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.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Your guide to ride

Jeanne Huff had a cool story in the Idaho Statesman today about why it's hip to ride the bus - or it should be, anyway. Huff does a good job explaining the small stuff regular Boise bus riders take for granted - flagging down a bus, requesting a stop, having exact change, etc. It was nice public-service journalism and who knows? Maybe it'll actually entice a few more folks to give transit a try.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New service from Middleton to Boise

From the Idaho Statesman:

Commuters across the country are being asked to keep their cars in their garages Thursday and use public transportation as part of the second annual National Dump the Pump Day. Middleton City Council member Loni Parry, Star Mayor Nathan Mitchell and Eagle Mayor Nancy Merrill will participate by taking a ride on ValleyRide’s new Route 44 Express to the Park & Ride lot off East Riverside Drive in Eagle, where a celebration of the new intercounty route will take place. The Route 44 Express provides service to Caldwell, Middleton, Star, Eagle and Boise. The celebration will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Park & Ride lot.

Sounds good. Here's more info on the Route 44 Express, which will run free the rest of this month.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Transit news roundup

Sorry about the lack of posting! Here are a few recent news stories related to Treasure Valley transit ...

It sounds like both Boise mayoral candidates are committed to boosting transit. At a luncheon last week with real estate brokers, Jim Tibbs said the current level of congestion on the area's roadways "just flat sucks" and Dave Bieter recommitted himself to better transit as part of a livable city. More here.

Also last week, Bieter proposed a slight increase in the city's share of Valley Ride's budget - but will that be enough to sustain the struggling system, which faces some funding losses due to the city's growth, not to mention a state legislature hostile to allowing local option taxes?

Meanwhile, air quality in the Treasure Valley "just flat sucks," too. In the current issue of the Idaho Business Review, Eddie Kovsky writes, "The air quality in the Treasure Valley could be designated a non-attainment area by the Environmental Protection Agency by the end of the summer. Pollution, generated mostly by automobiles, could exceed the maximum amount allowed by the federal government.

"But here’s the funny part: if the Treasure Valley slips into non-attainment status, the first thing the government will likely do is withhold highway funding."

Hmmm. That doesn't sound too funny to me - but it may be what it takes to get the legislature to finally tackle our region's transit shortfall.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Final May stats

I rode the bus only 15 times in May - my lowest monthly total this year. I had a bad spring cold and allergies much of the month, coupled with a demanding new work assignment, all of which which kept me closer to home.

I didn't drive much in May, either, but I did wind up buying gas twice. I filled up last Wednesday (at $3.189 a gallon) for a trip this past weekend to the Magic Valley, on which I logged 277 miles. So I'll be buying gas again soon, but I hope to make THAT last until a camping trip the last week of this month. As of the end of May, I'd driven 1,466 miles so far in 2007. Not bad.