The Folly of Osuna Road: Return on Investment + Using Our Resources More Effectively

- Dan Majewski

The New Mexico Railrunner, an important regional transportation investment.   Photo credit: LightRailNow.org.

The New Mexico Railrunner, an important regional transportation investment. Photo credit: LightRailNow.org.

Albuquerque, 2014: Our population is decreasing and high wage jobs are few and far between.  Our local government has a growing list of projects to construct and a shrinking tax base.  In addition, several indicators in our community have changed since the recession.  These indicators range from people per household to average income to home ownership rate.  All of these changes have not led to changes in how public (and even private) projects are built and prioritized.

One of those indicators is motor vehicle miles traveled per person or per capita VMTthe topic of this article.

Projections vs. Reality

OR

Building It  ≠  They Will Come

This next section is very important.  I’ll call it “How Cities Decide to Build More Roads” or “The Road Gods“.

Municipal traffic engineering departments base road construction priorities around something called a Traffic Demand Model (TDM).  TDMs are computer simulations that calculate projected amounts of motor vehicles + population + other indicators on city roadways.  Based on the results of these models, the Road Gods then decide which roads should be built, expanded or kept as is.

In the words of a local government staff person:

The City uses traffic projections to plan their projects. They are not looking at past traffic patterns but the modeled traffic demand in 2035.

This is an imperfect system to begin with because it does not consider scenarios such as “what if we build LESS lanes?” or “what if we just added sidewalks and bike lanes on every road instead?”

However, since the mid-2000s, these models have become extremely outdated and irrelevant.  They are leading to decisions which are having a dramatic negative effect on our local transportation infrastructure.

People Are Driving Less

Below is a chart that captures one aspect of the social changes occurring in the United States today:

The black line signifies vehicle miles traveled per person in the United States.

The black line signifies vehicle miles traveled per person in the United States.

As the red arrow demonstrates, driving “peaked” in 2004.  In case people think that this is a temporary trend, below is another chart, which correlates VMT with recessions:

The dark shaded areas represent recessions.

The dark shaded areas represent recessions.

This chart captures a growing trend in America: not driving.  Americans across the demographic spectrum are simply not driving as much as they used to.

What About New Mexico?  We Drive a Lot Here! 

This is true, but our trends reflect some of the national trends.  Below is a chart, which reflects these changes:

This chart reflects the declining automobile usage rates in the ABQ metro region.  In Albuquerque itself, the declines are far more significant.

This chart reflects the declining automobile usage rates in the ABQ metro region. In Albuquerque itself, the declines are far more significant.

As you can see, driving has declined or stayed flat every year since 2004, in our metro area.  Also, the declines in Bernalillo County (the location of Osuna Road) are far more significant than those in other surrounding counties.  For example, the chart below shows these differences.  These variations reflect development patterns in the newer more suburban portions of the Albuquerque metro area.

People in Bernalillo County drive far less than those in surrounding counties.

People in Bernalillo County drive far less than those in surrounding counties.

As you can see in the chart above, residents of Albuquerque drive half as many miles per day as people who live in Los Lunas or Belen.

So, what’s the point?

The problem:

We are making transportation infrastructure decisions with outdated models which do not reflect behavioral changes!

We now return to Osuna Road, Albuquerque, NM.

The red line symbolizes the area that is proposed for widening.  Here is a link to the Google MyMap: http://bit.ly/ZpJyO0.

The red line symbolizes the area that is proposed for widening. Here is a link to the Google MyMap: http://bit.ly/ZpJyO0.

Osuna is an interesting road.  It starts as a major arterial with an interstate highway off-ramp and eventually dwindles down to a minor neighborhood street.  During the early 2000s, traffic counts were increasing dramatically, but recently, they have dropped to early 1990s levels.

According to the regional TIP (transportation improvement program), Osuna is listed as an approved project.  The TIP goes through a hypothetically public process, though mid day meetings, which are not heavily advertised hardly count as such.

This screenshot is page 117 of the TIP, linked here: http://mrcogshare.org/MPO/Section5.pdf

This screenshot is page 117 of the TIP, linked here: http://mrcogshare.org/MPO/Section5.pdf

Below is a chart of traffic counts on Osuna Road between I-25 and 2nd Street, the segment which the City of Albuquerque is trying to expand:

The data points on this chart are averages of the numbers counted on the portion of the corridor recommended for expansion.

The data points on this chart are averages of the numbers counted on the portion of the corridor recommended for expansion.

Look familiar?  It is a mirror of the national trend from the chart earlier in the article.

AND HERE LIES THE PROBLEM: Osuna is currently high on the list of proposed road widening projects in the City of Albuquerque.  According to vehicle count data from the MRCOG website, Osuna currently experiences little to no congestion.  For example, Central Avenue currently handles 30,000 vehicles per day with two lanes in each direction so there is hardly a need for 3 lanes on Osuna, which currently averages 22,000 vehicles/day.

Some may argue that this is a temporary trend.  I have three responses:

1. Below is a chart of transit ridership in ABQ metro area over the past decade:

This chart captures the changing travel behavior occurring in the ABQ metro area.

This chart captures the changing travel behavior occurring in the ABQ metro area.

As you can see, transit ridership in the Duke City has almost doubled since 2004.

Many of those motor vehicle trips seen in previous years are never coming back.

2. Osuna is not a regionally important road.  By this I mean that it does not cross the Rio Grande River and it never will.  As a result, it is unlikely that high traffic counts will return to Osuna at any point in the near future.

3. The next generation is not driving as much.  The chart below, which was taken from a regional survey performed by the Mid-Region Council of Governments in New Mexico, demonstrates this fact:

This chart highlights the fact that overall, younger people are driving almost half as much and half as far as other generations.  High youth unemployment only accounts for a portion of this behavioral change and it reflects national trends.

This chart highlights the fact that overall, younger people are driving significantly less than other generations. High youth unemployment only accounts for a portion of this behavioral change and it reflects national trends.

But that’s not even the point.

The question I pose to you, the reader:

Why is this $7 million road widening project a high city priority?

Aren’t there more pressing projects to which this funding should be allocated, projects which would lead to much higher return on investment (ROI)?

The answer is YES, there are.

In my next article, I will discuss projects which should be a higher priority and how it all relates to our local economy.

TAKE ACTION! 

Call or email your local elected official and tell them that widening Osuna Road is an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars.

  • Department of Municipal Development (DMD) head, Michael Riordian (DMD is responsible for road construction here in Albuquerque):

Email – mriordan@cabq.gov

Phone - (505) 768-3830

  • Official DMD contact person:

Name: Mark Motsko
Phone: (505) 768-3832
Fax: (505) 768-2310

Email: mmotsko@cabq.gov

  • Osuna is located in Council District 4, where the City Councilor is Brad Winter.

