City Government

Boise Taxpayers Pay Bill For Eagle Bus

In a move that defies logic, Boise taxpayers are spending at the rate of $1,000 a year per round trip passenger that Eagle City officials have refused to pay.

It all started when Valley Transit–the regional bus outfit–said they would discontinue the “Highway 44 Express” which ran twice daily out State Street to Eaqgle, Star, Middleton, and Caldwell. Pleading poverty, Eagle refused to pay its $15,000 share for the run which carried a mere 14 round trippers daily (27 total boardings)—$1000 per passenger per year!

Big Brothers Boise and BSU stepped in to pick up the tab the most affluent area of the county county fund.

“This is great news. We really appreciate the City of Boise and BSU stepping up to provide funding for the route,” Kelli Fairless, Executive Director of Valley Regional Transit (VRT), said in a press release Tuesday. “This route provides needed transportation services to many people who work in Boise, as well as university students, faculty and staff.” The run costs in excess of $50,000 using a small 18 passenger bus.

Eagle won’t pay the sheriff for its police service contract, they won’t pay Valley Transit for bus service, but they have more tax base per capita than anyplace in the county. Meanwhile Boise has homeless under bridges, can’t pay for greenbelt repairs, and leaves police jobs unfunded. Team Dave’s funding of the Eagle share of a bus carrying 14 round trippers a day makes even less sense than the downtown trolley!

Comments & Discussion

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  1. You’ll have to excuse my sense of humor, but how do you figure those rich people in Eagle became rich? By being stingy, perhaps? Maybe that’s why we have so many homeless in Boise, we taxed them out of their houses.
    It would be comical, if it weren’t so tragic for Boise.
    Secondly, ridership might be down because businesses (and employees) are leaving downtown Boise. There are a lot of things going on here, and they are all negative for Boise. This administration’s old spending habits are taxing Boise’s patience.

  2. Ahhhhh, ANOTHER reason I will not go to Eagle.

  3. Whats next, the Sec. of state takikng away the inc from Eagle and Meridian and Boise slicing up Eagle into those two cities.

  4. Eagle doesn’t have more taxbase than other areas of the valley. Those Ranchettes don’t have the density to have a great taxbase. Island Woods is better but not some of the highest, especially after greater declines than other places in the county. Density creates a richer tax base and one that is more efficient to serve.

    Here is a .pdf of a spreadsheet I created in May 2009 from the assessor’s website. (clicking the link will download a pdf file)

    EDITOR NOTE–Bad analogy on my part. My point is Boise has homeless, poor bus service, etc. and we are paying the bill for 14 people who either live or pass through Eagle on a bus.

  5. Dean Gunderson
    Oct 21, 2009, 11:37 am

    The riders of those buses are probably employed in Boise, or at BSU, or are students at BSU.

    The last time I checked the pro rata share of transit service was calculated based upon the population of each jurisdiction in the Ada & Canyon Counties (regardless of whether those communities have a transit route to, or through, them). BSU is a little different, it pays a fixed amount for each rider with a BSU ID Card & transit sticker (no cost is passed on to the rider). But this doesn’t really matter, when once again the wealthy push their debt obligations off on the rest of the citizens in the county. When push comes to shove, an Eaglite’s Green Fees are more important than paying their share of a regional transit system.

    The City of Eagle has had a long struggle with providing basic municipal services, it even dis-incorporated at one time for this very reason. Compared to smaller (and arguably poorer) communities in the county like Star and Kuna who manage to fund such services — Eagle barely qualifies AS a community. Eagle doesn’t even have its own sewer treatment facility (preferring to tank its sh*t and pay Boise to treat it instead).

    Speaking from experience, the City of Eagle doesn’t even meet the Planned Community application requirements in Ada County. Does anyone ever wonder why M3 opted to pursue annexation to Eagle, instead of attempting to submit an application to Ada County as a PC? Here’s your answer — M3 developers knew a good deal when they saw one.

    Believe it or not, the City of Eagle’s last Comprehensive Plan was even awarded a prize by the Idaho Planning Association. And these planning folks wonder why they have no respect in the larger community.

  6. I fully agree with you. It is pretty silly that Boise feels the need to big brother the rest of the valley. I also see Team Dave trying to keep up appearances on a “functioning” transit system.

    Eagles tax problems go back to everybody wanting Ranchettes and a rural way of life. It doesn’t pay and cost more to service.

  7. Contrary to Gunderson’s statement, Eagle does not have trouble providing municipal service.

    Eagle has trouble taking responsibility for municipal services. And, they will keep doing it as long as fools like Boise and BSU keep bailing them out.

  8. I don’t blame the City of Eagle one bit. If I’m sitting at a city meeting and someone says ‘Hey I know we’re broke in all, but how about we all pitch in $15 thousand dollars so 14 people can have a bus ride to Boise for the rest of the year.” You better believe I’m voting no if given the choice.

    The reality is that our bus system is a black hole used to consume taxpayer money. The entire valley is sprawling and not designed for any mass transit system. Poor planning and design has led us to this conundrum. Wasting money on inefficiently run bus systems will not solve the realities of geography, population sprawl, and the fact that people in general don’t like riding a bus.

  9. Whoa! Hold on!

    Why is anyone pointing a finger at Eagle or Boise?

    What is wrong with Valley Transit charging those 14 people for their commute?

    $50,000 divided by 14 people is 3,571 per year and $297/month.

    Any idiot who lives in Eagle or beyond can expect to pay way more than $300/mo to COMMUTE to Boise.


    Obviously Valley Transit, and Commuterride (ACHD) are mismanaged by not requiring a fair fare for the riders. Commuterride is a money loser and the bus is too- who wants to pay for a loser?

  10. REALITY: Mass transit is subsidized by non-riding taxpayers. Show me a system anywhere in the world where that is not true. (Theoretically, it benefits non-riders by easing congestion, mitigating pollution, facilitating movement of their employees, customers, etc.)

    The question is… how much, and which taxpayers? If I were on the Eagle City Council, I’d be publicizing the fact that I saved Eagle taxpayers some $$ by shifting the burden to OTHER taxpayers.

    PERSPECTIVE: Suppose it costs $50K/year to run the Highway 44 bus. And suppose the Streetcar costs $60 million to build, and $2 million/year to operate. (The proponents’ numbers.) You could run 2 Highway 44 buses per hour for 20 hours / day, for the same amount as the Streetcar operation. And for the cost of installing the Streetcar, you could run the Highway 44 bus for the next 1200 years! ($50K/year is CHUMP CHANGE!)

  11. Dean Gunderson
    Oct 22, 2009, 11:02 am


    If one were to adopt the “pay to play” philosophy for public services then every homeowner in Ada County would be caught short — forced to cough up tens of thousands of dollars to “pay their fair share” for everything from roads, to sewers, to schools, to parks. Transit isn’t a luxury item that you just cut back on when funds are tight, it’s a basic public service.

    Truth is, only commerical property and rural ag land would be on the plus side of such a pay-to-play equation (commercial because it pays far more for services than it consumes, and rural ag land because it hardly demands any such services). You don’t have to take my word for it, the American Farmland Trust has performed hundreds of such evaluations across the country (two in Idaho, Cassia and Canyon Counties) that bear this out.

    Eagle City Council ought to be ashamed of itself for welching on its fiscal obligation — regardless of who picked up its tab.

  12. Dean Gunderson
    Oct 22, 2009, 12:45 pm

    On a follow-up. The American Farmland Trust data shows how perilous it is for a community to view itself as a residential-only bedroom community.

    If Eagle finances are as fragile as this renegging implies, then perhaps the city needs to consider permitting more commercial and industrial uses within its city limits. Maybe granting all those construction permits for residential develoment within the Boise River flood plain really wasn’t a good idea — not just because the land was prone to flooding, but also because it was residential.

  13. sam the sham
    Oct 22, 2009, 2:25 pm

    This is America, we no longer expect the rich to pay their fair share, nor do they expect to pay. They are already sick and tired of paying for public education and can now write off private schools.
    So quite belly aching and get back to work – even if you are not being paid a fair share or even have a job.

  14. Dean… apparently you misunderstood the motivation of my comment. I was NOT “bemoaning” that taxpayers subsidize public transit; in fact, I’m an advocate for public transportation, and use it when I can’t ride the bike for whatever reason. (Would I vote a .5-cent sales tax increase to help fund it, if we had local-option? Most likely.)

    I was mostly replying to “Easter,” who said “Make the riders pay for the commuter bus!”

    I’ll gladly stand by my streetcar comparison… if we had another $2 million per year to kick into ValleyRide, it might become almost useful to a lot more taxpaying citizens!

  15. Mr. Watcher
    Oct 23, 2009, 8:30 am

    As far as who should pay, thats a topic worth talking about. Riding the bus to get to BSU and living too far away is a personal problem for those that chose to live and go to school with that kind of distance. If they are living at home to save money on rent, are the rest of the citizens on the hook to cover their transportation? Seemingly, yes we are.
    Some services are outside of what government is all about, this is one of them. Understand, we are not talking about sick people who need rides for medical treatment. There are a number of services to help such people. If people make a willing choice to live a long distance from where they need to go to work or school the rest of the citizens do not own them a free ride or any kind of ride.
    This economy is going to get far worse and a lot more folks are going to slip through the cracks. What we must do is demand less government and lower taxes. This will allow many to hang on and others to help with giving to charities to help those in need. The idea of government taxing folks out of their homes to help a very few borders mental illness. Mark my word, this economy still has a lot of going down to do and government needs to start moving in that direction because thats the real world we live in.
    We have two bubbles that are going to go pop one after the other. The first one is going to be commercial real estate, which is happing now and picking up some steam. In fact commercial real estate will start sliding very quickly after the flop in Christmas sales. The one to go after that one is the government bond bubble, which is the mother of all bubbles. The ride ahead is going to be one no one is going to get out of unhurt. We need real leadership in government at this time more than ever before and we are being failed. Which this bus issue clearly shines the light of truth on.

  16. The Boise City Council can’t figure out enough ways to spend the tax dollars in Boise?

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