City of Boise Moving Forward With Hopes for 'Downtown Circulator'

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There hasn't been much talk publicly about the effort, but the city of Boise is inching toward more research and planning to rejuvenate the concept of a downtown circulator.

Mention the word "circulator" to most Boise residents and they may be puzzled by what you're talking about. Say the word "streetcar" and it becomes much more clear.

In September 2013, Boise Weekly examined the then-quiet conversation about reintroducing a new transportation system running north-south.

"It's interesting. If you ask whether you support a streetcar project without saying anything more, you'll get a neutral or, maybe, a nonsupportive stance," Boise City Councilwoman Elaine Clegg told BW. "But if you ask, 'What if it went from the west side of downtown to Boise State, and then eventually up to the Depot, they say, 'Of course; that would be great.'"

Last fall, the city awarded URS (which beat out HDR Engineering and CH2M Hill) a $437,500 contract—$375,000 in federal funds and an additional $125,000 split between the city and CCDC—to conduct what is technically known as an Alternative Analysis.

Of particular note is that nowhere in the recently inked professional services contract does the word "streetcar" appear. In fact, the project is called a "downtown circulator." Simply put, city officials don't want the general public to picture an antique streetcar clanging through the downtown. Instead, they want the public to envision a functional loop circulating people through the inner city to the university district, to the Boise Bench and, perhaps sooner than later, the Boise Airport.

"Don't go into this with a closed mind, thinking, 'Oh, they just want to run this toy train downtown.' That's absolutely not what this was ever about," said Clegg. "This is about creating a last-mile connection from a regional transit system into downtown Boise that people can get into downtown without bringing their car; and once they get downtown, they can get to their destination more easily."

And at the upcoming Tuesday, Jan. 28, meeting of the Boise City Council, lawmakers will be asked to renew a $50,000 contract with Steve Greene of the Utah-based Steve Greene & Associates to serve as a Downtown Circulator System technical adviser. In fact, the agreement is the first of four annual renewals for the project.

Meanwhile, the City is also holding an open house this Wednesday, Jan. 29 for the public "to learn more and share your input" in the lobby of Boise City Hall from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

In a flyer sent this past weekend to citizens, city officials wrote that they were "evaluating possible options for a downtown Boise circulator system" ... "that would connect Boise's downtown core with adjacent neighborhoods."