Tuesday, April 13, 2010


As a soon-to-be graduating student I am left to ponder the ultimate question these days: "What's next?" This question is slowly growing increasingly burdensome as the big day approaches.

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that I ultimately want to end up in the Duke City. Family, friends, the weather, the geography. It really is a nice mix of everything. After living in the midwest, the northeast, the pacific northwest, and the southwest, I'd vote for Albuquerque in a best all-season city contest.

The latest census data shows our growth trajectory increasing more and more rapidly, presenting many new opportunities for our community. The big 1 million is just around the corner. However, such growth presents giant challenges to our arid, diverse, changing environment.

In the past 16 months I have had a taste of planning in China, Scandinavia, the Pacific Northwest, and now Buenos Aires, Argentina. Hazard mitigation and cultural preservation, forward-thinking carbon sensitive development and multi-modal transit, urban growth boundaries, mass transit and escalating gentrification, and now informal settlements amid increasing economic pressures. Now I get to figure out where I can apply my knowledge and balance it with a decent salary and self fulfillment.

I often ponder what I would do if I moved to Albuquerque and all I can think of is the wondrous ways I would change it. Less car lanes, wider sidewalks, increased bus service, streetcars, (light-rail?), tax-incentivized urban zones (that whole "centers and corridors" concept the city just mentions in documents on shelves in offices), green networks throughout the city, an overhauled planning department that actually communicates with the other departments, a mayor that understands a city's role in a contemporary context, just to name a few. Oh, and street trees. How are people expected to walk to a bus stop in the summer without shade amid 1-story buildings set back from the street?

But then I remember that Albuquerque is what it is because the citizens have voted for this. It did not happen by accident. Why should I impose my beliefs on a population which to date does not support such objectives? It's becoming quite apparent that despite what other cities have learned (Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, Nashville, Austin, shall I continue?), Albuquerque still needs to go through the growing pains before realizing that a multi-dimensional approach to city planning is necessary. All the while, places like Portland, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Austin, Denver and the like have taken a lead role in repositioning their cities to be competitive, efficient, livable places. Even cities like Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Omaha, and Salt Lake City have caught on. Not that Albuquerque isn't livable but you get what i am saying, I think. Alas, I have at least 5 more months to decide and this thesis to complete. No pressure.


Mario said...

I do hope you come back Tim and work to change the residents perceptions and ideas against urban development. Most residents want growth, they like have all the newest and latest chains, yet they want to preserve their little surburban haven. Unfortunately or fortunately(and I'm not even getting into the sustainable piece) ABQ has definitive boundaries which will prevent it from being the next Phoenix or LA. That being said it is time we start looking into alternatives. Maybe you should consult, this way you can choose to live wherever makes you happy yet still partner with the city and developers here to help change the direction of development. Good luck on your thesis and decided your next place of residence.

Lizzie said...

I too am writing my thesis and thinking about what comes next. I share your goals for ABQ, but i sometimes feel sad watching areas i love decay and no leaders to fix this. I feel like the ghetto is spreading and i want to live somewhere where it is safe for my kids. ABQ was safe for me as a kid. So i ponder whether or not to stay here. I love it and hate it in some ways. will i make a life here in ABQ, or find another city that matches my values better..?

Dan M. said...

I know how you feel.

I am currently in Arizona working on my undergrad degree. Though I am only a sophomore, I think about Albuquerque's potential all the time.

You say that "Albuquerque is what it is because the citizens have voted for it." This is true to a certain extent, but I think the only reason they have voted for this kind of sprawl is lack of education.

Many people are not aware of the benefits (both social and economic) of higher density growth. If you do chose to go back to Albuquerque, you should look into starting an urban advocacy and education group in the schools on the side. If kids are shown the benefits of good urban design, maybe ABQ will have a more urban future.

Also, on a side note, I have recently started a blog that discusses many urban related topics. I would be honored if you would look at it and tell me what you think of it. Link here: http://transittime2.blogspot.com/

Good luck on your thesis and your final decision.

Dan said...

Hey Tim,

Great post. I to hope you come back. As someone who relocated five years ago from an urban area that gets it (DC), I can say that I am cautiously optimistic about the direction of ABQ. While there is much to lament (horrific strip malls, unlandscaped medians and freeways, garish signage and billboards) Rome, as they say, wasn't build in a day, and neither will ABQ be re-built in a day. In my short five years here I have seen a lot to like: Rail Runner, Rapid Ride, Big I landscaping, I-40 landscaping (almost finished), development of Edo, Hotel Andaluz, green housing near Alvarado Transportation Center, and streetscape improvements in Nob Hill (in fact I am typing these words from Kelly's on a glorious dry, sunny day; so far I've walked to Satellite Coffee, the ABQ Store, and Beeps. I may stop by Two Fools as well. Nob Hill really presents a vision of what can and should be). As gas prices increase (which they surely will) infill will become the norm. No matter where you settle I'm certain you will work to make this vision for a ABQ a reality: Portland vibrancy with New Mexico weather.

Tim said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Mario, yes, the popularity of the new (old) chains and suburbanism mentality are depressing sometimes. But it's not too late! Lizzie, good look with the thesis. What are you studying? Dan M, nice blog! I'll add it to my list of links. Dan, it's a slow process indeed. Although, I think your advocacy will help things along!

Dan M. said...

Thank you so much for posting my bog in your links! All I ask is that you make the link to my profile read "Transportation Solutions from a Burqueño" instead of "transittime2", since transittime2 is just the random URL I picked out before I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

Thanks again!