Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Boise Streetcar - Transportation Project or Development Attractor?

I have to say, watching some of the posts on other websites have been interesting to say the least. There seems to be no consensus on what the Boise streetcar is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be a transportation project, or is it something to enhance development?

It reminds of an old skit that was on Saturday Night Live back in the 70's. It was about a product called Shimmer and it went like this:

Wife.....Gilda Radner
Husband.....Dan Aykroyd
Spokesman.....Chevy Chase

[ open on suburban kitchen, Wife and Husband arguing ]

Wife: New Shimmer is a floor wax!

Husband: No, new Shimmer is a dessert topping!

Wife: It's a floor wax!

Husband: It's a dessert topping!

Wife: It's a floor wax, I'm telling you!

Husband: It's a dessert topping, you cow!

Spokesman: [ enters quickly ] Hey, hey, hey, calm down, you two. New Shimmer is both a floor wax and a dessert topping! Here, I'll spray some on your mop.. [ sprays Shimmer onto mop ] ..and some on your butterscotch pudding. [ sprays Shimmer onto pudding ]

[ Husband eats while Wife mops ]

Husband: Mmmmm, tastes terrific!

Wife: And just look at that shine! But will it last?

Spokesman: Hey, outlasts every other leading floor wax, 2 to 1. It's durable, and it's scuff-resistant.

Husband: And it's delicious!

Spokesman: Sure is! Perks up anything from an ice cream sundae to a pumpkin pie!

Wife: Made from an exclusive non-yellowing formula.

Husband: I haven't even touched my pudding and I'm ready for more!

Wife: But what about black heel marks?

Spokesman: Dirt, grime, even black heel marks, wipe clean with a damp mop.

[ Husband accidentally sprays Shimmer onto the floor ]

Husband: Oh, sorry, honey, I'll clean that up!

Wife: Oh, no problem, sweetheart, not with new Shimmer!

[ Spokesman laughs continuously as he approaches the camera ]

Spokesman: New Shimmer, for the greatest shine you ever tasted!

Ok, now back to the streetcar. Which is it, exactly? According to their website, it's BOTH a transportation project AND an attraction to developers.

This is what their site says:

"A downtown streetcar is expected to enhance and transform the transportation system and serve as a catalyst for downtown development and revitalization."

And in fact they make an even bolder claim:

"a regional transportation system could fit together that would include a downtown circulator, multimodal center and a high priority corridor connecting Treasure Valley communities." (The downtown circulator to them means a STREETCAR.)

And, to top that off, Mayor Bieter has also said it will be a TOURIST ATTRACTION.

So, like Shimmer being a multi-use product, the Boise streetcar with it's teensy 1.2 mile coverage will be the answer (according to the proponents) not only to transportation needs but also development potential, AND bring in tourists to boot.  There are just a few catches.  There's that pesky $60 million up front cost, the 20-year LID tax on downtown businesses, the fact that downtown is already for the most part developed, and the ongoing maintenance and expansion costs that have the potential of taking money away from other projects.

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