Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Urbanistas Meet the Streetcar

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 9:26 PM

Oooh, how urban!
  • Urban Lunch
  • Oooh, how urban!
An impromptu show of hands today at a hastily organized but well-attended lunch for Boise's urban set demonstrated one locus of critical mass for Boise's streetcar plan. A shy critical mass, though.

When Urban Lunch organizer Chris Blanchard asked for a show of hands of support for the streetcar, the hundred people in the room looked around to see who would represent. Only after a few hands shot up, did nearly half of the group acknowledge support.

About three urban streetcar detractors fessed up in public.

Urban Lunch is a new, informal monthly gathering for urban-minded individuals, including planners, design freaks, greenies and Twitterers who "want to further the discussion surrounding Boise's urban issues." Their inaugural lunch, held in the über-urban (as in, we can't abide drywall) Watercooler conference room, gave the platform to Cece Gassner, the city's point person for all things streetcar.

Gassner delivered a rapid-fire presentation on the history, the perceived social and economic benefits and the process of the streetcar project. Most of the information presented is already familiar to anyone who reads BW.

Gassner pitched the project as a way for Boise to stay competitive. "It's an amenity that companies want," she said. She also spoke about some of the criticism the streetcar has faced in terms of ridership predictions and economic development expectations, saying multiple times that they can't prove that all of the recent development along Portland's or Little Rock's streetcars is because of the tracks, but that it seems quite an odd coincidence nonetheless.

Gassner also showed a slide, similar to the one below, highlighting the surface parking and undeveloped lots in downtown Boise, including near the proposed streetcar line.

Downtown Boise
  • City of Boise
  • Downtown Boise "underdeveloped" lots.

Much of the information presented, including the studies and reports that the streetcar project has generated is also available on the newly re-skinned Boise streetcar Web site.

As for the urban masses ... proposals for the January meeting include the city's comp plan (yawn), green building standards (oy) or the interference of cell towers to brain waves (no comment). Check 'em out on FB to weigh in with some better suggestions.

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