Category Archives: transit

TAKE ACTION: Email Your City Councilor and/or Speak at City Council on Monday

– By Leila Salim, Michael Vos, Dan Majewski and other members of the UrbanABQ team

March 17, 2016

yes art now single template

On Monday, March 21, beginning at 5 PM, there will be a City Council vote on Albuquerque Rapid Transit. 

We have been told that this could be the vote that makes or breaks the project. We have also been told that City Council has been receiving primarily negative feedback on the project.

This is our deciding moment.

Have you been sitting on the sidelines? Have you been unable to attend meetings or unable to articulate your support for the project?

Make your voice heard!

Below is a letter we have created that you can COPY + PASTE + SEND to your city councilor.
Below the letter, we have included a map of Albuquerque City Council districts and email addresses for each of the councilors. Don’t live in the City? That’s ok! Pick the district closest to where you live and send something to that councilor.

Please share this with your friends and thanks for your support!

_________________________________________________________________

Dear Councilors,

I am writing to let you know that I strongly support the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit (A.R.T.) project.

Albuquerque is a growing metropolis on the verge of reaching a million people. While it may seem tolerable for now, if we do nothing, our sprawling growth and car-centered design will soon catch up to us, both environmentally and economically. A.R.T. can begin a shift in our city to a more flexible and equitable transportation system that brings more choices between modes and opportunities for getting around.

  • Bus Rapid Transit is a comparable, affordable, and proven alternative to light rail with added flexibility of buses. Lane and station infrastructure can even be adapted for light rail in the future.
  • Central Ave is the best street for this project because it has existing ridership, important destinations, housing, and jobs along it. This is not true of other roads suggested such as Lomas Blvd, which is not eligible for the federal funding. A.R.T. will provide better connections to these employment and activity centers and increase pedestrian activity.
  • Improving transit along Central will have a ripple effect creating a more consistent and efficient system. Increased frequency will shorten transfer times for 32 crossing routes, and by replacing the existing Rapid Ride, some buses may be utilized on other existing or new routes.
  • Putting the bus in the middle is the correct speed hierarchy. The fast-moving bus is ideal in the middle, with medium-paced traffic in the right lane and on-street parking protecting the sidewalk. Center median stations mean building one station instead of two, riders only have to cross one half of the street and pedestrians have a safe middle island to wait in when crossing.
  • Central Avenue is the most dangerous pedestrian corridor in a state with the second highest rate of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. Slower traffic from reduced lanes and wider sidewalks will be a major improvement to the pedestrian environment.
  • The projected increase in automobile traffic onto Lead, Coal, and Lomas will serve to slow speeds, resulting in safer pedestrian and bicycling environments on those streets as well.

Despite the vocal opposition to A.R.T., there are many of us who support this project. Investing in better transit and pedestrian friendly spaces will make Central Avenue more attractive for new businesses and residents. To be able to accomplish this with significant help from the Federal government is tremendous, and the opportunity to bring $4.30 back to Albuquerque for every dollar of local investment in this project is something we must not pass up.

I urge you to authorize the funding and construction of A.R.T.

Sincerely,

_________________________________________________________________

Albuquerque City Council District Map

CityCouncil districts ABQ jpeg

Below are email addresses for councilors and their policy analysts. We recommend you email both the councilor and their policy analyst.

Districts with * are districts on or along Central Avenue. For more information about council, here is a link to their full website.

Contact information for Councilors:

*District 1 – Ken Sanchez: kensanchez@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst – Elaine Romero: eromero@cabq.gov

*District 2 –  Isaac Benton: ibenton@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst – Diane Dolan: ddolan@cabq.gov

*District 3 – Klarissa Peña: kpena@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst – Nancy Montaño: nancymontano@cabq.gov

District 4 – Brad Winter: bwinter@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst – Rebekka Burt: rburt@cabq.gov

District 5 – Dan Lewis: danlewis@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst – Rachel Miller: rrmiller@cabq.gov

*District 6 – Pat Davis: patdavis@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst – Sean Foran: seanforan@cabq.gov

District 7 – Diane Gibson: dgibson@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst – Chris Sylvan: csylvan@cabq.gov

District 8 – Trudy Jones: trudyjones@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst Aziza Chavez: azizachavez@cabq.gov

*District 9 – Don Harris: dharris@cabq.gov
Policy Analyst – Dawn Marie Emillio: <a href="mailto:dmemillio@cabq.gov"dmemillio@cabq.gov

 

Thank you!

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.

