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ART a vital piece in city’s renaissance

The DNA of the 21st Century economy is significantly different from the past. The new economy is forcing communities to retool in an effort to stay relevant.

Cities are investing in the types of infrastructure that will do just that. At stake are new economy workers and jobs that every city wants to attract or is working to create.

Innovation districts, urban redevelopment, downtown revitalization, and mass transit are just some of the tools that communities are heavily investing in.

Ten years ago, Forbes rated Albuquerque the No. 1 city for business and careers. Since the Great Recession, it feels as though the city has been in a state of analysis paralysis: Change is needed.

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As a born and raised millennial Burqueño it is painful to watch the older generation hold on to the past so tightly.

As an urban designer and planner now residing in Portland, Ore., I am getting a first-hand view of the new economy taking hold in Portland, Silicon Valley and Seattle.

These cities are leveraging billions in transit and other infrastructure to set the stage for enhanced quality of life and private enterprise. The results are well documented.

Portland just spent more than $100 million on a bridge that only serves trains, pedestrians and bicyclists — millennials, families and retirees alike swoon and flock. Planning for change is good.

ART is Albuquerque’s best opportunity to begin developing a high-quality mass transit system. These systems save citizen’s time, money or both.

ART would create a spine from which to build a larger network with future phases connecting to the Sunport, Journal Center, and eventually the West Side.

Central Avenue is the right place to invest in this foundational kind of infrastructure.

Downtown continues to surge while Nob Hill is seeing residential and commercial growth. West Central and Old Town are experiencing renewed vitality as well.

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This is not an anomaly, it’s a trend observed worldwide, as people increasingly want to live proximate to vibrant, walkable communities that are served by reliable and frequent transit.

Slowly but surely, Albuquerque reflects this movement.

ART would reinforce redevelopment efforts that are already underway. This is the point of mass transportation, to efficiently and effectively facilitate the movement of people to places they need and want to go while improving the collective bottom line. Change is slow.

A walk along Central proves that all is not well.

Vacant storefronts, narrow sidewalks, lack of vegetation, and speeding traffic do not a healthy, urban community make.

The median street trees do more for the aesthetic joy of drivers than the pedestrians who are actually spending money at local shops and restaurants.

The City’s ART proposal has been identified by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy as a potential Gold Standard system for bus rapid transit, a quantifiable moniker yet to be accomplished by any other community in North America. This is a tip of the hat to the city and its consultants who carefully crafted a solid plan for ART. Change is hard.

Albuquerque is a city that is urban, suburban and rural. There are myriad stakeholders that need convincing.

From a global perspective, cities are the new states and regions in the new economy. It is time the city acted on behalf of future generations to begin to implement the kind of infrastructure that will help the city to compete.

ART is an elegant and modern bus technology that will help Albuquerque progress. It will help the city to attract jobs that will keep its children in the area and convince others, like myself, to eventually return to live in the great southwest city of Albuquerque.

Hard choices need to be made to generate change that is good. ART is on the dedicated lane to doing just that.

Embrace change because it is necessary and overdue.


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