City Government

Good Reason Why Bad Decisions Are Made

Guardian Transportation Correspondent

Like the politicos, when the Daily Paper recently ran a story about the possible return of AMTRAK service to southern Idaho they simply got derailed when it came to facts. Enthusiasm trumps information every time.

The Daily has since run a correction which basically says the Eastern Idaho group mentioned in the original article isn’t trying to rebuild the old RAIL line to West Yellowstone. They just want to coordinate BUS service in the area. But wait, there is more!

Senator Crapo’s press secretary is quoted as saying that AMTRAK ridership is up 20%. AMTRAK did have a record setting ridership for its fiscal year ending September 2008. System wide ridership was up about 11% over the previous fiscal year (which was a bad year even for AMTRAK). HOWEVER, as of June the system-wide ridership is DOWN almost 5% for the current year.

When the article discussed the AMTRAK Cascades train running between Eugene and Vancouver, B.C. it claimed ridership is up 82% since the service started in 1997. Overall the stock market and the U.S. economy are positive when viewed over 10 years too!

An AMTRAK press release in March of this year indicates Cascades ridership is up 71% since service started 10 years ago. That same press release also notes the service began with one train daily and now there are four trains daily. More trains, more riders. Not rocket science. A 400% increase in trains with only a 71% ridership increase probably isn’t all that good in a business sense. Nonetheless it points out that frequent service can indeed increase ridership.

We simply can’t trust statements made by the so called “experts” who are pressing a particular viewpoint. We need to ask serious questions and should expect the media and politicos to do the same. Until those questions are answered it is premature to get excited about trains–or anything else.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. David Zarkin
    Aug 11, 2009, 7:31 am

    Let me know when that train from Idaho to Yellowstone leaves the station because I will be on it. We are anxiously awaiting the start of the Northstar Train from Minneapolis to Big Lake this fall.
    Your campaign against the train is a red herring. If Crapo is behind it, how radical could it be?

    EDITOR NOTE–David, there is no train and no station. It is a BUS! You would do well at the Statesman.

  2. I have had the nostalgic pleasure of riding the Cascade 4 times in the last two years. It is, without a doubt, a very pleasurable trip. However the best it performed was 2 hours late and one trip was 3 DAYS late. Truly an inefficient means of travel by any measure. And it isn’t exactly cheap either. Roughly 1/3rd. more than a plane.

  3. Lucas Baumbach
    Aug 12, 2009, 12:51 am

    A red herring is a distraction from important content. Amtrak has no content. It is a baby boomer’s panacea. At the publicity stunt a woman asked “what the children can do” to bring the train back. She is an shining example of how intellectually bankrupt the ruling generation has become. And, at the council meeting tonight the Amtrak resolution contains the following: “Calling upon the federal government to make passenger rail an important part of the nation’s transportation system.” I don’t know who drafts these resolutions, but how can the government make Amtrak important? Can the City Council make Boise important and focus on local issues, like installing sidewalks for safety?

  4. Seems like you’re presenting the 10-year increases as being a diversion.
    Would you rather they looked only at one-year comparisons?
    Too many businesses — and investors — base their decisions on the short term. Doesn’t often work out well.

  5. John Q Publique
    Aug 13, 2009, 8:40 pm


    The reason the Boise City Council doesn’t focus on sidewalks is sidewalks are under the jurisdiction of ACHD. ACHD by the way stands for Ada County Highway District.

    If the City Council focused on issues outside their jurisdiction, like sidewalks, wouldn’t that distract them from focusing on the really important issues facing the City? Like the downtown streetcar or Boise International Airport for example. Besides, everyone knows how difficult it is for people over 50 to focus on anything let alone the really important issues facing a city.

    Remember that increase in the vehicle registration tax, I mean fee, a lot of voters got suckered into voting for last November? ACHD gets that tax. Part of that tax goes toward building safe routes to school for school kids (sidewalks are part of that program) and SIDEWALKS.

