Boise is definitely hitting the big time — even the international big time.
One of the single best pieces of evidence of that, and one of the most indisputable, and an area where Idaho might draw some lessons, may be in its traffic.
An organization called Fleet Logging, which tracks road traffic, especially commercial and electronically tracked traffic around the globe, has evaluated the cities with the worst traffic in the world. (Yes, you can guess where this is going.)
Unlike the informal measures most of us do, complaining about how bad the traffic is wherever we are, this group used a relatively objective approach: “FleetLogging wondered whether it really makes so much difference to plan travel in and out of a city at off-peak times. We decided to find out. First, our researchers identified 141 of the most congested cities in the world. Then, we used the TravelTime API to calculate how far from each city center you could drive in one hour, both on- and off-peak.”
What they found was that the city with the worst traffic, in peak rush hours, was Marseille in France. The next two cities were also in France, and the fourth-highest (Monaco) is adjacent to France. France apparently has a traffic problem.
Fifth-ranking worldwide, and by a substantial lead in the United States: Boise.
So if you live in or around Boise and you think the traffic is awful, well, you’re spot on.
The other cities in the United States top 10, in order, are: Philadelphia; Albuquerque; Oklahoma City; Houston; Kansas City; Denver; Columbus, Ohio; Little Rock, Ark., and Jackson, Miss.
That list shows you don’t have to be gigantic to have a city traffic problem. Neither Portland nor Seattle, which definitely have serious traffic issues, made it to the top 20.
Exactly how seriously to take this single specific measure may be a fair question, but before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, and surely again after it, traffic flow generally was and will be a major issue in the Boise area.
Traffic planners obviously are aware of that, and they’re trying some new things. The roundabouts that popped up around the state in congested places in the last few years have been one effort, limited as they are.
So is an intriguing redesign, just announced in the last few days, of one of the state’s worst intersections, at Eagle Road and State Highway 44 (at Eagle). There, planners are developing what’s called a “half continuous flow intersection,” which reroutes the way left turns are made and diminishes their slow-down effect on other traffic.
It looks like a good idea, though one project manager cautioned, “The new design does require drivers to pay attention and think ahead, especially on Idaho Highway 44.” (Might that be the glitch in the system?)
These efforts are worthwhile, and they’re what traffic planners can do, but the issues involved are a lot broader.
In France, one traffic analysis group said, “The fact that eight of Europe’s Top 10 worst bottlenecks are located in Ile de France shows that traffic has a significant impact on the French economy, the environment as well as the mobility of its citizens.”
Likewise in Idaho. Idaho’s fast metro growth is the main reason for its metro traffic jams, and you have to wonder if, as word of Boise’s unexpectedly difficult traffic seeps back to California and other places, it may not have the effect of dampening some of that growth.