Monday, August 27, 2007

Transit Discussions at the Western Idaho Fair

I have lived in Idaho for more than 19 years now and have never been to the fair. That changed last Friday as I volunteered for duty in a booth on public transportation. The booth was co-sponsored by Idaho Smart Growth, Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS), and Valley Regional Transit.

As we were late to commit to a booth, we were not located in a prime location. The booth was tucked behind a booth selling carnival toys and did not face a main aisle. Many people probably walked by and didn't even notice. However, the organizers were pleased with the turn out we did get.

I volunteered for a 11-3 shift as that was the only time slot that our limited bus service could cover. The next shift was 3-7 and bus service stops at 6:30pm. My session was also 7 days into the fair so traffic was probably lighter as a result.

The booth had pamphlets on the various organizations, a great piece put together by the Idaho Transportation Department on their budget shortfalls over the past 10 years, a map illustrating the 6 year public transit plan if we do indeed acquire a funding source, jars for visitors to vote for their preferred funding source, and a wheel to spin for prizes. We were also collecting names and addresses of people interested in transit so we can notify them of public hearings, new projects, etc. The prize wheel was a big hit as it brought in the kids enabling us to engage their parents.

The first hour of my shift we had no visitors. Not too surprising as the fair opened at 11. In the next 3 hours we had a number of families through, with about 5 or 6 really engaging. Of those that did engage, all but one felt the public transportation system must be expanded. In voting how to pay for it (accumulative of the week), no funding and a property tax were the least popular. Next was to make the riders pay for it themselves. Leading the votes were a sales tax or vehicle registration fee increase. I should note that this was very unscientific voting. It was a good experience and I feel good that I at least educated a few families on our options as a community.

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