A friend of mine moved away because he had tired of Albuquerque. He was tired of the one-horse-town mentality and the desert heat. He’d had enough, he said.
I love Albuquerque and defended its honor. But I had to laugh when he said, “You know what? The motto for Albuquerque should be ‘Almost Albuquerque!’ ”
It has become evident that ABQ the Plan is ripe for that motto. And let me make it clear I am against partisan city politics (I am not registered with any party). There are no Republican or Democratic potholes. But working together doesn’t mean giving half-baked ideas a free ride.
ABQ the Plan is a blueprint for mediocrity, or worse. Here are three examples:
- Paseo del Norte at I-25 Interchange:
As a member of the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee, I attended a meeting on March 10 presenting the latest plan for the bicycle facility crossing the interchange. It is inherently unsafe and massively inefficient. Almost unusable. The mayor, and his engineering staff, have proven they care very little about pedestrians or bicyclists.
Cities that are attracting business and people, cities with vibrant economies, understand ideas about commuting and urban living are changing rapidly. Furthermore, this design/build boondoggle will do little in the long run, or even the short run, to ease East/West traffic congestion. Mid-Region Council of Governments projections have made it clear there is no way to build our way out of our worst traffic problems.
We need to get cars off the road. Otherwise, we’re looking at longer and longer commutes across the river. One way to get some cars off the road is to build safe, accessible bicycle facilities that will encourage people to ride to work. But, of course, building deadly, time-consuming mazes like the Paseo del Norte/I-25 bicycle facility won’t help there. Almost Albuquerque!
- Bus rapid transit:
Transit in Albuquerque can no longer be an afterthought. On March 12, the Journal printed a front-page story on bus rapid transit (BRT) in Albuquerque. The paper pointed out the mayor had run against the modern streetcar proposal his first time around. He has been quoted saying that BRT is less expensive and just as good as a streetcar. Penny wise and pound foolish.
What the mayor doesn’t talk about is that over the life of the system the streetcar can be less expensive, or that, almost without exception, streetcars have higher ridership, or that investment along streetcar routes is higher than BRT, or that streetcars are quieter and more efficient, or that they are not even interchangeable transit tools.
If we had gone ahead with the streetcar, we could now be enjoying the economic renaissance that comes with streetcar infrastructure along Central (ask Tucson) and laying down plans for BRT along Lomas where it’s a better fit. So, while I’m happy to see any new transit come on line, let’s be clear that this is another Almost Albuquerque! moment.
- 50-mile activity loop:
This was a bicycle loop. The mayor’s office sought approval from the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee, which was not forthcoming. If you want to spend this kind of money on bicycle infrastructure, fix the dangerous, substandard facilities now touted on the city bike map, connect the dots where facility gaps make getting somewhere dangerous or impossible and then publish a pamphlet of the dozens of “loops” created.
The loop became an “activity” loop. How many people are going to be making that 50-mile walk with their dog? We have one of the best climates in the world for bicycling. We should have the best bicycle facilities.
This would benefit the health of our city in numerous ways. Unfortunately, the mayor and his city engineers like to pay lip service to bicyclists and pedestrians, but take actions that shows their disdain for anything but the old commuting paradigm. Almost Albuquerque!
Moisés A. González’ views expressed above do not represent the views of the Environmental Planning Commission, of which he is a member, or the Greater Albuquerque Bicycling Advisory Committee.