Who's paying for bus service when few riders are on board?

Who's paying for bus service when few riders are on board?
BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - ValleyRide buses run up and down Treasure Valley streets six days a week - sometimes with just a few people on board.

But you might be surprised how much of your tax dollars pay for the service even if you never step foot on the bus.

ValleyRide runs 25 routes each day. It costs about $20 million a year to the keep the wheels turning. A look at the numbers show very few of those dollars come from riders.

Some residents KBOI-TV talked to weren't even aware that ValleyRide bus service is taxpayer funded.

"I did not know that," said Lori, a Boise resident who refused to give her last name.

So, how much is covered by the taxpayer? A look through ValleyRide's financial records indicate that out of the roughly $19 million price tag, nearly $18 million of it is your tax dollars. That includes federal and local money. The rest comes from bus fares and other revenue sources, such as advertising dollars.

"I don't think it's quite right," said Ross Martz of Boise, "I pay taxes, too."

Cory Turner, another local resident, agrees.

"You're basically stealing from the taxpayer that's not riding the bus system and it doesn't make sense to me how you can ride in the red," Turner said.

At ValleyRide headquarters in Meridian, officials there say it would be hard to find a bus system that's self sufficient.

"We think we're pretty good stewards in terms of the dollars that we receive," said Mark Carnopis, ValleyRide spokesman. "We think we spend them prudent."


 

But with all that money on the line, are people riding the bus?

KBOI-TV randomly chose chose four routes between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The bus from downtown to the mall was packed. But another one that heads north to Hewlett Packard only had two riders for much of the trip.

Regardless of our non-scientific survey, Carnopis says ridership grew nearly 30 percent in the last four years. And he says you can't put a price on the service ValleyRide provides.

"If you're a college kid, or somebody with a disability, or low income, what options do they have out there for getting from point A to point B," Carnopis said. "A lot of these people don't want hand outs - they just want a public bus system that will get them to their medical appointments, to their shopping, to their jobs."

Carla Alo appreciates the buses.

"It's for the public good, and I appreciate it," Alo said.

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How often do you ride the bus? ValleyRide buses are heavily subsidized by tax payer money. Do you think it's a good use of your tax dollars? Share your thoughts with us over on the KBOI 2News Facebook page.