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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Idaho ranks #47 in urban mass transit

CFED, formerly the Corporation for Enterprise Development, has released its 2007 Development Report Card for the states. Idaho ranks favorably in many areas, including energy costs, patents issued, and charitable giving. But we are near the bottom of the barrel in other areas including - no surprise here - urban mass transit, for which we rank a dismal #47.

During 2004, the last year measured, Idaho's mass transit systems traveled 1.27 miles per every Idahoan for the entire year. Contrast that with Washington state, which ranked 3rd in the nation with 20.43 miles per capita, and Utah, which ranked 12th with 12.25. New York was tops with 35.81 miles traveled per capita. See the rest of the rankings here.

CFED includes mass transit in its listing of infrastructure resources, noting "The extent of mass transit availability is an important measure of workforce mobility and overall transportation capacity."


wolf21m said...

As a transit user, this doesn't surprise me at all. I will come back to one of my core themes in blogging and commenting on transit - funding. You will note that Mississippi is one of the three states ranking below Idaho. Idaho and Mississippi are in that unique group of only 4 states that provide no state funding for transit and limit local option funding for transit.

Julie in Boise said...

No surprise here, either.

What are the other two states in that no-funding hall of shame?

Bikeboy said...

By nature, we tend to be selfish. We always tend to ask, "What's in it for me?" The vast majority of the population, have demonstrated an unwillingness to ride the bus. (ALL of them have what they feel are valid reasons not to ride.) So, they tend not to see any benefit in funding the bus, since they don't ride the bus. (And legislators, who want to get reelected, are "representing" those sentiments, down in the Hallowed Halls.)

The proponents of public (and publically-funded) transportation need to convince the general population AND the legislators that everybody benefits from an efficient system. If buses are running at capacity, that represents a significant number of single-occupant vehicles that are home in the garage. (Most people see near-empty buses and it's hard to catch the vision. I don't blame 'em. Which puts us back to the "chicken and egg" conundrum.)

I take great encouragement by looking at what's going on along the Wasatch Front (Ogden / SLC / Orem-Provo.) Those folks are likely the only ones more politically-conservative than Idaho folks... and they are doing some seriously-good things, in public transit.

We need leaders with a little backbone, who will direct us away from the "Los Angeles Traffic Model." Because that's surely where we're currently headed.

It won't come overnight... it'll take years to change hearts and minds. But I hope the Legislature will at least give us the chance to vote a local-option. That would be a start. The folks in Meridian would be an easier sell than the folks in Weippe, or Malad City.


wolf21m said...

Interestingly enough the other two states are Alaska and Hawaii which both placed well in the list. I am guessing here, but those two states have a small number of very large cities relative to their overall population. Those cities may choose to fund public transit out of their general funds and keep most of the system in the city. If they invested enough this would cause their metrics to rise. VRT is funded today from the voluntary donations of the cities from their general funds. The amount each city contributes changes year to year. Last year there was a huge uproar when Garden City refused to pay. VRT was planning to boycott passengers in Garden City. I don't know how it was untimately resolved, but I am glad it was.

Anonymous said...

To Julie in Boise...Alabama's one of those states you're asking about, mass transit here is absolutely atrocious, especially in our largest city and my home of record, Birmingham, buses here are primitive, obsolete and substandard, breaking down constantly, there's no mutual regional cooperation to speak of like that of Charlotte and closer to where you are, Denver, and our pathetic legislators hide behind some weak constitutional amendment prohibiting the state department of transportation from mass transit fund provision, dealing only with roads, which are below standard themselves, and although for years there has been public outcry for them to rewrite this document to change that transit item, they simply refuse to address it...If you think your mass transit system's an embarrassment, I challenge you to spend a week in Birmingham, AL., trying to get around town on their abyssmal transit system, when you get back home, the first thing you'll do is bend down and kiss the ground in relief of being far, far away from here.

Julie Fanselow said...

Birmingham, I feel your pain. I have not been to your city, but it sounds like Alabama - like Idaho - does not make transit any sort of priority at all and in fact is willfully working to keep it substandard.

But do you have buses that run after 6 p.m.? More than once an hour in the middle of the day? How about on Sundays? Do you have service to your suburbs?

If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, Birmingham is better off than Boise!