Hello, my name is Clint Gardner and I have been a ValleyRide bus operator for Valley Regional Transit since February 2013. Over the years, I have heard both complaints and compliments from various riders on the bus. I have been asked to put forth my opinion regarding the future transit needs of the Treasure Valley from a transit bus operator's point of view.
Without question, the most common theme about the future of our transit system has to be the word “more.” We need more money, more buses, more operators, and most importantly — more riders! If we can increase the ridership, then the other needs should follow. The needs are obvious, but I believe we need to address the transit culture if we ever want to meet our future transit needs.
Idaho does not have a transit mindset. The politicians and the citizens do not give transit any thought unless they have to use it. The majority of the riders don't have any other options. They don't own a car, they have a disability, or there is some reason they choose not to drive. There are those who take the bus downtown because of parking fees or traffic issues, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
In larger cities, people are forced to take public transit, as there is no other viable choice. But the sad truth is that using the bus system in the Treasure Valley is cumbersome, inefficient, and often not a pleasant experience.
There are thousands of people who work downtown who should be using the bus system to get to work every day. However, nobody wants to stand in the weather and then spend an hour riding the bus to get to work. So they don't! And should the commute require the rider to transfer to a different bus, the journey just became longer. My point here is, the future of transit in the Treasure Valley needs to find ways to make riding the bus a pleasant, efficient, practical and affordable experience.
I believe there are a lot of people out there who might seriously consider riding the bus if we corrected the problems. Many think riding the bus is a good, environmentally improving concept that is needed for our community. However, when they try using it, they quickly discover that it more trouble than it is worth and never try it again. We need to change the system and the culture!
Some of my ideas are as follows:
- Find ways to get riders interested in using the transit system. (May in Motion, etc.)
- Find a way to let riders use a credit card to pay fares. (Millennials want a “cashless” society).
- Create light rail and/or more express buses from Canyon County to Ada County.
- Increase frequency and the intersecting of bus routes.
- Start education programs to get youth interested in transit. Raise a future generation of bus riders!
- Seek options to increase funding for transit.
- Appeal to community consciousness to better the community by using transit.
- Add Sunday, Saturday, and late night routes for all Treasure Valley bus systems
There is only so much we can do to widen roads, build traffic circles, etc. Public transportation is the best way to get cars off the road. I doubt the current generation of people will give up their automobiles. Work toward educating the next generation to use public transit.