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Boise needs a Streetcar to create a more “walkable” urban core

Christopher Leinberger, a land use strategist from the Brookings Institution who champions the cause of pedestrian-friendly urban environments across America, really likes Boise.

Leinberger told a crowd of several hundred Boiseans at the Boise DBA’s State of Downtown annual meeting this morning that Boise is on the right track in developing a vibrant downtown core. He also said “you’ve gotta have rail transit” to take downtown Boise to the next level.

As many people know, the Capital City Development Corporation and the Boise Mayor’s office are studying the feasibility of building a streetcar system in the downtown core. Drake Cooper is assisting with this project. In his brief remarks, Mayor David Bieter said, “It’s time in the next year to push (the streetcar project) over the finish line and move ahead.”

Leinberger pointed out that the new trend across America is to build “walkable urban” environments, in stark contrast to the “driveable suburban” craze.

Boise’s got a head start in creating a walkable urban zone because city leaders have planned it that way for some time. The streetcar project would further enhance downtown by removing the need for driving downtown, saving on the need for more parking garages and freeing up vacant land for business development.

The average American citizen spends $8,600 a year to operate and maintain one car, he said. Many Boise residents could eliminate one of the cars in the family fleet if a streetcar system is built.

Walkable urban environments add tremendous value to the tax base and resale values. Leinberger encouraged Boise to continue doing good things, focus on building more residential development downtown for “dinks” and retirees, try to raise more money for downtown investment, and try to grow the downtown area toward Boise State.

“You have the opportunity to create a transformable place,” he said.

At Drake Cooper, we’re all for it.