Transit Riders Decline With Gas Price Dip

There’s good news and bad news on the commuter and bus business.

The good news is the price of gas is down, so motorists are not spending so much to commute.

The bad news is the price of gas is down, so motorists are not spending so much to commute.

No matter how you cut it, ridership for both the Valley Regional Transit public buses and the Commuter Ride van pools has declined in the past few years. That has caused a bit of a scramble for public money and officials are looking for ways to find cash and riders.

We won’t even try to write a comprehensive explanation, but the Idaho Code which enables the VRT also gives the agency total control of ALL public transit in Ada and Canyon counties. That includes the buses, the commuter vans, and even the Boise Green Bike scheme.

There is a plan being bounced around to give the commuter ride to an Enterprise car rental subsidiary that contracts with local authorities to provide a “for profit” system similar to the existing ACHD Commuter Ride outfit. Of course that includes large doses of public money.

Like all things in government, politics is an issue. The VRT executive board seems to be leaning toward the Enterprise deal, despite a one year old deal in Canyon which has never carried a rider.

Ada County Highway District has 133 vans, mostly 13 passenger models, which are mostly funded through fares and subsidies. VRT wants to regain control of that system and has full authority to do it. One of their big selling points is eliminating the vans (which Enterprise would provide) and a claim that 32% of the current vans are unused. ACHD has sent a letter to riders in an effort to generate support for their service which they claim is viewed as a success.

The VRT board is comprised of local officials from each city as well as Ada and Canyon. The organization is so big and cumbersome that most of the decisions come from the Executive Board.

The bus people won’t let BSU’s shuttle use the new transit center, so they dump commuters at curbside near the Clearwater building downtown.

Meanwhile ACHD is in the midst of a scuffle over a “gentleman’s agreement” with VRT dealing with lane use in exchange for commuter ride concessions. Look for a lot more to come on the issue, including Boise City’s push for more bikes and fewer cars downtown.

It will come to a head August 7 when the VRT Executive board makes a presentation to the members. There is a split between Team Dave loyalists and the ACHD traditionalists. A final vote will come in September.

If you are looking for details, sift through the 57 PAGE REPORT.

Also, here is the ACHD LETTER sent to van pool riders. Keeping C-Ride at ACHD Message

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Editor, you might recall I suggested a similar option back in January on this topic:
    “”I don’t want VRT to control that program. I don’t want ANY govt agency to have such a program. If it has merit, a private company can operate it- maybe Uber. See But I certainly dont’ think ACHD has any sense dealing with it””.

    Several years ago the ACHD president publicly disclosed a letter of intent to divest ACHD from the Commuteride program. I have mentioned this here before.

    In a post here on the Guardian, this past January, Commissioner Baker stated she would like to return Commuteride back to VRT, but “VRT doesn’t want it”.

    This letter states, “VRT has been unable to make a compelling case
    for moving away from a successful program. ”

    There it is. Once again, government bureaucracy prevents management from admitting mistakes and failures. Like Trump, just say it’s successful and beautiful and the people will be oblivious.
    It’s right up there with VRT employees banishing citizens from the public terminal (video and story here previously). Annnnnd not admitting the terrible employee actions.

    1/3 of the vans are NOT used.
    100% of the vans are NOT used outside of the commuting hours.
    That’s a lot of capital sitting around doing nothing! Wasteful. Kind of like BFD and BPD excess vehicles. “We have extra money, let’s buy vehicles…”

    8 employees to operate 83 routes is for sure inefficient. (two 3rd grade teachers could manage that many routes).

    50%(+) of the Commuteride money comes from Federal Highway grants and tax dollars.

    Wasting money on changing the colors and for ad campaign (we ALL know about the vans already).

    Now the Commuteride Manager wants riders to protect their subsidized seats (and her job).


    There used to be a thing called carpooling- coworkers would get together and make it happen, their dime, their savings, their time.

    Solution- drop Commuteride like a hot potato.
    This Enterprise operation will likley be short-lived, but worth a shot. Maybe those 800 passengers will use the terrible bus system instead and then ask VRT for improvements (which VRT will ignore). But, hopefully VRT can read the writing on the wall and get SMALLER buses for improved routes and access.

  2. Take over the airport
    Aug 1, 2017, 4:11 pm

    ACHD should take over the airport since it is transportation related. They could possibly get a judgement in their favor to make it so? Then airport profits could pave roads instead of build stuff most of us don’t use in the downtown.

  3. The price of gas does indeed have an impact on modes of transportation. We have a nice “bike room” facility for my office – key-card secured door, and probably holds 50 bikes. Two summers ago (when gas was $1 or $1.50 more), it was jam-packed almost every day of the summer. So far in 2017, it’s probably only been close to full on 3 or 4 really nice days.

    (It’s pretty easy to overlook all the other expenses of motor vehicle ownership – maintenance, insurance, parking, car payments (!!), etc., and just think about that trip to the gas station in making transportation decisions.)

  4. Regarding this statement:

    “The bus people won’t let BSU’s shuttle use the new transit center, so they dump commuters at curbside near the Clearwater building downtown.”

    The transit center was never big enough to hold all the buses. I counted 11 buses staged on Idaho and Main at peak hours before the transit center. The underground only holds 8 buses.

    They’re always going to have to stage some on Main, hence the bus lane there.

    Furthermore, there’s been lots of discussion that buses may become obsolete in the near future. At least in small cities. Boise should look at becoming the first to provide or contract out a fleet of on demand self driving cars. They could even be electric or CNG. I’m sure some cronies could benefit too.

    One reason people don’t use buses is they’re not and can never be on demand and door to door.

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