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As high single-occupant vehicle (SOV) usage is typically accompanied by increased congestion and more pollution, many cities have begun to pursue policy agendas aimed at reducing the amount of SOVs on the road. This is often paired with increasing the use of alternative transportation methods such as carpooling, bicycling, or public transit options like buses. Towards that end, the City of Boise has stated its commitment to educating and encouraging its residents to use alternative modes of transportation—or, rather, shift their mode of transportation.

In order to better understand common barriers to mode shift and best practices to encourage wider adoption among the population, the city partnered with the Idaho Policy Institute (IPI) to conduct a third-party analysis of transportation mode shift. In addition, this study seeks to identify what characteristics are shared by likely mode shifters in order to better inform policy decisions going forward.

This study’s major findings include:

  • Encouragement from policy makers is a vital component of success in breaking existing transportation habits.
  • Boise has a high incidence of SOV usage (over 80% of commuters). While SOV usage remains high in the downtown area, it also has more diverse mode use patterns, with greater bicycle and bus usage than the rest of the city. The relative success of the downtown area in diversifying mode choice can help identify and inform successful policy approaches citywide.
  • While many barriers to mode shift exist, it is important to understand individuals are affected by specific barriers in different ways. While some barriers are real and require physical solutions (such as additional infrastructure), others are only perceived barriers and can be addressed through targeted awareness campaigns.
  • Best practices for encouraging mode shift include a structured, data-driven approach and the employment of push and pull measures, such as parking management policies that push commuters away from SOV usage or financial subsidies that pull commuters toward mode shift alternatives. These policies can take the form of free bus passes, new infrastructure, or employer benefits.
  • Having transportation policy goals in mind when making decisions in non-transportation areas creates a better environment for success.


This report was prepared by Idaho Policy Institute at Boise State University and commissioned by City of Boise.