Boise mayor has his own version of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

Boise mayor has his own version of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

by
Fred Birnbaum
October 2, 2014
Fred Birnbaum
Author Image
October 2, 2014

In 2008 Mayor Dave Bieter insisted that Boise’s downtown needed a streetcar system or trolley. The idea was modeled after similar projects in other cities. What was not clear then and is still not clear now  is what problems are solved by installing a trolley or streetcar that circulates in Boise’s compact downtown?

Boise’s downtown is flat, walkable and easy for cyclists to navigate. Street parking can be a challenge, but high rise garages do a reasonable job of accommodating additional vehicles, except perhaps when a major event takes place. Is the circulator really a solution to downtown parking given its short operating range?

The original lure for the idea was “free” federal money, which, of course, is never free. Federal money may help build a “circulator,” but the city will likely have to absorb the operating and maintenance costs and motorists will have to dodge it.

This past summer the city had the highway district install bike lanes in the middle of streets in downtown Boise in what had to be one of the most ill-conceived plans ever foisted on the citizenry. What lessons were learned from that fiasco are still not clear. Although we are told that the planning process is open to public and stakeholder input, we should still be concerned that the administration and planners in Boise have started with the premise that something must be built.

Politicians love monuments to their vanity despite always claiming to serve the public. Mayor Bieter, three simple questions: (1) What problems are you trying to solve with the circulator. (2) what problems will the circulator create; for example, traffic delays during construction. (3) What will the ongoing cost to operate it be?

Without a clear and compelling case for a circulator the mayor should simply focus on better managing his current assets.

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