The best bus ever

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

Monday, January 01, 2007

Reasons to park your rig in 2007

Happy new year! I took these photos on my annual New Year's Day walk and - as you can see - it's wintertime in Boise and that means inversions. (These photos are from about 11 a.m.; a few hours before that, you wouldn't have seen any blue sky.) The gray cloud blanketing the Treasure Valley many days in winter and summer seems reason enough to try and reduce our reliance on personal transportation and use other options - public transit, walking, or biking - whenever it's feasible.


Bikeboy said...

Hi, Julie.

I just found out about your bus-blog via the Boise Guardian. Good luck - I'll check back to read your comments regularly, as long as you keep posting.

My transportation-of-choice is bicycle, and has been for 22+ years. We're neighbors - I live in the "central bench" area as well. I can get to pretty much any destination on my radar in a reasonable amount of time. The 3.5 mile trip to my downtown job takes about 13 minutes.

I'm a lifelong resident of Boise. I first rode a Boise city bus around 40 years ago... so bus service isn't new in these parts. I rode the bus regularly for a couple years (before the cycling kicked in). I believe Boise could have a MUCH better public transportation system than it currently has. You've laid out the major problems:
- distance from ridership origins and destinations,
- convenience (or lack thereof),
- scheduling problems.

All of those problems could be solved with enough money. But, how much money should be spent? How much should be directly supported by the users (who will theoretically be saving on other household expenses like gas, insurance, maintenance, car payments, etc.), and how much should be subsidized by non-users who also benefit indirectly (less-crowded streets, better air quality, etc.)? Would things be better if we had 100 bus routes, with buses every 15 minutes, 24/7... and those buses ran 98% empty? Could we afford it? (THAT is the reality-check for the Valley Ride operators, and our elected representatives.)

I've reached the conclusion that the ONLY incentive people will have to abandon their single-occupant vehicles will be financial. Maybe $3 gas will do it. Maybe it'll be $5 gas. Our culture has become ingrained with SOV transportation, going back 2 or 3 generations. That's how mom and dad get around, so as soon as kids get their driver's licenses... they NEED a car from that moment forward, for the rest of their natural lives. (Buses are for field trips. Bikes are for playing on.)

UTAH, of all places, has a relatively new but AWESOME public transit system. Their light rail has proved so successful that they're expanding it at a cost of $2.5 BILLION over the next 10 years or so, funded by the users and a small sales tax increase. Could the Boise metro area do something similar? Yes... but only if people can get past thinking of their cars as the only option, and recognizing how public transit benefits everybody. (Meridian is a bastion of liberal/socialist thought, compared with Provo!)

Julie in Boise said...

Hey Bikeboy,

Hearty congrats on being the first person to comment on the Boise Bus Blog. I admire your courage in riding a bike in central Boise! I am too much of a wimp to do that except for short spins in my neighborhood. I'll also brave a ride down Protest Hill and through the BSU campus to the Greenbelt, but only during low-traffic times (like 7 a.m. on Sunday) when I'm feeling extremely plucky.

I am going to put up a "new year's resolutions" thread to generate people's ideas on steps Valley Ride and other entities could take to improve the system in some small ways that wouldn't cost a lot of money.

I agree: higher gas prices could help get people out of their cars, as could higher parking prices downtown. (I hate to say this, but anyone who has traveled much knows that downtown Boise parking is absurdly underpriced.) But I'm hoping at some point, people simply choose to use transit at least part of the time because they know it'll make a difference in traffic, air quality, etc.

Thanks for reading!


Bikeboy said...

Perceptions. Accurate or not, they drive our behavior.

Many people "perceive" that using public transportation would deprive them of the "freedom" they enjoy in their single-occupant vehicles. (Which fills me full of wonderment, when I see the bumper-to-bumper SOVs PARKED on the Connecter, particularly during the morning rush hour. Some freedom!)

Many people also "perceive" that bike riding on the streets is dangerous. And indeed, if you are invisible, or unpredictable (riding like a scampering squirrel), or breaking the law (riding against traffic, running red lights, etc.), you can put yourself into a dangerous pickle.

The perceived danger, along with the perceived loss of freedom and autonomy, are why most people don't consider a bicycle for their transportation.

But I declare boldly... if you are riding predictably, and legally, and with high visibility, you are essentially as safe on a bicycle as you are in a car.

On the downside - you are more vulnerable. You don't have a cage of steel, seat belts, airbags, etc., to protect you. It's imperative that you avoid accidents with motor vehicles. But on the upside - the super-maneuverability and relatively low speed of a bicycle enable you to avoid virtually any accident situation. Somebody will NOT deliberately run into you, even if they have an issue with where you are on the roadway or whatever.