Orchard, Idaho


Boise Metro

In recent years, the Boise Valley has become a nationally recognized dynamic metro area. It has been ranked high in many categories by nationally prominent publications and experts. The Valley is recognized as a popular place to live, work, and establish businesses. For more information about the Boise Valley, see the Boise Valley Economic Partnership Website, sponsored by the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Many people with resources, as well as prospective employees, enthusiastically consider relocating to the Boise Valley. Many companies equally consider locating within the Boise Valley.

The Boise Valley was on the Oregon Trail during the nineteenth century migration west. It became established as a nice place to live. Later, in the first decade of the twentieth century, its popularity increased when a major water project was completed that established the valley as a successful rural agricultural area. Through the system of dams and canals, it brought water from the Boise River to the arid lands adjacent to it. The overall population growth rate was substantial in most of these early years and then slower for a few years. A more stable growth pattern emerged beginning about the year 1930 as Boise grew from a small agricultural town to a more urban city.

Boise is located within Ada County. Much of Ada County, though, was not part of the major water project during the early twentieth century. Both the surface water from the Boise River and the ground water augmented by agriculture was easily converted to urban use. The primary growth was on the farm land to the west of Boise in Ada and Canyon Counties. Very little growth has occurred on the desert to the south of Boise in Ada and Elmore Counties. The two more remote counties within the valley have had some urban growth, particularly in recent years.

This disproportionate growth to the west created greater than normal “growing pains” to the Boise Valley. If future growth is equally disproportionate with ever increasing numbers, the future “growing pains” will be even greater.

During the past 50 years, the population of Boise Metro Area has increased from 191,000 in year 1960 to 655,000 in year 2010. This is an average annual rate of 2.5%. Projecting a slightly lower rate of 2.4%, the population during the next 50 years would increase from 655,000 to 2,146,000 in year 2060. These numbers suggest that the area added almost 500,000 people during the past 50 years. At the same annual growth rate, the area will add almost 1,500,000 people during the next 50 years. This amounts to three times as many new people. See EXHIBIT A.

It is expected that the growth rate for the past several decades will be sustained for the next several decades as a larger metro area. This can be demonstrated by comparing the past growth of several similar but larger metro areas in the Western States. These areas are within Utah, Oregon, Colorado, and Arizona. During the 40 years from year 1960 to year 2000, the overall metro areas rate of growth within each State compared to the Boise Metro Area was: Utah and Colorado about the same; Arizona significantly higher; and Oregon, with a long history of slow growth policies, lower. The average of all four of these other States is almost identical to the Boise Metro Area. See EXHIBIT B and EXHIBIT C.

A major study of population, suburban sprawl and smart growth as reported by the Sierra Club indicated that the solutions that motivated infill, not solutions attempting to curtail growth, were more effective in reducing sprawl. The Sierra Club's study and other Sierra Club articles about sprawl can be found on the Sierra Club Website.

The Boise Valley has three of four major transportation influences for urban population growth. There is easy access by ground (Interstate 84), by air (Boise Airport), and by rail (Union Pacific Railroad). Only access by sea is missing. The Boise Valley, however, is as close to the major U.S. West Coast seaports by ground, air, and rail as is any other inland metro area. See EXHIBIT D and EXHIBIT E.

The centers for both jobs and population have gradually shifted west from Boise toward Meridian. Both centers are now along Interstate 84 about five miles west of downtown Boise. Commuting to jobs is by far the largest contributor to increased VMT (vehicle miles travelled) within a metro area. Based on current and near future population, the current efficient area for development considering VMT is a “football” shaped area that extends from these two centers. The length extends about 30 miles each direction along Interstate 84 to the northwest and to the southeast. The width extends each direction from these two centers about 20 miles over less efficient roads. The area includes a large portion of the South Valley. It would be sound public policy to promote and encourage containment of future development to within the “football” shaped development ring. See EXHIBIT F.

Boise is the center of the northern portion of Ada County. The center for both jobs and population is about one-half of the distance between Boise and the western county line on Interstate 84. Ada County consists of about 1,000 square miles of which about 50% is public land. The remaining 50% is private land that is evenly divided between the various cities impact areas and the vacant mostly arid land. The arid land is comprised of the foothills to the northeast and the desert to the southeast.

Within Ada County, about one-half of the private land is within the city limits and impact area of its several cities. Once the County population doubles, it is reasonable to expect that almost all of the private land within the County should be within a city limits or impact area. See EXHIBIT G.