Writings and observations

A streetcar with no name

Probably doesn’t feel that way right now to the Boise advocates – Mayor David Bieter among them – of a downtown streetcar, but in denying federal money to the city for that project, the feds may have done those advocates a big favor.

This marks the opportunity, which maybe some of them have been quietly hoping for, to back off.

No doubt Bieter was very serious about creating such a project; it would much change the look and feel of Boise’s downtown, and some positives likely would have come of it. But the questions about how and why it would work, and whether it was the right priority for the area, were almost overwhelming. We’ve been struck by the number of Boiseans who have been long-time passionate supporters of mass transit who could not see their way to supporting this one, even if most of the money for it was federal. Polling suggests that Boiseans overall are highly skeptical.

Streetcars are not necessarily a bad idea. Portland has a good streetcar system (linked to its light rail and bus operations), and picked up $23.2 million today for its program. Tucson and Dallas got money for streetcars too.

And for now at least, Boise city officials indicated they won’t be giving up.

But they may be well advised to see today’s decision as an opportunity to take a pause, step back, and rethink.

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One Comment

  1. fortboise said:

    I don’t know if the $ and odds were in parallel, but I remember reading there were $38 worth of request for every $1 of funding… so the projects that were awarded funding had to be the best of the best, right? Let’s hope.

    At any rate, the odds for Boise’s streetcar didn’t seem very good, so this doesn’t come as a shock, at least.

    February 17, 2010

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