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Monday, March 12, 2007

So ... now what?

The local option funding idea is dead for 2007. The issue will probably resurface in next year's legislature, but since the players won't change, I can't see the results being different. New leadership in the legislature in 2009 could certainly make a difference - both in local option progress and maybe even some general fund money for public transit needs - but that's two years away at best.

So what are other ways the Treasure Valley could improve its public transit with the existing funding, or via funding that could come without the legislature's assent? This is an open thread.


markpemble said...

I wonder if the right of ways for a light rail system can wait that long.

Julie in Boise said...

That's a good point: Right of way acquisition gets more expensive every year.

And now I read in today's paper (Tuesday, March 13) that the legislature may be forced to raise vehicle registration taxes anyway, not for transit, but to do even part of the Connecting Idaho project.

It's hard not to feel that we are on the fast track to vehicular chaos in this valley.

Julie in Boise said...

OK, I am going to throw out an idea. We live in an area where big business interests rule, and where the state's biggest businesses are poised to get a $100 million tax break.

There are no transit systems in the US that are self-sustaining, and I have no idea how many cities, if any, have privately run transit systems or systems that are public-private partnerships.

But Idaho businesses do seem civic minded. Are they civic minded enough to help underwrite better transit?

It'd be a boon for Micron, which could sell transit to its employees by cheap passes and the idea of a relaxing commute (rather than the two-hour trudge from Canyon County that Micron people would face in another 10 or 15 years).

HP already seems extremely supportive of transit. Would the company underwrite more frequent service on the Chinden and State Street corridors to help their employees?

Thoughts? Ideas?

wolf21m said...

Julie, I like the idea of businesses stepping up to the plate to help fund transit. Rumor has it (from a valley ride employee) that Micron is considering putting together their own transit system directly supporting their higher population employee neighborhoods. I will be proposing a few options to the HP Boise site leadership council for them to consider. The city of Eugene Oregon, one of the cities that the coalition evaluated, receives a large amount of funding from employment tax. As a result they have one of the largest coverage areas of cities our size (as the businesses demand it). But that brings up the "t" word.

MountainGoat said...

Is there any research or data available on the type of employment Boise is attracting from outside the county? Like what is the percentage of manufacturing, retail, medical, government, etc. employees making the daily commute? It would be interesting to find out which industries would benefit most from better transit.

For instance are a significant portion of the employees in the retail area around the mall coming from out of the county and would that whole retail group benefit from not only employee transit but from customer transit as well.

Especially with Nampa's new retail development, many shoppers may not feel the need to try navigating the traffic and may choose to stay local, without the convenience of some form of better transit. Maybe that whole retail group could be convinced to buy in...of course they may not have the capital that some other businesses would have.

Just throwing out ideas and kind of rambling here....

Julie in Boise said...

This is exactly the sort of brainstorming we need (and Valley Ride and the coalition need) ...

MG, you bring up a good point. Retailers know that full parking lots drive customers away. People just get frustrated and go elsewhere. (This point was made at the hearings last week.) Or they may not go elsewhere, but they definitely get frustrated!

Can you imagine the good will the major retail areas would generate (and the parking places they'd free up) if they encouraged employees to take public transit to work? Free or discounted transit passes could be part of employees' benefit packages, not just for Micron and HP, but for low-wage retail employees (who would find it is is MUCH cheaper to take transit than have a car payment, insurance, gas etc.)

These are daunting challenges, given the fact Valley Ride now ends its routes about 6 and the stores stay open until 9 or 10, and the fact that most people still need a car. But programs like this might convince some Valley households to maintain one vehicle instead of two or more - and they'd definitely help decongest the mall-area parking lots and roads.

This could be a customer reward incentive, too. The Boise Co-Op gives a small discount to people who pledge to bike or walk to the store instead of drive. Other businesses could do the same. People could "show their bus pass and save" at any number of progressive businesses.

Bikeboy said...

As long as single-occupant vehicle travel is an attractive option, it will always be the most popular.

ACHD obviously isn't keeping up with traffic growth (and can't). As traffic gets worse, people will look for options (unless they're TOTALLY clueless and/or resigned to their sorry plight). As gas prices continue to trend upward, it will have an impact.

Alt-Trans is almost certain to become more and more attractive... unless they just pave the whole county and lock in gas at $2/gallon.

I wish SOV drivers paid more of their own way! For example, the company I work for leases 400 car spaces in adjacent parking lots at $60 each (per month), and charges employees $20 to rent them. The company "absorbs" the other $40. That REALLY rubs me wrong!

Here are a couple pie-in-the-sky notions:

Could one lane of the Interstate, from Caldwell to Micron, be an "HOV" lane, at least during rush hour? Buses, motorcycles, and carpoolers only... unless you buy a pass, and the pass-money is used to subsidize public transportation? (They're doing that exact same thing with success in the SLC area.)

I wish there were some practical way to charge more for gas based on how much you use. For example:
- The first 100 gallons you buy each year cost you $2.00/gallon.
- The second 100 gallons cost $2.25, the third $2.50, and so on.
- The surcharge could be used to fund alternatives.
Now THAT would be an incentive to use your fuel sparingly.
(I know - one of your correspondents pointed out that the Idaho Constitution prohibits using a gas tax to fund public transit... which makes no sense at all, but would be hard to fix. I'm just dreaming.)

Anonymous said...

FYI: Light rail averages $15million per linear mile. And that doesn;t cover what it takes to run the thing!!

Worry about coughing up $$ to fund your bus system before you put on your conductor's hat and blow your Choo-Choo whistle while waving to the children...

Force your employer to use Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to fund transit. Forget using 10% post consumer waste napkins or Adopt-A-Highway...

How about adopt-a-route? Get business leaders to pressure other business on the route to cough up the money to run the service at the level desired. Why force the people who are trying to work the politicians to work with the business leaders too. That's whay they call them business leaders!!

Sounds dumb but so are most of the ideas posted here so I fit right in...