City Railroads Trolley Plans

It’s like trying to stop a speeding train.

Here is a letter from a Boise City engineer that went out to numerous local officials. Seems like after thousands of $$$ in surveys, promotional campaigns, and meetings the selected players ran out of objections to the “Trolley Folly” also known as “Desire Named Street Car.”

Dear Steering Committee Members,

The City of Boise will be hosting an open house on March 14th, 2017 from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm at City Hall. The intent of the open house is to inform the public of key findings from the Downtown Circulator Alternatives Analysis which will include sharing the Steering Committee’s recommendation which is:

The Steering Committee’s recommendation to the City Council is a fixed route circulator system based on our identified “T” alignment with the following conditions:

1. Meets the stated goals of the Alternatives Analysis which are:
— Connect Activity Centers in/around Downtown Boise
— Connect Regional Transit to Downtown Boise
— Maximize Use of Transit for Downtown Circulation
— Provide Transportation Alternatives
— Encourage Economic Activity
— Positive Environmental Effects
— Identify a Cost-Effective and Fundable Project

2. Further exploration to define and receive preliminary commitment of the required local funding sources to include for example, partnerships, LID, TIF, institutional, city resident support and parking revenues

3. Accommodation of existing or emerging technology to potentially include wireless and driverless systems

Tuesday, March 14 • 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
City Hall Lobby at 150 N. Capitol Blvd.
The circulator is a public transportation optiondesigned to connect major destinations in downtown. Learn more about the recommended route, funding
and how the circulator fits in the overall vision of Boise’s Transportation Action Plan.

“We envision a city where all people enjoy real transportation choices that offer safety, optimize infrastructure and support vibrant neighborhoods.” Boise Transportation Action Plan, 2016

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Bieter Begone
    Mar 8, 2017, 7:02 am

    It will be impossible to identify a cost effective and fundable project with city resident support. They will need a vote to come up with the $100+ million for an I ground choo choo. Good luck with that.

  2. Kent Goldthorpe
    Mar 8, 2017, 7:09 am

    That have a good chuckle. I needed that.

  3. Off topic.. but I saw a nice good-sized ad in the online Statesman today for the new composting plan. It had the Boise City seal. They also have a website ( City must be swimming in money. I am glad I don’t pay taxes to them (although they do cost me because of the taxes NOT paid by TIF projects that I have to help with). Perhaps they could use the trolley to pick up “compostables” from downtown during slow times. That’s a “positive environmental effect.”

  4. I was in Dallas last week, a city 5 times the size of Boise with 1.3 Million people, they had a free downtown trolley, looked like the trolley had capacity for about 30 people, and there were 2 people on the trolley. Trolley will not work in Boise right now, too small of a downtown, very walkable, inefficient route and moderate climate. Rainy Portland or Seattle we are not. Citizens, businesses and parking customers will be left with a big bill for an inefficient system that does nothing but take people who currently walk to their destinations and puts a very small percentage of them on a “free” shuttle, “free” being the biggest joke of this project. Ironic how the City tells us how valuable this shuttle will be, but if a ride costs a $1 people won’t use it so it needs to be free. By definition if a service is so non-value-add people will not pay to use the service, even a buck, it is not needed. I think there are a lot of people that would pay $1 each way, per day, for a new toll lane between Nampa and Boise. Let’s put the money into something the citizens want, not what a few select elected officials and their cheerleaders and hired consultants want us to want.

  5. “We envision a city where all people enjoy real transportation choices that offer safety, optimize infrastructure and support vibrant neighborhoods.”

    That laudable mission statement seems to be in conflict with their findings about a fixed-route circulator:
    – First and foremost, it won’t serve “all people” – only those who live or conduct business along the designated corridor.
    – It is HARDLY the best way to “optimize infrastructure”! The most inefficient mode of transportation is likely the single-occupant motor vehicle. But a trolly will put it to shame, in terms of cost-per-passenger-per-mile.

    Every estimate I’ve heard for this boondoggle is many many million$. Will the voters have to approve it, or will Team Dave’s Justice Department figure out a way to stick it straight to the taxpayers?

  6. Listen, and understand! That Terminator (Bieter) is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop… ever, until you are dead (have a trolley and F35 fighter jets)!

  7. Has anyone discussed how this Folly will further disrupt traffic in downtown? I mean more than the overbuilt construction is doing now?

  8. “I think there are a lot of people that would pay $1 each way, per day, for a new toll lane between Nampa and Boise. ”

    But that would be serving the people. Team Dave is about social engineering.

  9. The circulator is supposed to replicate the driving pattern of youngsters round and round the Downtown, that used to irritate the police so much.

  10. Mayor Bieter should have taken a trip to my hometown 35 years ago, and enjoyed the trolleys there. Absolutely the worst form of public transportation. Gets you nowhere, really slowly.

