State Politics

Survey shows strong Treasure Valley support for rail-based transit

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter has to be happy with the results of Boise State’s new survey.

By more than 2 to 1, respondents said they are in favor of building a “commuter rail service on an existing rail line to link major residential, entertainment and employment centers throughout the Treasure Valley.” Though Democrats were most enthusiastic, support was strong across the board, with 59.3 percent of Republicans and pluralities of both men and women favoring a train system.

Even more impressive, a smaller but still significant majority (56.9 percent) of all respondents said they would favor using money from a local option tax to pay for the system.

“We understand that there is a strong sentiment in favor of rail service for the Valley and the benefits that would bring,” Bieter’s spokesman, Mike Journee, said Friday. “We’re heartened to see those kind of numbers, though.”

Though Bieter wants to oversee a new Downtown Boise transit system without raising local taxes, he has talked often about using local option tax, an incremental increase in the local sales tax, to help pay for a rail-based public transportation system in the Treasure Valley. Today, only resort cities and auditorium districts in Idaho have the ability to assess local option taxes. For years, Bieter has tried but failed to convince the Legislature to allow all cities to put such measures on their ballots.

Recently, the mayor and his team have talked about bypassing the Legislature and authorizing local option through a statewide voter initiative.

“People at the very least recognize the fact that cities should have the option to exercise a local option tax,” Journee said. “That’s what local control is all about.”

Overall, two-thirds of respondents said the Treasure Valley does not have enough mass transportation options, with 28 percent saying there are enough.