The best bus ever

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

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fear of dependence

I had an evening event at the Doubletree Inn in Garden City earlier this week. It started between 5:30 and 6, and I considered taking one of the last Chinden (#8) or Fairview (#7) buses to get there.

But then how would I get home? My husband, with a rare night off, had plans to take our daughter out to dinner and then come home and relax. I didn't want to ask him to make another trip. I knew I'd know a lot of people at the dinner. Surely I could get a ride home from someone, but I feared being an imposition. I wound up driving.

As it turned out, I sat at the banquet with Vince and Kara, who live less than a mile from me. We talked, among other things, about transit. Vince mentioned how he used to take the bus to work at Micron, and how he loved the chance to read during his commute. (Now, however, he works in Nampa, and his schedule doesn't mesh with the measly intercounty service offered.) We all laughed over how, sure, we could have carpooled that evening - or I could have hitched a ride home with them, no problem.

Boise needs evening transit. I can't begin to count the times I'd have taken a bus to an evening event but wound up driving because the buses stop at dinnertime. If Valley Ride added evening hours, my own personal ridership would double, triple, even quadruple. But in the meantime, maybe I can take more leaps of faith about one-way bus trips.


Bikeboy said...

Julie... evening transit would be just dandy, allright. And many communities - mostly bigger ones than Boise, to the best of my knowledge - have long-established evening transit hours.

The question has to be, "What is the most effective use of our limited public-transportation dollars?" Is it evening transit? Or Sunday? I'm not sure, but it seems questionable, only because the buses on the M-F routes are so under-utilized.

Perhaps one or two "arterial loop" bus routes could be tried out in the evenings, to test ridership. Like maybe one that loops between downtown and Fairview/FiveMile, or downtown out State Street. Same thing on Sundays.

The general attitude of MOST people seems to be, "Public transportation is fine, as long as I don't have to pay for it. And I hope lots of people use it. But not me - I like my car." I doubt it will be any different in the evenings, or on Sundays.

The only thing that will change it, IMO, is a product that's irresistably attractive (at what cost?), or alternatives that are so painful ($5 gas, traffic gridlock, no available parking, etc.) that public transit becomes more attractive, comparatively. I'm betting on a combination of both... but over a long period of time. (Or maybe not. Gas might be $5 by next summer, ya just never know.)

Julie in Boise said...

It seems evening transit falls into the chicken-and-the-egg category. There must be a lot of potential riders who don't ride to work because they may have to work late and they'd be stranded. Ditto folks like me who could take one of the last buses to get downtown or BSU for an event, class, First Thursday, a movie, etc., but then how do you get home?

My question is: How much of the underutilization in the daytime (especially in the late afternoons) is for just these reasons?

Another point: Boise simply isn't a 9-to-5 town anymore. Yes, the sidewalks used to roll up at 6 p.m. two decades ago, but that's certainly no longer the case.