Public transportation is the big question in ACHD’s fifth district election this fall.
Dave McKinney and Emilie Jackson-Edney will face off for the open seat vacated by longtime Commissioner Sara Baker. They hope for two different directions for the agency. Jackson-Edney wants the agency will put more resources into supporting public transit in the county. McKinney expresses skepticism that transit is the right fit for largely suburban Ada County.
Whether or not ACHD can fund transit, and how hard the agency should fight for the legal right to do so, has been an ongoing discussion in recent years as the county booms. While Jackson-Edney said she doesn’t believe the agency has the authority to spend its own funds on a transit system, she wants to see the agency take a more active role in advocating for more funding and regulatory changes from the state legislature to make it easier.
“I look at a bus that maybe carries 50 people and that would be 50 additional cars on the road that are not occupied,” she said. “Not only for an environmental aspect of it, but it would improve the quality of life aspect certainly by making it convenient to utilize that type of transportation.”
McKinney said he wants ACHD to stick to it’s main priority: building and widening roads. He said the growth has rapidly outpaced the infrastructure in the county and the agency should focus all of its energy and resources on catching up on its backlog.
“Cities like NYC, and Chicago and other places where you have a high population density you will have the demand and ridership to justify transit to a much higher extent than we have here,” he said. “You have higher population densities toward downtown Boise, but in most of the county the population density doesn’t justify an extensive transit system.”
For ACHD races, only the people living in each district vote for that race. District 5 covers an area of west Boise, north Meridian and west Garden City. The area is shown in pink on the map above.
McKinney currently practices patent law at his own firm, but he was previously a civil engineer with an emphasis on transportation and highway construction. He currently sits on the Meridian Transportation Commission, and formerly served as a Planning & Zoning Commissioner in Utah. He ran for unsuccessfully for Meridian City Council in 2017.
Jackson-Edney spent most of her career working for ACHD. She worked in construction management and as a civil engineer designer for 37 years before retiring 14 years ago. Jackson-Edney also serves on the board of the Pride Foundation, nonprofit advocating for LGBTQ issues in the Pacific Northwest.
Mo’ growth, mo’ revenue problems
Both candidates are concerned about revenues flowing into ACHD through impact fees. The agency raised impact fee collections 9% this fall, but both McKinney and Jackson-Edney say the agency needs to request the ability to spend the funds more liberally to meet the county’s needs.
Jackson-Edney said she thinks the legislature should allow the impact fees to be spend on bike and pedestrian projects, instead of only road widening. She also said the highway district should look more seriously at increasing property taxes to complete more projects, which are a small share of most payers costs in the county.
“The property tax increase for a $300,000 assessed home would be about a grande latte at Starbucks at cost on a yearly basis,” she said. “It’s very minimal.”
McKinney said he would like to see impact fees broadened, but not to focus on public transit infrastructure, pedestrian facilities or bike lanes. Instead he wants impact fees to be loosened further so ACHD could complete more road widening projects and other highway network improvements. He said alternative transportation is important and should not be ignored, but ACHD should stick to improving roads as much as possible.
“The top priority for ACHD is to continue expanding and improving our highway network because the majority of the residents of Ada County depend upon driving to work and to shopping and to most of the destinations they need to get to every day,” he said. “That’s not going to change dramatically in the near future.”