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New data shows state of Downtown Boise and how it compares to pre-pandemic levels

A story BoiseDev members got first.

For more than a year, with the help of the Capital City Development Corp., BoiseDev has tracked parking activity in Downtown Boise parking garages.

The agency owns six parking garages (soon to be five) in the Downtown Boise core. By looking at parking metrics, we get a barometer of overall activity in the area.

And activity remains far lower than before the pandemic.

Weekdays remain quieter than the (old) normal

CCDC provided data for noon over four weeks this spring, as well as 7pm on Saturdays. Typically, the garages see the most use in the middle of the week during the middle of the day. The Saturday 7pm timeframe helps give an idea of how weekend dining and entertainment use looks.

Average utilization for the garages over the four Wednesdays from March 31 through April 21 stood at 36% for the garages. The trend over the four-week period is essentially flat.

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CCDC gave us comparison data for the same four weeks in 2019 – two years ago, well before COVID-19. The Wednesday noon utilization for that period stood at 69%.

Essentially, the number of cars parked in the garages dropped in half.

Despite the continued drop-off in activity, this is the best utilization figure since we began tracking the metric last April and shows some improvement in the number of spaces in use from the last time we looked at this data.

In January 2021, garages were 28.8% full on average versus the 36% over the April timeframe. However, CCDC data shows seasonal improvement from the depths of winter in January to the warmth of spring is typical.

A number of large Downtown Boise employers remain in a fully remote work environment, while others welcome just a portion of workers back in the office. In the case of CenturyLink, the telecom giant decided to leave Downtown Boise altogether. One commercial real estate firm said office vacancy downtown in the fourth quarter of last year stood at historic highs.

Weekend activity

For the first time, we also requested to look at how the parking situation looks on the weekend.

The data picture is a little bit less clear due to a possible equipment problem for one of the garages we looked at during a single week in 2019. For this analysis, we looked at the first, second and fourth Saturday evenings and kicked out the third Saturday due to the possible data flaw.

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For those three weeks this year, cars filled an average of 32% of available spaces. Looking at the same time period in 2019, utilization stood at 46%.

The decline isn’t as dramatic as the weekday picture, but still shows parking activity dropped by about a third.

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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