Candidate for State Rep. Gathers Signatures for Light Rail


A newly formed nonprofit, The Idaho Coalition on Transportation and Clean Air, helmed by former Nampa mayoral candidate, Melissa Sue Robinson, is gathering signatures to bring an advisory vote on light rail, or perhaps high-speed buses, between Caldwell and Boise to the ballot in 2010.

We asked Robinson why.

"Have you ever driven down 84?" Robinson says.

Melissa Sue Robinson, transit crusader
  • Laurie Pearman
  • Melissa Sue Robinson, transit crusader
At least 56,000 signatures will be required to bring a measure to ballot, however Robinson says that only a few hundred signatures have been gathered since the campaign kicked off shortly after Christmas. Her attention has been primarily focused on her campaign for state representative in Nampa's 12th District, Position B, but says once the weather warms a bit, she'll be back to the signature drive.

"I'm unopposed in the primary, so all I really have to worry about is the general election, which doesn't really get going until around August," Robinson says. However the general election is against an incumbent Republican in one of the most Republican districts in the country.

She also portrayed the effort as more of a petition drive insisting state legislators address the issue than ballot measure.

This whole thing may come as something of a surprise to Treasure Valley residents and transportation wonks, as so far none of the other, more established transportation groups are involved with the effort and the campaign only claims two volunteers. Robinson says that she is working on a plan to share office space with the Canyon County Democrats, and plans to ramp up the effort soon. But Robinson wasn't clear on what a larger effort would look like other than planning to focus volunteer recruitment efforts on the BSU campus.

Add to those difficulties a theoretical $20 million price tag that Robinson attaches to the project and Robinson's admission that the measure is actually not yet authored—which might make the signature gathering moot—and the recent experience with Boise's streetcar fund raising and this effort may turn out to be a non-starter.

But that doesn't mean it's a bad idea, or that locals aren't interested.

A recent post to BW's calendar listing of the volunteer effort by transportation blogger and former Democratic spokesperson Julie Fanselow, wanted to know more.

"Many Treasure Valley residents would love to see light rail, but without local option authority, how would we pay for it?" wrote Fanselow. "Who all is in the coalition? And does the coalition also support the more realistic short-term goal of expanding bus service?"

Robinson told BW, expanded bus service is a major goal of the campaign. The other questions however, remain to be answered.