Category Archives: transit

Burn calories, not carbon pledge

What is to give light must endure burning.  –Viktor Frankl

I just took the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s pledge to help create healthier communities and a healthier planet.  You can take it too.  They ask everyone to help by using active transportation modes (walking, biking, skateboarding, be creative?!) when we can to save carbon and get fit.  Here’s the pledge link:  www.railstotrails.org/pledge

I worked for RTC on a trail survey in Albuquerque.  They are a fine organization taking a forward-thinking approach by repurposing abandoned railways as multi-use pathways.  I also have great memories of an excursion on one of RTC’s projects near Reno, where I used to live.  It is called the Biz Johnson Trail.  It was a great adventure, but back before digital cameras!

Short ride, or long ride, work trip, or recreation trip, or a blended experience, remember, every little bit counts!  Here’s what I wrote on my RTC pledge statement.  They ask you to write a few words about how you will help burn calories and save carbon–

“I ride as much as possible, and share my rides on Strava.  Strava helps make my cycling more visible, and the data collected can be used by community planners.  Strava also helps me get inspired by seeing the activities of others.  My wife and I share one car, and when we are not cycling, we take transit.  Good transit systems are essential to supporting public transportation goals.  I also blog about my cycling activities at bikeyogi.com and work as a community organizer, educator, and transportation analyst at Southwest Bike Initiative, a 501(c)(3) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  swbikeinitiative.wordpress.com/

I miss the TT bike

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Investing in People with Bus Rapid Transit

“Developers gravitate toward places where they see investment happening.”
–Lillian Kuri, on Cleveland’s Health Line

On March 21 Albuquerque City Council voted 7-2 to launch the Bus Rapid Transit project on Central Avenue, our historic main street.  The debate surrounding this big change was passionate.  The project aligns with core economic values by increasing efficiency in the transportation system, and reducing the per capita transportation footprint.  Transit oriented development is a creative process for structuring development around connecting people, creating inclusive economic growth, reshaping the City’s form and updating plans for the future.

Realizing the game changing impacts of this project depends on how well we embrace the opportunities.  If we move forward with a spirit for advancing common goals by leveraging transit’s benefits, Bus Rapid Transit can promote cultural and economic growth, ecological stability and integrity, and a healthier and forward looking City renowned for its vibrancy and innovation.  Here are a few opportunities Bus Rapid Transit on Central opens up.

  • Street ergonomics improve by tailoring infrastructure to support essential mobility freedom and efficiency for people, with traffic flow structured on pedestrian movements
  • Improving public health and pleasure by generating walking during routine daily activities
  • Opportunity for retooling the way construction, transportation and development are done
  • Creates jobs and trains a skilled workforce for sustainable development that can be scaled
  • Sets a leading example as New Mexico’s largest city for sustainable urban development and lifts the quality of experiences for public life in shared spaces, with health at the center
  • Enables ABQ to welcome more population growth without adding traffic congestion
  • Increases connectivity and mobility in our City while reducing car dependency

Welcome ART, ABQ Rapid Transit!  This is an historic moment for Albuquerque.  I’ve been writing consistently about sustainable urban development.  Here are a few blog posts and quotes.

“[the] City is looking forward, not backward.”
“Public works projects…catalyze a cultural shift in thinking about what kinds of policies and infrastructure we should be investing in.”
Reflecting Emerging Values in the Built Environment, September 3, 2015

“Leading edge transit is an integral aspect of the new American dream.”
“A transportation CEO would see this is as easy executive decision to make.  It’s…efficient..”
The Mystery of Albuquerque’s Development, September 18, 2015

“Quality of place is important too — numerous surveys have shown that the physical and intangible features of a city are associated with higher levels of happiness and better health.”
Health and Transportation in Cities, December 11, 2015

“We have to imagine a revitalization of Central Ave. that invites more businesses and people in”.
Land Use Planning and Better Walking and Bicycling, January 21, 2016

sprinkles

Spring is blooming in Albuquerque

Land Use Planning and Better Walking and Bicycling

Land use planning and walking, bicycling and transit are intricately connected.  Planning is probably the most significant area for making transportation more sustainable by crafting our communities to the scale of human living.  Basically this means building denser, mixed use spaces that are more accessible to walk, bike and transit and that reduce demand for car travel.

city_sprawl

Good land use planning makes walk, bike and transit better transportation choices.  Good planning makes the city set up for accessibility by the most basic and efficient travel modes.  It is not something that happens automatically but is change we have to shape and work for.  I’ve heard criticisms of the Bus Rapid Transit system development on Central Ave. making the point that Central currently doesn’t have the kind of density and mixed use development that transit-oriented districts typically have.  That is an invaluable point to listen to, because it means that transportation planning and land use have to coincide for both to be successful.  Rapid Transit including bus and light rail will be most effective when we increase density in urban centers.  We have to imagine a revitalization of Central Ave. that invites more businesses and people in.

