Doors Swing Open at Downtown Boise's New Regional Transit Center 

click to enlarge - Michelle Schaeffer rides the No. 9 bus to and from State Street five days a week. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Michelle Schaeffer rides the No. 9 bus to and from State Street five days a week.
For the past nine years, Michelle Schaeffer has used Valley Regional Transit buses to get everywhere from family outings to doctor appointments. Her routine was broken Monday morning, when the No. 9 bus to State Street picked her up at its new underground stop at the VRT Regional Transit Center, which opened the morning of Oct. 24 in downtown Boise. She wasn't daunted by the experience.

"It's a little confusing, but I know the drivers really well, and they can help me out," she said.

The Regional Transit Center houses eight bus stops beneath Main Street Station and the City Center Plaza—part of a significant, years-long expansion of the public bus program. In August 2015, VRT rolled out more bus service to State Street and Fairview Avenue—two of the system's busiest lines—as well as retrofitting its fleet with automated audio announcement technologies to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Schaeffer said she believes the new facility will make more people enthusiastic about using public transportation, increasing ridership. As rain began to fall outside the station, she praised the underground station for being protected from the elements.
click to enlarge - The sign overlooking the stairwell to the Regional Transit Center's bus stops. -  - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • The sign overlooking the stairwell to the Regional Transit Center's bus stops.

"It should make [riding the bus] a lot easier," she said. "You can stay warmer when it's cold, drier when it rains."

Nearby, Jeanne Greeson made her way upstairs to where still more buses had lined up to take passengers to stops across the Treasure Valley. Greeson was on her way to the senior center near St. Luke's Regional Medical Center, and has been riding VRT buses for four years, five days a week, from her home in the Vista neighborhood. 

"[The transit center] is already overflowed," she said. "I have to go upstairs to get to several of the routes."

Outside, VRT bus driver Jack Davis was volunteering, directing people to the appropriate bus stops. A 15-year veteran of VRT, Davis arrived at the Regional Transit Center at 5:30 a.m. to assist. He said the new facility is a game-changer that could herald still more expansions of bus lines.

"It's a step forward, hopefully, for longer buses running more, running longer," he said. "Who knows? Maybe we'll get light rail."
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