GUARDIAN Bus Would Run Every 13 Sec. For Cost Of Trolley

In the quest to make downtown Boise the most “unfriendly car city” in America, Boise’s Team Dave has come up with, would you believe yet another…TROLLEY CIRCULATOR plan.

Map courtesy of Boise Weekly

Map courtesy of Boise Weekly

The Boise WEEKLY’s George Prentice offers a look which prompted the GUARDIAN to turn to the calculator for perspective. Using the City’s figures, reported by Prentice, we came up with a plan that will offer the most frequent bus system on earth.

Boise claims they can get 950 riders a day for $1 each. The price tags is only $111 million for a “T shaped line with a crossing at the new underground bus depot. They also estimate an operating cost of $3.3 million a year.

Sooo, the GUARDIAN notes a good nat gas bus costs about $500,000. For the $111,000,000 the city proposes for a trolley we can purchase 220 buses!

If it takes half an hour to run the T-route, that means we can launch 440 buses per hour–one every 13 seconds.

But wait! There’s more. At a cost of $3.3 million a year in operating expenses and a generous 365,000 passengers per year, each ride will cost only $9.

Bieter was quoted in the WEEKLY saying, “Some of you weren’t here when we went down this road,” referring to the failed 2008 effort to land federal funding from the then-new Obama administration to help spur a streetcar system with an east/west downtown route.

“We learned a lot from that,” said Bieter. “The integrity of this process is so important. We’ve been meeting with Boise State, St. Luke’s, Simplot, the Gardner Co., Idaho Power, a number of stakeholders, and they tell us they’re happy with how we’ve gone about this. The tough part of our job is help measure expectations to get something meaningful done.”

There are no doubt “stakeholders” in West Boise, motorists, taxpayers, and some fiscal conservatives who have expectations which differ from BSU, Gardner, and St. Luke’s. They also view “integrity of the process” differently.

Finally, the city fathers and mothers need to read about STREET CARS from NPR.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Maybe the trolley could go through Dave Bieters office to give the full “theme park” experience, with an animatronic Bieter shuffling papers, clearing his throat, and furtively glancing around..
    Will the Trolley go in front of Bieters house as well?
    This is about the equivalent level of stupid as it would be to create a new commuter airline to fly between Boise and Nampa.
    Mr Editor; you forgot to add the $$ cost of the lawsuits filed by grieving mothers whose kiddies get accidentally run over by the fancy new gold plated trolley.

  2. Rod in SE Boise
    Mar 2, 2016, 8:12 pm

    Stakeholders is defined as rich people looking to make a killing on this proposal.

    Hey, Donald Trump called. He is proposing one of those conveyor belts for people like you see in airports. (They have nice ones in Denver). He says it will be magnificent, the best ever, and he can get Costa Rica to pay for it.

  3. Never Happen
    Mar 2, 2016, 9:41 pm

    Way too logical – it will never happen. It is not what the north end wants or will allow….thus not what the mayor wants.

    Mayor must have his trolley! (sic) And he must have his CCDC and he must have GBAD! And he must have local option taxes! No alternative will be acceptable.

    Dam* the public (voters) – full speed ahead!

  4. Not Idiotic Enough
    Mar 2, 2016, 10:13 pm

    Your plan is not idiotic enough.

    You must be labeled a traitor to liberalism and silences immediately.

    PS: Rodless in SE, Trump posted his health care repair plan… Hillary committed to O’suffer-care plan with both feet a while back… so no stopping him now.

  5. And the local media do another puff piece. No objective eye on this proposal at all. I can almost hear the 7 “celebrities” sighing with pleasure at the proposal.

  6. If I am west of 9th street downtown, and I want to take the trolley to the capitol building, city hall or st lukes, I am not going to pay $1 and ride the trolley to BSU and back.

    Downtown is very walkable, our weather is moderate, what is the east west route actually providing as far as value????

