I hope I haven’t seen a future scenario for Boise, but with our recent community growth, I worry a bit.
In late July and August, I was in Hanoi, Vietnam, a place I’ve known and worked in for two decades. When I started visiting, there were few buildings over three stories, and the streets were filled with bicycles and a few motorbikes, but no automobiles. Granted, the country was poor and dependent upon aid donor support for infrastructure and capacity building.
But, oh, what 20 years can do. My latest visit astounded me. The city’s population has more than doubled and there are easily over 100 skyscrapers and more in progress. With few natural borders to halt growth, who knows how much more is in the works.
Cars and motorbikes now take equal space on the roads. There is talk of banning automobiles from the main roads (for safety reasons), but that would doubtless mean gridlock in an already tight situation. Bicycles now are rare.
Planned communities have sprung up. I visited one called Times City that has at least 10,000 apartments, schools, offices, a gym, spa, grocery store and more. You could live there and never have to leave.
But with that growth comes pollution, more car accidents, long commutes, competition for jobs and space. Has growth outpaced the capacity to deal with it?
When I returned to Boise, I tried to imagine what the equivalent level and nature of growth would be. Imagine high-rise buildings jamming the stretch from Mountain Home to Caldwell. Imagine the traffic, without a major change to public transport. Given the burst in housing, construction, influx of newcomers and economic boom, it’s not inconceivable that we could be facing growth like we’ve never had before.
I have faith that our community leaders are thinking through the implications. I wish I had a crystal ball; I just hope our growth doesn’t outpace our capacity to absorb it.
Nancy Napier is a distinguished professor at Boise State University; firstname.lastname@example.org.