Boise Tackles the Tough Question: Go Light Rail or Go Bus?
A new circulator system planned to connect Downtown Boise with Boise State University is taking small but meaningful steps forward. Sven Berg of the Idaho Statesman reports that a stakeholder group made up of local business leaders, government officials, and others will make a formal recommendation next month on proposed routes and whether the system should use buses or light rail. While Boise's Mayor Dave Bieter supports a light rail system, the question of how to fund such a system remains outstanding.
The train would cost far more upfront — $111 million, compared to $23 million for new buses — and 50 percent more to operate, according to estimates put together with the help of an engineering consultant. But the same estimates predict the rail system would attract 300 more riders per day and induce long-term economic development worth close to $600 million.
While partial funding of a light rail system could be put together through grants and other city revenue sources, plans for a local-option tax to fund the transportation system have been blocked by the Idaho legislature. Creating the local-option tax would require a statewide ballot initiative.