As Boise Goes, So Goes the West?

Boise, Idaho, flagBy Casey Jones, CAPP

I would not normally suggest that Idaho or its capital city, Boise, are bellwethers for the rest of the country for nearly anything. That’s not to say I’m not proud of my community but we Idahoans are humble people typically and keeping what’s great and avant-garde about our community to ourselves has, until recently, been an effective population control strategy.

If you pay any attention to national migration patterns, you are aware that the West has emerged as an attractive and popular destination for people looking for a high quality of life and access to the region’s abundant natural resources. The U.S. Census Bureau recently identified Idaho and Nevada as the fastest growing states in the U.S., and Boise and adjoining cities that comprise the Treasure Valley (population 220,000 and 710,000 respectively) have appeared on several recent fastest-growing lists. There is ample reason to believe the growth will continue in the foreseeable future.

To plan for such growth, our metropolitan planning organization recently initiated a survey and the results provide some interesting transportation findings that might be applicable to other western communities and second-tier cities across the country. Only 32 percent of respondents said they would be “likely” or “very likely” to use autonomous vehicles or personal rideable technology (e.g., e-scooters) in the future, while 52 percent said they would be “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to use them. More than 84 percent of respondents said it was “likely” or “very likely” that they would drive alone while 38 percent said they would be “very unlikely” or “unlikely” to use alternatives to driving even if they were convenient and available.

How applicable Boise’s attitudes and preferences are to other communities in the west is difficult to say but the inhabitants of cities like ours may be less inclined to embrace autonomous vehicles in the future and may continue to prefer personal vehicles to alternatives to driving. What’s clear is that our industry’s response will go a long way in effectively managing anticipated population growth and preserving the quality of life for which Boise and many mid-sized western cities are known.

Casey Jones, CAPP, is senior parking & mobility planner with DESMAN.