  11. Steve Rinehart
    Mar 8, 2017, 11:21 pm

    Per Don Day’s analysis of the city’s own study: the 25-year cost of the proposed fixed-rail trolley / circulator divided by the best-case ridership estimate brings the cost per ride to almost $11. Yes, transportation is almost always subsidized, but this is pretty remarkable. For much less cost we could create decent bus service connecting downtown to Boise State and a few other top destinations. That way, as destinations and demands change, we could just shift the bus route and not tear up the rails.
    Day’s close look at the circulator study is at

  12. Bieter Begone
    Mar 9, 2017, 7:12 am

    Steve Rinehart. Boise State already has a shuttle between the campus and the Clearwater Building. Anyone can ride it and it runs more frequently and later than the bus service.

    But it isn’t in ground so to Bieter it’s worthless.

  13. I would like to know what the Mayor is trying to make Boise look like. So far I don’t like it. Have you ever noticed the roads downtown are better taken care of than anywhere else. Lets take the money for the trolley and put it towards road improvements outside the Bieter bubble.

  14. I would likely support the trolley if it connected the airport to downtown.

  15. Mike – I agree with you, I think a lot of people would pay money for a faster way to drive between Caldwell & Boise. As far as I know, however, HOV & toll lanes are prohibited by the Idaho Legislature except in small resort towns.

    $100 million is a lot of money for a place that is already very walking-friendly, and at the speed streetcars go, a place where walking is probably faster.

  16. The stupid trolley idea is probably something Bieter knows he will never get, but acts to show that he has a “vision” for Boise other than just becoming a sprawling replica of Los Angeles.

  17. The HOV lanes on the freeway are already there. They were part of the rebuild but haven’t been designated as such yet by ITD.

    Jason, might you be thinking of local option taxation authority instead of HOV lanes?

  18. Foothills Rider
    Mar 10, 2017, 11:30 am

    The Boise Transportation Action Plan (BTAP) mentions the current walkability and bikeability of the downtown core. No mention of need for ‘circulator.’ Connectivity to outside nodes and park/ride areas, such as Towne Square, is what is lacking per BTAP.

    The stated “Move 1” is to focus on safety issues – I see that as Myrtle and Front auto/pedestrian circulation issues, traffic speed. When/how/why did this circulator became the priority?
    I propose we simply expand the Boise Bike Bar hours downtown. Seats 14, seems about right for midday circulator, while maintaining a bike/ped vibe.

    On a serious note, the MTD Downtown Waterfront Shuttle in Santa Barbara seems similar in scope to what is being pushed here. That was .25 per ride when I was last there – a mere quarter. It was separate entity from the public buses (part of same MTD), though a free transfer to the shuttle from bus was available. It was a cool little natural gas powered rig, and was decorated for each holiday (think huge bunny ears and a pom pom tail at Easter) – corporate sponsors could subsidize (Simplot? Clearwater Analytics? St. Luke’s?)

  19. Mississippi Queen
    Mar 10, 2017, 11:30 am

    Perhaps our crazy Mayor could replicate a trolley, a small version, put a plow on it and take care of all the sidewalks in our city.
    Your radio malarkey this morning on KBOI was laughable.

    Mr. Mayor, we the people have spoken. We don’t want a Trolley.

  20. Yossarian_22
    Mar 10, 2017, 11:51 am

    As I have posted before, I used to be for these things. But I have grown weary of them. First, not enough people are willing to pony up the necessary $$ for these big projects. Second, this circulator is confined to downtown as more of a toy than a serious transit alternative that will serve work shifts. It’s definitely a tourist attraction and they see $$ attached to that concept. I’m sure they want this to dovetail in with convention events as an attraction, I get it. But we need many more other things besides this. How many homeless people will this train house? ZERO.

    Way back when we actually had a functioning trolley system in the early 1900s, it worked very well and it was a darn shame that it was pulled out of the ground by the Tire/Bus conspiracy (MSM approved narrative, mind you). If we still had it, we would be enjoying it’s benefits as we would have continued to upgrade it and integrate it with our growth, just like San Francisco did. But, that didn’t happen and trying to replicate it without a pot of gold to dip into will be very hard. I want to go after real meat and potatoes issues like jobs that pay good wages and helping people that need basic needs first. Transportation is a basic need, but this doesn’t really fix that. Our bus system needs attention first, I think.

  21. JDB – I’m not a lawyer, but it appears the linked section of the Idaho Code states than HOV restrictions only apply in Counties with < 25,000 people, and that have cities with a local option tax.

    Ada county can't have a LoT, or, by my understanding of this law, enforceable HOV lanes.

    In my opinion, this is ridiculous. While I don't think a local option tax is a good way of funding transportation (despite it's widespread use in other states), HOV/toll lanes should be used, and a lot more than they currently are.

