Public Stakeholders Offer Input on Downtown Circulator

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Downtown property owners and tenants got the opportunity to help chart the course of Boise's downtown circulator on Sept. 10 and 11. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Downtown property owners and tenants got the opportunity to help chart the course of Boise's downtown circulator on Sept. 10 and 11.

The city of Boise Public Works Department opted to take a new approach in its planning for a long-envisioned downtown circulator. When the idea came up in 2004, and then sparked again in 2008, public outreach was pretty "relaxed," as Jim Pardy—assistant city engineer for the city—put it.

Not this time. On Sept. 10-11, his department held two two-hour workshops in the Rose Room downtown, inviting nearby property owners and tenants to pour over mapped-out routes for the circulator. The goal of the evenings: narrow down a few possible routes based on public input and launch hefty analysis on the proposed areas.

CITY OF BOISE PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT
  • City of Boise Public Works Department

Possible routes presented in the east and west areas of downtown include connection on State Street from Ninth to 16th streets; a route on Jefferson from Ninth to 16th and back down Bannock; a similar route from Ninth to 16th on Idaho Street, rounding around Main as well; and a connection of Ninth Street and 16th Street through the Linen District.

Each proposed route included goals, like connecting key activity centers, allowing flexibility to future connections to a regional system, serving high population and employment density, connecting parking garages, and meshing well with existing traffic and bike lanes.

In the Wednesday meeting, some 40 people sat around large tables spread with pages of proposed designs. Nick Baumann, an electrician at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, came to the meeting because his office is on 16th Street—next one of the proposed routes. He said a transit system like this in Boise is "overdue."

"I wish we were talking about a Boise-to-Nampa [circulator]," he said. "But maybe this will get it started."

Baumann said there's an empty field across the street from his workplace. He said if a circulator goes past, maybe it would help stimulate the growth of downtown's edges.

Sitting beside Baumann, Ronda Jalbert—development director for Valley Regional Transit—took her own close look at the proposed routes.

"I'd say I have a vested interest," Jalbert said. "We realize there's a need to get people around downtown at a higher frequency than the buses run. This would enhance downtown transit, rather than replace the existing buses."

CITY OF BOISE PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT
  • City of Boise Public Works Department

Craig Quintana, of the Ada County Highway District, stood nearby, listening to the break-out groups discuss the possible routes with interest.

"No matter what the city of Boise decides, it's still our roads," he said. "We'll need to make accommodations to the roads, whether the circulator is on rubber tires or needs a rail. We're on board."

Once the routes are worked out, it will be time to hash out the nuts and bolts of the circulator—like what appearance it will take. Options include a bus system or a streetcar. The Public Works Department gathered four hours worth of suggestions and comments and will take the next few weeks to determine which proposed routes were most popular and why. Eventually, the options will be weeded down to one, and the first phase of the anticipated downtown circulator will begin.