City Government

STATESMAN Readers Bash Bieter Trolley

Mayor Dave Bieter continued his pitch for a trolley in the narrow streets of Downtown Boise with an op-ed piece in the Daily Paper Wednesday.

Out of 10 comments posted so far, there was one flat out supporter, one “sorta for it” and eight who flat out were against it. Count the GUARDIAN in the group who think it is downright foolish.



Truth be told there really isn’t a lot of support, despite the expensive efforts of Team Dave to make it appear otherwise. Boise city council, COMPASS, and Senator Crapo have endorsed efforts to get some federal money, but it is a wishy-washy thing that isn’t really an endorsement–just ask Crapo if he will come out and support spending $40 million for a 2.3 mile street car when public opinion is not in favor of it.

Here are some facts that will be added to the curriculum by the GUARDIAN as citizens get “educated” in a vacant storefront at 821 W. Idaho Street at a Thursday “Open House” produced by a public relations firm:

–For the cost of a 2.3 mile trolley we could buy a fleet of 240 buses! ($60 million for a trolley divided by $250,000 for each bus)

–Any increased tax revenues from new development along the trolley route will go to the CCDC by law–not Boise City.

–INCREASED TAX ON BUSINESSES will be the rule in most cases if a LID (local improvement district) is created. Most “triple net leases” have a clause requiring tenants to pay any increases in fees or taxes.

–NO CITIZEN VOTE is planned for this “profound project” which has the potential of changing the face of the downtown. We deserve to be heard at the polls.

–A NOVELTY RIDE at best, this expensive retro ride to nowhere cannot be considered a viable transportation resource.

–THE MAYOR and three councilors is all it takes to skirt the will of the people and have iron rails planted in our streets.

–RUBBER TIRED electric vehicles would be safer, cheaper and could be operational almost immediately if there really is a demand for downtown transportation. Downtown businesses cancelled the last one.

–UNSIGHTLY WIRES carrying high voltage electricity will be strung up and down the streets to power a trolley.

–PUBLIC HEARINGS are rigged and meaningless (Remember the health care resolution). Demand a binding vote of the citizens of Boise on this important community issue.

Finally, there is the question of where the trolley would run since Ada County Highway District has not agreed to allow the use of streets for a trolley.

“We have not been asked, formerly or not, for permission to put a street car into downtown. We cannot agree or reject anything we’ve never been asked to consider.

Last year, the ACHD Commission received a briefing from CCDC’s Phil Kushlan and Boise Councilman Dave Eberle on the proposal, which obviously occurred before the most recent incarnation and did not include possible stimulus funding.

The fact that ACHD Commissioners and staff members serve on some of the various task forces that have been called to deal with the street car and related issues should not be construed as an endorsement from the District. Ultimately, this will be a Commission decision and will have to go before the elected officials in an open meeting. Whenever this question has come up in the past, the Commissioners have indicated that they would like to see ACHD do its own, independent public outreach before considering such a major change to the traffic pattern downtown.”

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. sam the sham
    Oct 1, 2009, 12:24 am

    “But I have always wanted one. It’s the only reason I wanted to be Mayor, so that I could get a trolley car to ride around in down town.” waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

  2. Not to mention FLEXIBILITY with Buses. Some proposed plan for now may not be in demand in the future so it will be a lot easier to reroute a bus than a trolley line. Trolleys would be add unique character to Boise Down Town BUT that is about it – especially with all the ugly electric lines. Someone needs to take a bat to Bieter’s head to wake his a$$ up.

  3. Mr. Watcher
    Oct 1, 2009, 8:12 am

    This is solid proof that Dave is the wrong person to be mayor. He is not doing the will of the citizens of Boise and seemingly has been on the job too long losing his ability to stay in touch with the needs and wants of the citizens who pay the bills.
    It matters very little who runs against Dave in the next mayor election. We can’t lose any more with anyone than we are going to lose if Dave keeps the job.

