Time To Stop The Trolley Folly

Too much tax money has been spent doing surveys, plans, and proposals for a local transit system.

Those who administer COMPASS, CCDC, and Valley Transit have demonstrated remarkable ineptness in providing any workable system. Those elected officials who sit on the various committees and boards have demonstrated a remarkable lack of leadership and concern for moving people–the ultimate goal of a transit system.




Today’s politicos make no secret of using transit funds to stimulate local retail businesses and increase property values.  They provide little direction or oversight of Valley Transit, CCDC, or COMPASS.  No wonder restaurants and businesses are fleeing downtown Boise in favor of more traffic and cheaper rent in Meridian.


Here is what needs to be done–in broad terms:

  • Build transit centers with parking facilities outside the city and run buses into the core.
  • Establish “express bus routes” from these centers (Meridian would be a good starting point) to busy destinations.
  • Leave the downtown transfer lanes where they are today.
  • Get a bus system operating BEFORE anything else.  
  • Forget about trolley downtown and don’t bury steel rains in our streets.
  • Consider dissolving Valley Transit and let each city do its own thing and have joint agreements for intercity runs.
  • Consider a REAL Transit Authority of elected officials who report to the citizens.
  • Quit trying to “sell” or “educate” citizens and businesses on the politico visions of what is needed.  Listen to people!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Well, there you go again Guardian, mixing logic and common sense into the equation!
    The only portion of your suggestions that lack realistic application is “listen to the people”!
    COMPASS, CCDC, Valley Transit, and City Hall, have completely ignored the “will of the people” for so long, on so many issues, I believe they are not capable of such a change in their actions.
    The solution?
    1 Recall the mayor
    2 Abolish COMPASS
    3 Abolish CCDC
    4 Eliminate all spokespersons for public or elected officials
    5 Require that said officials make all statements and policies directly, in person.
    There are a few others but this will supply a good start.

  2. The reason all these agencies spend all this money on surveys and consultants is that rather than accepting what the public wants they try to create enough “data” to support their own agenda.

    We see this over and over again with CCDC, G-Bad, ACHD and Compass.
    Then they go to the state and try to present all this bogus data as they lobby for their agendas.

    This practice needs to stop – but likely will not given our elected officials don’t care what the voter thinks.

  3. I thought it would be worth clarifying a few points here.
    1. Valley Ride as it current exists was established by a vote of the people, not by any jurisdiction. Thus, there aren’t any local jurisdictions which can just abolish it, except maybe the state, and that would be working against the people who voted for it!

    2. The suggestion to provide bus service from Meridian to Boise, but to abolish any county wide effort seems counter productive. Who would pay for this service. Meridian already refuses to fund service in their area.

    3. The suggestion to abolish Compass also seems odd. Per federal mandate it would have to be replaced with an organization that looks just like it. All population centers over 200,000 people must have an identified metropolitan planning authority to receive any federal funds. Of course, if we don’t care for any local road funds, then let it go. At least Compass is run my elected officials.

  4. Bus’s are for peasants. There, I said it. As as folk will not ride the silly things because they have the same cache as the local trailer park, they will always be half empty.

    Rail, not a 10 block tourist scam, but real passenger rail from where folk live to where they work or shop solves that problem.

    As the city seems oblivious to this simple reality, I expect them to build the tourist scam while other folk demand more half empty buses.

  5. Tom Anderson
    Mar 16, 2009, 12:49 am

    Jim V: Why do folks think it is helpful to point out that those with reliable cars don’t want to ride buses?

    Of course buses are not for the car loving / dependant masses. They are for poor folks, those who HATE cars for some reason, or those who have a disability that keeps them from driving.

    The American love affair with the personal automobile has created a sprawling wasteland of strip malls and far flung suburban development that is darn near impossible to navigate without a car.

    You get your car, which is the most destructive device ever created by humanity, and other folks get a few buses. It is a poor tradeoff for the bus folks.

  6. Because those folk are trying to steer mass transit into an expanded bus system, something that seldom if ever works and does zip for tourism or the average non bus riding tax payer. That appears to be the issue under debate. Do we do a money losing light rail system designed to cater to tourists, or expand the existing bus program which consists of half empty buses. The idea of a sea change to the bus system, one that chucks the giant empty buses and replaces them with smaller more fuel efficient ones running on routes citizens want, is not considered. The equally radical idea of a light rail system designed to move actual citizens from where they live to where they shop and work is also not on the agenda. As a result, we discuss two loser ideas and the city will do exactly what it desires regardless of citizen input unless those politicians are threatened.

    Do bus based systems make money or even pay for themselves anywhere they exist? I do not think so.

  7. So, Rob, what you are saying is that COMPASS, CCDC, VT, G-Bad are all similar to the Italian rocket program. Can’t fire it and can’t get it to work! Sorry, but that is not acceptable!
    Recall Bieter!

  8. Downtowm Portland is the model for people riding busses. Parking is scarce and expensive dowtown while the busses are cheap. They fill express busses to Vancouver both ways every day M-F. The downtown loops and light rail to LLoyd Center is Free to anyone who wants to hop on and ride.

    I was pleasantly impressed with the Portland bus service and rode it the entire time I was there a year of so back.

