Community Conversation Workshop 4

This fourth series of Community Conversations, held in May of 2019, focused on charting transportation concerns.

This report is prepared by Dr. Wayne Rysavy, Communication Manager for Planning and Development Services with the City of Boise. The report is based off the Community Conversation in-person workshops available in May 2019 for Boise residents.

Executive Summary

This report describes the findings from the fourth series of Community Conversations hosted by the City of Boise in May 2019. Where the previous series of Community Conversations explored housing affordability, this series focused on charting transportation concerns. Although the workshop was moderated, the open-ended and exploratory question-based design encouraged participants to openly share their thoughts at their tables and in large group discussion with all in attendance.

Findings can be grouped into four interrelated themes described below.

Robust Regional Mass Transit
Car-Centric Culture Concerns
Collaborate/Marry Land-Use & Transportation Plans
Bike Lanes and Bike Network Improvements
Robust Regional Mass Transit
  1. Mass transit was the issue that received the greatest number of mentions and votes at both sessions, as participants desire forward-thinking collaboration aimed at securing a region-wide transit system.
  2. Participants strongly believe that creating a lightrail and securing a dedicated funding source, perhaps through a local option tax, will help make region-wide transit more of a reality. They also want to know how they can make both these come about through greater education and political action.
  3. At the same time, residents are also keenly aware that a lightrail and dedicated funding will not make mass transit suddenly work. Instead, they believe greater awareness and education about using the current bus system coupled with more frequent, reliable, and accessible service across the region will encourage greater ridership that leads to a form of transportation people may prefer over cars.
  • The bus system must be easy to use, accessible for individuals of different abilities and income levels, and it must provide extended hours of service at night and during the weekends to become a more viable and sustainable option. It must also include better amenities, such as shelters, signage, and real-time route information or an app that makes it a more comfortable option.
  • Participants also cited the BSU Shuttle and smaller connector buses, like those in other major cities, as models that Valley Regional Transit (VRT) should emulate. They believe local, neighborhood circulator routes that connect to a city-wide or region-wide route will stimulate activity centers beyond the downtown core and, in turn, encourage greater transportation behavior changes in the community.
Car-Centric Culture Concerns
  1. Although participants shared mildly positive attitudes about travel by car, they did so in qualified ways that highlighted growing concerns with increased traffic and congestion, problematic driving behaviors, and roadway capacity and design.
  2. Participants are increasingly worried that the amount of people commuting into Boise from neighboring cities is becoming unsustainable, as major roads cannot handle the capacity and as widening roads appears to encourage speeding and a disregard for other forms of transportation like bicycles and pedestrians.
  3. Participants would also like to see greater enforcement of laws for speeding and distracted driving, as well as better driver education to help improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. With that said, participants clarified that newer signalized pedestrian crossings and roundabouts are helping improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, but these items are not enough to curtail problematic driving behaviors.
Collaborate/Marry Land-Use & Transportation Plans
  1. Participants made it clear that they want to see greater collaboration and open communication between the city and Ada County Highway District (ACHD), as well as the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), Valley Regional Transit (VRT), and other cities in the valley. Participants feel that there is a lack of communication between all parties that is preventing forward-thinking planning for region-wide mass transit.
  2. Participants also do not feel traffic and congestion are isolated to roadway capacity and design. Rather, participants believe that existing infrastructure and land-use decisions do not support affordable housing and transportation choice within Boise. Thus, they feel more and more people are essentially forced to use cars to get around, especially as the region experiences growth and as people live further away from the city or have no other dependable mode choice to get downtown or around the downtown core.
  3. With that said, many participants felt that focused density, mixed-use zoning and mixed-use developments may help improve transportation, but only if housing and transportation are married.
  • For some individuals this meant seeing more affordable housing downtown on top of commercial and retail outlets, where different transportation choices are easily available.
  • For others, this meant seeing the city stimulate activity centers around the city by partnering housing with mixed-use developments and placemaking.
  • Other ideas included: monetary investments from public/private partnerships, a better network of detached sidewalks throughout the city, more neighborhood involvement, and developer contributions through impact fees.
Bike Lanes and Bike Network Improvements
  1. Participants largely praised Boise’s bike-friendly culture at both sessions. In particular, they cited the Greenbelt as an example of the kind of long- term vision necessary to improve all modes of transportation, further underscoring the need for greater collaboration between all cities and partner agencies in the Valley.
  2. But participants also made it clear that that they would like to see the city create a more complete bike network that consists of more protected bike lanes and more multi-use paths. They believe such infrastructure improvements will help improve safety for all bicyclists and, possibly create a “low-stress” bike network that anyone can use.
  • Many commented that North-to-South connections are needed to improve the bike network, as some people are not as comfortable biking on roads. Some individuals also want to see new East-to-West connections that can help decrease the rise of commuter and recreational traffic on the Greenbelt.
  • Similarly, a growing number of people want to see the city pursue the creation of mixed-use pathways along canals because they run East-to-West and most of the land is ripe for thoughtful multi-use development.

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