The best bus ever

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Friday, May 2 - Boise's No Pants Day!

Update by Julie: Now there is coverage of No Pants Day in the Idaho Statesman and Boise Weekly. But remember: You read it here first! (Thanks, Bikeboy.)

Bulletin! Bulletin! Bulletin!

Just in case you missed it - news like this gets covered up by the nonchalant media - this Friday is Boise's 1st Annual No Pants Day!

You may be asking yourself, "So, what does no pants have to do with buses in Boise?"

Good question... I'm still kinda asking that same thing myself.

But the fact remains, according to the Boise No Pants Day Website, the occasion "was conceived during a recent forum regarding the dismal state of Mass Transit in the Treasure Valley."

So, you're being encouraged to leave your pants behind this Friday... AND ride the bus. "Usually this means wearing thick, appropriately modest boxer shorts, but bloomers, slips, briefs, and boxer-briefs all work as well."

Dress as you normally would, but without pants. And if somebody asks, tell 'em, "It's NO PANTS DAY, Silly!"

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Of CHOO-CHOOS and such

["Guest" post by bikeboy]

There's an interesting article on SLC's Deseret News website today.

"Trains packed as Utahns check out FrontRunner"

The TRAX commuter light rail just started running from Ogden to Salt Lake City.

For those not familiar with the geography, Ogden is north of SLC, and the distance is comparable to Middleton or Caldwell from downtown Boise. And another comparison can be made - most of the traffic runs along a corridor, in their case north-south along the Wasatch mountain range, in our case east-west along the man-made I-84 or Highway 44.

The "premium monthly fare" is $145, which includes the train service and the bus at both ends to deliver riders to their final destinations.

They expect 5900 riders to use it every day, and anticipate the number to climb to 12,900 by 2020.

The TRAX cars have power outlets and wi-fi... pretty sweet, huh? Which would you rather do, sit in traffic for an hour each morning and afternoon, or get work done (or whatever, on the web) while somebody else gets you there? Would you rather buy $145 of gas, parking, etc., or pay it for commuter service?

Is the Treasure Valley ready for something similar?

Could some of those poor pathetic slobs who inch onto I-84 at Garrity every morning, and inch home in the afternoon, be coaxed out of their cars?

The Canyon County ValleyRide buses are packed, from what I understand. What if those buses, and additional buses, could run back and forth along what is currently the railroad corridor, independent from SOV traffic?

Would a light-rail system have enough support to be feasible?

One of the perceived obstacles is the fact that the Boise Depot would serve as a hub for people fanning out to downtown and other ultimate destinations. That could be inconvenient and inefficient, since it would force the vast majority of commuters to take a bus ride after the train ride.

What if I were to point out an alternative, that would put the hub just a couple blocks from downtown?

The old-timers will remember when a railroad spur used to go through downtown, a block or two south of Main Street. From there it went eastward, along the north side of the Boise River. Back in the day, it used to serve the lumber mills and other business out that way.

Most of that corridor is still there.

Granted, it's currently being used as bicycle/pedestrian path. And those people would have to be accommodated if any major change were undertaken.

If you want a picture of what I'm talking about... and if you have GoogleEarth... click on this link. It will show you EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

(The spur leaves the main line near Franklin and Hartman. From there it goes diagonally northeast, crossing Curtis near West Jr. High, Emerald, Orchard near the Syringa Bank, and running parallel to Garden Street and the "Connector.")

I'm not advocating for this. I have no idea if there would be popular support; it wouldn't be much use to me. I would oppose any threat to the bike path - I ride my bicycle up that "Garden Street" stretch five days a week. My only intention is to get people thinking about alternatives to their $3.50 gas in their pollution-spewing single-occupant vehicles.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A day in transit

I spent Friday in transit from Hartford, Connecticut - where I'd been on business all week - home to Boise. The smoothest part of my trip was the 11-mile ride from downtown to Bradley Airport, which cost $1.25 on the local public transit system's Bradley Flyer.

Out at BDL, I learned that my 11 a.m. United flight had been delayed an hour-and-a-half. After we boarded at 12:30, the plane couldn't move because Air Force One was in the 'hood and Bush apparently had to get off the airfield for his Connecticut visit before any planes could take off.