  9. You are absolutely correct Paul. It is very expensive to park in downtown Portland. Now, I would invite you to attend the next meeting of the Boise downtown business association and tell them that CCDC will start charging $10.00 plus $1.50/hour to park. I would strongly urge you make your announcement standing by the exit with the door open. The members will go ballistic at your statement!!

  10. Tom Anderson
    Mar 16, 2009, 10:00 pm

    JIM V: The problem is that riders don’t really want “routes”, they want to go from where they are, to where they want to be. “Routes” don’t really exist once sprawl occurs and you try to fix it after the fact.

    There is a solution called a “Smart Jitney System” which costs almost nothing to impliment and run, gets people from where they are to where they want to go, and costs the users much less than a taxi system.

    It is a great system for almost no cost to the taxpayers, …it’s worth looking into.

  11. The plan to spend $ 50 million for a downtown trolley is ludicrous. With 15 minutes between trolleys most people can walk where they need to go downtown faster than waiting for and riding the trolley. The $ 50 million could better be spent developing the current bus system into something that actually works.

    Rail, light or otherwise, is a pipedream. Sorry JIMV but it is. The Valley does not have now, nor will it have in the future, the population density to support a rail system according to COMPASS planners.

    Valley Regional Transit is a joke. More and more people are seeing its management as incompetent. Its recent handling of the Downtown Multi Modal Center controversy was a fiasco. Its refusal to hold a public hearing on the Center can only be described as arrogant. Open houses sure. A public hearing? No way.

    Giving away public property to an employee has to border on criminal if it isn’t criminal already. And then there are the arbitration issues lost to the Union which have cost local taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars – literally. Add to that non – union staff turn over and it’s a wonder Valley Regional is able to function at all.

    Valley Regional Board members are seen by some local business people as not having a clue as to what is going on. Nor does the Board seem to know what questions to ask of staff. Of course, if you don’t have a clue about what is going on, then you don’t know what questions to ask.

    And now it appears that in the last few months Valley Regional has quietly instituted a public comment policy that all but stifles public comment at meetings. Like ACHD, the Valley Regional Board seems more interested in making sure the allotted time for a meeting is adhered to rather than hearing from the public.

    It’s time for new, competent, management at Valley Regional. And for Board members who are elected directly by the public. Maybe then the valley will have a functional transit system.

  12. Still, when all is said and done, people simply do not ride buses. As long as the plan is to make the current giant empty bus system bigger, it will fail as a transit system that does more for the vast majority of tax payers than cost them money at tax time.

  13. JIMV – I would agree there is a certain demographic of transit riders that prefer rail. I would be part of that demographic. But I also realize that rail is not an appropriate way to spend tax dollars in many cities, especially cities the size of Boise. On a national basis, buses are the dominant form of public transportation. From peasants to the suburban commuter headed into the city to work, buses serve a wide range of passenger types.

    I know someone who was involved with the management of the Boise bus system a number of years ago. That person tells me that back around 1980 or so the Boise bus system was carrying standing loads of people, about 65 people per bus I’m told, during the morning and evening rush hours on New York City size buses. What’s a New York City size bus? A REALLY BIG bus. The type that could hold more than 50 people seated and another 25 or so standing. That’s a lot of people on one bus and it happened right here in Boise, Idaho. And Boise was a much smaller city back then.

    My point is bus systems can work. People will ride buses if the system is responsive to their needs. The person that was involved with the management of the Boise system tells me the system had great support from both the public and the local politicians back then.

    It had that support because a basic formula for providing good transit service was followed. That basic formula was (and still is) clean, well maintained buses, operating on routes and schedules that served the needs of a lot of the riding public, with friendly bus drivers and a management team that both cared and really listened to suggestions from the public to improve service. In short, the system was run in a business like manner and was responsive to its customers. Maybe Valley Regional can take a clue from past. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.

  14. AlphaDogReporter
    Mar 20, 2009, 7:23 am

    One need look no farther than the failed TRAX system in Salt Lake City to understand what a taxpayer boondoggle light rail is. In their own 2008 report, the Utah Transit Authority finally admitted that the TRAX system will forever be taxpayer subsidized (heavily) because it would NEVER get enough rider fees to pay for itself. What makes us think that we can do better here with our significantly lower population?

    Unfortunately, not only politicians but many citizens are enamored with light rail so I have no doubt within two years the downtown streets will be ripped up to put in Bieters electric train set. That man wants a taxpayer funded monument to himself – the folly of an egomaniac.

    If we are hell-bent on more mass transit, there are many other better alternatives to light rail (hybrid buses being one) that should be explored prior to going down an irreversible track.

    Trolleys and light rail are just another shining example of the disconnect people have with reality.

  15. I agree with JIMV. I spent 2years riding the bus to get to work and not because I was trying to look “green” around my yuppy neighbors. I couldn’t afford a car. It was me and countless homeless people, the bus was usually empty and always stinky. Since the day I bought my car I haven’t been back on it. Currently we tax payers subsidize the bus system that nobody wants to ride. And you want to expand it? Both sides of this argument are right… Rail is too expensive and Boise isn’t designed well for rail, nor do we have the population for rail to be efficient. On the flipside our bus system loses money and people simply don’t like riding a bus on a consistent basis. If we are looking to burn more “free” federal money that we don’t want to go to waste then so be it. But if you are talking about spending our local tax dollars I think it is better to wait until a better solution comes along. Stop throwing money down the well!

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