Trolley Folly, Desire Named Street Car Still Festers

Amsterdam tram line, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

We have spent years writing about the ongoing dream (nightmare) of tearing up the citizen’s streets to build an unwanted, unneeded street car, trolley, train in Boise. Today we have had numerous calls and e-mails on the topic.

Each time it raises its ugly head, there is a public outcry, Team Dave defends their idea, etc. Don Day’s BoiseDev blog has a rather lengthy piece which we will simply share. He did a good job picking the scab off an old wound.

In typical simplistic, snarky GUARDIAN fashion we covered some of the same material earlier this year. See it HERE.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. It's about Them, not Us.
    Dec 30, 2016, 2:23 pm

    Editor, Every crime riddled impoverished financially compromised dump of a city has a train circulating through it. Bieter and company need want wish and desire crime and poverty to rot the core of Boise. Boise’s outstanding statistics embarrass when they attend national conferences. These statistic prevented any of them from being noticed by Obama, and now, all is lost.

  2. “There is no clear economic or engineering answer,” Bieter wrote. “I believe everything in this process boils down to our vision for this community. In my mind, that means we build a streetcar.”

    Our mayor actually said that? He does not understand how contradictory that sounds? There is no answer but we will do it anyway… he should be embarrassed he said that.

    Having a vision is more powerful than reality?

    I personally feel it is dangerous when our elected representatives stop representing and start “leading”. I don’t want a mayor with a pet vision for the city, I want a mayor who has good ideas, but subordinates a personal agenda to understand and effectively implement the collective public will. I do not see a collective public will behind this effort, I see a City stacking an advisory committee with people they believe will be advocates for their vision.

    If the mayor truly believes in the social and economic value of the street car, then he should have the guts to make the case to the public and put a public bond measure on the ballot to fund the local match. The fact that he will not, should be a sign to all voters in Boise, that our mayor is more interested in pet projects than representing the will of the people he is to serve.

    Pony up Mr. Mayor, put it to a vote, make the case to the people, not to a stacked committee.

  3. “Festers” is the correct term. I guess it’s Bieter’s Herpes… you can treat the symptoms, but it will still flare up from time to time.

    I believe Dr. Ahlquist is from the SLC area, so he’s probably very aware of their successful light rail system. We were down there a year ago and rode it for a good 10 miles into downtown SLC. It’s nice! And there’s been some significant development of upscale apartments, etc., along the corridor. (It’s funded by user fees, plus a local option sales tax. And I’m sure the affected communities kick in, as well.)

    However, even a casual observer like me can appreciate a major difference between the SLC light rail and Boise’s “T route” trolley… in SLC and along the Wasatch Front it replaces motor vehicle commuter transportation for lots of people. In Boise it would be a bar-hopper novelty, because it only circulates downtown. People would still need another form of transportation to get to a trolley stop. In addition – most of the proposed corridors is already pretty much developed.

    (I’d be far more inclined to support some form of light rail running between Caldwell and Boise, than a $180 million downtown-serving carnival ride.)

  4. I am curious to see what the committee concludes. Many of the stakeholders are on it. Not all are in love with the mayor.

  5. Aggrieved Party
    Dec 31, 2016, 10:01 am

    Winston Churchill is quoted as saying: “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” This Trolley project is a classic example of this kind of hermaphroditic effort to increase prosperity in Boise.

    Trolleys have historically been loss leaders in the Boise Valley and odds are that this project will turn into a monster financial alligator which will in turn destroy the lives of many current property owners unlucky enough to be in the development area. Here are just a few reasons why.

    Second only to the use of Tax Increment Financing (Urban Renewal District) a new Local Improvement Districts (LID) is the next worst way to finance anything this big. The true cost of an LID over a 20 year period of time will be millions more than projected base costs, simply because of the interest which must be paid on the bonds which finance them. Unlike TIF taxes, LID tax liens are superior to all existing liens or mortgages on any real property they are assessed to. The yearly LID costs alone could easily double the existing cost of property tax for any affected owner. The deck is heavily stacked in favor of any municipality which wants to use LID financing via the Title 50 statutes. Once approved there is only a 30 day period of time to object to the formation of either kind of district. After the expiration of just 30 days, no one involved can realistically be held directly accountable for any problems or issues which arise from the implementation of the project itself. Those who are forced to pay for this LID will have no voice in what they have to pay for, regardless of whether they benefit from the Trolley or not.

    In short: Any property owner who is located within the proposed LID taxing zones should RUN not walk to City Hall and demand a different financing method.

