The effort to install a fixed T-shaped public transit route in downtown Boise—once the subject of a raging debate about whether Boise could support a streetcar system—is inching along the rails. Following three years of meetings, an 18-member steering committee has made its formal recommendations to the Boise City Council. While the committee is cautious about using the term "circulator" instead of streetcar, the panel is certain the route should run east/west between First and 15th streets (St. Luke's and the Linen District) and north/south between University Drive and Main Street (Boise State University and the Main Street Station transit hub).
A recently completed alternative analysis indicated approximately 1,400 passengers would ride a downtown Boise streetcar each day, and the economic activity such a streetcar system could generate ranges from $75 million to $305 million dollars.
The biggest question remains: How would the city pay for such an ambitious project? The analysis concludes it would cost nearly $111 million to construct a streetcar system, with annual operation and maintenance costs rising to nearly $3.3 million.
With the blessing of the Boise City Council, city staff will now enter a 12- to 18-month phase in which they'll try to identify local and federal funding. Committee members said, in particular, the city should explore public/private partnerships, fees from the creation of a local improvement district, tax increment financing and parking revenues.
The steering committee also concluded the city should explore "emerging technology to potentially include wireless and/or driverless systems" for the proposed circulator.
While neither the steering committee nor City Council has concluded whether the circulator should be a streetcar or a fixed bus system, Mayor Dave Bieter has never been shy about his preference.
"He has definitely made no bones about his support for a permanently fixed route, and that means rail," said city spokesman Mike Journee.