Grey Sky Means Yellow Alert

By Guardian Reader

A major threat to Boise-area quality of life is growth. And one of the by-products of that growth, that impacts all of us, is ever-increasing traffic. (Speak up if you disagree.)
As the community continues to sprawl in ‘most every direction, there are more people on the roads, every week. (By some estimates, the population is growing by 1000 people a month. That probably equates to at least 500 cars a month.)

Since I made a conscious decision to follow the example of my father and live close to where I work, and since I commute to work by bicycle, my first tendency is to say, “They baked their cake. Let them eat it!”

When I listen to the traffic (jam) report every weekday morning on the radio: “Eat it!”

When I ride past long lines of idling rush-hour motorists (getting ZERO miles per gallon): “Eat it!”

I’m not very sympathetic to the plight of somebody who makes a conscious decision to live 25 miles from the (downtown Boise) office, out there on Heaven’s Little Quarter-Acre, and then whines because of the traffic woes. Most of ’em seem to be of a mind-set, “Why can’t they do something about all these other people in all their cars, so I can quickly and comfortably drive to work alone in my car?”

Eat it!

Unfortunately, traffic affects all of us. June 28 was another “yellow” air quality day. It’s not my doing… but I’m breathing it, just like everybody else.

Some seem to be convinced that the solution is to widen the roads, and add traffic lanes.

You can see it along Ustick Road… the close-in Ustick residents, some of whom have lived there since it was a narrow little country lane, are losing their front yards so the farther-outs will have an additional traffic lane to occupy.

Anybody who thinks we can keep up with additional traffic with additional asphalt is a fool. It hasn’t worked anywhere else… why would it work in Boise, Idaho? “The Connector” was supposed to be the solution. Remember?

There’s some handwriting on the wall. 2007 will almost certainly be the year the Boise Valley falls into air-quality non-compliance. The movers and shakers will have to come up with a mitigation plan, if they want to get more federal dollars for road projects.

What will they do to lessen air pollution, while continuing to add 500 cars a month to the mix? Any ideas? Are you willing to do anything?

In November, we’ll be voting on who we want for Boise’s mayor.

Although the mayor’s direct involvement in traffic issues is minimal, he has a big bully-pulpit from which to voice his opinions. And he is charged with representing the interests of his constituents – the citizens of Boise. (NOT the Citizens of Treasure Valley, nor the developers.)

What has the current mayor done to mitigate the impact of the thousands and thousands of people driving to their jobs in Boise, from the boondocks of Ada County… and also Canyon, Gem, and Elmore, and Boise Counties? Should he be doing more? Just let nature take its course?

I’d support a mayor who would support these measures:

– Support improved mass transit, both rhetorically and monetarily. Mass transit will always have to be subsidized by the taxpayers, just like the roads. But I don’t think
it’s adequate to just keep throwing taxpayer dollars at the current system, which is obviously of very limited value to very few citizens. Perhaps the traditional “spoke and hub” system has run its course. Maybe it’s time to explore alternatives, like shuttle buses for downtown and other business/office centers, more park-and-ride lots out at the periphery, etc. I am NOT an expert, but I know people will be reluctant to ride a bus that’s a major inconvenience at both ends.

– Support tax incentives, building codes, etc., that will encourage more alternatives, fewer single-occupant vehicles.
–Establish and maintain those park-and-ride lots.
–Create building codes that encourage lockers, showers, sheltered bike parking, wherever a certain number of people will be employed (to facilitate walking, bicycling, etc.) Like the City attorney has in his office.
–Less reliance (via building codes) on huge parking lots.
– Support HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes on I-84. I’m thinking from Boise to Nampa, and only during “rush hour” (From 6:30 to 9:00 am eastbound, from 3:30 to 6:00 pm westbound). If you want to drive alone, that’s your privilege. But people who pool up, or take a bus, will get an advantage.
– Support development of bike/pedestrian paths along the numerous canal banks. Canals run everywhere! They’re not convenient for everybody, but they could provide transportation corridors for a certain percentage of the population. (Some people wring their hands and cry how dangerous they would be for the children. So are roads, when used irresponsibly. Kids don’t belong on canal banks if they’re not mature enough to do so safely and responsibly. We need a change of attitude, and a lot of pressure brought on the canal companies. Who better to do it than the mayor?)

Maybe someday a light-rail system could be established between Boise and Nampa/Caldwell. And the right-of-way should be maintained with that as a long-term goal. But I’m not convinced it would be in our best economic interest to do any more with that idea at the present time.

Or… just go ahead and Eat it! Sit back and watch, as the federal road dollars dry up and “rush hour” becomes “rush two hours,” and then “rush three hours.” And Boise drops off the “desirable places to live” lists because of the sprawl and pollution and terrible traffic.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Ken Malgren
    Jul 3, 2007, 10:22 am

    I agree with what you propose. Unfortunately, Brent Coles was bought and paid for by developers, and it appears that Team Dave and the City Council also are bought and paid for by developers.

    All, to the detriment of 98% of the Citizens of Boise.
    Mass transit is an approach. The current bus system is definately broken because it doesn’t serve the people that it should. (I have to walk more than a mile to catch a bus!). Light rail could offer relief if it’s set up right.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us die of lung cancer!

  2. Awwwww heck just be patient Micron will blow town leaving all there employee’s with out jobs. Elimination of all those job’s and POOF no traffic, no pollution, low cost housing. We can all go back to what we had before. A good clean life, no crime, low paying jobs (oh dang we still have the low paying job’s), stores that close on Sunday.
    I must be dreaming?

  3. Excellent post bikeboy. The problem with light rail is that it is, at best, a 20 year solution to today’s problem. In my opinion, the best “short term” solution is to expand the system brought up here a couple of months ago. Larger commuter buses running from the outlying cities to a central hub in Boise. Then a fleet of smaller surface buses running regular routes throughout the city. The goal has to be to get riders within two blocks of their destination. Numerous studies have shown if that can’t be accomplished, people won’t use it. This “surface subway” system could be expanded to accomodate the evening and weekend ridership. The last part of the solution is the most difficult to sell. Once this program is in effect, we have to make it cost prohibitive to drive downtown. Parking fees that start at 5-10 bucks just to get in the door will make the downtown merchants howl, but it will have to happen. As long as you can park downtown for two hours for 3 bucks, people simply will not take mass transit.

  4. BoiseCitizen
    Jul 4, 2007, 7:21 am

    So, yellow air alert. Hmmm, will they stop the fireworks show tonight? My guess? Uhh no. Happy birthday America!

  5. Having lived here for much of the last 50 years or so, I am happy to admit that I have never myself driven on the “freeway”. When my husband and I leave the State, we do use it to go to the coast.

    Why anyone would want to drive around the valley on the overcrowded streets like Eagle Road or the freeway when there are lots of back roads to take, is beyond me. On regular streets you can’t drive fast but you don’t get bottlenecked in the event of a crash, you inhale less air pollution, and it is easier on your nervous system.

    When my daughter visited here from Virginia last month she wouldn’t believe us that the freeway isn’t quicker than backroads until she tried it herself,and took the freeway to Eagle Road. Anyone of you who has exited onto Eagle Road knows what happens next.

    Cruising around the valley yesterday, we found Park Center Blvd. probably the best example of good preplanning for future traffic, well landscaped too. Who should get the credit for that? Why is that kind of planning so rare?

  6. curious george
    Jul 5, 2007, 9:36 am

    Treva, most of the credit for the design of Park Center Boulevard should go to the developer of the whole Park Center complex (River Run, Park Center Mall, The Island, etc.) – Pete O’Neil. O’Neil & his son Derrick also developed Bown Crossing.

    A little known fact about Park Center Boulevard is its dual function as a floodway channel. The road was specifically designed to carry water away from buildings if/when the Boise River ever hits flood stage. If you want to see some really innovative ways that homes, roads, water, and public space can be thoughtfully integrated take a drive (or stroll) through River Run.

    Pete is semi-retired now, but serves as the chairman of the Treasure Valley Air Quality Council. As a developer though, the Boise Guardian has been critical of Pete’s role in Boise’s development.


    EDITOR NOTE–George, those critical remarks are well deserved for squeezing citizens off the greenbelt, for starters. Park Center Mall never flew as the retail venue it was supposed to be and it went bankrupt–leaving honest people financially screwed. Jakers moved out for a “profitable” location. I will stop now. Thanks for the info on the floodplain.

  7. Thanks, Curious George. Since I was an escrow officer in the 70’s and 80’s I probably closed a large number of properties in that area, but the old brain cells are getting tired so I am apt to forget stuff. I do remember the controversy about access to the greenbelt for us ordinary citizens.

    Bown Crossing is kind of cute – I thought we had stumbled over some new town. Too bad developers haven’t provided this type of business development in Hidden Springs and Harris Ranch. A friend of mine who lives near Bown Crossing said that it took some time before the businesses started getting profitable, but it seems to be bustling now and I expect that at least some car trips are eliminated because of restaurants being in the area.

  8. I lived in Boise for 23 years. Got sick of the dirty air and the politics, and moved to Portland.

    Eat it!

  9. Dave, just how is a person to get to the gym or to the foothills with their bikes to exercise if they don’t use their cars?? Indeed, consider the better health the drivers are in because of the exercise they will be getting once they get to their destination.

  10. I really like the idea of the canals being usable for transportation around the Boise area. I only have a bicycle, so I spend a lot of time trying to figure out good routes around town. The canals being open would solve many of my problems.

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