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.