City Government

“We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Feasibility Study”

Section 1. That the City of Boise supports the resumption of Amtrak’s inter-city passenger rail service through Boise at the earliest feasible date to serve the citizens of Idaho’s capital city and the region.

Boise’s Team Dave is forging ahead with their quest for passenger train service in Boise despite the fact results of an AMTRAK feasibility have not been completed. No facts from the study have been made public.

So working without any facts with regard to cost, anticipated passenger load factors, schedules, routing or ANYTHING else, Team Dave is asking City Councilors to approve a resolution in support of AMTRAK service to Boise and they know nothing about it. They are also seeking permission to use taxpayer funds to allow “David H. Bieter of the Mayor’s office” to go to Washington, D.C. to meet with Federal Transportation Agency officials September 9-10…presumably to lobby for AMTRAK service.

Would they be willing to send the GUARDIAN or one of our readers on the same mission?

This cart before the horse coercion (favorably manipulating public opinion before facts are in) doesn’t make for good government and it reflects poorly on the judgement of elected officials if they pass the resolution in advance of the study results.

Senior Crapo should be outraged at the antics of Team Dave. Crapo takes credit for pushing for funds for the study, but the results will be meaningless if Boise passes a resolution without regard to the facts. There is no need for the study when politicos are pushing for trains BEFORE the study is completed.

Wars get started when governments make decisions based on faulty (or no) intelligence!
The clear message from the politicos is: “We want trains and we don’t care about the facts.”

UPDATE–The council passed the resolution Tuesday night.
The entire resolution language follows:

TO: City Council
FROM: Michael Zuzel, Mayor’s Office
DATE: August 4, 2009
SUBJECT: Support for return of inter-city passenger rail service to Boise
ACTION REQUIRED: Adoption of non-binding resolution expressing the City of Boise’s support for the resumption of Amtrak passenger rail service along the Pioneer line through Boise; offering to assist Idaho’s representatives in Congress and other interested parties in effecting the Pioneer’s return; and calling upon the federal government to make passenger rail an important part of the nation’s transportation system.
RECOMMENDATION: Approve resolution as proposed.
BACKGROUND: Amtrak discontinued the Pioneer line in 1997 for financial reasons, leaving Idaho’s capital city with no regularly scheduled inter-city passenger rail service. Congress recently appropriated $13 billion over five years for passenger rail around the country, including a feasibility study for restoring the Pioneer line. This resolution outlines the wide range of benefits generated by passenger rail and expresses the City of Boise’s support for resumption of that service to our community.
FISCAL IMPACT/BUDGET IMPLICATIONS: The City of Boise currently leases its portion of the Boise Cut-Off rail line to Union Pacific for storage of rail cars. The lease generates $40,656.00 per month in revenue. The rail line would no longer be available for this use if Amtrak were to utilize the line for passenger service. However, staff continues to explore opportunities for utilization of the line for other revenue-generating activities, including freight and passenger traffic.
ATTACHMENT: Resolution.

WHEREAS, beginning in 1977, trains operated by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak, carried passengers along Routes #25 and #26, a line dubbed the Pioneer that eventually spanned 2,422 miles, connecting Seattle, Portland, Boise, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha and Chicago, with daily service through much of the ensuing two decades; and

WHEREAS, Amtrak discontinued the Pioneer in 1997 for financial reasons, leaving Idaho’s capital city, most of the rest of the state, and major portions of other Western states with no regularly scheduled inter-city passenger rail service; and

WHEREAS, passenger rail provides an essential transportation alternative for residents of small, isolated communities that have little or no bus or airline service, and serves an important economic development function for communities and regions of all sizes; and

WHEREAS, in the 12 years since the Pioneer suspended operations, passenger rail has become increasingly popular in the United States, with Amtrak posting six consecutive years of record ridership and revenue across a system that currently serves more than 78,000 passengers riding on as many as 300 trains per day, or more than 28 million passenger trips a year; and

WHEREAS, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo helped pass legislation in October 2008 appropriating $13 billion over five years for passenger rail around the country, including a feasibility study for restoring the Pioneer line that is scheduled to submitted to Congress no later than Oct. 16, 2009; and

WHEREAS, the City of Boise owns the Boise Depot and has preserved the facility for R-232-09
use as a passenger terminal at such time as Pioneer service is reactivated, and also owns 18 miles of track at the eastern end of the Boise Cut-Off, the former Pioneer route; and

WHEREAS, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, passenger trains are more environmentally friendly than many other forms of transportation, consuming 17 percent less energy than airplanes and 21 percent less than automobiles per passenger mile while producing 60 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than cars and half the carbon dioxide of planes per passenger mile; and