The chief advantages of living in a city are that more services are closer together and propinquity (the proximity of people) spawns creative and beneficial human interactions.  Good land use planning maximizes returns on these natural elements.  Suburban living and car lifestyles will remain popular choices, but smart growth development will mean that we start shaping our cities to open up an array of alternatives, helping variety flourish.  It means people won’t feel like they have to own a car to live here or to be taken seriously.  For most families it means the best of both worlds.  You can live where you want, drive when you want to, and you can feel safe walking and bicycling too.  For the large population that doesn’t drive or doesn’t want to drive, you can have first class transportation options too, mobility freedom for all.

Albuquerque is currently updating its Comprehensive Plan.  There are upcoming meetings to involve community members in planning.  The draft plan is online along with other documents for public review.  It is OK to ask for good transportation choices, and expect to see new patterns on the land increasing livability, health, and equity.  We are becoming something more.  I try to keep an open mind, stay involved and work for a future where we all flourish.

Resources:
Graphic from:  http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/07/7-proven-principles-designing-safer-city
https://www.planning.org/policy/guides/adopted/smartgrowth.htm
http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/planning/sample_plans.cfm
http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/guides/smart-growth-at-the-state-and-local-level/education/develop-a-land-use-and-development-curriculum-for-k-12-students/
http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/smart-growth-and-transportation
http://www.bikeleague.org/content/5-es
‘The world is run by those who show up’:  http://abc-zone.com/

Creating Sustainable Streets

There are complex factors underlying good walking and bicycling environments.  The layout of streets and cities is fundamentally important.   The basic structure of cities changed with the advent of mass travel by automobiles.  By the 1950’s cities were sprawling outwards and people were being encouraged to drive longer distances to work and to meet other necessities.  Streets were designed in longer blocks and for higher speeds and maximized for throughput.   This graph shows one of the undesirable consequences of this. (from Bad Street Design Kills People)

garrick-graph_1

Districts built before 1950  “display triple the walking, four times the transit use, six times the bicycling, and immeasurably more charm” (A. Schmidt, Street Design).  But most of the land in Albuquerque and in all Southwestern cities was developed after 1950.  Albuquerque went form 35,000 people in 1940 to 97,000 in 1950, and grew to 200,000 by 1960.  We have upwards of half a million residents today.  Phoenix went from 100,000 in 1950 to 1.5 million today.  A sprawling network of arterial streets and urban space has been prioritized for fast driving.

The Comprehensive Plan and Rezoning process in Albuquerque is a big opportunity to shift the structure and direct the growth of our city.  Making a city that is safe for bicycling begins here.  This means focusing on quality and building places that endure.  Denser, mixed use development locates more destinations within easy reach of bicycle travel, and utilizes the bicycle’s agility, maneuverability and compact footprint to best advantage.  Incentivizing stronger transit systems through transit oriented development makes cars optional and delivers people within walking and bicycling distance (1-3 miles) from every destination.  Enabling people to move via high speed transit all over the city would help build a more connected and livable city.  Citizens can spend more time and allocate more resources for doing what they want to do, and spend less time and money on driving.  This frees us up to generate economic power.

Part of this sustainable urban revolution involves incorporating ecosystem vitality into social spaces.  “The interest in complete streets is part of a growing demand for retooling the rights-of-way in cities to reflect changing values that citizens have now,” says Clark Wilson, senior urban designer, with EPA’s Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation. “Federal departments and agencies are responding by, for instance, including criteria related to livability and sustainability. This approach not only addresses community values, but also is more fiscally sound because of multiple objectives being met with limited funding.” (quoted from Sustainable Streets)

Although the challenge of delivering broader benefits through the design of public spaces is daunting, the expansion in value and the benefit for the public generated by such efforts is worth it.  If we invest now we’ll get eightfold benefits down the road.  This is an economic development opportunity we can be ambitious about, something we can incentivize, a common challenge that unites people and restores nature.  The building blocks for sustainable cities are sustainable streets.  We’ll get better results if we change our view of streets and redesign them  to include all forms of human movement beginning with the indispensible ones, walking and bicycling.  We can create streets that intentionally deliver ecosystem services.  When can create streets to serve a robust economy that matures with connected, equitable, and safe communities.  We’ll spend more time being here rather than passing through.  We have an opportunity to accomplish something great as a generation, and embark on a path of discovery.