    Airport to Downtown, makes sense, east west is waste of time and just an attempt to pump st lukes for money by pretending they will be well served by the trolley

  7. If he is hell bent on having this rail system then do it right the first time. Why not go out to the Mall, Airport, BSU, etc. Once established then go out towards Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell. Looking at current plans you could walk and get where you want to faster than the train would arrive and take you there.

  8. Erico – well said. Channel 7 is the media pr department for city hall and the mayor and even more the council members know it. They get leg twitches when anyone from the city calls them with more propaganda to promote.

    Too bad all they do is gleefully promote anything the Mayor or any of the Council hand them rather then doing any investigative journalism (oooopsss – that even actually exist anymore?)

  9. It is always interesting when a public agency “CLAIMS” things. Like the 2020 data.

    We know that you can create, or hire to be created, whatever numbers you want or need. Then all you need is a willing media to promote your numbers without question.

    After all the voters and all the members of the public telling the Mayor and Council NO on this issue over and over again it seems the city simply wants to ignore the voters at all cost (to the voters).

    Given all the inside dealing going on with Gardner Co and Tom Alquist there may be a move to have Alquist be the Trolley owner (maybe even the trolley driver :-)) so the city can pay him using CCDC money combined with Fed funds. Maybe the 2020 group should pay for this with NO public funding – if it is such a great deal!

    And if by chance the trolley does not pay off or support itself then the mayor can create a multi MILLION dollar tax increase via the local option taxes that Beiter, the council and Alquist want to have all of us pay.

  10. Thanks for reminding your readers of “the numbers,” Mr. Guardian.

    As a guy who pays bills (which puts me at odds with many people in government), and has always believed “small government is good government,” I’m not buying.

    I’ve lived in Boise my whole life. Not quite old enough to remember the trolleys of yesteryear; perhaps it’s a shame that the movers-and-shakers of the day abandoned it and yanked the tracks out of the ground. But I can remember Boise Bus Company – used to ride those dingy yellow buses as a kid, from time to time. (Seems like a ride was 15 cents.) I worked for Boise Urban Stages – the predecessor to ValleyRide – for awhile. I’m fully supportive of public transportation, and realize that it is, and always will be, subsidized by taxpayers. I’m good with that.

    I think I even understand the pro-trolley argument. Once those tracks are laid, the route can’t be changed on a whim… like the route of a bus. The businesses right along the trolley route, and a block or two on either side, would be fools to not like the idea! If those tracks are delivering people who have credit cards to Gardner Company store fronts, the rent will go up-up-up! And if they can tap the unlimited benevolence of the federal government, then it’s free!!! Right? (Oh – except for that little ongoing operating expense thing. Oh – and except for the reality that we all LOVE to ignore, that we are all stakeholders in the national debt, which has essentially doubled in the time Team Dave has been trying to land the choo-choo.)

    The Missus wants a new sofa. Nice! (And I can understand; it’s getting harder to stand up, now that I’m sinking an extra 6 inches into the old one.) BUT… I need to get some medical bills paid first, and I’m not going to put it on the Credit Card. I’m sympathetic to the Home Furnishings Department, but I work in the Accounting Department.

    How grateful we should be that supposedly the City and County and State are all constitutionally obligated to balance their budgets! Imagine if they had the free rein of the Feds… we’d be $100 trillion in debt! (Some say we already are, when you count the unfunded mandates.)

    If I were in charge, Mayor Bieter and the City Council would be required to watch the Simpsons Monorail Song twice a year, during Council Meeting.

    The annual budget for the entire ValleyRide bus system is $6 million. If they had another $3 million, I bet they could expand into the evenings, add new routes, and maybe even do Sunday. Can our “public servants” really pat us on the head and make a straight-faced argument that we can afford $3.3 million for this circulator? I’m not buying. (But I already said that.)

    I thank the Guardian for balanced coverage, unlike the Propaganda Outlets.