WHEREAS, during a time of higher fuel prices, increasing concern about greenhouse emissions and efforts nationwide to improve air quality, the people of Boise and the state of Idaho deserve to have access to a successful nationwide rail network that already, serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states on 21,000 miles of routes;

Section 1. That the City of Boise supports the resumption of Amtrak’s inter-city passenger rail service through Boise at the earliest feasible date to serve the citizens of Idaho’s capital city and the region.
Section 2. That the City of Boise offers its assistance to Sen. Mike Crapo and other members of the Idaho Congressional delegation, Sen. James Risch and Congressmen Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick, and all other interested parties and entities in bringing the Pioneer back on line, and further urges other local governments throughout the former Pioneer service area to make known their support for swift re-establishment of the route.

Section 3. That Federal officials continue to make passenger rail and its adequate funding a strong component of any future planning for the nation’s transportation system.
APPROVED by the Mayor of the City of Boise, Idaho, this 11th day of August, 2009.
ADOPTED by the Council of the City of Boise, Idaho, this 11th day of August, 2009.
_____________________________ _____________________________

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. This is just proof that Beiter and Crapo have been scheming this behind closed doors. Crapo is backing Bieters streetcar and now Bieter comes out with this absolute tripe of a resolution.

    These two are trying to railroad this through before the public at large figures out they are getting blindsided with yet another perpetual tax subsidy.

    Bieter already has gone back to D.C. at least once to lobby for this, and he has also traveled to Little Rock on the taxpayers dime to ride their streetcar and see how fun it is.

    Now they are feverishly trying to manipulate numbers in this phony report so that they can bring back a failed passenger service that will serve very few people. Rail service receives the highest tax subsidy per rider of any mode of transportation and that will in all likelihood never change.

    Amtrak’s numbers are also manipulated. They brag about increased ridership but in fact according to their own numbers, in FY2007 their trains traveled less than half-full on average – 47.2%. This is despite ever-increasing federal funding. In FY2008 the federal government described Amtrak’s financial situation as ‘precarious’.

    And these people keep getting re-elected. Go figure.

  2. Mr. Watcher
    Aug 11, 2009, 7:56 am

    There are many reasons that this train thing is very bad news and is a total waste of taxpayer’s hard earned tax money.
    There is one thing that never seems to enter the fry on this issue. Every driver knows what its like to be behind any kind of bus that has to stop with its flashers on and wait X amount of time at a total stand still at rail tracks. I can see downtown’s traffic being held up big time with all the buses and trucks that have to do the long flashing stop at rail tracks.
    Yea I know this is no where near the worst of this scam being forced on the taxpayers. However if this train scam does become the real deal more people than ever will dodge downtown because of the traffic nightmare this moronic train scam has created.

  3. Mr. Watcher
    Aug 11, 2009, 8:01 am

    And these people keep getting re-elected. Go figure.

    Easy answer for that statement. We have a very slanted state owned media thats more into yellow than truth and what’s in the best interest of the little people.

  4. Blazing Saddle
    Aug 11, 2009, 8:07 am

    OK, where is the payoff? For Crapo, an R, to be paired with Bieter, a D, and arguably the only D with enough name recognition to be a threat at the gubernatorial or congressional level, there has to be a pile of money sliding under their respective tables.

    It sure as tarnation is not because this train business is a no-brainer. Lame-Brainer is more like it. Trains were a great idea, in the 1800s.

    I remember riding the train between Pocatello and Boise back in the 60s. When it died, there was no air service between the two cities, and the freeway was still only about 60 percent complete. That is how bad the train was. It died when it didn’t even have competition. Now, Biet-Crap want to bring back the the same-train that failed 50 years ago.

    How stupid is that?

  5. David A Honey
    Aug 11, 2009, 9:16 am

    Okay, maybe I’m not reading this right. But, $40,656.00 a month revenue for the lease of the tracks for the city of Boise..or….pay for a feasability study that has no impact whatsoever because the mayor, city council and our senator are going to push/approve the re-activation of the pioneer route? I don’t foresee it being a win-win situation for Boise or the treasure valley. I believe in common sense and if our elected officials refuse to use it and ignore the voice of the public…lets vote them out. They seem to forget very easily who they work for and its time we stand up and give them a wake up call.

  6. Karen Ragland
    Aug 11, 2009, 11:50 am

    Personally I am surprised that the Bieter Bunch does not want AMTRAX to run a spur down Capitol Blvd. right to City Hall.

  7. I’ll go if you don’t want to, Dave.

  8. Too bad Boise can’t get the lease of $40,656.00 per month from the UP permanently. $480,000/year on a $2 million dollar purchase isn’t bad.