Contact info:

Email - bwinter@cabq.gov

Twitter - @_Brad_Winter

Policy Analyst contact info:

Name -Jessica Gonzales
Email – jessicagonzales@cabq.gov
Phone – (505) 768-3101

I also encourage you to contact your own councilor.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when elected officials receive 10+ calls or emails about an issue, it becomes a high priority.

Thanks for reading!

Help Us Fund ABQ CiQlovía + Parquitos!

- Dan Majewski

These two tactical urbanist projects will facilitate and catalyze and more Urban ABQ.

These two tactical urbanist projects will catalyze a more Urban ABQ.

UrbanABQers,

It has been awhile since I’ve posted here because we at UrbanABQ have been very busy.

We are working on two amazing tactical urbanism projects which will both be launching on the same weekend:

September 19-21, 2014

We have two IndieGoGo (similar to Kickstarter) campaigns to share with you.

One of them will be ending in 24 HOURS!  See details below:

Birds eye view of the proposed parquito in front of Zendo Coffee

Birds eye view of the proposed parquito in front of Zendo Coffee

1) Parquitos – Parquitos, or parklets as they’re known in other cities, are on-street parking spaces which have been converted to small outdoor seating areas.  They can be found all over the country but there are no permanent ones in Albuquerque… yet.

On September 19, National (Park)ing Day will mark the fabrication kickoff of the FIRST permanent parquito in the Duke City.  Tim Trujillo, with the help of the MiABQ Green Team, UrbanABQ, Zendo Coffee + Art and many others, has been working on this project for over a year.  It is so exciting to see it finally coming to fruition!

This campaign will be ending in 24 hours and we need YOUR help to make parquitos a reality!

 

Click here to contribute to the Zendo Parquito! 

 

Every dollar helps!

 

Parklet on Valencia St. in San Fransisco.  If all goes as planned, these will soon be appearing all over Albuquerque!

Parklet on Valencia St. in San Fransisco. If all goes as planned, these will soon be appearing all over Albuquerque!

2) ABQ CiQlovía – IMAGINE… if everyone in our city, no matter age, ability or skill level could safely and easily walk, bike or play in our city streets.  IMAGINE… no automobiles to worry about, just two miles of city streets for walking, riding and playing.

The first open streets event in Albuquerque, NM!

The first open streets event in Albuquerque, NM!

On Sunday, September 21, from 10 AM – 3 PM, this dream will become a reality.  For five hours, people from all over the Duke City will fill the streets.  Walking, biking, running, rollerblading, food trucks, outdoor yoga, live music… this will be the largest street party Albuquerque has ever seen!

Bring your friends and family and hang out in the streets!  We are hoping ABQ CiQlovía will accomplish what open streets events have accomplished in Los Angeles, Tucson and many other cities: catalyze the broader community to push for safe streets for biking and walking – complete streets!  

Today in Albuquerque, few people choose to walk or bike for transportation because our streets are scary and dangerous.  Communities across America are realizing the value of safe walking and biking but here in Albuquerque, progressive policies around these ideas have stagnated.  We hope to bring new energy to this important movement through fun events such as ABQ CiQlovía.

Our route map includes other exciting partners such as the Carnuel Parade and Fiesta as well as the Railyards Market.

Our route map includes other exciting partners such as the Carnuel Parade and Fiesta as well as the Railyards Market.


This campaign will be ending in 72 HOURS and we need YOUR help to make ABQ CiQlovía a reality!

 

Click here to contribute to the First ABQ CiQlovía! 

 

Every dollar helps this project come to fruition!

 

For more information, visit our website, abqciqlovia.org.  We also have a Facebook page!

 

CicLAvia, an open streets event in Los Angeles

CicLAvia, an open streets event in Los Angeles


The Bigger Picture

It is critically important that you, the community, help us complete this projects.  In order to build a better, more urban ABQ, it will take grassroots efforts and funding streams to move these ambitious ideas forward.  We look towards a future where all of these types of projects and events are integrated into the local funding streams but it will require a community push to accomplish these goals.

Can you contribute?  If so, great!   If not, please share this with your friends and colleagues.  We also have many volunteer opportunities so please follow our Facebook pages, email lists and websites!

 

Dan Burden, San Pedro Road & the Paradigm Shift: Rebuilding the Local Economy in ABQ Through Better Design

- Dan Majewski

Dan Burden leading one of his famous "walking audits" on Constitution Road, ABQ, NM.

Dan Burden leading one of his famous “walking audits” on Constitution Road, ABQ, NM.

The recession has not been kind to Albuquerque.  Since 2008, a massive shift in consumer preferences and economic activity has left the traditional economy in shambles.  As other cities and states “recover,” Albuquerque continues to hemorrhage jobs and young, educated millennials.

Desperation Leads to Collaboration

Some would see the above statement as negative and currently, in the short term, it is.  However, it’s also an incredible opportunity.  The longer we go without a “recovery,” the more we are forced to collaborate on local sustainable solutions.  The city, UNM and CNM are finally beginning to understand this.  An example is the Innovation Central project, a collaboration between several agencies in the region.  This can been seen on the micro level as well with children moving back in with their parents.  Again, this is a potential positive: multigenerational families can share labor, ideas and collaborate more effectively.  Grandma can watch the kids while mom works.  On the flip side, mom can show grandma how to use the computer.  Most cultures operate this way and it’s a healthy way to exist.

An image from a NAIOP presentation about the mayors proposal for the Innovation Center in Downtown ABQ.

An image from a NAIOP presentation about the mayors proposal for the Innovation Center in Downtown ABQ.

Drive ’till You Qualify… For Food Stamps

I could go on, but I want to jump to a larger problem: infrastructure, specifically transportation infrastructure.  We have built a civilization that is impossible to navigate without an automobile.  This is inherently discriminatory: over 1/3 of our society cannot / does not own an automobile.  As our society ages, this problem will only accelerate.  Young, elderly, poor… a huge percentage of our society, stranded in the suburbs.

This brings me to the lessons of Dan Burden, people street specialist.  Thanks to the generous contributions from AARP, UNM, the Mid-Region Council of Governments and other partners, the Complete Streets in New Mexico Leadership Team hosted Dan Burden in Albuquerque on May 16-17.  His analysis focused on San Pedro Road and Constitution Avenue in the Fair Heights and Mark Twain neighborhoods.

Who is Dan Burden?