  11. Not Idiotic Enough
    Mar 3, 2016, 10:35 am

    Projects like the train being pushed by the City and friends should be considered fraud. It meets all the criteria for it. The problem is the fraud starts at the top. It’s called pork spending. Shameful and damaging America. Many smart people intentionally earning below their capacity because they see their tax money being wasted like this.

    Fix the roads you bunch of jerks!

    Starve the Beast!

  12. Yossarian_22
    Mar 3, 2016, 10:39 am

    I have to say, rail transport has its charms and it could be nice to have one operating, but there are drawbacks too. Funding and new congestion issues. Bike safety will be a challenge as well as delivery trucks and semis competing for limited road space with the trolley. There will still be busses and frankly, we need to address the bus issues first. Funding is going to rely mostly on captivated LID businesses and this TIF thing. It’s more property value confiscation, which I hate.

    We need to chuck all property and income taxes into the dumpster and use a Payments and Settlements tax that dips into a waaaaaay much deeper and wider well of wealth at tiny increments that lessens the pain to mere pinpricks vs the hammer blows that we feel now. We would have all kinds of money for things.

  13. this makes more sense . still too costly for the rider density needed. You put in 111 miles for the same cost. It would be available for 24 hours not depending drivers. Just a thought to look to alternative to a railroad job

  14. Not a Popular Opinion, I know
    Mar 3, 2016, 11:51 am

    I owned a business in another state that was within a transit oriented development project. The “benefit” to my business was higher taxes, being the change machine for bus fares ,bathroom for the bus/rail riders, giving out free cups of water that cost me 10 cents, and a congregating point for the homeless who on hot or cold days just wanted to ride buses all day to stay cool or warm and thought my restaurant was a better place to sit than the bus shelter.

    Transit oriented development, no thank you

    But the city and their consultant will tell you how much transit will benefit the business, and that benefit needs to be shared with the city to support the transit system via some transit improvement district levy, or some other synonym for the word tax without actually saying the word tax.

    Warning developers, you will be promised higher property values, higher rents and more sales for your tenants by being proximate to the transit lines, in exchange for paying $1-$2 per square foot into the transit system, or some other metric. Ask for proof of the results in similar markets, not studies and forecasts that are developed with the pre-conceived conclusion to support transit, and when the consultant’s report makes reference to Seattle or Portland, throw it in the trash, Seattle or Portland, we are not.

    Consultant rule #1 is to make sure the work product from your first contract clarifies the need for a second and larger contract.

  15. this makes more sense . still too costly for the rider density needed. You could put in 111 miles for the same cost. Available 24 hours a day .

  16. Why not just hire Boise City employees to drive vans around town? It would easily handle the volume of riders and cost a lot less than any trolley? And it would build the Mayors kingdom.

    EDITOR NOTE–Only half in jest, a good case could be made for some sort of Uber Driver model using city vehicles…just flag down any of the 1500 city-owned public vehicles. It worked well in Vietnam during the war. Rule was that anyone regardless of rank had to stop and give a ride to any GI. We all got around Saigon on our thumb.

  17. Editor – I had the exact same thought but decided to not to voice it. I like the idea AND the Mayor could get a 25% cut on the deal to add to his slushfund.

  18. I thought this dog died.

  19. Foothills Rider
    Mar 4, 2016, 10:41 am

    A regular trolley/bus/van loop from airport to BSU to downtown (minus the east/west T) would make more sense. Every other city to which I travel, I can jump on such transport with my bags (DC, Chicago, San Fran, Portland, Dallas) right from the airport and get to my hotel. Business-based hotels and convention functions are downtown anyway. Still, if we wouldn’t otherwise spend 100% of our own money on it ‘cuz we really really need it, we are not saving anything through partial government or business subsidies (free money) and covering the difference. We are only paying additional on something unknown (useage and need).