References:

The Centerlines newsletter from the National Center for Bicycling and Walking (bikewalk.org) is here:  http://www.bikewalk.org/newsletterarch2015.php

http://www.streetsblog.net/2015/12/01/bad-street-design-kills-people/#more-166214

Sustainable Streets https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/11marapr/02.cfm

Planning for a Healthy Legacy

“Architecture is a background to life…not life itself.”  –J.B. Jackson

For September 2015 the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are my “bike organization of the month”.   Together they have embarked on a two year process of updating the Comprehensive Plan.  This ambitious project is crafting a framework for better integrating bicycling and walking into our everyday living environment.  This planning framework guides the way our region grows.  Bicycling, walking and transit fit into the context of strengthening our community and function as mechanisms for achieving broader goals such as having more mobility choices, an ecologically sustainable economy, better public health, a city built to human scale.  A practical approach is exactly how bicycling made its way into my life.  Biking worked for low cost and agile commuting, but also made me feel good.  I gradually developed more uses for biking including weekend travel, social rides, taking on challenges such as racing, and it became a kind a complete instrument around which my life would grow.  It has helped me develop discipline, meet life’s challenges, and focus on health and well being every day.

fascinating

light

hello sunshine

As municipalities look forward for solutions to stay in business for the long term, deliver better services to their residents, and attract newcomers and sustainable tourism, it is clear that planning for robust walking and bicycling networks is the way to go.   I was reading an article on downtown Ciudad Juárez in the Official 2014 El Paso Visitors Guide.  “The nightlife infrastructure built in the twenties and thirties buoyed Juarez’s entertainment industry well into the seventies.”  But the anything goes perception had negative consequences and did not draw visitation that had positive lasting impacts.  We have a chance to leave a legacy of health and also sway advantageous economic development by attracting a workforce seeking a healthy life centered on personal growth, education, innovation, advancing connections with society and the natural world, while respecting & highlighting the assets that make us grateful to live here.

cactus alighting

river bloom

keep growing up

I’ve heard good questions being asked at community planning events.  How do we help people feel more comfortable outside of our cars?  What makes a good street?  How can we make places where people want to stay and spend time, not feel like they want to rush through?  How can we make living arrangements where our time is spent efficiently, and our travel time is pleasant & useful for exercise, doing work, talking to friends?  Good bicycling, walking and transit networks help with all of these factors for improving quality of life and livability.  We have work to do to make it easy, safe and efficient to move freely around the city without a car.

imprint

sky walk

echoes of light

“It is always that which strikes us as commonplace or absurd which indicates that we are not open to one of the mysteries, for such sentiments are the protective mechanisms which prevent our framework from being shaken.” (Bloom xxii, The Republic of Plato).  Is it commonplace to drive a car everywhere, absurd to travel by bike, take transit and walk?  What does the way we are building our city and city streets say about our mobility choices?  There are plenty of people bicycling and walking now but we need to do more to make these modes viable choices for everyone, so people feel at ease, secure, and free to move around.

“To experience the landscape in terms of its inhabitants”,  J.B. Jackson encouraged us to ask questions about opportunities the landscape offers for making a living, for freedom of choice of action, for meaningful relationships with other people and the landscape itself, for individual fulfillment and for social change (from Teachers by D.W. Meinig).  When we ask questions that involve and engage our senses, empathy and vision,  we have a better chance of directing our powers for shaping our own environments.  An exceptional vision for the whole city is made up of unique individual perspectives.  We are an unfinished authentic city shaping a new legacy.

AZ Highway 82

dynamic Crest

Bike house

References:
Albuquerque + Bernalillo County’s two year long Comprehensive Planning and Zoning Code update process is detailed here at http://abc-zone.com/ .  Feel free to get involved.