Dan is famous for several reasons.

  • Walking audits

The field of planning, or any field for the matter, is dominated by meetings behind closed doors in badly designed windowless buildings.  This environment leads to equally closed minds.  Dan throws all of that out the window, gathers everyone together and takes them on a walk.

On these walks, Dan uses the crowd to teach lessons.  For example, during our walking audit in the Mark Twain neighborhood, Dan used the audience to create a human traffic circle.  A car approached and drove around us, carefully and safely.  Lesson learned.  No long, complex jargon filled explanation was required.

A custom Dan Burden Human Traffic Circle, here in ABQ.  - Photo: Valerie Hermanson

A custom Dan Burden Human Traffic Circle, here in ABQ. – Photo: Valerie Hermanson

A Dan Burden walking audit is a form of street theater.  He is famous for throwing a tape measure into the street, disregarding oncoming traffic.  Dan does this to make a point, to teach a lesson and to draw attention.  He takes measurements in real time and explains why the design leads to bad behavior and points at actual observed examples.

What does this have to do with our local economy?

Let’s start with automobiles.

According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, regions with high level of automobile dependency experience economic detriments compared to regions with a more balanced transportation system (Source: page 6)

This is a point I have discussed in previous posts, especially in my article about Indian School: high speed traffic not only kills people, but it also destroys our local economy.

Regarding San Pedro, it is an economically depressed corridor in large part due to the ineffective and inefficient transportation infrastructure.  Mr. Burden proposed a solution.

  • Road diets
The blue line on this map highlights the segment of San Pedro which requires change.

The blue line on this map highlights the segment of San Pedro which requires change.

This is also a Dan Burden innovation.  It’s powerful because it only requires paint.  For the modest investment of $40,000 (~$15,000/mile, 2.5 miles, source: scroll to bottom of page), San Pedro can be redesigned with people in mind.

A road diet on San Pedro would take the current 4 high speed traffic lanes and convert them to 3 lanes + bikes lanes on each side.  One of the three lanes would be a center turn lane with opportunity to build medians and concrete crosswalk islands.

In addition, a road diet allows for safer and more efficient movement of automobiles.

This is a diagram of San Pedro today.  No bike lanes, narrow sidewalks and no easy way to make a left turn.

This is a diagram of San Pedro today. No bike lanes, narrow sidewalks and no easy way to make a left turn.

Here’s an example: Today, if a vehicle wants to make a left turn from San Pedro onto another street, they have to stop in the middle of traffic.  People behind them have to stop.  Sometimes, they aggressively switch to the right lane instead.  This leads to dangerous, high speed crashes.

Because of this bad design, it is difficult and dangerous to access businesses on San Pedro.

The most important thing to understand about a road diet: the stakeholders who stand to benefit the most are the business owners!  Some of the businesses owners on San Pedro are resistant towards road diets because they perceive them to be a “reduction in capacity”.  A road diet actually leads to an “increase in efficiency”.  Providing a center turn lane makes it far easier to both access businesses and move vehicles through the corridor.

Another benefit is a large reduction in speed.

Why is this so beneficial?

For Bicycles and people on foot: slower speeds = safer crossings and corridors.  A collision at a speed below 20 MPH is almost never fatal.  At 40 MPH, it’s almost always fatal.  A slower corridor is a safer corridor and a safer corridor leads to an increase in people walking and biking.

Notice how far people are walking from the curb in fear.  Vehicles frequently move at 50 MPH+ on this street, San Pedro. - Photo: Valerie Hermanson

Notice how far people are walking from the curb in fear. Vehicles frequently move at 50 MPH+ on this street, San Pedro. – Photo: Valerie Hermanson

For businesses: Dan Burden says that the ideal speed for a businesses district is 19 MPH.  At this speed, motorists have enough time to see a businesses, slow down and park.  This leads to local commerce and a more vibrant corridor.

This image shows how with the same amount of space, you can effectively move traffic and improve access for everyone.  Added benefit: the bike lane buffers the sidewalk from vehicle traffic.

This image shows how with the same amount of space, you can effectively move traffic and improve access for everyone. Added benefit: the bike lane buffers the sidewalk from vehicle traffic.

How can we, as a community, make the San Pedro Road Diet happen?

There are a few barriers to this project.  However, there is huge support for it as well.

SUPPORT: The Mark Twain and the Fair Heights neighborhoods are organized together in support of this project.  The Dan Burden event took place at Mark Twain Elementary School.  The principal of the school attended much of the workshop and he was very supportive of everything discussed.  The recently elected City Councilor for the area, Diane Gibson, attended as well.  She also stayed after the presentation to speak one-on-one to some of the louder voices of resistance in the room.

RESISTANCE: There a two primary voices of resistance against this project.  One of the voices is a collection of businesses owners along the corridor.  They feel that reducing vehicle lanes = reduction in traffic = reduction in businesses.  As we’ve read above, this simply isn’t true.  Luckily, this is a problem that can be solved through education.  It will not be easy but it’s certainly doable.

The other much louder voice comes from the City of Albuquerque Department of Municipal Development (DMD) – Traffic Engineering.  During this conference, we heard from the traffic engineers that a road diet on San Pedro was essentially impossible because of traffic counts.  They used the word “failure,” implying that changing the road in any way would cause the sky to fall.  In engineering language, the “failure” of a road means that traffic will come to a standstill.  The question I wish I had asked:

For what percentage of the day would San Pedro be in “failure”?  2 hours?  30 minutes?  5 minutes?

For most of the day, San Pedro is empty.  Based on what was said, the engineers intend to design a road that functions well for a small percentage of the day and badly for the majority of the day.  On top of this, vehicle miles driven (VMT) locally have been dropping steadily since the early 2000s and transit ridership locally has doubled in the past decade.  This trend will continue as our population ages and mass transit improvements are made.  San Pedro also has redundancy.  There are several parallel roads with space to absorb a few extra cars per day. This voice of resistance will be more difficult to defeat.  We as a community must work together to patiently educate and explain to these engineers that the decision to prioritize motor vehicles is destroying our community.  Adding safe bicycling facilities and reducing traffic speeds should be the top priorities for traffic engineers working on our local streets.  Luckily, according to Dan Burden, once a single road diet happens, the barriers crumble and they become common place across the community.

THE VISION: Below, is an idealized image of the Mile Hi District.  This is the historic name of the business cluster on San Pedro between Lomas and Constitution.  The name is the result of the elevation of this area being exactly a mile above sea level.  Restoring this historic brand will be an important part of reinventing this potential filled corridor.  Linked here are more redesign proposals for San Pedro.

