Here's a radical idea: free buses.
City of Missoula, Mont., officials are pushing to add $50,000 in city funds to a community partnership that is looking to raise $400,000 to make Mountain Line buses free to ride in and around the city.
This morning's Missoulian reports that voters have already approved a $1.7 million levy to beef up frequency and extend the hours of operation of the Missoula Urban Transportation District. Transportation officials say that, coupled with a fare-free system, they could increase ridership by 45 percent in just three years.
The Missoulian reports that some heavy hitters have stepped in to help raise the $400,000, including the University of Montana, two local hospitals, the local mall and other businesses.
Corvallis, Ore., another university town, has already launched a fare-free bus system.
They call them the "100 deadliest days on Idaho roads." The stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day offers plenty of enjoyment for families, but law enforcement know that the same period is the deadliest time for crashes on Idaho roads, in spite of the fact that road conditions are often at their best.
And in spite of the fact that Ada, Boise and Canyon counties contain just one-third of the state's population, the same region accounts for 50 percent of all bicycle and pedestrian crashes, 39 percent of motorcycle crashes and 38 percent of aggressive crashes. The three counties also account for 32 percent of impaired crashes.
"We'll be looking for anyone driving impaired, driving distracted or driving aggressively," said Sgt. Kyle Christensen of the Boise Police Department.
And Sgt. Matt Pavelek of the Nampa Police Department said his colleagues will be equipped with laser equipment to detect if some motorists are driving too close to one another.
"For those to drive in an unsafe manner like tailgating, they risk a ticket," said Pavelek, who added the three-second rule should be used by drivers to keep a reasonable and safe following distance.
Law enforcement in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, the Ada County and Canyon County Sheriff's offices, and the Idaho State Police will all be stepping up with extra law enforcement patrols this summer.
In the current issue of Boise Weekly, we examine 11 ambitious proposals laid out before the Boise City Council as part of the city's increased sustainable initiatives (BW, News, "A Sustainable Boise? City Hall Prepares for Its Next Big Steps," April 30, 2014). One of the highest profile efforts proposes big changes to the region's transportation system.
As part of the sustainability proposals, officials with Valley Regional Transit will stand before the council this Tuesday, May 6, to brief lawmakers on a number of possible changes, including:
Expanding service to 10 p.m. on a number of key routes, including State Street, Fairview, Emerald, Vista, Parkcenter and Overland. This would cost $75,000 per year.
The No. 2 Broadway Route (serving St. Luke's Medical Center, Julia Davis Park, Boise State University, Federal Way and the neighborhoods in and around Timberline High School):
- Restoring up to three trips in the afternoon peak on the Broadway route, in order to serve students and other commuters. The cost would be $75,264 per year.
The No. 3 Vista Route (serving the Boise Airport, retailers around Vista, Boise State University, Julia Davis Park, the Boise Library and Downtown Boise):
-Adding more 30-minute frequency, to improve on-time transfers to the No. 1 Parkcenter route, costing $301,056 per year.
The No. 7 Fairview Route (serving Downtown Boise, retail on Fairview, the offices of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Capital High School and the Towne Square mall):
-Enhance service to create a 30-minute headway on Fairview, by adding an additional bus to the route all day, leaving every half-hour from downtown. The bus that departs at 45 minutes after the hour would serve the Town Square mall and the bus that departs at 15 minutes after the hour would serve a number of neighborhoods, including Ustick and Cole. The option would cost $301,056 per year.
In the shadow of the recession, changes were made to a number of VRT bus routes, which resulted in the elimination of some service, but transportation planners now want to return to the council with what it calls a "cafeteria plan" of service enhancement options to increase productivity and coverage.
The proposals from Valley Regional Transit will be presented during an afternoon City Council work session.
The Amtrak Empire, the only daily passenger train that regularly rolls through Idaho, resumed its journey early this morning, after Monday's derailment, which injured one and derailed travel plans for 117 other passengers.
The Empire, which runs from Seattle to Chicago and is already known as the worst on-time train in the Amtrak fleet (which basically means that it is rarely on schedule), partially derailed in northeastern Montana after two cars slipped off the tracks at a switch.
The injured passenger was taken to a nearby hospital.
The Associated Press reports this morning that the train was upright Monday evening and resumed its journey early today. But, you guessed it, as many as seven other trains were delayed while repairs were made.