  9. I almost hesitate to comment, but Blazing Saddle, from your mouth to God’s ears!! Please God, let Bieter run for governor! Sure, he has name recognition around the state. Although anywhere outside of Boise, it is usually” can you believe what that dummy is doing in Boise”? Dave Bieter couldn’t beat Butch Otter if Dan Popkey caught Butch in bed with a 12 year old choir boy blind drunk. One can only ride dad’s coattails so far.

  10. Mr. Watcher: the trains won’t go downtown. Why did you think they would? The Depot is at the top of the hill. Can’t see any traffic tie-up from that.

  11. Mr. Watcher
    Aug 12, 2009, 7:41 am

    TJ, I just wanted to tie in the train tracks with the other train project that Dave and his band of marry pranksters have in the works on ramming down on the taxpayers.
    When speaking of Dave and his choo choos its only too easy to tie them in together as, “bad news for Boise and the taxpayers who will get stuck with paying for them”.

  12. Again, from experience with government, a ‘feasibility study’ can and always is, engineered to produce the result desired….

    It either serves to delay a project or to reinforce it for the politicians desiring it…It never really considers what is ‘feasible’ or even desirable.

  13. Lucas Baumbach
    Aug 12, 2009, 4:15 pm

    Anyone care to enlighten TJ about all the crossings where the train would stop traffic? Orchard, Curtis, Cole, Milwaukee, Maple Grove, Five Mile, Cloverdale, Eagle Road, Meridian Road to name a few biggies. This is typical of a downtown mentality, which is out of touch with the rest of Idaho.

  14. Why was this done before the feasibility study was out? Will the feasability study hold any weight with the Bieter Brigade? Or will the feasibility study be received like public testimony is received by this bunch? How will this be paid for after the porkulus, I mean stimulus money is gone? Could we run a bus to simulate the trolley before we tear up the streets, put down track that will disrupt bicycles and purchase a trolley? Is there a successful trolley system anywhere? Will these two fiascos be like the library sham? Voters say no to more taxes for libraries, yet we have all these new libraries. Time for people on the council and in the mayors chair that actually serve the people and listen to their concerns.

  15. Feasibility study? Like the do on the dams/salmon debates — and have been doing for longer than most of us can remember.
    For the millions of dollars they’ve spent on that, the probably could have created something at actually would let the fish go where they need to go and still keep the dams doing their thing.
    Or how about the Boise comprehensive plan(s); studied to death, approved every few years, and then mostly ignored.
    Or the studies on nuclear plants. Duh.
    Nope, studies wouldn’t help, but they sure would cost a lot of money.

  16. Good point, Lucas. I don’t go downtown anymore after working there for 30 years. I think that was what Watcher was referring to in talking about traffic tie ups.

    You are right about all the north/south intersections on the bench which would be affected by trains. We try to stay north of State Street if at all possible.

  17. John Q Publique
    Aug 13, 2009, 11:20 pm


    Good job. You get an A. Maybe even a gold star. You know the names of the streets where traffic might get stopped if Amtrak came to town. You got something right for a change. But since we don’t know yet what the Amtrak schedule might be, we don’t know if Amtrak would in fact stop traffic on those streets during critical times like morning and evening rush hours.

    But it is a safe bet those same streets, and air quality, would be adversely impacted by a commuter train. Like the one you propose. That train might even worsen air quality rather than improve it. Why? Because it would tie traffic flow into knots as the train passes through each grade crossing at those streets. Commuter rail, by definition, would need to operate during the morning and evening rush hours at a minimum.

    Back in May the so called “experts” told a gathering at BSU that commuter rail would not work in the Treasure Valley because, among other things, there are too many crossings. Like the ones you’ve noted. Maybe you missed that forum. This is one of the few times I’d agree with the so called “experts.”

    So instead of promoting a choo choo, how about enlightening yourself about the HOV (that would be High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes that have been, and are being, built into I – 84 as part of the widening project. Then enlighten us how you think they could be used to best advantage.

    For starters, maybe they could be used for express commuter buses, bus rapid transit (also know as BRT), van pools, or car pools. All lower cost public transportation forms than a commuter rail line.

    Please, enlighten us. And when you enlighten us maybe you also could enlighten us as to the difference you see between Amtrak and the commuter rail line you propose. Both would tie up traffic.

  18. Lucas Baumbach
    Aug 14, 2009, 11:49 pm

    I didn’t propose anything. I noted in my press release that if we’re talking trains we should talk about commuter line not trolleys and Amtrak. Most people I know are interested in commuter solutions. If you really cared about my opinions, you’d have gathered that I’m more interested in substantially improving bus service than Lionel pipe dreams. You get an “A” for building straw man arguments against me. Your bias is getting pretty obvious.

