After $600,000 Study, Street Car Still Flunks

Like the perpetual college student, Boise’s attempt at a transport system for Downtown is long on study and short on finding a job.

The so-called “Circulator” (also dubbed “Desire Named Street Car and Trolley Folly”) has been the dream of Mayor Dave Bieter and his “Team Dave” for a decade while it serves as a nightmare for most everyone else. Businessmen are fearful of a LID (local improvement district) being established for the estimated $65 million project which could increase property taxes.

Repeated surveys, open houses, and public relations ventures have cost $600,000 in tax money and have been met with varying degrees of opposition. The Statesman once commissioned a study which showed more than 60% opposition, pretty much mirroring other surveys sponsored by the city. The GUARDIAN has long advocated an improved bus service, but Team Dave is obsessed with Downtown and some form of rail.

The latest attempt to build support involves “stakeholder meetings” asking for potential routes for some sort of transportation device–be it rubber tired, tracks, or just a bus. Meanwhile construction has begun on a multi-modal transportation center which at this point will be nothing more than an underground bus station at 8th and Main.

The streets belong to the Ada County Highway District which has pledged a good faith effort to work with the city, but to date has made no commitment regarding iron rails in the streets. We see the latest round of meetings as an attempt to claim grassroots support for something unneeded in a small metro area with already narrow streets being shared by autos, delivery trucks and bikes.

The bad dream continues to haunt us. According to the IDAHO STATESMAN, “A project team made up of city public works and planning staffers, as well as consultants for engineering contractor URS, will study the technical feasibility, cost and economic-development prospects of each route. They hope to announce a preference late this year or early next year. At some point, they’ll also announce a preference for vehicle type – whether it’s a streetcar, light-rail system, buses or something else.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. The plan is to keep doing studies until they get some that give them the results they want.

    The mayor also hopes that the public will just give up and agree….and then agree to have their taxes raised millions of dollars to pay for it.

  2. What do ya figure it will take to replace Team Dave with someone more concerned with what the local community wants and needs?

    Follow the money: Bet some of that $600K finds it way back to them.

  3. 60% of Idaho citizens are against everything all the time.

    Dave, your statement of a circulator being “something unneeded in a small metro area with already narrow streets being shared by autos, delivery trucks and bikes” defines your viewpoint and every “story” you’ve written on this issue. I think I understand your opposition, but you rest it on popularity (or in this case, lack of) and expense. What you ignore is that sometime unpopular and expensive things become popular and save or earn money down the road (an investment).

    Your opposition to a walkable city model is well documented and not altogether unfounded. Nonetheless, it is that model that our elected leaders have chosen. Encouraging or applauding process-gridlock (via ACHD or court battles) is a kind of subversive way to halt progress on a project that I personally think would be great for the city.

    Capital projects like this, or a convention center, etc, are expensive, but not as bad as they’re made out be – they create a lot of (tax-paying) jobs and once complete continue to pay back the community with tax revenue and (more importantly) intangibles.

    In spite of your opposition, Boise is going to continue to grow. This is undeniable. Likewise, the city has a duty to anticipate that growth and mold it into a positive result. There is no place the city can have as much of an impact as it does through transit programs on all fronts – rails, air, and rubber (four wheels and two).

    $600,000 seems like a very low amount for several impact studies on a major project involving many moving parts.

  4. How about a 2 or 3 month long test using an existing bus/vehicle?

    Interesting to note that “stakeholder group” is the new way to get business done in the Capital City?

  5. The folly named trolly now better than Viagra.

    Watch out everyone.

  6. Bieter begone
    Sep 30, 2014, 7:35 pm

    Boise B. How does a circulator(where one rides) add to a walkable city? And how much money will you put up to make this a reality?

  7. I agree 100% with Clancy. A 3-month, or 6-month, test run would cost significantly less than the $600K already spent on expensive consultants and PR exhibitions.

    They even have some rubber-tire buses that are modeled after the old-time trolley cars. Dust one of those things off and make it look pretty, and have it loop around the downtown area using one of the proposed track loops. If it’s wildly popular – make it permanent! (They could run a dozen such buses for probably 100 years, without spending the millions it would cost just to install the infrastucture for a “track” conveyance. If the tracks would benefit downtown businesses, it’s them, not the taxpayers at large, who should be working with ACHD and the city to make that “vision” a reality.)

  8. BoiseB, sometimes, unpopular and expensive things continue to be unpopular and expensive.

    Your whole point is “full of it”. You are basically saying it is crappy, but not as crappy as it could be. And let’s just hope things work out for the good.

    Your bias is obvious and stinky.

  9. Easterner,

    What is the “it” that am I saying is crappy?

    Also, what’s my bias? I do like the walkable city model and that city leaders are trying to go that direction. I don’t think that’s bias, it’s just my opinion. Maybe I am bias for planning ahead (is that bad?).

    I installed a sprinkler system in my yard this spring. I have an older house, so all the landscaping has been developed – including a few things I had done over the years. What I kept thinking was during the process was how much easier the installation would have been had it been done on bare ground or at any stage before all the growth had come in. Preserving the yard and everything in it created additional expenses and work that could have been avoided had I (or an earlier owner) put in the system before everything grew in.

  10. This is hardly surprising news. People, if you want to make sure that these expensive and unnecessary projects don’t come to fruition, vote for Mitch Jaurena and Stephanie Blake for ACHD. Mitch is running in the Meridian/Kuna area, and Stephanie in the Boise area. I know both of these people personally and they have pledged not to give in to Bieter and his downtown cronies and not to raise property taxes. ACHD is a really underrated race in the elections, but one with a lot of consequences, especially when they have the power to raise property taxes. Enough money has been wasted for something that will benefit only a fraction of Ada County.

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