The image below has it all: buffered bike lanes, nice buildings, wide sidewalks, on-street parking, etc.  The final product might not have all of these elements but we need to work as a community to include as many of these elements as we can.

THE CHANGE: It’s time to change how we think about transportation in our community.  We all gripe about how Albuquerque is a “car town” and this is the opportunity to turn things around.  If data is collected properly, this project could set the stage for a major transition in our community.  In a place with such temperate weather and 300+ days of sunshine, it is unacceptable that we are unable to walk or bike safely to most destinations.

What do you want to see on San Pedro?  This may look impossible or unrealistic but plenty of communities have accomplished projects like this.

What do you want to see on San Pedro? This may look impossible or unrealistic but plenty of communities have accomplished projects like this.

TAKE ACTION!  

Contact Councilor Gibson and tell her you support this action.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.  If the support is more vocal than the resistant business owners, this project WILL happen.

Councilor Diane G. Gibson: dgibson@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst Chris Sylvan: csylvan@cabq.gov
Phone: (505) 768-3136

When an issue receives just 10+ emails or phone calls, it becomes a high priority one.  Send out links to this post to anyone who you feel could influence policy on this issue.

Thanks for reading and keep on pushing for positive change in your community.

A Love Letter to Downtown

NOTE: Recently, there has been some negative press about Downtown ABQ.  For the most part, it is the typical repetitive chorus: crime, homelessness, abandonment, the same things that have been repeated year after year.  Many among us here at UrbanABQ have been confused by the negativity.  After all, there is a huge amount of exciting investment being made in our urban core.  Tim Trujillo, who started this rapidly growing UrbanABQ community many years ago, decided to write his own opinion of Downtown in response.  This is an ode, a tribute, a story about a place that has risen and fallen in popularity but is quickly being restored to its rightful position as the cultural and creative Heart of the City.            -Dan Majewski

"Above Downtown ABQ" - by Chad Gruber.  Taken from the newly completed Anasazi Building.

“Above Downtown ABQ” – by Chad Gruber. Taken from the newly completed Anasazi Building.

Dear Downtown,

Despite the sensational news stories about your so-called crime-ridden, vacant streets and office buildings, I know who you really are. You’re a young neighborhood, akin to an adolescent, still trying to figure it out and I’m just fine with that.

I can understand the confusion.  We’ve all been through adolescence and can empathize with the identity crisis. Everyone wants you to be something and someone, but you are just not ready to say exactly who or what that is quite yet.  You’re evolving.  On one hand, you are home to over 15,000 jobs that provide employment for citizens from the entirety of a metro area nearing one million residents.  On the other, you are the entertainment center of the state hosting several of the best performance venues offering an array of live local, national, and international acts as well as the latest blockbuster movies.  You offer culinary experiences that range from downright thrifty to flavors and complexity that rival the best of Nob Hill and Santa Fe.  You provide the hub for the region’s transportation network, offering service to and from every corner of the metro and places beyond. You are a growing education center, soon home to Innovate ABQ and CNM’s STEMulus Center.  You even host a farmer’s market that is as good as they come.  Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for yourself, downtown.  You have so much going for you whether others see it or not.

As someone who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, I have seen you change and it is certainly for the better.  Back then, you were merely an office park.  Sure, you provided more jobs than you do today, but you’re much more dynamic these days for all the reasons that I listed.  You are also rapidly becoming a true urban neighborhood, soon to be home to thousands of residents.  The media makes it sound as if you are limited in your demographic, suggesting that you only attract residents to your so-called low-income housing.  What they don’t understand is that your housing is not low-income, but is instead mixed income.  From the affordable Silver Moon Lodge and Silver Gardens Apartments to the market rate Anasazi and 100 Gold Lofts, you are drawing all demographics of income earners because they are attracted to you for who you are and what you promise to be.  That makes you more exciting than any single neighborhood around.  You are one of the first two neighborhoods to fully rebound from 2007 prices.  Obviously you’re doing something right.

"Summerfest @ Civic Plaza" - by Dan Majewski

“Summerfest @ Civic Plaza” – by Dan Majewski

Downtown, what they don’t tell you is that no one between El Paso and Denver, or Phoenix and Oklahoma City can even compete with you.  To be honest, even with those options, I still choose you.  No other neighborhood in the region has the variety, dynamic character, and authenticity that you do, which include over one hundred years of history in industrial era buildings to postmodern works.  Not to mention hundreds of years of cultural history.  Your architecture offers unrivaled scale and style varieties.  The sky is literally the limit with you in terms of height and density, meaning you’ll always provide an urban oasis in an area otherwise composed of sprawling, sleepy, faux abode repetition.

In the six months I have lived in your community, downtown, I have witnessed so much change and improvement.  Several residential projects either started or restarted.  Recently, you lost a few sandwich shops, and maybe a donut shop here and there, but gained a wider variety of options in return.  Not many people I know are lamenting the loss of Subway, Crossroad’s Café, or Rooster’s because now there is Chinese, Greek, and soon there will be another excellent New Mexican option.  This transition has not been easy, but you’ve managed to achieve this while the economy has remained largely stagnant and without a dime of public investment.

We all know you are not like your brothers and sisters of downtown Denver, Portland, or Austin, nor should you try to be.  Those are unfair comparisons when you consider their downtowns are the centers of metro areas two to four times as large.  But you are not unlike them some 15 to 20 years ago when they began to receive investment from their citizens.  I cannot wait to see you in the fall when you have hundreds of new residents, a shiny, renovated convention center, and new restaurants.  I’m even more excited about the University’s investment in Innovate ABQ and the City’s Bus Rapid Transit project.  I moved from one of those “in” city centers, and while I could sell out to consume one those already-created places, I take comfort in being a part of and witnessing your evolution and improvement.  You might not believe it today, but in a few years you will attract press from all over the country asking what you did and how you became so popular.  Soon, everyone will be asking you to go to the prom.  Just know that it is not your fault if things go south because it is ultimately up to the citizens of this city and state to invest in you to help you be your best.

Love,

Tim

"Goodnight Albuquerque" - by Lisa Sprague.  Central Avenue between 3rd and 4th Street.

“Goodnight Albuquerque” – by Lisa Sprague. Central Avenue between 3rd and 4th Street.

ABQ CiQlovia: A Sunday of Fun in the Streets!

-Dan Majewski

UPDATE 9/8/14:  Check out our website, abqciqlovia.org.  We have a Facebook page as well, ABQ CiQlovia!  The event is coming up quickly and we need funding, volunteers and marketing support.  Please click either of the links above for more details!  ABQ CiQlovia will be happening on Sunday, September 21, 2014 from 10 AM – 3 PM.  We will also be partnering with the Carnuel Parade and Fiesta, an amazing community party and parade!   

