The best bus ever

The best bus ever
Jason Sievers' awesome Art in Transit bus

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I finally get some validation

Yesterday, I tried to validate my pass on the #3 Vista bus, but the driver told me it wasn't possible on that bus. "Wait for the next one," he said. Well, it turns out his was the next one. (See the post below.) But I was able to get the job done today, when I took the #29 Overland out to the Spectrum entertainment complex - another first for me. Of course, it was for a matinee; the buses don't run there or anywhere else in Boise in the evenings.

Boldly going where I've never gone before

I decided to break in my new pass yesterday by taking the bus somewhere I'd never taken it before: Bown Crossing, the upscale little neighborhood in southeast Boise where I had a coffee date at 2:30.

It was a pretty easy trip. I left my house at 1:25 and walked five minutes to take the #3 Vista downtown. Once there, I got off the bus to transfer to the #1 Park Center. Whoops! Turns out the Vista bus becomes the Park Center bus downtown. Sheepishly, I got back on. The bus left downtown at 1:45 with about a dozen passengers. I got off at the corner of Boise and Law about 2 p.m. and walked seven minutes to Kessler's Cafe at Bown Crossing, where I arrived a good 20 minutes before I needed to.

Walking back, I was pretty sure I would miss the bus since it was a few minutes after after 4 p.m. and the bus was supposed to be at Federal Way and Bergeson by 4:05. But like me, the driver was running a few minutes late. If I had missed the bus, I could've taken the inbound #1 to the BSU campus, about a 15-minute walk from my house, rather than wait a half-hour for the next outbound bus.

The bus arrived at the airport at 4:19 and again became the #3 Vista. (Hey, I am catching on here.) The three passengers and driver waited five minutes. No one got off or on. We departed at 4:25 and I was back at my home stop at 4:30.

The fact is, I probably wouldn't have done this trip on most days. It would have been far easier and faster just to drive. But on a sunny late December day when I actually had time on my hands, I didn't mind at all.

Friday, December 29, 2006

I've made the commitment

I drove to Meridian this morning (26 miles round trip) and bought my six-month pass. Karen at the Valley Ride office told me they are trying to implement the smart-card technology that would enable Valley Ride to sell annual passes, but it isn't there yet.

While at Valley Ride HQ, I also saw Mark Carnopis, the Valley Regional Transit community relations manager whom I've met at earlier transit meetings. I told him I told him what I have planned with the Boise Bus Blog and invited him to jump in with comments and clarifications. He told me Nampa-based Treasure Valley Transit already has a blog, and so it does, although it is infrequently updated.

Fun fact: It is a mile-and-a-half from the Valley Ride HQ to the nearest public transit stop, the Park-and-Ride at the intersection of I-84 and Meridian Road, on the southeastern side of the highway by Gold's Gym. As far as I can tell (and maybe Mark can set me straight if I am wrong!), the commuter-oriented #40 Nampa Express is the only bus that stops there. So theoretically, if you needed or wanted to buy a six-month pass and didn't have a car, you could ride to that stop via the 8:21 a.m. bus from 8th and Idaho, arriving at 8:40; hike the mile-and-a-half to downtown Meridian, where the Valley Ride office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and hang out all day before catching the next bus back to Boise at 3:16 p.m.

As Valley Ride expands, it seems it would make sense to have a daylong route between downtown Boise and downtown Meridian, probably running along Fairview. Certainly not everyone in Meridian has a car or wants to drive all the time. Or do they?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

No annual passes. Why?

Valley Ride needs to make it easier to buy bus passes.

Every year, the Women's and Children's Alliance in Boise hangs tags on the Christmas tree on Boise's Grove to seek donations for its work. I chose one requesting bus passes.

The Valley Ride website says you can buy monthly bus passes at Albertson's. I went to Albertson's to buy one, but they said they didn't have 'em. So I went to Boise City Hall and was able to buy one there.

When I decided to buy an annual bus pass (listed on Valley Ride's website and in its current paper schedule at $266), I emailed Valley Ride for more information. When I received no reply to my query in 24 hours, I called instead. That's when I learned that, despite what it says on the website and in Valley Ride's current schedule, annual passes are not available. I'd have to buy a $165 six-month pass, which is still a savings over the $36 monthly rate, but not as good as the $266 full-year deal.

Moreover, I learned that you have to drive to Meridian to buy a six-month bus pass. The fast-growing Boise suburb of Meridian is the geographical center of the Treasure Valley these days, but it's not exactly centrally located for folks in Boise, many of whom (lower-income people, students, refugees, etc) are more likely than suburbanites to need bus service.

Then again, I'm guessing many of the people who most need bus service can't or don't need to pay $165 at a time for a semi-annual pass. Many probably buy monthly passes (which are available at half price to seniors, disabled folks, and those on Medicare); others may get them through agencies like the WCA that help people in need.

Still, why not sell six-month passes available in several valleywide locations? And why did Valley Ride do away with the annual pass?

Welcome to the Boise Bus Blog

Greetings, and welcome to the Boise Bus Blog. My name is Julie Fanselow, and I live on Boise's Central Bench, a working-class area about a mile from the Boise State University campus (Go Broncos!) and two-and-a-half miles from the heart of downtown Boise. Since 2003, I've written Red State Rebels, one of the top progressive political blogs in the Mountain West. I also worked as the campaign blogger for Democratic candidate Larry Grant during his 2006 run for Congress in Idaho's 1st District. The New York Times included me in a recent roundup of influential bloggers that worked for campaigns during the midterm elections. I am currently back to my freelance writing business of 15 years, Write the Change, in which I focus on people who are doing "small-d" grassroots democracy work and community building.

So why do a new blog focused on my local bus service? I have my reasons:
  • I love Boise, and when we bought our house here in 2004, I was excited to learn we were literally on one bus route (the #29 Overland, since rerouted slightly but still within half a block) and within a few blocks of another (the #3 Vista). This was a big step up from our previous home in Twin Falls, Idaho, where there was no public transportation to speak of. Alas, I soon learned that Boise's bus service has serious limitations. The worst issue is that the buses do not run after about 7 p.m. Other drawbacks are a total lack of Sunday service and infrequent service during the middle of the day.
  • I've been an occasional bus rider in the past, typically riding a few times a month. I'd like to ride the bus a lot more than I do. It's a challenge, since I work out of my house, I don't need the bus to get to work, and many places I go are within walking distance. But with some advance planning, I know I could ride the bus more to downtown meetings, activities, and events; the airport; the movies; and even the mall. This blog will document my efforts to do that.
  • I believe that by riding the bus more, I will be making a personal commitment to using less oil, improving our local air quality, and being healthier. (I already walk a lot, but I'll be walking more, to and from bus stops.) My increased ridership may also help make Boise's public transportation system more viable, particularly if it inspires others to take transit at least part time.
  • At the same time, I'd like to hold the local transit providers and government officials more accountable as they work toward trying to build support for exapnded local transit. As one of the nation's fastest-growing metro areas, Idaho's Treasure Valley still has a long way to go to become a truly transit-friendly area. I fully support that goal, and if I can play some small part in making that happen, that'd be great.
So here it is, the Boise Bus Blog. I invite all Treasure Valley transit users to use this blog to post comments about their own transit experiences (good and bad); small, short-term changes they'd like to see made; and their visions for our area's long-term transit future. Those are the things I'll be writing about, too.

This project is in no way associated with Valley Ride (the local bus provider) or any government entity, though I do plan to tell them what I'm doing.

Welcome, and I hope to see you on the buses in Boise. Click here to return to the most recent post.