CicLAvia and the New Los Angeles: Lessons for ABQ from the City of Angeles

– Dan Majewski

Overlooking the 110 Freeway, Wilshire Boulevard
Overlooking the 110 Freeway, Wilshire Boulevard

IMAGINE: Central Avenue, from the Rio Grande River to San Mateo, completely closed for an entire Saturday or Sunday.  Open lots filled with stages and music.  More bicycles, rollerblades, long boards and strollers than you’ve ever seen in your life.  People lying in the middle of the street on a mattress.  Tall bike riding leotard-wearing youth.  Old Route 66 transformed into New Route 66, a street for people.

Try to count the bikes!
Try to count the bikes!

The equivalent of this happened in Los Angeles on Sunday, June 23.  Six miles of Iconic Wilshire Boulevard, the traffic and exhaust choked historic Main Street of Los Angeles, was closed to motor vehicles from 9 AM – 4 PM.

Streets filled with people, Downtown Los Angeles
Streets filled with people, Downtown Los Angeles

What is CicLAvia?

The concept is simple:

1)    close the street to vehicles

2)    bring in food trucks, live music, yoga teachers, etc.

3)    make sure all of the businesses along the route are open

4)    see what happens!

It is based on ciclovia, a tradition that began in Bogota, Columbia three decades ago.  The concept is now rapidly spreading across the United States and other parts of the world.  Tucson, a city with many similarities to Albuquerque, is now planning its sixth event.  An estimated 25,000 people attended the most recent event in April.  Read about my experience at the first Tucson ciclovia here.

Los Angeles first tried this experiment on 10/10/10.  The route utilized side streets that normally had little car traffic.  It had public support but many a naysayer.  After all, modern Los Angeles is practically defined by car culture.  Los Angeles is world renowned for soul-crushing traffic jams, a massive freeway system, fancy celebrity filled Ferraris, Jay Leno’s car collection… you get the idea.

Despite the doubt, the inaugural CicLAvia was a huge success100,000 people huge.

Map of the first CicLAvia event
Map of the first CicLAvia event

Where is CicLAvia Now?

There will be three CicLAvia events on the streets of Los Angeles in 2013.  It has a vast array of financial supporters and local champions as shown in the photo below.

Banner displaying a portion of the major contributors to the most recent CicLAvia event
Banner displaying a portion of the major contributors to the most recent CicLAvia event

The event on June 23 was incredible.  The route itself included many famous buildings, museums and public spaces best seen at the speed of a bicycle or slower.  For the first time “dismount zones”, where people on foot were prioritized, anchored each end of the route.  It marked a welcome change in policy since the goal of CicLAvia is to open the streets to ALL non-auto users, especially people on foot.  The fact that this route was shorter than previous routes also made it easier to walk the entire distance.

Read more about the event here and here.  The official CicLAvia website can be accessed here.

Los Angeles, 2013
Los Angeles, 2013

The New Los Angeles

As someone who was born in Los Angeles and visits frequently, there is change afoot.  The Southland is truly beginning to shift its policy and funding priorities towards transit, cycling and walking.

Los Angeles, up until 5 years ago, barely had a bicycle plan.  It had little official acknowledgement of bicycles as either a form of transportation or a way to get some exercise and fresh air.  The big shift occurred when the outgoing mayor, Anotnio Villagrosa, was hit while riding his bicycle on Venice Boulevard in 2010.

Suddenly, doors opened.  It’s unfortunate that it takes a crisis but it’s incredible to see the progress since.

Los Angeles is only one of many cities in the region currently transforming its streets.  Long Beach and Santa Monica, both of which will be written about in future posts, are currently the leading the progressive urban awakening in Southern California.

Cities Are for People

The era of car dominance will be looked back upon as an odd blip in human history.  For all of time until the past 75 years, every human settlement was built around the person on foot.  Even when railroads and streetcars were invented, the city continued to retain this focus.  After all, one has to walk to the streetcar station or the railroad depot.  It is only with the advent of highly subsidized fossil fuels that our urban areas have shifted into sprawling behemoths connected by 15 lane super highways and dominated by automobile.

Los Angeles is THE poster child, the ultimate symbol for a new direction, a new future, a new hope.  With two rail transit lines under construction and three about to break ground, the people of SoCal have voted for a future where one can ride a bicycle safely on the streets of Los Angeles for more than one day a year, where you don’t need a car to get everywhere, where walking is a reasonable and safe way to move around the community.