Quotes from The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays by Donald Meinig  and  The Republic of Plato introductory essay by Allan Bloom

Check out the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy blog to see more on how building Active Transportation infrastructure is leaving a healthy legacy in communities and rural places:
http://www.railstotrails.org/trailblog/

When calculating how to place persons walking and bicycling into the roadway width, this information resource is helpful for engineers and all the departments working together to make great streets in Albuquerque:  http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/library/details.cfm?id=4348

All photos mine except the photo of bicyclists from Arizona and New Mexico, which is from this story:  Arizona Gets Approval for US Bicycle Route 90

The Mystery of Albuquerque’s Development

“Nobody would teach me anything!”
–Edward Van Halen on the impetus for developing his original guitar playing style

I saw some press in the Daily Lobo and ABQ Journal on the rapid transit project this morning.  This discussion is a leap for Albuquerque.  Though we can cite other city’s projects, we truly are learning how to do great transit in Albuquerque as we go along.  The Daily Lobo article shared this photo (below) of a rendering of a transit station.  And mentioned that the Federal funds would provide 80% of the project costs.  ABQ’s investment of 20 million could return about 2-3 billion in private investment along the Central Ave. corridor.  Private investors come to where the public sector is building a strong foundation for long term community improvement.

ABQ Rapit Transit station rendering 2015.9.18

It looks like a comfortable and relaxing streetscape.  I’ve heard different arguments based on fears about the shift in modes this change offers.  Because transit, walking and biking are many times more efficient than private motor coaches, the overall capacity for helping people enjoy Central Avenue will be enhanced with improved rapid transit service.  That’s why all world class cities have invested in superb transit.  A transportation CEO would see this is as easy executive decision to make.  It’s more efficient, safer and creates better options for everyone.  Rapid transit service spans the economic continuum and includes people that can’t afford spending $10,000/year on auto travel, or who want to invest their funds in education, family travel, or other enterprises.  It helps people save money, improves the environment, and it may come in handy for all of us to let a professional do the driving from time to time.

Competitive transit creates paradigm shifts in the transportation system.  With quicker, more user friendly and reliable transit service, it becomes possible for residents off of Coors on the West Mesa, and Tramway on the East, to ride bikes, walk, or take transit to the express line and commute in to their jobs, school, or for cultural activities throughout central Albuquerque using multi mode travel.   Since this type of project planning is new to Albuquerque I think it is natural there is a learning curve, and it is a process and investment to build up the public trust.  The framework should continually be refined and strengthened by public and private partnerships working together.  The re-creation of the heart of Albuquerque is an ongoing development.  Transportation is a powerful tool to align and structure cities and attract people.

This transit is a good opportunity for spreading the goodness of Nob Hill’s stimulating and vibrant action with new iterations driven by the local themes in diverse neighborhoods.  Same great service throughout the corridor, with variations in flavor and style.  This is the core ingredient for urban vitality.  Albuquerque has it.  If anything the new rapid transit proposal is not ambitious enough, but extending service or doing light rail is considerably more expensive.  And the transit authority is already talking about the next steps in expanding service and connectivity in the system along the airport hub and Paseo del Norte corridor, which is good.

Albuquerque Rapid Tranist represents a renewal of our whole city.  A big part of our identity and how we see things stems from how we move.  Being able to sit back and relax, talk to neighbors, and make travel time productive time whether for work, reading, or resting makes a huge difference in our capacity to enjoy the amenities living in this great city offers.  We don’t have to worry about being able to enjoy our driving.  We’ll always be able to do that.  Expanding mobility freedoms and welcoming diversity in America has been key to our success.  I would dare to say that leading edge transit is an integral aspect of the new American dream.

Resources:

Vancouver’s Greenest City Plan is forward thinking, inclusive and smart.  We still have more sun.  And we have genuine, great, diverse people who deserve improvements.
http://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/greenest-city-action-plan.aspx

The Daily Lobo’s article Central Rapid Transit Improves Commuter Flow
http://www.dailylobo.com/article/2015/09/plans-for-new-rapid-transit-system

The Albuquerque Journal also had an article this morning that searches for a cohesive narrative on modern transit and how it supports economic and social mobility, and makes our transportation system more robust, flexible and accessible.

Reflecting Emerging Values in the Built Environment

“Non-partisan public works projects…begin the physical transformation required to attract future residents and jobs, but also catalyze a cultural shift in thinking about what kinds of policies and infrastructure we should be investing in.  This cultural shift will mean far more for global sustainability than any physical project ever could.”  Ryan Gravel, for CNN

“City is looking forward, not backward.”  –Steven Lit on Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue transformation organized around transit, walking and biking instigated by bus rapid transit service, which catalyzed billions in investment for highly livable development.

Albuquerque Rapid Transit, or ART

One thing that stands out when you visit Albuquerque is the variety you see along mainstreet, Central Avenue, which spans the entire city lengthwise on an east west axis.  It’s kind of a mixed bag with strong incongruities.  The Albuquerque Rapid Transit project could be a gamechanger in the way we approach this historic public space known for its vital connectivity.