  6. Public policy such as this should not be set by a “belief” in someones “mind”.

    It should be set by a vote of those voters who will pay for it.

    In this case the someone appears to have lost their mind.

  7. Bieter Biegone
    Dec 31, 2016, 4:16 pm

    Anyone who thinks the development cost of this boondoggle will be $111,000,0000 has been going over to Huntington Oregon too often. And anyone who thinks the ridership will turn out as projected is constantly on the pipe.

    Even cursory research states that these things always cost at least 50% more to build (don’t even think about the increase in operating costs) and the ridership is always at least 25% less. And the taxpayers are always stuck with the overages.

    And anyone with rudimentary math skills can see the projected “revenue” at the highest end only comes up to $37 million (out of $111 million – riiiiggght) without the “municipal” help. Boise already puts in $8 million to VRT which ain’t going anywhere else if they want “transit” outside of the DT. I suppose they could always continue to raise taxes but at some point all the blood might be out of the turnip.

    Ah well, when the populace keeps re electing these tools, they think they have mandates. The funniest is all the Bieter sycophants on the statesman comments who basically flame anyone who dares speak against Bieter then get totally exercised when the mayor and council approve building projects in their neighborhoods.

  8. Here is an idea – let all those who voted for Mr Beiter pay for the trolley. And have the LID just cover the north end.

    Bikeboy – Tommy Alquist is just the local face that does whatever his dad in SLC tells him to do. His dad in SLC has run out of ways to take advantage of public money give away like the free building foundation we gave them above the bus barn so he is now focused on Boise.

  9. Steve Rinehart
    Jan 1, 2017, 12:02 am

    I have been following the occasional news about the “stakeholders” who have been meeting for the past year or so to steer this project. No one I can see in this comment thread is an official stakeholder, near as I can tell. Or anyone else I know. I guess this is because our stake is not big enough. We would just be paying for it. How much? The city’s consultant says over $10 per ride, in the best-case scenario. This is apparently OK with the mayor. Is it OK with you?

  10. Yossarian_22
    Jan 2, 2017, 1:07 pm

    I used to be a big supporter of a trolley system for Boise, but I can think of many other things we could use more. We are not in need of this downtown. We have other transportation needs that can be addressed for much cheaper than this. Our BUS system has issues that need addressed. We need railroad upgrades, that are being addressed, but it’s still the best long haul freight mode around. We could use a Canyon to Ada commuter train more than a toy trolley. SLC’s system is a success, but we are not them. There just isn’t enough buildup for it.

    I do want to address the smear made in the comments that equate crime with rail systems. That is BUNK. Yes, the big cities with rail transit have major crime issues, but that has nothing to do with the existence of rail. Pride in one’s city with good living standards are attributed to attendance to particular values, not transit systems. Helsinki in Finland has rail transit and is NOT Chicago or NYC or Washington DC.

  11. Dave Bieter SUCKS
    Jan 2, 2017, 4:09 pm

    Bieter should get himself a human powered rickshaw and shuttle people around downtown himself if he is so insanely hot on the idea of a transportation “solution” more appropriate for Disneyland than Boise.

  12. This statement made me laugh: “What you want downtown to look like? At one point someone had the vision to build the Greenbelt, same thing with the foothills,” he said. Thank God we built the foothills. Or maybe he meant built IN the foothills. No, that can’t be right either because every time a new foothills project comes up, the current residents pull the gate shut a little tighter behind them.

  13. I love the idea of a useful trolley but this trolley basically serves BSU students getting to and from their jobs as servers downtown then getting them to a from bars on the weekend. If they want to invest in a trolley it should run from downtown up the 184 to the 84 making stops at curtis then milwaulkee/franklin then eagle fairview then out to Meridian rd. Back to the frwy then finishing at Garrity and returning. Or at least something sensible and useful. I live in the downtown area and walk most of that “T” on foot. From 9th to Broadway is a 15 to 20 minute walk. Give me a break! I am also from San Diego and very familiar with the trolley as we used it very often. It is nothing like what Beitar is trying to create. His vision is like that of a toy train track, cute but useless.

  14. Why not create bus routes that mimic the proposed trolley routes, and see how many people would actually ride it?
    If they’re popular, paint the buses to look like trolleys and save millions.
    Tommy Alquist got his bus station, so let’s have a useful bus system.

  15. Steve Rinehart
    Jan 5, 2017, 7:06 pm

    Agree. We have a new bus station. Let’s use it. Put some buses on downtown circulator routes, promote the service, see which routes work. Then modify the routes to serve the users. With the mayor’s street car / trolley you cannot modify the routes.

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