 

NOTE: This article is about an event I am coordinating for September 2014 right here in Albuquerque, NM!  If you’re already familiar with cyclovia or open streets events, skip to the bottom to find out how to get involved.   Thanks for reading!  Email me if you want a copy of the .doc version of this article.

  • WHAT IS “CIQLOVIA”?

A Sunday Streets event in Missoula, Montana.

A Sunday Streets event in Missoula, Montana.

CiQlovia (pronunciation: \sEk-lo-via\ ) is the Albuquerque version of the global phenomenon known as ciclovia or open streets.  Ciclovia literally means “bike path” in Spanish.  The word also refers to events where city streets are closed to cars and opened up to people on foot and on bike, outdoor exercise classes and other activities.  These events can be weekly, monthly or annual.  The first known ciclovia was held in Bogota, Columbia in 1976.  Since then, the event has gained popularity and now, every Sunday in Bogota, 70 miles of streets are closed to automobile traffic (Source: http://www.streetfilms.org/ciclovia/).

In recent years, ciclovias have spread rapidly across North and South America.  Los Angeles (CicLAvia), San Antonio (Siclovia), Tucson, AZ, Lexington, KY and many more cities have launched successful ciclovia initiatives.

The time is ripe for an Albuquerque initiative.

IMAGINE… if we could safely walk or bike at a relaxing pace on our beautiful city streets without having to worry about our safety, even for a limited time?  What if every Sunday was dedicated to providing street space to people for relaxing and recreating?

  • WHY DOES ABQ NEED CIQLOVIA?

The primary focus of this event will be health, wellness and quality of life.

Albuquerque is a city like no other.  We have unique neighborhoods built around art, music, cycling and cultural diversity.  We have wonderful year-round weather and an amazing array of outdoor activity options.  Unfortunately, we also have high levels of obesity, pedestrian fatalities and poverty.  These trends exist for a variety of reasons, but our built environment is an obstacle to physical activity.  Many of Albuquerque’s major streets are challenging places to walk and ride a bicycle.  When these activities are dangerous, they disappear from our daily lives.  Our city is filled with parks and hiking trails.  However, it is difficult to enjoy the fresh high desert air in our largest public space, our streets.

The secondary focus of this event will be local commerce, economic development and the strong diverse cultural scene found in Albuquerque. 

Along the route, burqueños and tourists will encounter public art exhibitions, maps and information, outdoor yoga classes, food trucks, and much more.  Open lots in targeted nodes will be filled with booths from sponsors as well as local artisans.  Pop-up art galleries and coffee shops will fill vacant buildings along the route and existing businesses will benefit from the large quantity of people attending this event.

Much of the CiQlovia route will follow the 50 Mile Loop.  This project, initiated under Mayor Berry though ABQ: The Plan, seeks to “connect the city’s infrastructure to create a 50 Mile bicycling, running, and walking trail with amenities like benches…way finding signing and maps, [creating] a healthier community and a destination for tourists.”  For more information, visit this link: http://bit.ly/JPsEzW.  CiQlovia will be an opportunity to promote the value of this innovative infrastructure project.

  • WHERE WILL THE FIRST CIQLOVIA BE LOCATED?
This is a map of the proposed route.  Stars signify areas with concentrations of programing.

This is a map of the proposed route. Stars signify areas with concentrations of programing.

 
  • Old Town ABQ
  • Downtown ABQ
  • Old Route 66 (Central)
  • The BioPark
  • The Rio Grande Bosque
  • The Silver / 14th / Mountain Bicycle Blvd.
  • The 50 Mile Loop

The route includes commercial clusters, residential districts and cultural centers.  This provides ample opportunity for partnerships.

  • Stores and restaurants can bring their wares and tables into the street, providing a new venue for promotion.
  • Neighborhood organizations can use this event for outreach to residents and non-residents who might not know about their projects.
  • Cultural gems, including the BioPark and the museum cluster around Old Town, can take advantage of the high volume of people in the streets to fundraise and provide information about city services.
  • Health and wellness services will be integrated into the entire route.
  • WHEN WILL THE FIRST CIQLOVIA OCCUR?

The first CiQlovia will take place on September 21, 2014.

Eventually, every Sunday in Albuquerque will have a CiQlovia.  Different streets all around the city will be closed off to cars and opened up to people.  For now, we are focusing on a single event.

Sunday in September makes the most sense for a variety of reasons.  Sundays have the least amount of vehicle and bus traffic on the roads.  September has great weather, a limited number of conflicting events and many tourists in town for the Balloon Fiesta and ¡Globalquerque! (September 19-20, 2014).

Autumn in ABQ plays host to a wide variety of unique events.  We picked the date in order to avoid conflict with other major fall events.  These events include:

  • The Balloon Fiesta – occurs at the beginning of October.
  • The Duke City Marathon – occurred after the Balloon Fiesta in 2013.
  • The Day of the Tread – occurs in late October around Halloween.
  • Dia de los Muertos Parade – occurs in early November.
  • WHO WILL BE A PART OF CIQLOVIA? 

The short answer is everyone!  CiQlovia will be an inclusive event.  Anyone can easily be a part of the festivities.  We are aiming to attract people who want to be outside and participate in physical activity, engage with local businesses and see the cultural gems of Albuquerque in a way they never have, on streets full of people.

SPONSORS & FUNDING 

Potential funding sources fall into two categories: local and national.

Donations from businesses will be collected and allocated through the Community Health Charities of New Mexico non-profit and the Healthier Weights Council.  Their coalition of public health organizations will provide a framework for support.  We will also seek financial support from county commissioners, the City Council and the Office of the Mayor.