A map of completed and under construction Metro rail lines
A map of completed and under construction Metro rail lines

Central Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard: Creating a 21st Century Corridor

Central Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard are two urban corridors experiencing similar transitions.  Wilshire recently received designated bus priority lanes.  It (like Central) has more transit riders than any other corridor in the city.  Plans have been approved for rapid transit on the corridor.  However, it will be located underground, providing the city with an opportunity to reshape the streetscape dramatically.

On Central Avenue, an underground transit system makes little sense based the population of our region.  Our options at this point are to do nothing, bus rapid transit (in any variety of shapes or forms), light rail, streetcar or possibly a combination of all of the above.  Each segment of Central has a slightly different need and this needs to be acknowledged.  This community conversation is beginning to bear fruit but it is missing something: a larger regional vision.

The Need for a Regional Vision

Los Angeles is moving forward so rapidly because it developed a regional vision.  In 2008, the people of Southern California voted for a tax increase called Measure R to fund improvements in transportation around the region.  They are not the only metro area which has done this; Tucson also voted on a similar (but much smaller) proposal in 2006 called the Regional Transportation Authority.  All over the country, metropolitan areas are voting not to wait around for the federal government.  They are deciding to work together to develop a vision for the future of the region.  These movements are both bottom up and top down.

Here in Albuquerque, we recently voted to allocate local bond money to be spent on the Paseo del Norte interchange.  This project on its own is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, the fact that it was approved in isolation is a disturbing trend.  Will we continue to just vote on individual projects as needed?  This is a terrible strategy.  The PDN interchange should have been part of a larger transportation improvement package.

A rendering of the proposed improvements to PDN
A rendering of the proposed improvements to PDN

The advantage of a package is projects which would not necessarily be supported independently can be funded when combined with other more popular projects.  Also, it allows everyone to get a piece of the pie.  For example, the Los Angeles funding measure allocated different percentages of the tax to different pieces of the transportation puzzle: 20% to bus operations, 20% for highway capital projects, etc.

An example from Albuquerque could be 20% for BRT, 10% for Rapid Ride, 5% for protected bike infrastructure, 30% for Paseo del Norte, etc.  The options are limitless and putting it all together results in a strategy and a vision.

ABQ 2020

In order to progress economically as region, we need to develop an infrastructure investment package.  We need to work together to find out which projects are most important, how much they will cost and how they can be a part of developing a 21st century economy.

I will be explaining the specifics of my proposal in a future post.

Thank you for reading and please comment below!

Central Avenue: The Necessity of a Strong Vision, Community Champions and Street Trees

UPDATE 2/4/16: Last night, the City of Albuquerque hosted a meeting about this BRT project on Central, now called ART. See the project website here! Many new and updated features of the project were unveiled at the meeting including pedestrian scale lighting along the entire project corridor and FREE high speed WiFi!

We will be learning if ABQ receives the federal grant for this project in less than 1 WEEK, on February 9th!

Many people believe project has been “fast tracked” without any public input. Part of why we’re reposting this article from 2013 is to disprove that point. Also, many of the concerns voiced in this article have been addressed including:

Bikes and Silver: The City has planned and begun allocating funding for improvements to Silver. This does not mean that Silver will extend past the freeway. However, the city is also going to be making major improvements to bike facilities on MLK, already a heavily used bicycle corridor that connects UNM to Downtown. We still believe that there are unanswered questions about bikes on Central but overall, many improvements to the plan have been made.

Medians vs. Wider Sidewalks: The folks in Nob Hill came to an agreement with the project planners and there will be wider sidewalks through Nob Hill instead of medians, a huge improvement for the business district. In fact, sidewalks will be widened and improved throughout much of the corridor and pedestrian scale lighting will be added throughout the entire corridor!

Marketing, Outreach and Champions: This project has found a champion in the form of Mayor Berry.

However, outreach and marketing by the City on behalf of this project has been too little, too late. Unfortunately, outside sources have spread misinformation about the project. Independent from those outside sources, there has been resistance to the project for a variety of reasons. In addition, it is not always easy to communicate the benefits of this project, the construction process, the potential impacts and other aspects of this proposal.

The people running this project, as of very recently, finally starting using a Facebook page to communicate information. The City needs to do better promotion and outreach for these types of projects to get ahead of any possible pushback or misinformation campaigns. It’s not an easy thing to do but it can be done.

There’s plenty more to be said about this project and we will continue discussing it on our Facebook page.

The original article, in it’s unaltered form, is below:

“Central Avenue: The Necessity of a Strong Vision, Community Champions and Street Trees”

-Dan Majewski, May 2013

BRT meeting, ABQ Museum

During the month of May in 2013, the City of Albuquerque held six public meetings about a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system for Central Avenue. Every meeting was held in a different location and focused on a different segment of the proposed project.

