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City of Boise discusses funding for Valley Regional Transit

Boise is looking to fund VTR $8.7 million for the 2023 fiscal year but does not plan on increasing bus route frequency until ridership returns to pre-pandemic level.

BOISE, Idaho —

The city of Boise held a public hearing Tuesday evening for the Valley Regional Transit’s (VRT) annual service update. 

"I can run to work faster than I get to work by the bus,” said Becky Walker, who attended the hearing and is a long-time public transportation user. 

Walker said she’s disappointed with VRT’s current infrastructure and connections. 

"As I came out to Idaho and I'm learning the bus systems I started seeing the differences in the things that Idaho buses did not have,” said Nicholas Latrell, who is new to the Boise area. Latrell is visually impaired and said he relies on public transportation to get where he needs to be. 

He said he recently learned a lot about what was lacking with VRT is in the planning process. 

"It's just come down to a lack of funding,” Latrell said. 

These concerns come as the city of Boise continues to discuss further investment discussions for VRT. 

In a 2019 Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Boise and VRT, the city committed to providing VRT with consistent funding and to hold an annual public hearing on this topic.

"Our valley connect plan is about the freedom to move,” said Kelli Fairless, the executive director of VTR. 

The City of Boise is looking at funding VTR with 5% of the city's property tax receipts, $8.7 million, for the 2023 fiscal year contribution, a leap in funding as the city grows. The city’s 2022 fiscal year contribution to VRT was $8 million, according to Bre Bush with Mayor's Office. She added the city was able to use federal relief money for funding for FY2022.

"In FY23, the City of Boise’s expectation is to take a more strategic approach to our existing system by maintaining what we have and not seeking route expansion until ridership levels increase to pre-COVID levels," written in a memo from the Mayor's Office addressed to City of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and City Council.

Boise hopes the funding will help improve ridership on the three top routes, improve transit stop amenities, upgrade traffic signals to support travel time efficiency, continue electrification of Boise bus fleet, and more. 

This year's funding would impact the five-year public transit plan which the city hopes to improve and create more construction at Town Square Mall.

However, Boise does not plan to increase bus route frequency until ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels. 

"What I hear most often and what I heard tonight is people want high-quality transit," Fairless said. "They want more, specifically to continue to build great transit off the community corridors to make connections and destinations within the city and across the region."

The City Council, Mayor's Office and the Planning and Development Services will continue the discussion later this month.

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