  19. John Q Publique
    Aug 15, 2009, 1:57 pm


    Part of your rather rambling press release says:

    “The local area would benefit from a commuter train instead of an Amtrak line. We are widening I-84 to handle more commuter traffic, but we aren’t putting in a commuter train. This would actually help reduce pollution, especially if we built a nuclear plant to power electric (not diesel) commuter trains. These trains could stop in all the major bedroom communities and actually benefit Boise.”

    That’s not a proposal? Where’s the mention about trolleys?

    And I really do care about your opinions and proposals. I care about the opinions and proposals of ALL city council candidates. I would be very much interested in hearing your proposals about improving the bus system. This is the first I’ve heard you have a position on that. Or, from another post, what your proposal for sidewalks actually is. Maybe you could post your proposals on your web site so everyone could see them. The (rather rambling) press releases also.

    Maybe you could tell us how you propose the City make up the $ 500,000 (or so) loss in revenue from the use of the City owned portion of the railroad tracks should Amtrak return to Boise. Or your position on the HOV lanes, some of which will be in Boise. Or how you plan to monitor and eventually reduce, or at least slow the growth in, the City budget. I’d be interested in learning about your positions on those issues also.

    As to bias, my only bias is that candidates for City Council have their facts right. So far, in my opinion, you’re not doing too well in that department.

  20. Mr. Watcher
    Aug 16, 2009, 6:51 am

    JQP, if you want to move people from the west into Boise and do it in a cost effective way. Use the rail that is in place now. All that is needed is parking lots and some trains. I have seen what San Diego did to move people from the north into downtown using rail tracks that were in place and being used for commercial rail operations.
    One thing that clearly comes out in your well thought out replies is. You believe government is somewhat of a business. Government does things for revenue as if its a private business. Services preformed by government are services that the citizens pay for and are not in place to make money to feed the tax feed for employment. A classic example of this is bring in new business into Idaho. This isn’t done to help the citizens with jobs but to get more tax money. So clearly government is serving themselves first and foremost and if the citizens get a few jobs so be it.
    All being said, I didn’t know about the experts at the meeting you noted saying this project wouldn’t work in Boise because of all and too many crossing. Thank you for bring up that bit of information.

  21. Lucas Baumbach
    Aug 17, 2009, 10:14 am

    John: Stating that one idea would be more beneficial than another is not a statement of undying support or an exhaustive analysis. I’m sorry that you expect one press-release about Amtrak and alternative ideas for stimulus money to be an exhaustive legislative proposal. You have not contacted my campaign heretofore requesting information concerning my positions. You say that I don’t have facts, insinuating that I am devoid of content, but you have made little effort outside this forum to get facts. There you go.

  22. John Q Publique
    Aug 17, 2009, 2:06 pm

    Mr. Watcher,

    First, thank you for the compliment.

    Second, I’m for moving people from west (and west of) Boise into Boise in the most cost effective manner possible. So I’d be going with high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, van pools, car pools, express commuter buses, and bus rapid transit (BRT) to accomplish that.

    Folks that I know who have worked in the public transit business tell me that’s the most cost effective way to go for Boise right now. Commuter rail may work in San Diego but, besides better year round weather, San Diego has a lot more people and much higher population density than Boise. I’m told population, and more importantly population density, are critical factors for rail service (commuter, light, streetcar, etc)and that Boise barely has the population density now to support a bus system let alone rail of any type. I’m also told COMPASS planners have said in open meetings that they don’t foresee the population density of the Valley changing very significantly over the next 20 – 30 years.

    Those “experts” listed a total of 5 reasons why commuter rail is not a good idea for Boise. In addition to too many crossings, the story lists poor track quality, insufficient right of way, competition from freight traffic, and high cost / no money. The transit folks I know were totally shocked at the “experts” findings. They were thinking here comes another pep rally. It was the opposite. The story is still on line at: . Maybe the Guardian could have his transportation correspondent research prior studies about the Boise rail line. I’m told studies have been done and using the current tracks isn’t quite as simple as it first appears.

    As to government, I expect government at all levels to deliver the highest possible level of service to its citizens while operating in the most efficient manner possible. I expect all public officials (and employees) to be proper stewards of the taxpayer dollar. I don’t support schemes by public officials to increase revenue so they can further their “legacies.” The Downtown Streetcar and commuter or light rail are examples of the legacy category in my opinion. Folks I know that have worked in the public sector tell me the waste of public money is incredible – particularly in school districts. That’s the short version of my government philosophy.

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