New effort aims to cut down vehicle trips in Downtown Boise area

A new effort aimed at easing travel in the Downtown Boise core will bring together an alphabet soup of local agencies, including CCDC, ACHD, VRT, BSU and COB.

The Downtown Mobility Coalition is designed to help manage parking, traffic and transit in the Downtown Boise in an area from Broadway Ave. to Whitewater Park Blvd. and from Boise Ave. to Front St.

“Let’s face it, we are an auto-centric community and we probably always will be,” Capital City Development Corporation Director of Parking and Mobility Max Clark said. “But the downtown streets… will only see more demand. Right now, life is good still – there are places to park, freeways aren’t all that bad and rush hour isn’t all that bad. But things will change over time and we want to be ready.”

In Boise, Valley Regional Transit is responsible for mass transit. CCDC handles parking garages. The City of Boise heads up street parking. The Ada County Highway District’s Commuteride puts together vanpools. And Boise State University takes care of many functions for its own campus.

Bringing together transit, parking and rideshare under one umbrella makes it eaiser for employers to offer these service to employees, Clark said.

“When you approach an employer, this entity will have a full array of options that all of its entities are providing. This entity will have the full array of options that are available on the table,” he said.

Materials prepared by the City of Boise indicate about 36,000 people currently work in the greater Downtown area defined in the plan – with about 19,000 parking spaces available.  Street parking is currently only at 75% of capacity and there is a small waiting list for monthly parking.  But the agencies forecast the number of workers by 2040 will increase to 56,000.

Even if the parking supply could keep up with the future demand, the road system has extremely limited options for capacity enhancements, resulting in ever more congestion in Downtown. Simply building more parking is not a sustainable approach for the future, but strategies to limit the demand side of the equation can help use our existing parking and road network more efficiently and limit the need for costly public infrastructure such as structured parking and widened roads.

Downtown Mobility Collaborative Memorandum of Understanding

Clark said the group hopes to reduce motor vehicle trips in the Downtown area in three ways: putting more people in fewer cars, eliminating trips, or shifting the timing of trips.

Taxpayer dollars from the City of Boise, Ada County Highway District’s Commuteride program and CCDC will provide a budget of more than $400,000 a year for two years. Dollars from Boise State University and other sources are also expected.

A program manager will be hired early next year with a starting salary of $77,000 plus benefits according to the MOU.  The largest expense will be for marketing – with more than $355,000 in that category.

File this away: Clark said the hope is that the entity will be fully or mostly self-sustaining in two years. 

CCDC chair Dana Zuckerman lauded the effort as her agency authorized a $200,000 contribution over two years.

“Sounds like a good efficient way to manage a lot of people who are working toward the same goal,” she said.

The City of Boise, CCDC and ACHD have all approved public dollars for the project.

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Don Dayhttp://linkedin.com/in/donday
Don has been covering news in Boise for 20 years. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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