Thursday, November 30, 2006

UNM neighborhoods

I am switching gears from mass transportation and going back to UNM. I believe the state and city have come to understand the importance of the universities to their regions. Tech transfer is something that TVC has been pushing for about a decade now. This is all great, we even have a Science and Technology Park near the Eubank gate to Sandia Laboratories as a shining example of those efforts. However, once again, I go back to the neighborhoods around UNM. Even with some of the city's most expensive homes per square foot in the city, the university still maintains a moat-like boundary around itself as though to separate itself.

Attending a meeting for the "Great Streets" initiative last evening, someone made a very valid comment; why had the city paid HDR great sums of money to create such a plan? Does the city not believe that our highly-touted School of Architecture has the knowledge to get the job done? Is this not the exact type of project the students in the Community and Regional Planning program would love to gain experience in? Furthermore, what about the city planners? Are they too busy catching up with permitting?

Setting an example, once again an out of state school has stepped up its effort to enhance the environment of its surrounding neighborhoods. Here is an excerpt from "The Planning Report":

"When President Sample arrived 14 years ago he said that he wanted USC to be a leader in its local community. And, while he talks about Los Angeles and the Southern California region, he specifically wanted USC to become a good, responsible neighbor for residential communities around our University Park campus and our Health Sciences campus.

He drew an imaginary circle that encompasses the neighborhoods in about a seven to ten block radius and said that USC would focus its resources and its work within this area. He wanted to embark on initiatives that would increase the educational attainment of the children in the area, help provide employment for the adults in the area, and increase the safety of children going to and from their schools, parks, etc.

We’re also going to support local and minority businesses and help them grow and thrive as entrepreneurs. We work every day on these initiatives to make the neighborhood and therefore the university even greater."

All I can say is I'm envious. It doesn't take anything extraordinary, just collaboration.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why Not a Streetcar?

It appears that the two most popular arguments for not supporting this project are a) the city never gave the people an option, and b) it won't make money. First of all, I can't argue with the first except to say that we all knew it was coming when we re-elected the mayor, but it also doesn't mean that it is a bad idea. The second argument, well, that is why it is a public investment and not a privatized industry. If it made money, investors would come to together to build them and make money from the users. But the fact remains, cities do not build them to make money, they build them to increase connectibility to create that which drives our city: commerce! How many times has someone complained "but there is not parking downtown", or "our streets are so overcrowded", etc. This is why you build these things, to continue the movement goods and ideas.

I've decided I'm going to state all my pros and cons.

- connectivity: between the streetcar and RailRunner, we'll have connected approximately 30% of the metro areas jobs including two major job centers, downtown and north I-25.

- Transit options: The ability to leave your car at home. A person in far reaches of the metro can hop a train and get to work, the airport, a movie, food, a conference, etc.

- Pollution: The streetcar runs on electricity, saving our air quality over our densist population center. Rapid Ride and the 66 bus routes serve something like 7,000 people daily on this route. That's a lot of diesel. The perception that our bus system is always empty does not apply along Central Avenue.

- Sustainability: People who live in inner-city housing use significantly less natural resources than those living in new suburbs do to their ability to drive less, not requiring utility and street extensions, etc. Encouraging such is to everyone's advantage.

- Redevelopment potential: A city cannot continue to acquire revenue only by extending its boundaries and sprawling. Reinvestment is the key to any healthy city. The Streetcar is a catalyst for renewal, proven in every city it has been done in.

- Economic development: Who wants to live in a large city that only contains one type of development? The key is variety. Albuquerque cannot continue to only provide strip malls and single family housing units. Nearly 33% of citizens would prefer to live in apartments, lofts, condos, flats, etc. And those 33% make up a great deal of the metro areas productivity. See studies.

- Lower and middle class assistance: The ability to not spend thousands of dollars a year on vehicle expenses becomes an option when mass transportation exists.

- A new beginning: This project becomes the backbone for a more city-wide approach to transportation for the future as we surpass a million citizens and become a traffic mess like Austin, Nashville, Raleigh, etc.

Plan now!!

Vote Yes!!

The cons: The city will pay for it, just as they pay for bus service, museums, the zoo, schools, and most importantly, roads: roads in every quadrant of our city.

We're all in this together. Just because we don't use something does not mean it does not serve a purpose. Expand your horizon people.

Mood: frustrated >:-|

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Streetcar and Mass Transportation

Alright, I said I'd try not to rant but I just cannot help it. There is a vocal group of citizens attempting to put an end to the streetcar project that just gained support from 6 of the 9 city councilors. I understand that these people probably value some opposing qualities of Albuquerque to myself. But my problem comes from these same people opposing anything that would propel the city from its sometimes frumpy image of being a smaller mid-size city that represents all that is associated with the term "sunbelt." This same group believes that everything that is important to them lies within a one mile radius of their home. Do these individuals understand that by the time this project would be built that our metro will be nearly one million citizens strong? Do they understand the value of open space or sustainability? I would put money to argue that some of these same individuals also cry about our sprawling city. There is no winning with too many of these people. Unfortunately, I have to blame our administration for not providing the citizens with enough information about why this kind of project is exactly what we need for the health of our growing city in the future. I could go on and on but I'm going to watch the story unfold. I just hope that I leave for grad school knowing that when I return to Albuquerque, the citizens will have chosen to embrace the reality of their city and it's potential in the future.