Below is a list of some partners that come to mind, but we will continue to look for more:

V = potential volunteers

I = potential in-kind donations

National Corporations:

REI – V, Target, North Face, Starbucks – I, Costco – I, Sam’s Club – I, Wellbridge (Sports & Wellness), Blue Cross / Blue Shield, Wilson & Company, Big 5, Dicks Sporting Goods, Sprouts, Comcast, Double Tree Hotels, Sysco, Great Harvest Bread Co., AAA

Local Corporations:

Dions, Flying Star, PNM, Presbyterian, Century Bank, Blakes Lotaburger, State Employees Credit Union, NM Bank and Trust, Sore No More, Sandia Resort, Creamland, Affordable Solar, Casa Esperanza, Lovelace, Intel – V, Fidelity – V, Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation

Local Businesses:

 La Montanita Co-op, Bike Shops – I + V, Sport Systems, Local Radio Stations – I, Local TV Stations, Fiat of ABQ, Garcia Subaru, ABQ Running Store, ABQ Journal, Garcia’s Tents – I, El Pinto, ABQ: The Magazine, Klinger Construction, Renewal by Anderson, AIKEN Printing, The Garity Group

All the businesses and organizations along the proposed route:

Flying Star / Satellite Coffee, Seasons, Routes Rentals & Tours, Cocina Azul, Barelas Coffee House, Arrow Supermarket, Java Joes, Bosque Baking Company, Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Firenze Pizzeria, Mullen Heller Architecture, Southwest Organizing Project, Cocina Azul, New Mexico Tea Company, Studio Southwest Architects, BASE Design and Build, Siegel Design Architects, G + G Advertising, Infill Solutions, Downtown Medicine, ACLU of New Mexico, Barelas Child Development Center, Southwest Women’s Law Center, Lowes Grocery Store, Gold Avenue Corridor, Golden Crown Panaderia, Bosque Bakery, Old Town Farm / Bike-In Coffee

Others?

Other natural partners:

BernCo – Debbie O’Malley + others, CABQ, MRCOG / NM Rail Runner, Bueno Foods, National Hispanic Cultural Center, Parks & Rec (CABQ) – Chuck M., BikeABQ, Duke City Wheelmen – Jennifer Buntz, BioPark (CABQ), Warehouse 508, 516 Arts, ABQ Ride, Albuquerque Museum, Natural History Museum, Explora Children’s Museum

Other Possible Partners:

 Focus Ink, The Downtown Growers Market, ABQ Convention Center

BUDGET & OUTREACH

Once the route and budget have been finalized, the CiQlovia team will begin reaching out to these partners.  Sponsorship levels will be as follows:

  • $0-100: Bronze
  • $100-500: Silver
  • $500-1000: Gold
  • $1000+: Platinum

Gold and platinum level sponsors will be advertised heavily on t-shirts, the CiQlovia website, etc.  The names of the levels align with the bicycle friendliness assessment system used by the League of American Bicyclists in their Bicycle Friendly America program.  More information can be found here: http://www.bikeleague.org/bfa#community.

Using the Tucson Cyclovia 2012 model and numbers, our running budget is somewhere between $50,000 – $100,000.  The final amount will depend on in-kind donations, volunteer support, etc.

In Tucson, ¼ of costs were labor, another quarter was for cops and barricades and the other half was a variety of other smaller expenses.

Regarding revenue, about ½ of all donations came from small-scale sponsorships.

Sponsors will have first pick of location for their booth.  Other booths will fill in the remaining spaces based on interest from vendors.  Vendors will need to acquire a permit from the organizing committee to set up shop.  Different areas will be designated for certain types of vendors.  There will be a permitting system in order to properly accommodate people who want to participate in CiQlovia.

The landowners at the proposed nodes need to be contacted.  Since it will be a Sunday, use of parking lots should not be difficult.  We have identified the parking lot on the corner of Park and 9th as the most suitable location for a food truck and live music node.

  • ACTIVATING THE ROUTE

HEALTH + FITNESS

People on bicycles and people on foot will naturally be attracted to this event.  Attracting other demographics depends on activating the route with other forms of physical activity.  Multiple nodes will include outdoor yoga classes, stretching workshops, bike repair stations, etc.

Promoting alternative transportation will be an important part of this event.  ABQ Ride will be involved, as well as representatives from the Esperanza Bike Shop.  Parks & Recreation could staff a Bike Rodeo at one of the public sector nodes.  Local nonprofits such as Duke City Wheelmen and BikeABQ will be integrated into multiple nodes.  In Tucson, the event included a portable outdoor mini skate park.  There are unlimited methods for involving all members of our community.

ART + CULTURE

One of many amazing murals in Downtown ABQ.

One of many amazing murals in Downtown ABQ.

Activating the route with art and music will set this event apart from other ciclovia events across the nation.  Art is an important part of our local culture.  Although many people visit Santa Fe, far more live in Albuquerque, the cultural and geographical heart of New Mexico.  Public mural art is being legitimized primarily through the efforts of Warehouse 508 and 516 Arts throughout Downtown Albuquerque.  These organizations must be involved early on in the process.

We envision public art display, live painting, vendors selling art, live poetry readings, etc.  Interactive art would align with the goal of this event: activating the street as public people based space.

There are galleries all along the route with a heavy concentration in Old Town and along the Mountain corridor.

Live music will be located within the commercial nodes.  The fitness nodes will likely have recorded music so it makes little sense to locate live music in those locations.  Live music will provide a good complement to the food truck nodes.

GEMS ALONG THE ROUTE

The proposed route is lined with some wonderful local businesses.  Since many of these businesses are not usually open on Sundays, we will reach out to them and help them understand how important it will be for them to be open on CiQlovia Sunday.  In addition, they will be encouraged to occupy the street in front of their establishment in some way.  Narrowing the street using tables and chairs would provide an interesting visual experience for attendees.

Local merchants will be integrated into both the nodes and empty spaces along the route.  We will integrate strategies from Team Better Block into this event.  It will involve occupying vacant space with temporary pop-up businesses.  Established local artisans will apply to use these spaces through the same process they will apply for use of vacant lots and street space.

This event will have a fitness first focus and local commerce will be of strong secondary importance.  It will allow us to gain more partners, funding and support.

  • CONCLUSION

Every Sunday morning, cyclists, pedestrians, rollerbladers, skateboarders and many other users fill the Bosque Trail in Albuquerque, NM.  On CiQlovia Sunday, signs will direct users from the trail into the neighborhoods.  Many of these users will have never visited these areas, so the signs will emphasize the wonderment that will be found along the route.

CiQlovia is an opportunity for Albuquerque to show off our incredible diverse community.  Ciclovias have been done throughout the Americas but this will be the first CiQlovia!

I look forward to your feedback and thank you in advance for your support!

  • QUESTIONS?  COMMENTS?  WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

Coordinator: Dan Majewski – dan.j.majewski@gmail.com.

Graphics: Caeri Thomas, MRCOG – cthomas@mrcog-nm.org

Community Outreach: Richard Meadows, Bernalillo County – rmeadows@bernco.gov

Facebook:

UrbanABQ – https://www.facebook.com/Urban.ABQ

Complete Streets in New Mexico – https://www.facebook.com/CompleteStreetsInNewMexico

Bike Burque – https://www.facebook.com/BikeBurque

Websites:

UrbanABQ – http://urbanabq.com

New Mexico Healthier Weight Council – http://nmhealthierweight.com/?page_id=252

A Better Block for Burque: Andrew Howard & Event Based Activism

-Dan Majewskibetter block logo

On October 21, Andrew Howard, one of the two people behind Team Better Block, visited Albuquerque.  Contact with Andrew was initiated through a tweet from Tim Trujillo which manifested into a visit through the efforts of many.  Former City Council Roxanna Meyers and the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning both contributed money towards bringing Andrew to town.

