What Happens out West?

We were recently in Boise, ID for the NXR Northwest Regionals cross country meet. Really good race, good course, teams from all over the mountain west. My daughter’s team did well and she ran a great race. We spent about 24 hours in and around Boise driving over from Portland on Friday, then returned home on Saturday night after the race. I haven’t had a good road trip in a while and it’s always a treat driving along the Snake River and through Pendleton, La Grande and Baker City, Oregon. It’s easy to forget how big and open Eastern Oregon is – I definitely want to get out backpacking in the Blue Mountains.

The thing that struck me though is how car dependent these intermountain cities are: Boise, Salt Lake, Albuquerque … (Phoenix is a different beast altogether). Some things I noticed:

  • Construction is booming! strip malls, “town centers”, single family homes in subdivisions, duplexes closer to downtown. There was construction going on everywhere – radically different than what we’re seeing in Portland.
  • Every chain retailer and restaurant has a box in Boise. We were near the “towne square”, streets were busy with cars, parking lots were full. Which leads me to the big one.
  • There were bike lanes, but I didn’t see any bikes. Sidewalks were typically abandoned and crossed major 4-lane intersections. I saw ONE Tesla. Lots of big trucks. There were city buses, but I didn’t see many or many people on the ones I saw.

How are these cities going to transition to EV’s, I just don’t see how it’s possible. The distances are too great between cities… the development is too spread out. One really strange thing I noticed was that one of the first/anchor stores in some of the nascent town centers was a NAPA auto store. Super weird. I don’t think these places are thinking much about the what happens after the ICE. Which is the biggest issue I see in the near future (when California stops selling ICE vehicles)… there isn’t enough power in the electrical grid to power an EV (or 2) per household. Where is that energy going to come from? If it can be generated, where will it be stored? I’m hopeful, but there are real technical problems that I never hear being addressed.

Relevant article I came across this week – the Infrastructure to support electric vehicles (specifically freight/semis) is massive.

And specifically related to Boise and much of the arid west – we’re running out of water.

One thought on “What Happens out West?

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