The format of the meeting was as follows:

  • 15 minute power point presentation about BRT + benefits of the project + why it should be built
  • 30 minute collaborative work session: we broke into small groups and conversed with consultants about what we like on the corridor, what we don’t like, what type of project alignment we would like to see, etc.
  • 15 closing presentations by each of the small groups

The collaborative element was useful. It allowed us to effectively express our opinons and hash out a vision for the corridor. It was also an opportunity to air grievances without having to interrupt the larger group presentation.

Bus Rapid What?

BRT Rendering

I attended two of these meeting and came away with mixed feelings.  BRT could be a great solution to the current transportation problems currently found on Central Avenue but it must be marketed correctly and executed properly.  Scroll to the bottom of the article for my full reaction.

Sorry, No Bicycles Allowed

For rapid transit systems to work, they must attract people from a wide geographic area.  To accomplish this, bicycles can be a great tool.  When asked about bicycles at this meeting, many of the consultants or city leaders implied that bicycles do not belong on Central Avenue.  “Why not the Silver Bicycle Boulevard?  Or MLK?  Or Lead/Coal?” they would say.  My response:

  1. Silver is great… until it dead ends at I-25.  It does not connect the University of New Mexico to Downtown, Old Town or the Bosque Trail.

    As you can see, the Silver Avenue Bicycle Boulevard ends at the interstate.
    The blue line on this map is the Silver Avenue Bicycle Boulevard. As you can see, it currently ends at the interstate freeway on the left side of this image.
  2. Most of the desired destinations are located on Central.  I may use Silver for 90% of my trip.  However, since my end destination is located on Central, I need to bike on Central for at least a block or two.  This means riding on the sidewalk (dangerous/illegal) or in the street (terrifying).
  3. Whether you like it or not, there is already a lot of bicycle traffic on Central.  It will only increase over time as this corridor becomes more dense.
  4. Accommodating bicycles does not necessarily mean 6 foot bike lanes in each direction.  It simply means providing infrastructure where possible.  This is an example of what bicycle accommodation could look like in the narrow segment between University Boulevard and I-25:

central

The Nob Hill No

The Nob Hill Neighborhood is the most organized and wealthy stakeholder group on this corridor.  They are also the most frustrated and angry about this proposal.  From their perspective, CABQ is trying to take away something (the medians) which presently provide safe pedestrian refuge.

True BRT = one general traffic lane in each direction.  This would lead to slower traffic speeds, creating a safer pedestrian environment and reducing the need for median pedestrian refugees.  However, the city has not adequately demonstrated the exchange of the medians for a world class rapid transit system.  The project leaders have not clarified how many crossings for people on foot would exist along the segment.  Also, it appears to Nob Hillers that this system will simply be going through the neighborhood without stopping (as the current alignment exists).  CABQ and ABQ Ride are not effectively selling the system to the neighborhood.

The city should explain that instead of the medians, Nob Hill could get wider sidewalks or bicycle lanes.

Using Streetmix, here’s how the Nob Hill segment currently looks:

Streetmix: nob hill current

Here’s how this segment could look with bicycle lanes:

Nob Hill, bike lane option

It could also look like this, replacing bicycle lanes with wider sidewalks:

Nob Hill; BRT + street trees

There are many potential positive possibilities.

Lessons from Ft. Collins, CO

On February 21st, the ULI (Urban Land Institute) hosted a full day conference about BRT in Albuquerque called Transit and Place: First Steps.  The day was filled with fantastic presentations from transit providers and developers nationwide.

Kurt Ravenschlag from Ft. Collins, CO delivered a wonderful presentation about the Mason Street Corridor BRT Project.  Initially, the project did not go over well in this mid sized college town.   It was rejected by the business community because the city was not emphasizing the economic benefits of the project, such as increased values around the station areas.   The transit provider was forced to go back to the drawing board.  The re-marketing of the proposal was successful and the project is now being constructed with major local support.

The City of Ft. Collins did not change the project!  They only changed the sales pitch.

All Together Now

The City of Albuquerque is currently working on a Complete Streets Plan for Central Avenue between 1st St. and Girard.  Isolated from the BRT project, this plan has its own webpage, a separate set of public meetings and different group of consultants.

This needs to change.

The BRT plan and the Complete Streets plan are the same thing!  They both have the same vision: increased economic development and a safer more beautiful street for people moving throughout the corridor.  Why are there two separate plans?

