Businesses Could Be Forced To Pay For Trolley

Struggling downtown Boise businesses could get whacked with a big tax bill for a trolley to nowhere if a funding scheme is created to go around the will of the voters.

Rather than put the funding straight forward to a vote of the citizens, they are exploring the creation of a LID–“local improvement district.” LIDs are allowed under Idaho law and require only a majority–in some cases a 60% majority–of property owners adjacent to the project or that will benefit from the project to sign a petition creating the LID.

Most often this funding mechanism is used to finance sidewalks, curb and gutter, and sometimes sewer and water improvements. The obligation lasts for about 20 years to cover the debt and is simply added onto the tax bill.

Here is the dirty little secret: Downtown Boise has many more businesses than it has property owners. Merchants rent space and most commercial leases are written to benefit the landlord as “triple net leases.” One important element of such a lease is a clause that obligates the lessee to “pay any tax increases.”

What this means in effect is that a handful of property owners can impose tax hikes (rent increases)
on a bunch of businesses whether they like it or not. Such a monthly increase could sound the death knell for struggling merchants in these hard economic times.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. First the city imposes a law to have bars train servers then this. Is the city trying to get businesses to leave?

  2. “Could” be forced to pay?! The CCDC and it’s proxies the DBA and GBAD already foist upon downtown merchants various compulsory fees, and are empowered to essentially levy-at-will.


    It’s time to thank Boise’s various Shadow Governments for their service and absorb their operations into existing city departments and agencies where the professional and dedicated staff at existing City Hall departments and agencies are more than capable to take the reins again, and want only for leadership.

  3. I think it’s fabulously humorous and classically ironic that the City of Boise is considering using the LID as a funding mechanism!! A few years back they adamantly opposed the legislative creation of the tool by the developer coalition who introduced it, which was led by AZ companies Suncor (Avimor) and M3. Now they hope to bring it down in sledgehammer form on poor struggling small town Boise business owners. Boise citizens – you deserve everything you are getting right now by re-electing Team Dave as your “leader”. Enjoy.

  4. What goes around, comes around!
    20 years ago, who would have thought that CCDC, the “saviors” of the downtown corridor, would also be the group that caused the demise of the same piece of the city? Today? It appears that they are killing the downtown area on purpose, because no one is that stupid to do this by accident or ineptness.

  5. If this author tags Boise’s downtown as being “nowhere”, therefore undeserving of public amenities like trolleys, I’d say that lack of self-confidence is the biggest problem. Who was it who said “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”?

  6. Sam,It appears that you aren’t reading what is being said here. Simply put, there is NO justification for an “in-ground” trolley system that doesn’t accomplish any transit goals! It is TOO MUCH MONEY for a tourist “look what we have” project!
    At this point in the process, if you want a trolley, move to San Fransisco, they have some really cool ones! WE CAN”T AFFORD THEM HERE!!!

  7. Tom Anderson
    Feb 8, 2009, 11:09 am

    In 1955, a 1.5 mile mile loop train system was built at Disneyland, in Anahiem Ca. The cost to lay the track and create the infrastructure was $240,000, and each of the four locomotives cost $40,000. This would be equal to about 2.5 million dollars today, adjusted for inflation.

    As someone who worked at Disneyland, I can tell you that folks didn’t use the railroad for transportation. It was an amusement ride, not a way to get places. Walking a half mile is much faster than walking to a station, then waiting for the train, boarding, unboarding, then walking on to your final destination.

    The proposed Boise trolley system would not serve a role as a transporation solution. It would be a novelty ride.

    If we want a novelty ride, why not install a tourist train to run around Ann Morrison Park? If we did this, it could certainly be installed for a tiny fraction of the $50,000,000.00 that the trolley might cost.

    The truth about our car created geography is that it sprawls off in every direction so that no mass transit solution will ever work very well.

    The real solution is for people to live where they work, or very close by. We need a plan to discourage people from thinking it is acceptable / convenient to live 20 miles from where they work.

  8. Tom Anderson
    Feb 8, 2009, 11:33 am

    There is a new idea out there for creating a cheap, super convenient public transportation system that would cost the city very little money to fully impliment. It is known as a “Smart Jitney system”.

    The Smart Jitney system would use cell phones, GPS, private cars, and special software to create a real time adaptable transport system.

    You would use your cell phone to ask for a ride, giving your pickup point and destination, and specifying any criteria like only a female driver. The software would then pick one car that could most efficiently transport you and tell you when it would arrive.

    After your trip, you could rate your experience and that rating would be available to future riders considering using the driver you used. This would eliminate obnoxious / dangerous drivers from the system.

    The idea has been thought out in great depth and can be studied in detail on many sites, just Google “Smart Jitney system”.

  9. Sorry to burst your bubble Tom, but the Smart Jitney system you describe has been around for a long time.

    “You would use your cell phone to ask for a ride, giving your pickup point and destination, and specifying any criteria like only a female driver. The software would then pick one car that could most efficiently transport you and tell you when it would arrive.”

    Great system …it is more commonly known as a taxicab!

  10. Tom Anderson
    Feb 8, 2009, 4:42 pm

    Actually Antiphope, it is nothing like a taxicab at all.

    The Smart Jitney system uses cars that are already going somewhere, not dedicated vehicles. The Jitney system can pick up multiple people all going in the same direction, thus lowering the cost by not just a small percentage, but maybe half or a lot more. If a taxi took you from Boise to Nampa, they’d likely drive clear back to Boise right after dropping you, with no passenger. It is complex enough that it is worth studying.

  11. Serendipity
    Feb 9, 2009, 10:39 am

    “If we want a novelty ride, why not install a tourist train to run around Ann Morrison Park?”
    Hey–that would save us from walking through all the goose poop that never gets cleaned up over there, including from the cement paths. But what if a bunch of geese flew into the train–would it be able to land on the pond?

  12. AlphaDogReporter
    Feb 9, 2009, 1:54 pm

    Place the blame where it lies. This whole thing was Mayor Bieters idea from the beginning. Diesel or hybrid trolleys, which can be immeditately deployed, have lower costs, and don’t need tracks would be a better alternative. Mayor Bieter only wants this as a monument to himself. What sense is an electric train when you can walk across the entire length of downtown in 15 minutes anyway? A complete boondoggle and waste.

  13. I like the Disney idea. Only use the old people mover. We could run this this system through an engine system solely powered by the starch derived from potatoes. On a serious note, I encourage all of you with your ideas and feasbile plans to attend these meetings and thrust them forward, you never know when one of them may take root and bring fruit someday.
    I can understand the frustration with the different personalities on the commission and city government, current policies and the way they are applied, but do not give up hope that whether Boise gets a tram, train, bus or magic flying cars, someone is trying to fight the good fight and we all need to give our input in a public forum.

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