City Government

Valley Ride Missed The Bus Despite Growth

Our transportation consultant has provided some insight into the operation and success–or lack thereof–at Valley Ride, the regional bus system.

By Jimmy D. Bus
GUARDIAN Consultant

With planners screaming for “increased density” and repeating the mantra “we have to get people out of their cars,” I harken back to the days when Boise’s BUS system had better service than today.

Here are some startling examples I gleaned from a recent release of data from Valley Ride:

–2015 ridership (Boise only): 1.1 million trips (Source: VRT)
–1981 ridership (Boise only): 1.1 million trips (Source: VRT)
–Boise Population 2010 – about 200,000 (Source: US Census)
–Boise Population 1980 – about 100,000 (Source: US Census)

Passenger Fare Recovery:
2015 – about 12% (Source: NTD)
1981 – about 23% (known fact)

Trips per capita:
2015 – 5
1981 – 10

The current system relies on various employer contracts to generate ridership. BSU, Boise Schools, St Lukes, St Als, etc. The 1981 system did not use “employer contracts” to generate ridership. In fact, BSU declined to “partner” with BUS back then. People rode, and ridership increased, because the system worked.

Today, Boise’s ridership trend is downward even with new routes in the last couple of years like Harris Ranch and the route that goes by Overland Walmart. 2015 4th Quarter (July-Sep) on time performance (within 5 minutes of schedule) – Boise 83% (Source: VRT)

Alaska had a “bridge to nowhere” and Boise will soon have a “transit center for no one.” OK, maybe for few.

EDITOR NOTE–Things haven’t changed much in eight years. This from the ARCHIVE.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Guardian:

    The transit center will be a welcome home to the housing challenged community. Just think – a nice new underground heated facility with a steady clientele of downtown workforce donors to their various charitable solicitations.

    The Mayor and Gardner Company should be congratulated for providing this taxpayer assisted facility in the heart of downtown. Perhaps the VTA can start a 24 hour schedule to make sure the doors stay open and no one gets removed at 7:00 pm.

  2. I had all sorts of comments and personal experience to share, but the bottom line seems to be VRT is doing less with more, and still asking for more.

    If VRT was an employee or vendor, such performance would result in termination.

    I would like to hear from VRT Board members as to what they are doing to hold VRT accountable for performance, what goals for ridership and farebox recovery were set last year and how did VRT meet or not meet those goals?

  3. Cowpoke Twice Removed
    Jan 14, 2016, 1:13 pm

    Do you have data from other years in the 80’s? 1981 the US saw the highest inflation adjusted gas prices they’d seen since WWI and they hadn’t been even close to that high since before WWII. Those gas prices jumped from below the historical average to a historically high price in just a few years. That’s a perfect recipe for increased public transportation use. With gas prices now being well under the historical norm this article seems like it could be, unintentionally I’m sure, cherry picking data.

  4. Dale Gribble
    Jan 14, 2016, 1:18 pm

    How much has Boise sprawled since 1981? I don’t think this is the best comparison. The bus routes suck for how sprawled out Boise is, so I’m not surprised that 30 years later it’s worse. A bus system that stops running at 6pm isn’t very useful. It’s a catch-22, if the routes suck, nobody will ride. If nobody rides, the routes won’t improve. Without a massive increase in funding, the VRT will continue to be useless for most people.

  5. CommieBusMandate
    Jan 14, 2016, 1:25 pm

    Yep, thru executive order all comrades will be forced to ride glorious bus. Those found not riding bus will have disturbing visit from glorious tax services dynamic entry team.

  6. chicago sam
    Jan 14, 2016, 1:55 pm

    The whole thing is being driven by the feds. they are telling the locals that bus system must be expanded or their will be no federal money for any highway projects

  7. CBusMandate
    Jan 14, 2016, 3:32 pm

    Boise, you must increase crime, and welfare to gang families. Doing so will make your bus system look successful… just like the big cities. It’s just un-urban of you to have absolutely no need for full-sized bus service… my gosh, how do your criminals get around? This is socially unjust… I’m calling Al Sharpton to force you to treat your criminals better.

    Also, please govern the speed of your buses to 30 mph, I’m tired of seeing empty buses doing 45 in a 30.

  8. Cowpoke Twice Removed
    Jan 14, 2016, 3:37 pm

    Another thing you didn’t see in 1981 that is prevalent now is adults on bikes. Bike commuting is a very popular way to get to work in the cities. I worked with a guy who would sometimes commute from Canyon County to downtown Boise by bike.

  9. I’m not sure who Brad thinks is going to be in the transit center donating to the homeless- few downtown works use the bus now. Nothing in the future to change that.

    jj, has I coincidentally mentioned this week on another BG post how Valley Regional Transit has 28 board members. You want them to hold Kelli Fairless accountable for low ridership? Yeah right!

    VRT and Commuteride (managed by ACHD) are both terrible!
    Uber is the only good thing to happen to Boise public transit in the last 20 years.

    Get rid of the giant buses for one.
    Get rid of the drivers union.
    Increase frequency.
    Improves routes.
    I can’t think of anything nice about the Boise bus service.
    Geez, our local govt makes me such a negative person.

  10. The City also missed the boat on the Ester Simplot Park.

    WE ALL get to pay more in trash fees and other funds to clean up the mess.

    Really nice to have the Simplots donate contaminated land that WE ALL have to pay to clean up. Thanks Ester!

  11. Downtown bus center downtown sounds like the next great homeless shelter!

  12. chicago sam
    Jan 15, 2016, 6:41 am

    Dick–Wait until you get the total bill for the CWI project in Boise

  13. Back to the buses–In Canyon county many of the bus routes could be served by a smart car. Does it make cents for the one size fits all and bigger is better folks to continue to drain our respective treasury’s?

  14. When most of the money is flushed out of the oil industry and most drillers go bankrupt, expect oil prices to go for a moon-shot.
    $10 or $15 gasoline will surely expand ridership for Valley Ride.

  15. I believe Mr. Gribble has it about right.

    In addition, I believe the Feds have severely curtailed the funds they kick in for public transit, over the last 30 years or so.

    The bus is my “backup” transporation, for those rare occasions when I can’t ride the bike. (I took one trip on it in December. A bargain at $1!)

    If it were practical and time-efficient, I believe a lot more people, at least the close-in people, would ride. As long as another mode of transportation seems more attractive, for whaver reason, that other mode will be chosen.

    (Last month we visited SLC – they’ve got a pretty good public transportation system, combining light rail and buses. But they kick in a bit of local-option sales tax to fund it… and it’s not perfect. Apparently the buses don’t run on Sunday. But they run pretty late into the evening, I believe. We rode the TRAX light rail – AWESOME!!)

  16. Yossarian_22
    Jan 15, 2016, 2:59 pm

    I used to work on local transportation issues years back. The whole problem stems from Boise’s sprawl that creates barriers to coming up with a decent solution for those w/o cars. It is a hub n spoke model, for the most part. These are very limiting and you don’t get much efficient ridership in the aggregate. One of the possible solutions is to treat the whole valley like a satellite system. Instead of making everyone transit through a hub to get to their ultimate destination, we need to create satellite hubs closer to the initial points of rider origins. Those hubs should be supplying the lions share of what they need in shops and services. Routes would be shorter, more frequent in circulation and cheaper overall. This can cut down on the long and inefficient outer rim to downtown needs.

    Funding- VRT has long been saddled with relying on federal $$ to keep alive. The local option tax is what they want to use to supplement the funding, but that is a no starter with the leg. A local option tax would add a fraction of a penny to each sale within the Boise area. Lenore Barrett fought this by saying she didn’t want to pay for a bus that she doesn’t ride. Fair enough, but I don’t want to pay property taxes for stuff she uses that I don’t, either. I personally believe that a more wide and deep payments and settlements tax could replace both the sales tax, property tax and income tax. It would be tied to economic activity vs confiscating income and property, and much more useful that a shallower sales tax. But, that’s asking for a lot from a decadent legislature.

  17. Hold onto that thought about buses in Canyon County Chicago Sam. The next article will focus on Canyon County operations. If you thought Boise was bad …

  18. The entire thing is being driven by the feds. they are telling local people that transport framework must be extended or their will be no government cash for any parkway ventures

  19. The entire thing is being driven by the feds. they are telling local people that transport framework must be extended or their will be no government cash for any roadway ventures

  20. The Trump Card
    Feb 10, 2016, 4:50 pm

    So, we elect Trump and redirect the attention of the “feds” into finding a new career.

  21. When maximum of the cash is flushed out of the oil manufacturing and peak drillers go ruined, imagine oil charges to go for a moonshot.

  22. ???????????
    Mar 7, 2016, 4:46 pm

    Lucy James… were you stoned when you wrote that?

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