The best bus ever

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

Friday, June 29, 2007

Well, duh ....

There's a story in the paper today (which I also heard last winter at the Statehouse) about how the Number 40 Nampa Express bus route is so popular that people at the final inbound stop in Meridian have sometimes had to sit on the floor. Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd suggested that if people have to sit on the floor, perhaps her city ought to pull its $98,000 annual contribution to Valley Ride.

Well, mayor, that certainly won't help matters. What I'm wondering is how Meridian - one of the West's fastest-growing cities - gets off paying less than 100K into Valley Ride when Boise ponies up more than $4 million (which Dave Bieter recommends go up to $5 million in the next budget cycle).

The story goes on:

(Valley Regional Transit director Kelli) Fairless said VRT increased its capacity on the agency's most popular commuter lines on June 15, switching from 24-passenger buses to 43-seat vehicles. ...

The Nampa Express intercounty buses, which begin in Nampa and pick up additional riders in south Meridian before heading to Boise, often filled up in the mornings before reaching the Meridian Park & Ride. That left some Meridian riders to sit on the floor in an open space near the back of the bus, said Mark Carnopis, spokesman for VRT.

The No. 43 Caldwell Express, which travels between Caldwell and Boise, was also crowded and received a larger bus, Carnopis said.

So far, the larger buses are keeping riders off the floor, but they're already full to the point that VRT doesn't want to advertise intercounty service, for fear of once again surpassing capacity, Carnopis said.

Carnopis said VRT's ridership has gone up about 40 percent in the past 18 months.

Two things:

Valley Ride needs to do whatever is necessary to add sufficient seat space to the popular intercounty runs to accommodate as many people as possible. If the demand is there, it must be met, so VRT officials can both demonstrate and encourage the growing appetite for transit. Reluctant riders won't keep riding if they're uncomfortable; they may not even get to the bus stop if they hear buses are always full. Add a still-bigger bus, or send two smaller vehicles, or add another run each day ... whatever it takes.

Meridian has a cooler head than de Weerd's in council member David Zaremba (a VRT board member) who suggested that cutting the city's funding to VRT wouldn't solve the problem. Reporter Hilary Costa wrote: "Zaremba said until the Idaho state legislature gives voters the power to approve a local option tax, cities need to continue to pay to keep the transit agency's most basic functions running, so that planned improvements can be implemented."

Mayor de Weerd needs to get with the program. Meridian deserves more and better service from VRT, but it also needs to accept (and probably increase) its share of the fiscal and moral imperative - and economic development potential - of promoting and funding decent transit.


nl said...

I suppose there are no articulated buses? This is the way to go! One thing saddens me about this article, they don't want to advertise for fear of filling up the bus too fast. I ride buses daily that are packed to the brim. They are also articulated buses running on rapid routes where the frequency is less than 10 minutes. Sometimes to get a point across, it may take a few of these type of rides perhaps? Do they have enough buses to increase the frequency?

Nickin206 said...

Also, sadly the 98K won't even by an articulated bus! They cost about 300-350K for a hybrid.

Julie in Boise said...

Nope, no articulated buses here! (For those who are wondering what they are, they're the sort of buses that "bend" around corners.)

I don't know for sure, but it seems like Boise gets a lot of its buses used or as models are discontinued. Nothing state of the art, or remotely close to it.

I've been in the Puget Sound area twice this year and I've had the chance to ride both the articulated buses in Seattle and a very plush commuter bus on the Sound Transit line. You guys are very lucky to have such nice buses, but then again, that's what happens when people and governments support transit. The mindset is excrutiatingly different here!

Nickin206 said...

Has the system used advertising at all to create extra funding? I don't know if you noticed in Seattle, but a small part of the revenue earned by King County Metro and Sound Transit is by businesses wrapping the bus in advertisments. They wrap about 25 buses which generates more than $700,000 for Metro and Sound Transit. We get ad wrapped buses for Esurance, Life Savers candy, Apple iPod (of course), and some other local plumbing companies and such. Do you know if they have looked at that?

Julie in Boise said...


Yes, Valley Ride sells "bus wraps," and there are quite a few.

You might enjoy my March 2007 letter to the editor of the Idaho Statesman on this very topic:

Julie in Boise said...

That link may not work, so I am pasting in my letter below, too:

Buses use ads

I had to laugh at Fred Birnbaum's March 19 letter accusing ValleyRide of silk-screening its buses so people can't see how few riders are inside. Actually, Fred, those buses are rolling billboards that help keep ValleyRide on the road. ValleyRide needs all the help it can get since our lawmakers refuse to give Treasure Valley citizens local control over transit funding.

Speaking of those ads, one is from a major local homebuilding company. I don't want to pick on this company, but the philosophy behind its bus slogan — Live Large — explains why our air is foul and our roads are clogged. People who buy big homes usually live far away from work, shopping, schools and entertainment. When we choose instead to live a little smaller and closer to our workplaces, our kids' schools, and shopping, we can take the bus, walk or bike more often. For more on these issues, see

I wasn't surprised to see rural legislators like Lenore Barrett and Ken Roberts deny local control to the Treasure Valley. Local Reps. Mike Moyle, Gary Collins and Robert Schaefer are the fellas who ought to be ashamed — and who ought to be replaced next November.

Julie Fanselow, Boise