Downtown Boise Multi-Modal Transit Center Motion

Why I Voted No

Recently, I’ve had two opportunities to cast a vote in support or opposition of one or both of the proposals being considered for a “multi-modal” transit center. I put “multi-modal” in quotes because it remains unclear to me where the transit center would differ from a bus depot. I have yet to figure out where, other than having a parking lot for vehicle-to-bus connections, and a bike rack, multiple modes of transit are represented. Someday there is supposed to be a prohibitively expensive trolley car in the vicinity that loops around downtown, but that doesn’t really qualify as mass “transit.”

I believe that most of us want mass transit so everyone else can take it and leave the roads clear for us! Although I do not feel we should get rid of the bus system, we do not have the population numbers or density to support a major mass transit system at this time. We need to continue to support park-and-ride lots, carpooling, and vanpooling, but we also need to explore new and creative ideas, such as shuttling people in smaller vehicles on an as-needed basis.

At the March 9 meeting of the Downtown Policy Advisory Committee (D-PAC) the board voted 3-2-1 to recommend to the Boise City Council that both the 10th Street and 11th Street (Site H) proposed sites be given further consideration. Three members voted in favor, two of us voted against the motion, and Ada County Highway District (ACHD) Commissioner Rebecca Arnold abstained since she will be taking action on the issue in her ACHD position.

These are some of the factors I took into consideration when I voted no:

• At that March 9 meeting, the “Multi-Modal Center Candidate Site Evaluation Matrix” was passed out. The document provided the pros and cons of each of the two sites, contrasted with doing nothing with the existing downtown bus transfer site. Green dots were used to indicate the least impact or greatest benefit, yellow dots to indicate mid-range impact or benefit, and red dots to indicate the greatest impact or least benefit. When I assigned point values, 3 to a green dot, two to a yellow dot, and one to a red dot and added them all up, the 10th Street site earned 41 points, Site H had 41 points, and doing absolutely nothing calculated out to 42 points. In other words, the evaluation matrix seems to indicate that there is slightly greater benefit (and surely less cost!) to doing absolutely nothing than in pursuing either of the two proposed sites.

• In addition, it was revealed that a total of 22,000 post cards were sent out to members of the public to get their opinions. Sixteen thousand post cards were sent to the people living closest to the sites, and the other 6,000 were sent to those folks who were thought to be interested parties. In response, only 187 people voiced opinions – both positive and negative – about the two proposed sites. In contrast, when the Ada County budget survey was put online last Monday, with little fanfare, nearly 500 people had already responded by Friday. Surely there are a group of people who are passionately interested in this proposed project, but it appears to me that the number is limited.

• The 10th Street site had vocal, organized opposition, so it makes little sense to pursue it, but Site H costs three times as much money. As a taxpayer, I am troubled by that fact.

The Boise City Council took action on the transit center proposal the following evening, March 10. They voted three-to-two to drop the 10th Street site and pursue Site H, while pushing Valley Regional Transit to identify other sites for a transit center that would better serve the community’s needs.

On Wednesday, March 18, the Valley Regional Transit (VRT) Board voted on the same motion that the Boise City Council had approved. I was the lone vote in opposition and now you know why.

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