    Dave is bad news for Boise and the people need to get out and vote him out.
    One thing we can count on without question. If Dave gets voted out of the mayor’s office. We will not see the last of him. He will wiggle his way into government in one form or another. He has been a train wreck to other citizens in other cities with his advice, McCall comes to mind. Hopefully he finds greener pastures in another state for some ripe pickings.

  4. The Boise Picayune
    Oct 1, 2009, 8:36 am

    I’d trust the City to build and run something like this if they could efficiently run the existing (spare me the Valley Ride distinction)Public Transit System; but they refuse – or are incapable.

    Or manage their own Downtown (again, spare me the CCDC-DBA distinction); but they refuse – or are incapable

    Behold… The gestation of a White Elephant!

  5. Team Dave is quick to compare the “Bieter Folly Trolley (BFT)” with those in Salt Lake, Portland and other places around the country, dismissing the fact that there is not one public trolley system that pays it’s own way, and that the trolleys in those towns have a DESTINATION! Until the mayor announces that we just signed a long term contract with the BOISE Seahawks, Or the BOISE Trailblazers, this trolley will be simply a huge waste of money!!!!

  6. Progressive
    Oct 1, 2009, 9:12 am

    A downtown trolley line that can later spur to other nearby locations would be wonderful for Boise. Go Dave!

  7. It is amazing to me the MASSES in Boise don’t rise up and ask what the hell is going on here!

    Elected officials know they have a comatose electorate until it goes really bad for everyone then they all wake up for a few brief moments and vote the rascals out. Then, it is back to sleep time until the next round of stupid stuff gets out of control. I am thinking Brent Coles here. Nice guy but got totally out of control of the electorate.

    It is and remains “concent of the governed” but folks just don’t care to be involved these days.

    Politicians know and remain hopeful everyone remains silent and a majoirity. People who have figured out fixed rail is just plain stupid will remain the vocal minority and will not be effective until the comatose majoirity awaken to the world around them.

  8. Blue Girl vs. Red Man
    Oct 1, 2009, 10:51 am

    The trolley will not replace the bus system. The idea is for them to coexist and help support public transportation in Boise. Typically trolleys are for smaller roads, like downtown. And no one has apparently researched streetcars very well, its not the 19th century anymore. They have cars that get their power from a third rail, so wires being strung up everywhere might not happen. And most public transportation, anywhere in the country is supported by local and federal governments. If they could do it themselves, the price to ride would be more expensive than to drive your car. This could be a situation for future generations to keep Boise green. Some days now when you fly into Boise you can see the beginning of smog hanging over downtown. I want to grow into a successful city, but I don’t want to end up being the next hole in the ozone.

    EDITOR NOTE–Your information is simply not correct. It would be genocide to expose pedestrians, animals, children, and bicyclists to “power from a third rail in the street!” If you read the text of the story you will see we advocate an ELECTRIC bus if there is indeed a need for downtown transit.

  9. Anyone against this ridiculous proposal NEEDS TO GET INVOLVED.

    Complaining online does NOTHING.

    Has ALL the information on how to contact the city and tell them NO.

    It also has factual information about this project and why it is a complete tax boondoggle.

    You need to contact EVERYONE that you know and tell them to contact everyone that THEY know and have all of them contact the mayor and city council.

    The rhetoric that the city is using to sell this to the public is outrageous and disingenuous to say the least.

  10. $2.5 billion in revenue to Portland is a bunch a money. I’d say that’s paying the way especially with stimulus money to pick up part of the tab. Good for Dave and the congressional delegation for getting on it.

    And if we were governed by the Statesman comments section, we’d be arming ourselves for a march on Washington for denigrating the “White” House. The place is a cesspool.

  11. Get the FACTS on the Portland system.

    The revenue is not offsetting the cost burden and as pointed out in the study they will most likely have to start shutting off bus services to keep paying for the train.

    Check the cost PER RIDER (4 to 5 times as much) compared to buses.

    The Portland Mall LID tax was just raised 70% to continue to feed the monster:

    If you do not think this will happen here as well, I hate to tell you this, it happens everywhere streetcars and light rail are put in.

    Also, if I can just point out something – Boise isn’t Portland. The population density is far worse here. Portland is 4200 people/square mile. Boise is 2900.

  12. Den Brockway
    Oct 1, 2009, 1:14 pm

    Stupid is as stupid does. What is his infatuation with steel rails? He may possibly need therapy.

  13. Casual Observer
    Oct 1, 2009, 1:40 pm

    Saying that Portland got $2.5 billion in development and a trolley is substantially different than saying Portland got $2.5 billion because of their trolley.

    There is zero evidence that their trolley was the catalyst. For all we know they might have gotten MORE than $2.5 billion in development if they had not built their trolley!

    Similarly there is no evidence that developers are hesitant to build in Boise because we lack the novelty of a $60 million folly clogging the street. If anything just the opposite.

  14. Another Voice
    Oct 1, 2009, 4:31 pm

    The parking lot of KBCI and NAPA Auto parts at 16th and Main/Idaho will become the favored parking lot for those wanting to go to Avenue A and B (hospital zone). Will the city buy their building to provide adequate parking with a multi-million dollar parking garage? Perhaps, they will buy the old Tillotson Realty block where the Metropolitan Condominiums have failed to be built.

    Mayor Bieter would serve the downtown community better by building a trolley from/to Canyon County that could move thousands of people twice a day. Think of the potential for reduced traffic on I-84, excess downtown parking, and fewer accidents.

    Of course, CCDC would lose parking garage revenue…………….

  15. The “build it they will develop” logic that the city is pushing is completely flawed, yet is an important aspect of how every one of these projects is promoted and oversold to an unsuspecting public. Streetcars almost always FOLLOW development, not LEAD development – case in point – the very one they are proposing here!

    I have spoken with two of the developers downtown who are AGAINST the streetcar. Make no mistake about it, the streetcar to them is viewed as a waste of money and will not affect their future development plans one iota. What is wanted is a better BUS system, especially to serve outlying areas.

    And, I may add, the route the city and CCDC is proposing, along with 2 of the future expansions, are already for the most part DEVELOPED.

    Also, the CCDC stands to benefit from any additional tax revenues generated from properties on the proposed route because it falls inside their Urban Renewal District. The taxpayers will be handing over tremendous amounts of additional tax revenue directly to them.

  16. Dean Gunderson
    Oct 1, 2009, 8:52 pm

    Catenary wires aren’t the only alternative to exposed third-rail power provision for electric street cars. An APS third rail (located between the two running rails and discontinuous — with isolated segments shorter than half the length of a street car) is an electronically switched power rail — that is, only the portion of the third rail under the moving street car is energized. When the street car isn’t present, the power to the rail segments is switched off. This system was invented for the expressed purpose of avoiding overhead wires. It isn’t a wide-spread technology yet (and has had its own fits), but it is up and working in Europe and a number of communities including Washington, D.C. have announced plans to begin using the technology.

    Unfortunately, a rubber-tired street car system wouldn’t be ready to start “almost immediately”. Boarding/ticketing stations would still need to be built along the routes, as well as a storage/maintenance yard.

    There are some very significant reasons why buses aren’t as popular a means of transit as street cars or trams — but it’s not for the usually stated reasons. The boarding and exiting of a bus, while simultaneously trying to pay one’s fare, takes precious time slowing down one’s commute. A rubber-tired vehicle can operate with the same efficiency of movement as a street car, but boarding stations (where you pay your fare and wait comfortably for your ride, and whose boarding level is the same height as the transit vehicle’s) have to be built — and the vehicle’s front and rear doors have to be widened (just like a street car’s). Buses have been built to these specifications and the transit systems that use them have the type of boarding stations mentioned — this technology isn’t new, and all the wrinkles have been long ironed out. Better yet, the economic reinvestment (which does occur with the construction of rail-based street cars) is nearly identical with the institution of this type of rubber-tired transit system.

    Now, I’m not a gloom ‘n doom person — but a significant amount of our community has been built on the presumption that a certain kind of technology will be forever-present and affordable. The tax subsidies allowing the use of that technology have rarely been questioned — and to my knowledge few members of the general public ever ask whether the travel routes for that technology will pay for themselves. The personal cost to each American household to use that technology now verges on almost 20% of each family’s income. But there is rarely a hue & cry about the ever increasing demand on our personal income and freedom that the use of this technology demands. Yes, the automobile (as this piece of technology) has insinuated itself into every aspect of our modern lives — it dictates everything from where our school districts decide to place schools, to where we live and work.

    Though I don’t believe Boise is quite ready for a street car system today, I do applaud the politicians who are looking for solutions to this burgeoning dilemma. A mass transit system that can compete with the operational characteristics offered by a private automobile today, could be a solution to tomorrow’s privations.

    In the mean time, getting the backbone of such a system in-place — and operating it as a rubber-tire technology — is a nearly perfect solution. But it will take money, and a shifting of priorities and existing land resources away from the ever-pressing demands of a transportation technology that is wheedling away at our personal fortunes.

    As the Guardian points out, even if a single city somehow succeeds in generating the revenue necessary to buy and operate a mass transit system — without public involvement — the owner of that right-of-way (ACHD) and the Regional Transit Authority (Valley Regional Transit) must still hold a number of public hearings on the matter BEFORE such a system would be permitted to operate. Further, if federal funds were ever used on a portion of that system, the system would have to first make its way onto the only federally-approved list of such expenditure requests — this would require the Metropolitan Planning Organization (COMPASS) to agree to its inclusion. This would also require public hearings.

    In short, regardless of what anyone says, building and operating such a system is not (in any way) like a “usual, normal, regular, or established” municipal expense — its presence could never materialize out of thin air, and whatever debt-load it may generate could never be incurred without public approval.

  17. Wiebe’s thought of the day after viewing The Open House – Seems really expensive for what you get at the end of the day. I left the viewing, walking out onto the sidewalk, and there before me was a BICYCLE TAXI. Imagine that! Me, my wife and our 5month old daughter hopped in and we took off! Fast, direct and easy. Quiet, green, fun, friendly and left us with a smile. Took us anywhere we wanted to go downtown for just a tip. No fees… just a tip. Music too. Owner/Driver says the bike-cab costs about $10,000. Says he has a taxi permit from the city. Says he can’t get anyone to listen to him. This is a progressive solution that brings communities together. Can you get behind this solution? It clearly solves the issue of helping people navigate the 2.3 miles the trolley would travel. Just imagine 10 of these tools. Fantastic! Try it, you’ll see what I mean. Visit to learn more.

  18. ten grand for the bike cab Wiebe? really or is there an extra zero? how could it be that much. great concept but man i find it hard to believe it could cost that much to produce one.

    EDITOR NOTE–Antiphobe, you are probably correct and he added a zero. Even those old Crown Vic copper cars don’t cost that much to purchase as a taxi. Ironically, the pedicabs of Vietnam are being slowly phased out for many reasons.

  19. Grumpy ole guy
    Oct 2, 2009, 1:41 am

    We (or is that, They) are tying to run before we’ve begun to crawl when it comes to public transportation. Such transportation has long been a hope of mine and it remains so, we need good, clean inter and intra community transportation system(s) which are affordable to the riders and underwritten by the governments – municipal, county and ACHD are the policy stake holders here and should participate in the underwriting. We don’t need an elaborate set system, we need a flexible one which can serve the shifting needs of the communities and rural areas involved. It is a people’s system and should be designed by and for the people with the advice, encouragement and support of our elected officials. I think that the State should participate, too, but know that, that is a near impossibility given the blinders on and full speed backward nature for the Legislature and Governor, so yes, the local governments probably do need to be the ones moving this forward, but, FOR the people, WHERE the people are and need to go. A comprehensive, inexpensive fee bus system has to come first to prove the need and provide the incentive for anything more grand. Is anybody in City Hall listening? I voted for a number of those yo-yo fiddling clowns and I have begun to regret it. There have been too many instances of too many “goofs” to satisfy me, I’m getting into more of a throw the rascals out mood each time I read or hear any of the news outlets.

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