Once we got to go-ahead to move, we taxied a long time, then finally came to a halt right next to the West Virginia Air Guard cargo plane that had apparently hauled Bush's limo and what have you to New England. The pilot powered down the engines. It turned out that thunderstorms in the Midwest had forced a ground stop of inbound aircraft to Chicago, so we needed to wait some more. The United crew opened the doors to let some air in - and to let people gawk at the giant gray plane nearby. A half-hour or so later, we were able to taxi and take off.

We finally arrived at ORD about 3 p.m., about 15 minutes after my flight to Denver was supposed to leave. My voice mail had a message that I'd been re-booked onto a later, direct flight to Boise. But on the concourse at O'Hare, I realized the flight to Denver had been delayed, too, and I boarded it with a few minutes to spare - then sat for more than an hour while that flight was delayed taking off. But it was still a good decision: Once we landed in Denver, I had another voice mail message alerting me that the later Chicago-Boise flight had been canceled and I'd been re-booked onto a flight the next morning. (No word on whether they were offering a hotel voucher as well.) Little did United know I'd already made it to Denver, with just minutes left to spare to make the plane to Boise. With no time between flights, I'd had exactly one packet of pretzels, one can of ginger ale, and no bathroom breaks in the 10 hours since boarding the plane in Hartford.

The last flight to Boise went off without a hitch, and somehow - despite the day's myriad shenanigans - we landed at BOI right on time. As the jet made its long, low descent over the still-snowclad Central Idaho Rockies then the greening Foothills to the east, I felt grateful to be home.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Depot Vision meeting Wednesday

Add this to the list of upcoming events of interest to transit fans:

On Wednesday (April 23), the City of Boise will hold a Depot Vision meeting to discuss future and potential uses of Boise's historic train depot. The meeting is set from 4 to 6 p.m. right at the Depot.

I live in the Depot Bench Neighborhood (albeit a mile from the old station, and far from the nearby neighbors who aren't thrilled by the idea of a light rail station in their back yard). Here's an email I just sent to my neighborhood association president:

I know that many of the neighbors near the Depot do not want it to become a transit stop, mainly because of parking and traffic concerns. I understand those concerns, but I continue to wonder whether - if we can ever manage to get light rail in the Treasure Valley - the Depot could still fill its historic mission by planners diverting parking

For example, perhaps a park-and-ride lot and/or garage could be built nearby on Vista, Rose Hill, or Federal Way, within easy walking distance of the Depot but away from the residential area. Most people could walk from there to the station, but a shuttle bus or trolley could help those who can't. Similarly, a designated shuttle bus or trolley could carry people from downtown and BSU to the Depot (though Valley Ride's Vista
route is already doing this; a trolley right to the Depot's door would
probably prove more attractive to reluctant transit riders).

Of course, there are many people already living within an easy walk or bike ride to the depot, and I continue to believe that our neighborhood is a natural for the sort of transit-oriented development that's been such a boon for cities like Portland and Dallas.

What do you think? Make your voice known this Wednesday.

P.S. Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Upcoming events include trolley tour

Here are a few upcoming events for people who'd like to see fewer cars and trucks (and more bikes, buses, and trolleys) on Treasure Valley roads:

On Wednesday, April 23, Donovan Rypkema of Place Economics in Washington, D.C., will speak about property rights in terms of American history, political philosophy, real estate economics, and fundamental fairness, including transportation and land use planning. The talk, titled "Property Rights and Public Values," is set for 6 p.m. in the Cinnabar Room at the Doubletree Riverside Hotel. RSVP by calling 855-2558, ext. 222.

On Friday, April 25, is the annual Bike Congress at Boise State University, featuring a look at "Roadways to Bikeways," the bicycle master plan from Ada County Highway District. Other presentations will include the Regional Long-Range Transportation Plan 2030 and the Downtown Boise Mobility Study; transportation features of the Boise Climate Protection Program; and a special visit by endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch, current world champion of 24-hour mountain bike racing. There's more info here.

The next day, April 26, the Boise Women's Bike Fitness Festival is set at Ann Morrison Park. Events will include a 21-mile round-trip group ride from Ann Morrison to the Idaho Velodrome and Cycling Park and a 6.5-mile ride that takes cyclists to Camel's Back Park. Click here for the details.