Mr. Howard was brought in to look at various parts of urban central Albuquerque and identify a segment of town which is on the cusp of success but could use a bit of boost.

Watch the video below to see the work that Team Better Block does.

Meeting the Players

The morning began with a breakfast at Flying Star on Silver & 8th St.  Tim Trujillo, Rick Renne of the Downtown Action Team, Mark Childs of the UNM School of Architecture, Andrew Howard and I were present.

At breakfast we learned more about Andrew’s background and his experiences with H-GAC (the Houston, TX equivalent of MRCOG) and Kimley-Horn, a multinational engineering and planning consulting firm.  The public process he observed while working for these organizations was so discouraging that he decided to try something different.  This led to his collaboration with Jason Roberts and the birth of Team Better Block in Dallas, TX.

After breakfast, Tim, Rick and I gave Andrew a tour of some important portions of Downtown including the Gold Ave. Lofts, the Sunshine Block and the Alvarado Transportation Center.  Tim and I then directed Andrew around Barelas with a focus on the Railyards and 4th Street, including the iconic Arrow Supermarket.

Next on the list was EDo: East Downtown / Huning Highlands.  In EDo, Andrew told us he was looking for something more “gritty” and “authentic”.  In his mind, EDo has already “made it” (did you hear that Rob Dickson?!) and he wanted to see a place that hadn’t quite “made it” yet.

When Andrew made these comments, I immediately thought of the International District.  In my mind, it has the right bones which would allow it to become an “art district” of sorts.

However, the last area we had time for was North 4th / Mountain, including Marble Brewery and some of the warehouses in the area.

Lunch @ CityLab

Andrew Howard at CityLab

Andrew Howard at CityLab

The next agenda item was a brown bag lunch hosted by Micheale Pride of the UNM + CABQ CityLab space.  Important local players in attendance included city traffic engineer Crystal Metro and Linda Rumpf who works for the Office of the Mayor and ABQ: The Plan.

We began with a short video about some of the recent work done by Team Better Block in Norfolk, VA.  After the video, people started to talk.  Sammantha Clark vocalized the difficulty of getting land owners to open up buildings for these types of events.  Andrew responded by noting that insurance for a Better Block event must be included as part of the price tag.  He says that owners tend to loosen up as planning for the event accelerates.  When landowners observe the momentum, minds change.  Mr. Howard also emphasized that with difficult property owners, you have to begin by just asking to get inside the door.  Don’t overwhelm them with event details immediately.

The discussion continued into debate about the parklet/parquito program which is currently being pursued by ReUrbanate ABQ.  We learned that Lobo Scooter “buys” the parking space in front of their store to display scooters everyday.  Who is to say we couldn’t do this for a parklet or some type of art installation on the day of the event?

Linda brought up the importance of Route 66 in regard to any proposal or plan.

I asked Andrew who we can look towards regionally for inspiration.  Andrew mentioned Denver but regarding a city our size, Fresno, CA was the best example he could think of.

Mr. Howard also told us about the Better Block experience in Wichita, KS.  Wichita is home to the infamous Koch Brothers, wealthy contributors to ultra conservative think tanks and organizations.  Needless to say, Wichita is relatively conservative and resistant to change.  Despite initial resistance, Better Block was successful in this community.  The success was due to a data driven process where economics became a major emphasis.  A major function of Better Block is creating opportunities for commerce where there previously were few.  Mr. Howard emphasized the importance of a data driven process when there is resistance.  My favorite quote from Andrew regarding the current state of the mandated “planning process”:

I don’t think the next generation is going to put up with it.

The International District was brought up when Michaele informed the group of the place-making process occurring in the district.  Little Globe, UNM, AMAFCA, CABQ and many others are collaborating on place-making through art in this historically poor and ignored segment of the city.  Michaele also explained how East Central Ministries is a major umbrella for positive grassroots advocacy efforts in the International District.  They are planting seeds for a better future in the area.  Andrew’s presentation later that evening featured a similar organization in a poor part of Dallas which led a successful Better Block effort.  The pictures reminded me of the International District.

The Better Block Timeline

Jason Roberts of Team Better Block in action!

Jason Roberts of Team Better Block in action!

Per my request, Andrew broke it down.  He referred to the process as “part chaos, part faith”:

3-4 months - develop a plan.  In order to make it viable, there MUST be a strong a champion from the area to push it forward.  1-2 major property owners on the block must be on board.  At the same time, set a date and publish it!  Andrew emphasized the need to “blackmail yourself”.  It forces people to commit.  The corridor should have a design speed of 25 MPH or less.  That’s the threshold speed for a successful project so on the day of the intervention, create a streetscape that has these design speeds.

1 month  - Begin the pop-up shop application process.  Initiate walk thru of the buildings you want to “occupy” on the day of the event.

2 weeks out - Begin the pre-build.  Acquire materials, talk to players you want involved, hash out the details.  Clean up the retail spaces and ready them for occupation.

2 days out - Full build out of the occupied spaces.  The idea of doing it at the past minute means no procrastination is allowed!  With 4-5 hours and lots of volunteers, it will happen.  More people involved = less time needed for build out

Day of - Start early and get those boots on the ground.  The rest can only be determined by the community.

1 month after - Show up at City Council with a list of local zoning codes you broke in order to make the event happen.  Come to them with stats about the success of the event, how great traffic calming is, etc.  It will be a hard argument to reject.

City Staff Meeting

City staff meeting.  The book in the foreground is a report from a successful project in Norfolk, VA.

City staff meeting. The book in the foreground is a report from a successful project in Norfolk, VA.

The next agenda item was a meeting with members of city staff.  The diverse group of attendees included, but was not limited to, Andrew Webb, Roxana Meyers and Russell Brito.  

Regarding the success of doing a Better Block project, Andrew emphasized the importance of champions vs. cheerleaders.  In the Better Block project area, there must be someone who is passionately interested in the potential of the neighborhood.  A cheerleader is extremely supportive but a champion will live and die for the block.  The best example of a champion in Albuquerque is Rob Dickson.  His unwavering passion for the creation of a stronger East Downtown (EDo) has led to a successful transformation of Central between Broadway and I-25.

