One factor that's long stifled Treasure Valley transit use is the lack of bus stops. Oh, there are a few shelters here and there - but basically, Valley Regional Transit has been operating on a flag stop system by which you just hail the bus at any corner. It's pretty small time and definitely confusing to would-be riders.
But the flag-stop system is going away as of next Monday in Canyon County. Valley Regional Transit previewed the system last week in Caldwell. The Canyon County routes remain the same, but riders will now be asked to catch the bus at one of 136 bus stops: 81 in Nampa and 55 in Caldwell. The stops all have signs. Most have benches and some will have shelters as well.
According to a press release from Valley Regional Transit, the new bus stop locations were chosen according to safety, spacing between stops, locations where most people wanted to board the bus, and reducing impacts on traffic flow. “It took us months to examine all the details and factors to select the new bus stop locations,” executive director Kelli Fairless said. “Our staff put a lot of thought into it.”
At an event marking the transition, officials including Nampa Mayor Tom Dale, Caldwell Mayor Garrett Nancolas, and state Sen. John McGee (R-Caldwell) urged the Idaho Legislature to give local government authority to raise money for improved public transit systems through a local option sales tax. According to the VRT release, "Draft legislation in the Idaho Legislature has not made much progress in recent weeks, despite strong support among the business community, Canyon County elected officials, and pro-transit groups." Dale urged the legislature to give communities local control to see if voters would OK a small tax for improved transit service.
Valley Regional Transit says it expects to bring fixed bus stops to Ada County by midsummer. But since they've been talking about it for more than a year now, we'll just wait and see.