On Thursday, May 1, Barbara Perry Bauer will talk about the historic Interurban Streetcar system in the Treasure Valley. Doors open at 5:30 for this final 2007-2008 Fettuccine Forum event (with free appetizers; fettuccine is available for $5). Afterward (circa 7 p.m.), a trolley-bus tour will introduce riders to the current plan to rebuild the trolley system as a smart-growth development tool. The tour will include a discussion of trolleys past, present and future and will approximate one of the proposed future streetcar lines. Tickets for the tour are limited; call 333-8066 to see if any remain.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Beat the airport parking squeeze

There's a story in the Idaho Statesman today about the increasing pressure on parking and other facilities at the Boise Airport, where the passenger count has risen from 2.8 million a year in 2004 to 3.3 million now, and where we'll lose some federal support once we pass the 5-million mark. Here are three suggestions to help the airport maximize its current lot space and for us all to start thinking like the urban creatures that we are. (These are for Boiseans; out-of-towners can always ask to park at a friend's house in Boise, then follow these tips.)

1) Cheapest of all: Have a family member or a friend drop you off and/or pick you up.

2) Next cheapest (and heavily underutilized): Take Valley Ride. The #1 Park Center runs from downtown to the airport through southeast Boise from 5:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. The #3 Vista runs between downtown and the airport through the Central Bench from 6:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. Lots of Boiseans live near - or can transfer to - one route or another. True, these hours won't accommodate all flights, but you can always use option 1 or 3 for your return trip if your plane gets in late. Best of all, it's a mere $1 fare on either of these routes, $2 if you need to transfer from another city bus line.

It's easy to maneuver a carry-on bag and/or backpack onto the bus, and what's a few blocks' walk with a roller bag to the bus stop when our weather is fine? And yeah, you may need to arrive early given our once-an-hour mid-day timetables on most routes, but with free wireless at BOI, you can get stuff done once you're there. Get more Valley Ride schedule info here.

3) Take a taxi. If you live 3 miles from the airport, this will run you about $22, including tip. If you're 5 miles out, it'd be about $32. If you're 10 miles away up in northwest Boise, you're getting up in the $50 range. Still, compare that to whatever you plan to spend on parking, with current airport garage rates at $9.75 a day ($7 for the shuttle lot; $7.75 for the long-term surface lot). If you're going away for more than two or three days, you may save money with a cab. You don't need to take the first cab in line at the airport, either; ask your favorite cab company about their "will-call" policy at the airport and airport discounts. IF you don't have a favorite cab company, try Boise City Taxi (my pick) or Orange Cab.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

So ... now what?

I've been holding my breath for today. The 2008 Idaho Legislature has left town. On one hand, lawmakers refused to give local option authority to Idaho communities. On the other hand, the Senate managed to kill the poison pill House Joint Resolution 4, which would have made it almost impossible to fund an effective regional transit system in the next few years.

So now what do we do? Many observers say that nothing will change next year, because the Republican House Leadership will still be in power, as will Gov. Butch Otter. Some have suggested that a ballot initiative may be one way to get local-option authority, but initiatives are expensive.

Simply put, if we are going to have change, it must start at the ballot box. There are dozens of reasons to defeat this man in November; transit may be at the top of the list. Although no Republican had the guts to take him on, three Democrats (Gilda Bothwell, Michelle Waddell, and Ed Wardwell want to try. Here's hoping the best of them wins in May, and that transit advocates will flock to the race to help boost that candidate's chances in the fall. (An aside: Who can tell me anything about these three candidates? Do they have transit cred?) Other Treasure Valley candidates have the opportunity to make this issue their own as well. The need - for better leadership and better transit - is especially acute in western Ada and Canyon counties.

A few months ago, no one was talking about writing local-option authority into the constitution. A statewide coalition had put forth a bill that was tough but fair. No matter what the composition of the legislature next year, let's hope lawmakers return to the Moving Idaho Forward concept and get this job done in 2009.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Something to smile about

This has been a pretty dismal couple of weeks for area public transportation advocates, as it has become obvious that the State has no intention of providing any funding for their capital city's public transportation system, OR giving citizens the opportunity to vote on taxing themselves.

"By golly, we don't need a bus system in [insert one: Declo, Cambridge, Dubois, Bonner's Ferry, Kamiah], so you shouldn't need one either!!!"

Maybe there will be more outcry in a year, when gas is $4.25 instead of $3.25, we've had another 100-or-so yellow-alert air quality days, and the roads - which they also failed to fund - are more busted up than they are now.

I got these cool photos via email. Obviously taken in places where public transportation is more ingrained as a part of the culture. I like 'em! I hope you do, too.