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Boiseans' public transportation wish list: Sunday service, later routes and more frequent buses

On Tuesday, the council asked residents to share their thoughts on the current bus system and to say what improvements they think are the most important.
Credit: KTVB file
A city bus in downtown Boise.

BOISE, Idaho — Boiseans want more public transit.

The message of support for expanding Valley Regional Transit service times, destinations and days of service was loud and clear at Boise City Council on Tuesday night during an annual public hearing on bus service, according to the Idaho Press. Some residents said they ride the bus out of necessity, and others said they ride it to be more environmentally friendly, but across the board, they asked the council to invest more city resources in the small system.

In the last year, Boise has increased its efforts to get residents out of their cars and onto public transit to reduce traffic congestion. The city chose to invest in improvements on several routes in fiscal year 2019 and 2020, and officials are eyeing the possibility of sinking additional dollars into the system in FY 2021. On Tuesday, the council asked residents to share their thoughts on the current bus system and to say what improvements they think are the most important.

Far and away the most popular request from the several dozen people who testified was the addition of Sunday service. One improvement option being considered is spending roughly $600,000 per year to have the same limited routes that run on Saturdays also available on Sundays.

RELATED: Boise looking toward public transit improvements to handle growth

Chanse Reece, a resident of emergency shelter Interfaith Sanctuary, said the lack of Sunday service was especially difficult for those experiencing homelessness. He uses a wheelchair to travel the city, which he said is especially difficult in poor weather on Sundays when there is no bus.

“The Sunday service has got to happen,” he said. “I’m not the only person in a chair like this and you don’t know what it’s like unless you have to go somewhere to go in a snowstorm or a rain storm. It’s almost impossible.”

Reece was not the only resident of the shelter at the public hearing. Several other residents testified, including some who said the lack of bus service to major employment centers — in Boise and in other Treasure Valley cities — make it difficult to find work. And, the buses that are available are not running at the hours for people who work irregular schedules, like swing and overnight shifts, can use.

“There’s no bus systems that go (major employers) for people to work and there’s no bus systems to go to places like Meridian and Star and Eagle where jobs are very plentiful,” he said.

RELATED: ValleyRide to extend service area to Eagle

Several people who testified said the lack of public transit in Boise has made it difficult for them to make a living and stay in the city, especially as it grows increasingly expensive.

Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin — who does not have a car — said he has had to turn down job opportunities because of the lack of bus frequency or later run times.

“I never could put down roots and raise a family here because of the lack of public transportation,” he said. “I think it sends a really negative message when we put essentially an economic minimum threshold on the level of resources you have to live in this community.”

Boise officials are considering a number of choices to improve service next year:

  • $3 million to increase all routes to 30-minute frequency Monday through Friday
  • $1.5 million to extend service on all routes to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday
  • $600,000 to add Sunday service equal to current Saturday service levels
  • $600,000 to add 15-minute service at peak times to two additional routes
  • $600,000 to add amenities to bus stops at high ridership areas, like bus shelters, Wi-Fi and signs informing riders of when to expect the next bus.

The majority of routes in Boise currently run from roughly 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with a few routes running until 9:30 p.m, on weekdays. The majority of routes run roughly from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, with a few routes running until 9 p.m.

A final decision on how the city will be investing in public transit will be made as part of the budget process this spring by the Boise City Council.

More from our partner Idaho Press: 14 of 17 Expo Idaho Citizens Advisory Committee accepted: three tabled until next week

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