The best bus ever

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Draft legislation available

The Valley Regional Transit website has links to the proposed legislation that would allow voters to decide on local option taxes to fund construction and maintenance of public transportation and highways. Public comments are welcome through November 29.

As I write this, I'm sitting in Spokane, a city that is almost exactly the same as Boise in land mass and population. Somehow, Spokane manages to have at least twice as much transit as we do: more routes, longer hours, evening and Sunday service, you name it. Three years ago, more than two-thirds of Spokane residents voted to double their local transit sales tax from three-tenths to six-tenths of a cent to make up for lost state funds.

It saddens me greatly that in Idaho, we have to make road-building part of the package if we want to get better transit. But hey, we're Idaho, where the legislature is still run by ruralites who don't give a damn about Ada and Canyon counties, and - let's be frank - a few urban legislators who still haven't come around to the fact that traffic is killing our valley. The Boise Bus Blog will probably support the proposed legislation because it appears like the only way to improve what has to be the worst transit system for a metro area of our size anywhere in the United States.


Cheryl said...

I think you've characterized [some of] the legislature accurately. Thanks for the 'heads up'. I took my first bus ride in a long while last night and the driver and I were talking about the difficulties in getting people to ride the bus in such an ingrained 'car culture' as exists in Boise. (FWIW, I usually walk or bike to/from work but left later than usual and it was dark.)

Off to check out the public comment opportunity....

dave said...

I would worry that the new transportation district would be used exclusively to fund highways. Currently, there are several valley highway projects in Canyon and Ada counties that are funded by state GARVEE bonds. These include as new highway from Emmett to the freeway, and a widening of I-84 to three lanes from Meridian to Nampa. What's stopping the legislature from cutting funding on those projects, and expecting the new taxing district to pick up the slack?

Nothing. It's a great deal for legislators, because they would now have an excuse to cut funds for the Treasure Valley, and spend that money elsewhere. Valley residents could end up paying higher taxes and getting nothing in return.

The first purpose listed for the local taxing district in the bill summary is "to finance the construction and maintenance of highways". We already have taxing districts that do this. There is no reason for us to have another one.

On another note, I put together a map of the Valleyride system on Google Maps. You can see it at

Julie Fanselow said...

Dave, I hear you. I'd be mad as hell if I voted for a tax to invest in better transit and it wound up funding roads instead.

I think the bill will have to be written in such a way that the local taxing districts would maintain tight control over the nature of the tax request, and that any local option measures would have to say (for example) that 80 percent of the funds generated must go to public transit and 20 percent to highways.

I haven't had time to look into it, but I believe Seattle voters shot down a measure like this last week because many felt it spent too much on roads and not enough on transit. In Idaho, we don't have as many people who are passionate about transit that they'd vote against a bill for this reason.

But in any case, I'd encourage people to comment and bring up the points you make. In rthe Treasure Valley, we're already piling money into highways, and we are woefully behind on transit spending. I'd like to see transit come first.

Nickin206 said...

Julie you are right! Seattle did shoot down Prop.1 with something like 55% No. The reasons sited were obviously the gross spending on roads. The larger portion of spending was for the 55+ miles of Light Rail, but people were so frustrated that there was going to be spending for freeway expansion, that too many "Green" groups and enviromentalists said HELL NO. I myself voted yes, because I think taking the good with the bad, I really wanted those 55 miles of light rail. Alas, next year the Mayor and Governor said that they will come up with something Transit only. Our new streetcar is opening up in a couple weeks, the light rail line is coming along nicely, the bus tunnel is open again, means it is a start.