Another element of a successful Better Block is a 50/50 mix of vitality and abandonment.  Selecting a completely decrepit area is not recommended.  You need people occupying a given area (a block “anchor”). These existing tenants see the potential for the block and are therefore generally supportive of the event.

Mr. Howard also explained the most importance part of the Better Block process: the 30 days after.  In those 30 days, data and information must be processed and presented to city staff.  It is generally presented with zoning change recommendations.  At the first Better Block, Jason and Andrew had giant posters in the windows of buildings explaining which rules were broken to create the Better Block!  When city staff saw these posters, a positive community conversation began.

Eventually, the talk turned to Downtown and why it has struggled over the years.  Andrew went around the table, asking each person a question which then led to another question for the next person around the table.  Andrew concluded by asserting that Downtown struggled because it was not treated like a neighborhood.

We then discussed a variety of other items such as the difference between a special event vs. a pilot project vs. a permanent project.  Mr. Howard also emphasized the importance of keeping the scope of Better Block small in order to make it successful.

In this meeting, we also learned about a strong relationship between Better Block and the National Association of Realtors.  It has facilitated multiple successful Better Block projects.

The Big Event

In the evening, Andrew presented his story to a relatively full house in the Garcia Auditorium @ George Pearl Hall, UNM S-AP.  Michaele and I explained to the audience the process of getting Andrew here and then let him do the rest.  For me, it was the least exciting and most relaxing part of the day.  At the same time, it was good opportunity to reflect upon the conversations we had over the course of the day.

Some highlights from the evening presentation:

  • Context sensitive design: be conscious of the place you are designing for.
  • Duct tape: the most important tool in the toolbox.  Temporary can be powerful.
  • Think SMALL!
  • Break all of the rules and do it publicly!  Make sure people know which rues you are breaking.
  • Better Block is fun but it is NOT a party.  Collecting data = potential for long-term change.
  • Tell the story of the place.  Every place has talent and resources.  Sometimes, the place just needs to be looked at differently / appropriately.
  • Connect the dots.
  • Build trust.
  • The world is a stage and Better Block is an act of improv.

After the presentation, Mr. Howard walked into the audience and conversed with many of the attendees.  Many of us left the presentation fired up and filled with ideas.

Mr. Howard left Albuquerque, NM the next day to speak at a conference at MIT.

 

What’s Next + Andrew’s Top Choice for a Better Block in Burque

After seeing many parts of town, Andrew selected a street for the first Burque Better Block:

Gold Ave. Downtown between 2nd and 4th.

The built environment on the select segment is ideal: good building stock + high level of occupation + some vacancies.

The built environment on the selected segment is ideal: walkable building stock + healthy mix of occupation and vacancies.

This segment of Gold is also the proposed location of the first parklet/parquito in Albuquerque.  There are plenty of natural partners on the segment, including Café Giuseppe.  The right of way is 55 ft.  It allows for the possibility of using the street differently.

CiQlovia: Coming September 2014

Regarding the first Burque Better Block project, I am planning a larger event.  I have begun the planning process for a ciclovia/open streets event in Albuquerque.  It will be called CiQlovia (Q for ABQ) and it will incorporate elements from Team Better Block.  At this point, the draft route includes Silver but we are looking at using Gold instead so we can have Better Block elements integrated into the event.

Currently, my team and I are in the early stages of the planning process.  We have selected a draft route, pictured below, and and we are aiming for one of the four Sundays in September.  It includes Downtown, Old Town, Barelas, the Bosque and other amazing neighborhoods in the historic core of Albuquerque.

This map highlights the proposed route as well as land uses along the route.

This map highlights the proposed route as well as land uses along the route.

We Need YOUR Help!

CiQlovia will require a massive team of volunteers as well as funding.  Once we acquire our special event permit at the beginning of the year, we will begin seeking out members of our community who would like to be involved.  We are looking for food trucks, yoga teachers, natural healers, philanthropists, artists, muralists, craftspeople, bicycle repair experts… well, let’s just say this will be like nothing Albuquerque has ever seen.

Supported by the Complete Streets New Mexico Committee, the Healthier Weight Council, the Downtown Neighborhood Association and the City of Albuquerque, CiQlovia will promote the use of our streets, our largest public space, for something other than moving as many automobiles as possible.  Streets are closed in Albuquerque for races, parades and shopping events.  CiQlovia is about just being in the street.  It is about providing a safe place for people to walk, bike, rollerblade and exercise, fresh air.  More than anything, it is a statement about the relationship between our built environment and the obesity crisis.

Keep following UrbanABQ.com for updates on this event.

See you there!

The MRCOG 2040 MTP: Telling a New Story

-Dan Majewski

This past Thursday, I attended the Mid-Region Council of Governments 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Planning Public Meeting.

It was not as boring at it sounds.

The meeting included a short presentation about the plan, what it means for the region and why we should care.  For more detailed information, click on the following link: 2040 MTP Update & Scenario Plan.

The primary reason I am writing about the meeting is the graphic below:

See the right side of the image?  VMT has been steadily declining and this trend began before the Great (Neverending) Recession.

See the right side of the image? VMT has been steadily declining and this trend began before the Great (Neverending) Recession.

This graphic should be the primary guide to future transportation planning in the region.  

The graphic has two lines.  One line is a “trend line” and it represents a prediction about the future.  It is the solid line and it shows a steady increase of vehicle miles traveled per capita.  Historically, this trend has held true.  However, if you look on the right side of the image (I know it’s blurry and I apologize) you can see the growing gap between the trend line and the actual regional VMT per capita, the other line on the chart.

This, coupled with a doubling of regional transit ridership since the beginning of the century, tells a very compelling story.  It is a story which is being told in metro areas across America: the car is no longer king.  People no longer want to be enslaved to a three ton money-eating obesity-creating community-killing machine.  When other options exist, people use them.  When they don’t, people demand and crave them.

Meeting Significance

or

What Can I Do?   

This is where you, the citizen, come in.

I asked Aaron Sussman, one of the two great presenters, a loaded question about the “implementation process” regarding the plan.  It was a loaded question because there is no implementation process.  The MRCOG is not an agency which can enact policy.

However, they have the ability to guide policy.  They funnel federal money into local agencies.  MRCOG has the ability to affect local policy making through the backdoor using data and local connections.

Therefore, I encourage you to fill out the short survey which goes along with this plan.  The topic is personal travel habits and the survey is quick and easy.

Click the link below and happy bubble filling!

Help Make Transportation Work for You in the Future! Take the Futures 2040 Public Questionnaire

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers