing a decent bus system. Money that would benefit a wider and larger amount of citizens.
    And, unless the “mayor” has once again, hidden monies from the citizens, WE CAN’T AFFORD IT!!
    You must not have been here for very long. A few years back, we tried a “downtown trolley”. It was a cute little green and gold open sided bus that would haul people around the downtown corridor. You know what?? SURPRISE! SURPRISE! It was a complete failure!!!!
    Remember, those who don’t learn from history are destined to
    re-live it!

  8. The only place a rail system would make sense would be along the 84 connecting Canyon County with Ada County. And then they could have a central bus depot where buses would depart to various locations in the Valley, not just downtown.

  9. No More Taxes
    Feb 6, 2009, 7:17 pm

    A street car idea is great if you want more local taxes.

    All you guys that want a street car system why don’t you start writing out checks to team Dave and pay for it yourselves and let the other 95% of the City (who will never use it) keep our money to pay our increasing property taxes!

  10. Local option taxes are a simple a way for local governments to increase their funding. “No More Taxes” is right on. Hopefully our legislators are smarter than to fall victim to local government selfish lobby efforts.

  11. What's the Point?
    Feb 6, 2009, 10:39 pm

    Dear Alicia,

    The electric lights are provided by regulated utilities and are paid for via user fees. They may be subsidized via free use of the rivers and other methods, but not by local taxes.

    The canal system was provided by the the Federal Bureau of Reclamation. Canal company’s charge their users a fee to (partially?) pay the feds for the water (The accounting is pretty shaky) but again, no local taxes involved.

    I do not know the funding mechanism for the old Natatorium, or the original street car system. Suffice to say, they both ultimately failed.

    In the case of the street car system, it was driven out of business by automobiles. Since cars are far better now than they were 80 years ago, but street cars are about the same, my guess is that a new street car system will fail even faster than the previous one did.

  12. If one compares the size of downtown Boise with downtown Portland one wonders about the need for a trolley system. Perhaps it could take someone from their parked car to work out at the Y? Yeah, because we just don’t like to walk a few blocks here in Inversion Land. Beep Beep!

    And think of the tax revenue the state will loose because people aren’t driving around downtown looking for a parking spot one block closer to their destination, then hopping back into their car to get to their next destination three blocks away. Team Dave, think about the damage a trolley will do to the tax base of Idaho.

    What’s The Point – As I recall, the streetcars of Idaho were bought up by the oil companies so that there would be a greater need for driving personal cars. At least that is what my grandmother had told us. It did not die out, it was killed.

  13. What's the Point?
    Feb 7, 2009, 11:06 am

    Dear Slim Jim,

    Interesting story about the oil companies buying up out the trolley. No offense to your elders, but I have my doubts. It sounds a lot like those myths about 300 mile carburetors being kept off the market by the oil companies.

    My understanding is that Boise’s trolley was like the trolleys in many cities. It, like the rail road, did a good job of competing against horses and buggies, but had trouble competing against ever better cars and trucks, particularly as the road systems improved from dirt to pavement in late 1920s. There is a history at, but no mention of big oil.

  14. My grandfather was street car driver back in the old days. As Boise expanded the system could not keep up with the expansion and it could not pay for itself and people did not support higher fees or higher taxes to maintain it. My feeling is that a street car system today would see the same.

  15. Perhaps they assume some of the trillion dollar PorkFest will slop our way?

  16. “The powers that be need to be concerned with moving people from Nampa, Caldwell, Eagle, Southwest Boise, and Meridian into downtown Boise, east Boise, St. Lukes, and Micron,…”

    This is true. I would like to shop or eat in Eagle but I will not spend a half hour or so to drive there from SE Boise. If folk were planning something smart, they would run a line from Micron to Caldwell with spurs to the mall and Eagle all centering on Boise. If one could sit on a train and get to Eagle in 30 minutes without stopping every other block, one would have a worthwhile system…

    As to bus…why not cattle car?

  17. Tom Anderson
    Feb 7, 2009, 9:45 pm

    If I remember correctly, General Motors bought up most all of the streetcar systems in America and scrapped them.

    If you want to see a segment on how this was done. Watch the great documentary, “The End of Suburbia”.

  18. Who's on first?
    Feb 8, 2009, 7:48 am

    Now I’m confused. One person says big oil bought up the trolleys, another says GM. Could we keep it down to one conspiracy theory per topic?

  19. Who's on first
    Feb 8, 2009, 10:49 am
  20. I stand (actually, am sitting) corrected on the history of the death of Boise’s trolley. Thank you for your kindness.
    Now for something completely different:

    google Peel 50 and see the answer to Boise’s traffic situation. Top speed is 38mph so not much need for going over most of the speed limits in town. No reverse, just hop out, pick it up and turn it around. Now THAT is more un-American than riding a bike!

  21. I lived in Los Angeles when the MTA bought out and tore out the street cars..MTA runs the bus system and GM Buses ! Stunk then and still does.

  22. Public debate is a good thing in my opinion too. I find myself caring a great deal about learning all I can regarding the pros and cons of this trolley issue and other issues in the city of Boise. And this website could possibly do a great service and a great deal of good in getting some serious debate going. But I, for one, cannot get past the “Team Dave” crap. It’s childish. It’s bratty and snarky and puts me on the defensive just as I felt with the bullies in grade school. Please, try “Mayor Beiter”, or “The Mayor”, or “Mr. Beiter” for a mature and sincere change. Or, if there is another place on the Internet where I can find some good information on both the pros and cons can you please share that with me? Thanks!

    EDITOR NOTE–Wheeler, you are missing the point. The GUARDIAN is not a formal drab traditional chronicle. We (affectionately) have coined phrases such as GROWTHOPHOBE, COMMISHES, GUV, TEAM DAVE, COPPERS, THE DAILY PAPER, among others. In our defense, we try to disallow name calling and send messages to those who truly get “snarky,” asking them to refrain. You will find tons of references in the legacy press from Washington Post to the Telegraph of London (the bloggers are now mainstream) to “Team Obama.”

  23. Serendipity
    Feb 9, 2009, 10:51 am

    brat1: “I lived in Los Angeles when the MTA bought out and tore out the street cars..MTA runs the bus system and GM Buses ! Stunk then and still does.”

    I grew up using those LA trolleys as a little kid. The BIG diff. between them and what team Bieter wants is that those trolleys went all over the place,including way out to the beach!
    Tearing them up was a bad idea, but then it made room for oh so many zillion more cars, more freeways, and –uh–freeways………

  24. Hey, Fraz

    This comment caught my interest:
    What’s the Point? says:
    Feb 7, 2009, 11:06 am

    “…particularly as the road systems improved from dirt to pavement …”

    Neither you nor any of your commenters noted that the TAXPAYERS have been paying for (SUBSIDIZING automobiles) paving roads since the 1920’s. No one around here complains when ACHD spends $4,000,000 taxpayer dollars for one intersection, or $12,000,000+ taxpayer dollars for one bridge. In the history of Los Angeles freeway building, spending trillions of tax dollars in “improving” two lane roads to twelve lanes has NOT reduced traffic congestion. Idaho can spend $250,000,000 in tax dollars to make I-84 from Caldwell to Boise into an eight lanes commuter road, but congestion will NOT go away. Final example: the “improving” of Eagle Rd. from 2 lanes to 4 lanes has done nothing more than moved downtown Meridian from Meridian Rd to Eagle Rd, and moved downtown Eagle from State St. to Eagle Rd – developers rejoice.


  25. AlphaDogReporter
    Feb 9, 2009, 1:59 pm

    The Utah rail system is heavily government subsidized and the Utah Transit Authority finally admitted last year that in all likelihood it will never pay for itself – ever (not even close). The same thing will happen with this ridiculous electric train that Bieter wants. Unfortunately, we now are living in a system of government were we have taxation without representation, so look for an electric trolley to go in within a year or two.

  26. As far as I know no public transport system pays for itself…the highways do not pay for themselves, even the airlines lose money most of the time. The real issue is not making money but getting bottoms on the seats in whatever system is decided on. I contend bus’s are peasant transport and never run full so, I am against the idea. Taking transport that is run half empty, stops every few blocks and never, ever makes a profit, is ….to put it simply, stupid.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: