No Stopping a Runaway Train (Trolley) Enthusiast

Team Dave is still pushing for a trolley, and can’t seem to understand the meaning of NO, despite public opinion and denial of U.S. Government funds.

Last week the Feds turned down Boise’s request for about $40 million in “TIGER” funds for the Desire Named Street Car (also affectionately known as the “Trolley Folly”). The Feds awarded grants to cities like Tucson where local government asked for and received permission from citizens to build a rapid transit system in 2006. Boise steadfastly refuses to allow a popular vote on funding for the Mayor’s dream.

Two professional surveys and literally thousands of opposition comments on radio, blogs, public open houses, and letters to the editor showed Boiseans overwhelmingly are against a trolley. Here is how Mayor Dave Bieter spun the denial of his request in his MEMO to citizens:

Federal officials have told us just how impressed they were with our application and how well it reflects the goal of using stimulus dollars to spur economic development.

Four other cities — Tucson, New Orleans, Portland, and Dallas — received a total of $160 million for their streetcar systems, a clear sign that streetcar projects are receiving significant support on the federal level. Idaho was one of only nine states to receive no TIGER grants whatsoever — including the $26 million that ValleyRide requested, and the City of Boise supported, for improved bus services.

We are going to continue to explore ways to finance and build up the Boise Valley’s transportation system, of which the streetcar is just one piece. One of the benefits of this week’s decision is that it gives us the opportunity to broaden the exploration of the streetcar to learn if a north/south route from downtown to Boise State University, which has been on the drawing boards for years, would be feasible for phase one.
(EDITOR NOTE–If it has been on the drawing board for years, why wasn’t the N-S route offered up first?)

The city will also continue to look for opportunities for federal assistance on the streetcar project. The Citizen Survey we conducted last year indicated that our residents’ top two priorities are the economy and public transportation. The Boise Streetcar System is one of several initiatives the City has proposed to address both of these important issues. (EDITOR NOTE–A more recent survey showed overwhelming opposition to a street car)

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. What part of “No” doesn’t Dave understand. This is a hairbrained idea that is now going to be co-opted by Boise’s new economic wunderkind, Mark Rivers, to further his own financial interests.

    “The problem isn’t with the trolley concept, it’s just in the wrong location. A North-South system (that just so happens to run past acres of my own developable land) would make _so_ much more sense.”a

    Hold on to your wallets Boiseans, this trolley idea smells of too much money to die this easily.

  2. Has anyone offered to have Team dave’s hearing checked? This has finally reached a point of insanity!!

  3. It’s comforting to know that despite the grim economic times, with shortfalls on all sides, the City of Boise has plenty of funds to “continue to explore ways to finance and build up the Boise Valley’s transportation system.” What could be more important right now? (/sarcasm)

    Maybe Boise could refuse to have the motor fleet emissions-inspected, like Canyon County is going to do… and kick that money into the transportation-consultant kitty.

  4. Dean Gunderson
    Feb 22, 2010, 8:55 pm


    A north/south route that would run from the Capitol to BSU has been part of the plan since at least 2004.

    As the, then, BSU facilities planner and, later, transportation planner for Ada County, I continued to strongly encourage such a route connection. This N/S route would decrease the amount of time many BSU students, staff, and faculty have to spend waiting for a transfer in the downtown hub — and significantly decrease the amount of vehicle congestion on Capitol Blvd and Broadway Ave. And, further, if the route looped down University and back up Broadway its 8-minute head time could service as one-half of a campus shuttle. Not a bad way to provide transit to one of the largest employers in the downtown (not to mention the benefit to the 20K or so BSU students).

    But I also felt that a steel wheel on steel rail option (which would require a reconstruction of both the 9th Street and Broadway bridges) wasn’t necessary on the N/S route. Though the Broadway bridge is in serious need of reconstruction, the 9th Street bridge is still quite new and servicible.

    I can imagine that the primary reason Idaho was one of the few states to be denied TIGER funds has to do with its lack of ability to fund operations of any capital improvements. That is, if we got the money and built a streetcar system (steel wheel or rubber tire)we have no means to pay the drivers and mechanics to run that system. This was not lost on the federal agency charged with distributing the grants.

    Currently, operational costs for local transit are being borne by the different participating local governments out of shares of their property tax revenue. Which is an extremely arcane (and unfair) way to pay for such a service since it doesn’t provide the taxpayer an ability to appeal directly to a taxing authority in regards to transit.

    The legislature needs to agree that there is already enabling legislation in the state’s constitution and statutes to permit the Regional Transit Authority to appeal directly to voters for financial support. The various cities and counties in the Valley should not be in the business of funding transit directly, nor should they be able to strong-arm their own agendas onto the transit using public.

    EDITOR NOTE– Amen Mr. Gunderson! The question remains. If the proposal you outline has been on the books for 6 years, why, why, oh why hasn’t it been presented to the voters? The vast majority of the property it would pass is publicly owned (library, parks, BSU, etc.) and not a source of revenue–LID or no LID.

  5. The idea of some sort of frequent service (about every 10 minutes) between BSU and downtown transit centers has been kicked around in Boise transit and transit planning circles for at least 30 years.

    The original concept was to use small buses with a flashy special paint scheme to differentiate them from their larger, duller (as perceived by the public) brothers and sisters.

    The small buses under consideration were not that much different in concept from those mentioned in the recent Guardian story about small flashily painted buses in Baltimore.

    It’s only been in the last 10 years or so that the local politicos have managed to have studies done which changed this concept from rubber tired buses to steel wheels. After all, trolleys are sexy, buses aren’t.

    EDITOR NOTE–Would Orange and Blue buses with a stylized horsehead qualify as “sexy” for that route?

  6. Jimmy D Bus
    Feb 23, 2010, 1:26 pm

    Good idea Guardian!

    It probably would.

    Maybe we could attach a stylized horsehead to the front of the bus too. Mack trucks have a bulldog on the front so why shouldn’t a bus serving BSU have a stylized horsehead attached to the front of it?

    Anyone have suggestions about how to decorate the rear of these buses?

  7. Yup! A big picture of the mayor!

  8. Karen Jeffries
    Mar 16, 2010, 6:37 pm

    May I interrupt SarcasmFest here for a second?

    It should be common knowledge that new streetcar projects are happening all over America and beyond, and it’s been apparent for some months that few here even know that.

    If Boise doesn’t want that federal money, that’ll be just fine with the rest of the nation, where half a hundred other cities are in line for it. Boise can then continue paying to build other cities’ streetcar systems as it has for decades.

  9. Alex Michas
    Apr 6, 2010, 10:46 pm

    A high speed mag-lev commuter line from BODO to Ontairo would make better sense.

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