Rapid Transit has been transformational in places such as Euclid Avenue in Cleveland.  It can provide a spine to tie together all the walkable, livable and thriving places on Central including downtown, the University of New Mexico, the community college, the Innovation District, Nobb Hill, health care facilities, Sandia Labs, Kirtland Air Force Base, as well as serving as a lifeline feeding emerging development.  When people have low cost and low stress transportation choices, behaviors change, and money and energy is freed up to invest in building up the economy and quality living.   Most of all it regenerates the quality of life along Central Avenue by enabling more mixed use development and human scale activities.  Quality of life is our economy, and we need to expand the quality so it flows up and down Central Ave.

Green development of the built environment along Central makes for a perfect analogue to the linear park the Rio Grande makes in its north south flow across the city.  Rapid transit helps us maintain our diverse neighborhoods and community centers but links the arts, science, culture and food that Albuquerque is so famous for together in a new way.  When we are traveling we’ll enjoy where we are at and give more attention to the people that matter to us.  We’ll have better access to outdoor amenities and adventure.  You could get on the transit to take a trip to Tingley Park and the river, or bring your bike along and go to either end of the line, and ride out into the wild open spaces of the West Mesa or foothills.  Excellent public spaces are there for us all to enjoy.  High tech businesses and small entrepreneurial endeavors can more easily intermingle.  Everyone will have better access to education and schools.  Government hubs and transportation centers such as Alvarado and the Airport can be more closely tied in.

We’ve got a lot of issues along Central right now, and how we deal with those determines our future.  Transit is a strong idea to put forward and see how it can compete with the other contenders to bring proactive solutions.  Cities are complex systems, at the intersection of health, environment, transportation, social and economic development.  It’s easy to envision rapid transit on Central providing a platform and network for positive change in Albuquerque.

Research shows rapid transit is not a speculative endeavor, but a proven generator of efficiency, creativity, and connectivity, and an attractor for private investment and talented people.  It’s a transportation fundamental that galvanizes business investment & lifts quality of life.  The chief determinant of success is leadership and people’s willingness to go for a new ride together.

References and notes:

Albuquerque’s polling results for “Where do you think the city should focus most of its future transportation investments” yielded high favorability for biking infrastructure, smart traffic management systems, and pedestrian-focused environments.  The bus rapid transit system includes a new traffic management system which can be programmed for higher performance.
http://abc-zone.com/document/survey-polling-results (page 14)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HealthLine
“The vehicles run on a diesel-electric hybrid motor system that produce 90% less emissions than regular buses.”

Turning Urban Sprawl into Sustainable Cities by Ryan Gravel, CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/23/opinion/beltline-sprawl-gravel-opinion/index.html
“This kind of change [the conversion of urban infrastructure] is critical to the region’s economic success — to any region struggling to reinvent itself so that it can thrive in the global marketplace.  Because while these new perspectives contrast sharply with previous generations who built our sprawling roadway network, they mirror national shifts in preferences about the built environment driven largely by a general disenchantment with car-dependent lifestyles and an increasing desire for cultural authenticity in the places we live and work.”

Euclid Corridor Project Helps Drive 4 Billion in Cleveland Development by Steven Lit
http://www.cleveland.com/arts/index.ssf/2008/02/euclid_corridor_project_helps.html
“Developers gravitate toward places where they see investment happening.  There’s no question it’s [the bus rapid transit investment] a catalyst.”  — Lillian Kuri, Cleveland Foundation quoted in Steven Lit’s article

Innovate ABQ + Innovation Corridor by Tim Trujillo
http://www.dpsdesign.org/how-we-work/knowledge-center/innovate-abq-innovation-corridor
I can see the innovation corridor that Tim describes extending to a third community activity center, Hiland Community, and a fourth node to Sandia Labs, Four Hills and Tramway.  Extending mixed use development and livable communities harbored on Central’s rapid transit helps everyone, and increases access to the colleges and downtown employment centers for residents of the Southeast Heights including the International District.

Right along Central now we have hidden gems such as Environmental Dynamics, Inc., which are poised to contribute to the making of the new sustainable, human scale and ecologically oriented built environment.  EDI-arch has many design and building projects pulling in the culture and heritage of New Mexico around their theme of regenerative design.
http://edi-arch.com/portfolio/on-the-boards/el-camino-real/el-camino-real-information

One of the things we might consider when envisioning the future is adding an anchor building to balance the Central Avenue corridor, expanding the breadth of the cultural shed lengthwise across the city, much like the Whitney Museum’s placement on the Highline did for NY City.  Or we can add two new buildings, one on either side of the river.