Boise reboots Downtown circulator

sberg@idahostatesman.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Six years ago, the city of Boise rolled out a plan for a $70 million circulator system that would enhance public transportation around Downtown via bus, streetcar or trolley.

Over the next six months, Mayor David Bieter and other city leaders made clear they preferred the streetcar idea. But the public never really supported the project and it went nowhere.

Bieter and the City Council haven't given up on the idea of a streetcar or other transit mode for Downtown routes. Over the next year, the city plans to work toward a viable option that sits well with the public, business leaders and other influential people, city spokesman Vince Trimboli said.

This time around, the city wants to hear the public's ideas first. Which is the right route? What kind of vehicle - bus, streetcar, trolley, etc. - would work best? Those are the kinds of questions the public will be asked to think about and comment on at a Jan. 29 open house.

The open house runs from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the lobby of Boise City Hall, 150 N. Capitol Blvd. The city is inviting anyone who's interested to stop by and leave a comment on ideas for and concerns about the circulator project.

Trimboli said the city will soon look to form a 10- to 12-member steering committee of business people, academics, planning experts and other stakeholders. City leaders will work with the committee to narrow down options in hopes of settling on the right one sometime next year, Trimboli said.

The Federal Transit Administration awarded the a $375,000 grant to study alternatives for improving public transportation within Downtown Boise. The city and its urban renewal agency, Capital City Development Corporation, together are contributing an additional $125,000 to the study. Trimboli said Boise's contribution will come mostly in the form of hours worked by city staff.

Engineering firm URS won a contract to conduct the study. It will be the latest in a long line of studies that examined public transportation throughout the Treasure Valley. Many of those studies mentioned the need for a Downtown Boise circulator system, Trimboli said, but this will be the first to analyze what the circulator should look like.

"It's a really detailed, technical analysis," he said. "But I think the public comments are going to give them a great starting point."

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