The city has convened meetings of business people, academics, planning experts and other stakeholders. It hired engineers with federal grant money it won in October 2011 to study transit alternatives.
Last year, a consensus emerged on a preferred route for a Downtown “circulator” — a public transportation route, or series of routes, that would quickly move people around the core of the city.
Now Boise is inviting the public to review its analysis of the circulator proposal. The city is holding an open house event Tuesday at City Hall for people to learn more and weigh in on the route and which vehicle the circulator should employ.
The open house is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. in the lobby of City Hall, located at 150 N. Capitol Blvd.
This process stands in contrast to the last time Boise rolled out a plan for a Downtown circulator. That was in 2009, when Mayor David Bieter got behind a mission to build a $70 million rail-based streetcar system. But the public and business community balked, and the city ultimately backed off.
Bieter, though, has never given up on his belief that a Downtown rail-based transit system would be a boon to Boise’s economy and culture.
The proposed route from last year remains unchanged. It is a T-shape circuit that runs north-south between Boise State University’s main campus and Main Street. The east-west branch runs along Main and Idaho streets between 15th Street and the St. Luke’s campus near Broadway Avenue. A tail route on University Drive extends from Capitol Boulevard to the BSU Student Union Building.
City spokesman Colin Hickman said there’s been no decision on whether the vehicle that that travels the route should be a bus or a train.
Each mode has tradeoffs. The train would cost far more upfront — more than $100 million, compared to perhaps $25 million for new buses — and substantially more to operate yearly, according to estimates calculated with the help of an engineering consultant. But those same estimates predict the rail system would attract hundreds more riders per day and induce much greater economic development.
Boise staff hopes to finalize a circulator proposal and present it to the City Council for approval this spring, Hickman said. If the council approves the plan, the city could start looking for ways to fund it, such as through grants or taxes.