    Let’s see. Boise City is in Ada County. ACHD has exclusive jurisdiction over local public roads and sidewalks in Ada County. Therefore ACHD has jurisdiction over sidewalks in Boise City. Pretty simple.

    Since sidewalks seem to be the centerpiece of your campaign, I’d suggest you run for an ACHD Commissioner position rather than a Boise City Council position. If you became an ACHD Commissioner then you really could do something about sidewalks. Maybe even Amtrak.

    A final question. Boise International Airport? When did the airport get renamed? I’ve always heard it referred to as Boise Air Terminal or Gowen Field or Boise Air Terminal / Gowen Field. Was renaming the airport one of those locally important issues I failed to get involved with? Or did you (again) not get things right?

  6. Lucas Baumbach
    Aug 14, 2009, 11:41 pm

    John, you have to learn to think outside the bureaucracy to get things done. I figure that if Team Dave can work tirelessly obtaining funding for myriad projects, like federal funding for Amtrak, that we can have sidewalks 50 years after they should have been installed. If you like Boise without sidewalks, that’s your personal preference. Most of the people I tell about my ideas for stimulus money love the idea of beautiful neighborhoods. And, it’s not exactly hard to understand that the right of ways belong to ACHD. That doesn’t mean I can’t work to secure funding for the project, enabling a strategic partnership with ACHD via City-supported local improvement districts to get sidewalks installed finally. The return on investment money from liquidating matured assets would also be targeted for sidewalks.
    Southwest Airlines (among other sources)refers to BOI as Boise International. Take it up with them, if the terminology bothers you so much.

  7. John Q Publique
    Aug 15, 2009, 3:11 pm


    First off, I support the need for sidewalks. I just don’t see sidewalks as being one of the most pressing issues facing the City right now especially since ACHD has primary jurisdiction over sidewalks and they will be getting all that upped registration tax revenue. But that’s just my thoughts.

    Second, it’s nice to hear EXACTLY what your position is on sidewalks and how you plan to fund that idea.

    Third, sorry, but it appears you have it all wrong about Team Dave working tirelessly to obtain federal funding for Amtrak. Amtrak funding is the job of Congress, not a Mayor and a City Council.

    The feasibility study for the Pioneer was one of six feasibility studies mandated by Congress in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. The Pioneer study requirement was pushed not only by Senator Crapo and Representative Simpson but also members of the Oregon Congressional delegation and maybe the Utah delegation. It’s just a feasibility study. The Amtrak Board will have the yeah or nay on the Pioneer then seek funding from Congress if they decide to go with it. I’ve yet to see anyone’s name from Team Dave mentioned in the documents that I have seen. Unless you have some hard evidence, which I’d like to see posted (maybe on your website?), that Team Dave has had more of a hand in the Pioneer study than it appears, I’d suggest refraining from making such claims.

    As to thinking outside the bureaucracy, that’s a great idea. Just keep it legal – something our age 50 and above Council members sometimes seem to have a problem with.

    And as to the name of the airport in Boise, I really don’t give a good darn what Southwest or any other airline calls the airport in Boise so I won’t be taking it up with them. But I am concerned when a candidate for City Council refers to the local airport as Boise International. To me that goes to the creditability of the candidate and may even indicate a lack of knowledge of the local landscape. Get something as simple as the name of the local airport wrong and I have to wonder what else that candidate is getting wrong.

    Since you’ve responded to my post are you going to respond to Gordon’s question above? I think it’s directed to you not Jimmy D Bus.

  8. Lucas Baumbach
    Aug 17, 2009, 10:06 am

    Dave Bieter is spending taxpayer dollars to go to DC to lobby personally for Amtrak funding for the Pioneer line. If it’s not his responsibility to obtain funding, why is he going? And, Team Dave and the flab four passed an Amtrak resolution last Tuesday. I thought this was common knowledge.
    @Gordon: I’m saying the entire Amtrak boondoggle is a distraction from important issues, like preparing for the greatest economic downturn since the great depression.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: