Boise's Street Car: Investment or Flop?

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Dr. Samia Islam


The City of Boise plans to invest $60 million in a down town street car project which would also have cost of $1 million annually for maintenance to keep the street car running. City officials claim that this proposed trolley system is an economic investment for the Boise Metropolitan Area. Its goal is not just to decrease congestion and pollution but to revitalize downtown business and to encourage the growth of business downtown. City officials say that the street car system will encourage more shopping and walking around the down town area, especially since the trolley will not have a fare. It’s relevant, then to consider if the benefits of this economically stimulating project will outweigh the costs it would incur, such as increased business and property taxes. In order for us to compare the costs and benefits, we will look at historical data from cities that have done similar economic investments in street car projects, namely Portland, OR. We will compare the data of the increased “economic development” to the area in Portland around their streetcar path to our downtown. We will also discuss the statistics researchers have already calculated for Boise, ID. In many of these studies, Boise and Portland are compared. We will investigate if these two cities are really analogous so that we can see if what is true for Portland would also be true for Boise. We believe that the proposed trolley project will bring in new business and provide a growing economy, but not enough to offset the expensive costs of installing and maintaining the proposed streetcar.

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