  20. Aggrieved Party
    Mar 4, 2016, 12:19 pm

    Team Dave admits that the status quo paradigm of “how to get something done” has already failed at least once. The “tough love” lessons of insufficient-interest/support and failed financing do not appear to have intrinsically changed. IMO, we are at the WC Field’s stage of “…stop making a dam* fool of yourself!” stage.
    From a purely pragmatic standpoint, surface transportation in a locale which has an average yearly temperature of 37 degrees should immediately scrap any idea of an “open air” anything which cannot move fast enough to keep its passengers from literally freezing during transport. The element of having to wait or sit for extended periods of time to either board or ride a trolley is an unpleasant side effect of using such a system.
    We are who we are and where we are. Comparing the metrics of other cities which currently have a trolley system is essentially valueless.
    I am reminded of the day when the “deciders” of Nampa justified building the Idaho Center by comparing the success of SLC’s Salt Palace as a clone-able sure thing. Since that day 20 years ago, no market force or demographic change has made the Ford IC come anywhere near breaking even much less profitable (as it was promised it would be).
    The original trolley system (Boise Interurban) was literally derailed decades ago and any attempt to resurrect it should be also. (The bones of the original rails themselves can still be found buried in the back yards of homes along Boise Avenue adjacent to what used to be the Boisean Motel site).
    Assuming that a new surface transportation system is truly needed, all possible modes of transportation both old and new need to be on the table. Non-polluting human powered surface transportation is the norm in countries which don’t have the money to throw at “solution”.
    The “find a need and fill it” mantra of Uber sought no “stakeholder” approval or massive financing schemes when it launched it efforts. Instead, the micro profitability incentive of Uber brought grassroots support both in vehicles and ridership.
    The idea of Boise bike lanes populated by human powered Pedi-cabs is probably too embarrassingly “third-worldish & retrograde” to ever be considered,
    but it would be a low to no cost start-up for taxpayers, utilize existing right of way and encourage strong enterprising “backs” to get their piece of the profit pie. Even if such an effort fizzled there would be no long term downside for taxpayers.
    Profit??? What a concept! Government should stay out of the business of being in business. The now failed IDL experiment in “highest return” points out the basic flaw in government management of any business. Government is populated by the mindset of “Budget and Spend” without the normal worries of failure to thrive or ever needing to show a profit for the taxpayer “investors” who ALWAYS wind up footing the bill regardless of success or failure.
    Until there is personal accountability assessable to management of any government involved enterprise the answer to a new trolley anything should be a resounding NO!

  21. Eagle Writer
    Mar 4, 2016, 3:02 pm

    Editor, got it. Our job as taxpayers is to get Bieter’s Boise up to the standards of 1969 Saigon. LOL

    FYI, Boise just hit two major top 10 best places to live, play and retire lists. Maybe it is because we still have street parking and driving lanes downtown.

    EDITOR NOTE–I have lived here nearly 50 years, I love the place, but I truly feel the current “deciders” and imposing their will upon us, our economy is based on growth, and we spend way too much money being “visionaries, planners, legacy builders, etc.” As for the lists, those are as valuable as “who’s who” listings, and “premiere” status on an airline. Would tou brag about membership at AAA and COSTCO?

  22. One rail with pullouts where two cars go back and forth would be more economical. But, why is this still an issue? It seems like this takes away from important issues in the community that we could discuss and provide input and direction for.

  23. Hank – please move downtown (rather than Eagle) so you can speak with some background.
    The Best places to live do not list downtown Boise as the place.

  24. Eagle Writer
    Mar 4, 2016, 8:53 pm


    I agree with you on the deciders, a reason we left Boise City for Eagle. But when we moved here in the early 1990’s Boise was ranked #1 in Outside Magazine for best work and play – taxes, schools, median home price, low crime + close to white water, bike trails, fishing, skiing, etc. The “list” was right and had value for us as we chose where to relocate.