  22. Why not take a few buses and paint or “wrap” them to look like trolley cars, then run them on the proposed route for a few months to see if anybody will ride it?
    If nobody does, forget the whole thing.
    If it’s popular, build bus shelters and make it a bus route. Save $100M.

  23. Hey Team Dave, Apparently people don’t want a train. I have an idea for you instead. Take the train money and invest in the Zoo. Build a world class Zoo and watch the tourists flood in. For all the money you are swimming in, your Zoo should not be begging just a few blocks away. Poor zoo funding will make liberals throw pooh at you! Bonus, many a big zoo has an elevated loop train.

  24. Yossarian_22
    Mar 11, 2017, 9:49 am

    Wolf- Actually, your idea would be a good compromise. If fact, there is another transit option that utilizes a rubber tired train concept that works very well. Eugene OR has Bus Rapid Transit. It’s a very nice rubber tired “train” that serves a select route. You can adjust the route as necessary.

    Here’s the City’s counter argument- they don’t like it because they think that their number one “clients” (downtown businesses) will balk at paying for it with a local investment tax, if they think the BRT can be rerouted on them. The City thinks that the businesses will feel more commitment from a in ground rail. But, they don’t want to cough up the dough as it is. A BRT might change their minds. It would be way easier to implement than in ground rail.

  25. Clancy Anderson
    Mar 13, 2017, 12:14 pm

    I think transit(buses mostly) hold the key to fixing downtown Boise’s parking woes. Improving our existing bus system and creating a bus circulator would be much for feasible and effective. Real transit solutions involve getting people from home to work/shopping and not the last mile.
    Check out this story about Columbus paying for bus passes instead building extra garage space for $40,000/car.

    Transit Pass Program $2,000,000 =2,800 open spaces
    4 Parking Garages $100,000,000=2,800 open spaces

  26. Clancy,
    What’s the difference of a downtown owners being TAXED more to pay for bus passes for the few to to use the bus (and passing the cost on to employees with less pay, or customers with highers prices) vs the employees just paying for their own darn pass?

    Let the user pay their true cost, don’t ya think?

  27. Easterner – If folks had to pay the “TRUE COST” of riding the bus, you’d need not only the costs column added up, but the benefits column subtracted. That’s a hard calculation, and when all considerations are tallied, subsidies for the nominal cost make sense. That’s why every large city has bus system.

  28. Clancy Anderson
    Mar 15, 2017, 9:10 am

    Easterner, The Columbus case had the business owners come together to create this program via their local improvement district. They realized parking was going to be a problem and looked for solutions to solve it by getting people into downtown without their cars. And many employers already reimburse for commuter cost, including transit, under under IRS Section 132(f).

    Boise on the other hand wants people to drive downtown, park and ride around in circles. You can look at both as tax if you want, but I see Columbus as a better solution to the problem.

  29. Clancy Anderson
    Mar 15, 2017, 9:17 am

    I am not sure that anyone could afford to drive, it they had to pay the True Cost. Look at what auto registration fees pay for vs what ACHD collects from property owners.

  30. Each time someone stepped onto a Valley Ride bus in 2015 (latest data available) the cost for each passenger was $ 6.02. That’s up from $ 5.81 in 2014. Fares covered only 10.4% of the 2015 cost. Source: National Transit Database (

    Bottom line, local and Federal taxpayer subsidy was about $ 5.40 for each boarding passenger in 2015. That nearly 90% subsidy is very high compared to those large city bus systems. And ridership continues to drop according to VRT Annual Reports – despite service increases.

    High cost, few benefits. “Nominal” cost making sense? Don’t think so. Just saying.

  31. Bieter Begone
    Mar 16, 2017, 7:18 am

    Oops. I think Bieter’s trolley dreams just died with Trumps budget proposal to delete TIGER funding. You see, Bieter’s trolley dreams absolutely depend on federal money. Well that, and a vote of Boise residents unless he completely ignores the committee report, which of course is very likely. But no federal money means no Bieter trolley. Need a Kleenex Bieter?

  32. Clancy Anderson
    Mar 16, 2017, 9:17 am

    Well if Trump is still around, there may be no federal monies available for new transit project.

  33. Interested208
    Mar 17, 2017, 12:04 pm

    The new Kansas City system is fun and efficient… it also is less than a year old and ridership is low in a metro area 4-5 times Boise’s. But hey, why look at what results have been, lets pay money to someone for answers we like! Not to mention the millions in federal supplemental funds KC needed for theirs. Funds which are going away and that our country can not afford to ignore as “federal dollars, not like WE have to pay ourselves”.

  34. Declining bus ridership will be solved when the next economic crisis hits and many cars are repossessed, and many are reduced to grinding poverty, and that time has nearly arrived. The Oligarchs will need to move the slaves around efficiently. The happy motoring utopia is about over.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: