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Friday, January 11, 2008

Massive multi-modal transit center for Boise?

[Guest post by bikeboy]

There was an interesting story on KTVB's news yesterday - "Public transit plan now ready for public review." (Click here to read the online version.)

I expected it to be reporting progress in improving transportation modes - a new bus grid proposal, or more service between Boise and the outlying areas.

But no!

It appears to be a big downtown hub facility that is envisioned by the Capital City Development Corporation.

Big - and estimated to cost $78 million.

Now, I'm just an interested outside observer, and no expert. (I'm probably interested enough to go take a look at their Open House - Thursday 1/17 from 10am to 7pm at 213 N. 9th Street.)

But my initial reactions are:

- The CCDC's focus and perspective is on downtown Boise, and so that's where their interest lies. And a big, attractive downtown facility would certainly enhance downtown, to some degree.

- If we've got $78 million available for improved transportation in the area, is the best use of that money to build a big fancy downtown hub? How about pumping it into the bus SYSTEM first? How about more routes, or more buses running those routes? How about evening or Sunday service? How about we get buses transporting more people (downtown and elsewhere), and let the improved ridership justify the need for the hub center? Rather than assuming, "If we build it, they will come..."

"Transit Center of Dreams."

In any case, go see their open house, and make your opinions heard!


wolf21m said...

I agree that it would not be my priority to build the center first. Unfotunately, the federal funds that are available can only be used for the center, not for anything else. It is too bad that the funding is so specific.

Julie Fanselow said...

bikeboy, ya beat me to it. (But thanks!)

I got the open house notice yesterday and will duly note that the plan involves these three components:

The Treasure Valley High Capacity Transit Study involves three related projects:

§ Multimodal Transportation Center: A facility that brings together various transportation modes and services at a single location

§ Downtown Transit Circulator: A service that provides efficient connections between primary destinations within and adjacent to the downtown area

§ I-84 Priority Corridor: A plan for high-capacity transit service for locations along the I-84 corridor within Ada and Canyon counties

According to the COMPASS/Smart Growth email:

"At the public open house, you will have an opportunity to view information displays, speak with project staff and submit written comments on possible locations and functions of a multimodal transportation center. Possible routes and vehicle types for a downtown transit circulator will also be presented."

Of course, multimodal centers are very common in cities our size, and this might be a good idea. But I am inclined to agree that - seeing as we are starting from a "way behind" position - we need to assess where the money is best spent.

I'll post about this again before Thursday.

Julie Fanselow said...

Ooops, I just read wolf21's comment, and I know he is "in the know."

The downtown circulator is a GREAT and much-needed idea, especially if it would involve some park-and-ride lots on the perimeter of downtown. Think of how this could alleviate the ridiculous parking-garage line-ups we see so many nights around BoDo and the Grove!

So if building the center would help make that happen, cool beans! And I also believe that we're probably best off doing anything we can do to promote transit that skirts the state legislature, since they're obviously not keen to help resolve the situation anytime soon.

trent said...

building a hub only means one thing to me, that they are going to improve the bus system. If you are going to add more bus routes, and have them cooperate, you have to have a hub.

I'm excited for this no doubt.

Bikeboy said...

I'm still a bit skeptical about the usefulness of a big central facility. (But admittedly, I'm NOT an expert, and will certainly defer to the experts, once I'm convinced they are truly interested in efficient, functional public transit.)

What I'm currently thinking is...

The vast majority of citizens are reluctant to walk farther than, say, 2 or 3 blocks to get to the bus stop or to get from there to the destination. (Can we agree on that?)

So - draw a 3-block circle around the Massive Transit Center, and that's the area of service. (Unless they're good with switching to something else and continuing the trip, and I'd say at least as many are reluctant about that scenario.)

I'm sure I'm probably not fully envisioning the real-world functionality, or I'd probably be less skeptical.

Julie Fanselow said...


re: beyond the three-block radius ...

I believe that's where the downtown circulator trolley comes in. People would hop that and get to their ultimate destination elsewhere in the downtown area.

One of the greatest things about downtown Boise is its compactness. In fact, once you are down there, pretty much anywhere else you want to go is within a few blocks.

But to me, "a few" can mean "five or six," and - as you say - that doesn't work for everyone. Older folks or families with little kids do have a hard time schlepping from the Capitol to the library, or vice versa.