  25. UBER!

    Uber now has UberCOMMUTE.
    Kind of like the wasteful and expensive Commuterride, but since Uber is a private entrepreneurship operation it works.

    Imagine NO BUSES and instead our community embraces the “on demand economy”- you know, ‘the future’.
    Even the Valley Ride employees could be driving smaller vans, and then on demand based on a phone app, they could respond to requests to public transportation – as needed.

    Those Commuterride vans sit all day at someone’s place of business- inefficient- the buses drive around all day for 1 passenger- inefficient; a software solution could combine both of those operations into an efficient public transportation.
    Commuting during the morning and evening rush and utilized for on demand public transportation the rest of the day, 24/7. No $500,000 /10 ton bus required.

    However there are too many old people running the show.

  26. There is an amazing technological marvel that would allow people to travel many blocks cheaply and effortlessly, while improving their health and happiness! It’s called a pair of shoes.
    Seems every day we get closer to the Wall-E world of sick, obese slugs floating around on hoverchairs, while sipping their fructose drink and staring at a screen.

  27. The daily paper says the stakeholders will decide what to do. I feel like all the residents are stakeholders. How can these groups get away with ignoring the people at large? Even creating a beautiful Vista Corridor would help transportation and the city property owners investment. That would benefit more people. But, not a word of support for anything but this circulator, which is doa financially.

  28. downtown boise is beautiful and very walk-able. Better spend a few million on pedestrian enhancements than trolley. When Boise is 1M people, let’s talk trolley.

  29. The Mayor’s trolley has started to roll. ACHD has the bid out for the “Royal Blvd Extension” through Tourist Rest Stop Park. This is under the pretext of the Lusk Street Master Plan. The problem is that the Plan’s analysis indicates that the extension through the park will alleviate less than 20% of the congestion and even less as time goes by. But it is where the Mayor wants to put his trolley line. So chop down the trees (see the front of the Boise Art Museum for the latest episode of the City destroying its own healthy trees in our “city of trees,”), tear out the grass, put in traffic lights, and when the time comes, add trolley tracks. Progress! Innovation! Vibrant! Boondoggle!

  30. Mr. Bieter, after you ride your bike to work,(you do ride your bike to work, right? How exactly do you carry home the days, weeks, groceries ? Oh, my guess is your wife picked them up at one of the stores where she could park without walking to and from a parking garage. without paying you to park? The nice part is: she didn’t have to watch car traffic and bike traffic . Of course Bieter’s bikes don/t have to obey any COMMON SENSE laws.

  31. Here’s an interesting look into the metrics of public transportation:

    I’ll get on my soap box again about Bieter’s trolley route. If you think that the Boise Art Museum might look naked now that the City took down all the trees in front (that the E.D. is now refusing to pay for.) just wait until the trees at Tourist Rest Stop Park (between Capitol and 9th, south side of the river) come down and are replaced with pavement and lights and crosswalks. All within spitting distance of the Greenbelt. So much for the aesthetic viewshed for the Capitol Blvd bridge (that the City paid big bucks to repaint a couple of years ago) and the river corridor and the Capitol building. Not to mention the other end of the trolley route, which is in Robert Noble Park. One of the founding (white) fathers of Idaho, never mind Boise. A park that is deed restricted. We need pavement more than we need to protect what makes us Boise, or pay attention to silly promises that we made a century ago. Progress, you know. Grow (pave it all, sprawl, no-fee permits to important developers) or die, right?

    EDITOR NOTE–Doggone, you sound just like a GROTHOPHOBE–oppose growth that is only for the sake of growth. I just returned from a leisurely drive to California where I honestly had a woman APOLOGIZE for all the Golden Staters moving to Idaho! Some of the places are as quaint as Boise used to be. S.F. has bought into the bike craze and last year they killed off five and injured many more. Monterey hasn’t changed much in years and seems to be well organized, even with bike routes and bike lanes.

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