More Students But Fewer Wheels


From Boise Weekly 
By Andrew Crisp

Boise State University occupies one of the busiest slices of real estate in the city. More than 20,000 people regularly descend upon the 170-acre campus, which includes more than 150 buildings and that massive blue-turfed stadium.

"We kind of think of ourselves as a mini city," said J.C. Porter, assistant director of the Transportation Department at Boise State.

Not unlike any metropolis, Boise State also has its own ideas about 21st century alternative transportation options--and they were all too happy to share their concepts at a Jan. 23 Urban Lunch, held at the university's home away from home, Boise State Center on Main, tucked inside downtown's Alaska Center.

A panel including Porter and Drs. Susan Mason and Thomas Wuerzer, associate professors in the Boise State Department of Community and Regional Planning, focused on the university's research on urban issues, with a particular focus on people movement. In fact, Mason and Wuerzer's department worked alongside the Central District Health Department to craft a proposed bike-share program, using mapping systems to find the most active portions of the city.

"Our question wasn't, 'Does Boise need a bike-share or not?'" said Wuerzer. "Instead, our question was, 'If we get a bike-share, where would the best locations be?'"

Wuerzer and Mason pointed to a map showcasing active cores of Boise. Bright red areas showed zones active for residential, restaurant and retail use, locations better suited to feature one of 15 stations with 10 rentable bikes.

"Keep your eye out for more research on cycling in Boise," said Mason. "There will be more research on how we [cycle throughout the city] and when we do it."

Other urban initiatives, such as a car-sharing program, also originated with the university. ZipCar debuted on the campus in 2010, with four cars, a project to free up sparse parking space by letting users rent cars permanently housed at the school. According to Porter, the few surface parking lots on campus are destined to serve as footprints for future buildings,

"We have to come up with alternatives for people driving to campus," said Porter, who added his department already runs a bike rental program for faculty and students.

Boise State's density is, in large part, because the campus has "hard and fast boundaries" requiring multistory buildings for on-campus expansion, according to the scholars.

"The only other place to expand is the residential area to the south," said Porter. "And that gets expensive."

And while the panel unveiled a university survey that indicated 24 percent of students and teachers regularly rode a bicycle to campus, 10 percent walked and 48 percent drove alone in a vehicle, the experts are anxious to push down the number of cars on campus.

"We want to promote to students, 'Hey, you don't need to bring a car to campus,'" said Porter.

More than 2,600 students, many of whom bring a car, live in on-campus student housing, Porter said, and many of those students are reluctant to give up their own keys in favor of a shared ZipCar. The company's target of 30 percent of the Zipcars being used each day hasn't been consistently met, according to Porter, so the fleet was reduced to two vehicles. As of December, Boise State's ZipCar program had 257 members, with 30 to 40 drivers making reservations per month.


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