Mr. Ravenschlag from Ft. Collins emphasized the importance of first laying out a vision for the corridor.  Streetscaping should be the first conversation, followed by zoning overlays and bicycle/pedestrian access.  After all of that, transit should be discussed.

Reframing the Conversation

Central Avenue is in desperate need of a solution.

Half of all transit trips in the city are on this corridor.

It is Albuquerque’s main street but it is marked by vacant lots, visible poverty, fast moving automobile traffic, high pedestrian fatality rates, unsafe intersections and a lack of cohesiveness.

Rapid transit will be a part of the solution but it can not come at the expense of all the other elements.  Wide shaded sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, rezoning of the corridor, reduction of parking minimums and safe pedestrian crossings at every intersection are all more important to the long term success of Central Avenue.

This project needs a stronger emphasis on the complete streets and economic development elements of the project.

ABQ Ride and the City of Albuquerque need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to sell BRT as a larger part of the revitalization of the Central Avenue corridor.

The sales pitch could be something like this:

IMAGINE… an improved Central Avenue, Albuquerque’s Main Street.  Envision wide, smooth, safe sidewalks shaded with large native street trees.  Think of slow moving vehicle traffic and narrow, easy to cross intersections.  Visualize vacant lots disappearing, then filled with shops next to the sidewalk and apartments above.  Feel the warm summer air as you leave your apartment and walk a few steps away to a rapid transit station.  The station has shade, real time arrival information and other amenities.  However, you barely have time to look at all of it since a transit vehicle arrives every five minutes.  The successful vibrant Albuquerque of the future is linked to this critical corridor.

Can you see it?  I sure can.  For it to manifest, it will take strong local champions and a chorus of voices demanding a safer, more prosperous and more beautiful Albuquerque, a city for PEOPLE, where motor vehicles are guests.

It’s a difficult challenge but it’s our best hope for long term economic vitality.

Get involved!

Please comment below if you have questions or comments about this post.

For more information on the Central Avenue BRT project, click this link.

For more information on the Central Avenue Complete Street Plan, click this link.

Like the Complete Streets in New Mexico Facebook page for more news and information.

Like UrbanABQ on Facebook for more news and information.

Parklets Hit the Primetime

this one!
Channel Four News aired a segment last night about parklets. Tim Trujillo gracefully covered the subject in the video segment, explaining the social and economic benefits of having safe and pleasant places to hang out and spend time Downtown. Here’s a link to the full article and video.

In cities where parklets have already been built (such as NYC and San Francisco) local businesses were not initially supportive. Once businesses realized people spent more money in places where they could safely sit, demand for parklets and plazas increased. For example, in Times Square NYC, a large portion of Broadway Blvd. was converted into a plaza in 2009. Since that change occurred, retail sales and rent values have skyrocketed (Streetsblog NYC). All over America and the world, residents and planners are realizing that people are the key to successful places and spaces; cars are secondary. Soon, Albuquerque will join a group of great American cities that prioritizes space effectively and reallocates space from cars to people without much more than a signed piece of paper. Until that moment, we must all join together and tell our city what we want.

Albuquerque is NOT for cars; it is for us, people, Burqueños. We want to walk and bike and use all of the streets safely. Our city leaders understand this but they need to hear the message more forcefully. Other cities across the country are beginning to realize that endless low density sprawl is a recipe for economic disaster. A strong core is key to the success of a metro area and parklets are a step in the right direction.

-Dan

Design Your Own Street – Central Ave.

This is an example of a streetscape created with Streetmix
Example of a streetscape created with Streetmix

Our post yesterday set the stage well for this post, which will allow the reader to choose street space priorities on his or her own.

Though this was posted a couple of months ago on Atlantic Cities, this neat application is especially relevant as the Central Ave. complete street plan moves forward.

The Central Ave. redesign process (or any street redesign process) is contentious as there is limited right of way, or ROW. Up until the project breaks ground and even after, people will debate the best and highest use of the limited ROW available, especially between I-25 and University. It may seem obvious to us what the best use of the space is but it’s helpful to see what other citizens think about the matter.

Streetmix allows the planner, citizen and any other interested party to truly feel out the options. It allows one to see how many feet of ROW each mode uses.

Here is the approximate available ROW on Central Ave. where this redesign process will be happening.

Between Broadway and I-25 (EDo) –> 83 ft.
Between I-25 and University –> 96 ft.
Between University and Girard –> 115 ft.

The challenge: how much can you squeeze in? BRT (bus rapid transit) lanes? Bike lanes? On street parking?

Happy planning!

-Dan