Category Archives: planning

Change Leadership in Comprehensive Planning

I attended the transportation focus group last Friday, which is part of the Comprehensive Plan update process.  The community conversation is happening at a pretty high level.  But to create the kind of changes we need, the work has just begun.  A few quotes came to mind.

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”— Albert Einstein

Sunset April 14 at Grant Park

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”  — Mark Twain

Seven story pagoda

‘Learn all you can about where you are.  Make common cause with place.  Resolve to work with it for a long time…to make a living is to have enough.’ –Wendell Berry interviewed by Bill Moyers

Albuquerque nights

The photos are from recent sunsets in Albuquerque from Grant Park, right near where I live.  Here’s the Wendell Berry interview with Bill Moyers.  Wendell’s an innovative thinker about people and place, and wrote a book on sustainable agriculture, the Unsettling of America.

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

Changing Perceptions of Our Streets

I found a good example of model language for a community wide vision for complete streets from Change Lab Solutions, “law and policy innovation for the common good”.   We are in the public comment phase now for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Comprehensive Planning and Zoning update process.  Now is a good time to chime in.  Here’s an example of what kinds of changes citizens can ask for pertaining to the way we structure our city going forward:

Transportation Vision Statement: The community of Albuquerque envisions a transportation system that encourages healthy, active living, promotes transportation options and independent mobility, increases community safety and access to healthy food, reduces environmental impact, mitigates climate change, and supports greater social interaction and community identity by providing safe and convenient travel along and across streets through a comprehensive, integrated transportation network for pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and drivers, push scooters and skateboarders, and people of all ages and abilities, including children, youth, families, older adults, and individuals with disabilities.

The technical know how for designing complete streets is here.  We know how to empower the movement of people beyond private automobiles.  Here’s a good example of how we do that at a detailed level, from intersection design to lane widths and signal timing:
http://www.ite.org/css/online/DWUT10.html

We do that, we might be able to improve healthspan, a concept that combines longevity with quality of life.  Doug Seals is doing a talk at CU, Boulder on healthspan.   My work focuses on this intersection of health, transportation, and the opportunities to make improvements.  Supporting health in the environment and people is a mutual goal that takes care of our greatest economic assets, a healthy planet and a healthy happy empowered humankind.

piñon stand

Resources Focused on Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

Here are a trio of resources for improving roads.  These are good tools for connecting communities together around caring for safer roads.  Now’s the time for responsible action.

Safer People, Safer Streets: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative  by the USDOT
Everyday Counts
initiative by the FHWA Center for Innovation
FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act), America’s five year transportation bill

In December 2015 Congress passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), a five year bill that increases funding for bicycle and pedestrian safety education, awareness, and enforcement. The FAST Act allocates additional funding for the purpose of decreasing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and injuries that result from crashes involving a motor vehicle to States where the annual combined pedestrian and bicycle fatalities exceed 15 percent of the total annual crash fatalities in the State.  Of 20 States eligible for this additional funding, 6 are in the Southwest U.S., AZ, CA, UT, NV, NM, and TX.  Funding may be used for “training of law enforcement officials on State laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety; enforcement mobilizations and campaigns designed to enforce State traffic laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety; and public education and awareness programs designed to inform motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists of State traffic laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

The road diet program in Everyday Counts helps reconfigure roadways to encourage or accommodate a wider array of transportation modes.  It simplifies operation and helps to calm traffic, making it a more inviting place for everyone.  Crashes are reduced by 19 to 47 percent.

The Safer People, Safer Streets initiative has a family of programs including the Mayors’ Challenge, Road Safety Assessments, and Road Safety for Transit Patrons.  I’ve participated in two Road Safety Assessments in New Mexico and hope to do more and apply our knowledge.

There is also a Focused Approach To Safety program where eligible States may receive “technical assistance such as data analysis and action plan development from initiation to implementation; training and associated materials in a variety of formats, including classroom-based workshops or online webinars; support for a wide range of analysis tools and countermeasures”.  New Mexico is a focus State for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

statemap_fas2015

Looking forward to keeping you updated as we work with these programs.

Strava Connects Athletes with Planners

Strava technology blows my mind.  Strava has united what I’ve always done, bicycling, with my current project in long range transportation planning, design and education.  I’ve always thought the best way to advocate for bicycling is to do it.  I’m good at that.  With Strava, a free application that tracks your movement with GPS from a device as simple as your current cell phone, our riding becomes visible to planners and elected officials.  It literally makes your riding count and show up as evidence on how much and where people are bicycling.

If you’re riding and you’re not on Strava, please sign up for Strava for free.

La Luz piñon

This makes a huge difference.  Metro Planning Organizations have been counting cars since the 1970’s, but systematic counts for pedestrians and bicyclists have not been programmed as well.  So the lack of statistical “evidence” that people are walking and bicycling has been detrimental to justifying the allocation of funds for making improvements.  Strava says “nearly one-half of all rides on Strava in denser metro areas are commutes so Strava Metro data gives great insight into the needs of those riding for transportation.”  Strava is doing us all kinds of favors, including breaking down false divides between people that bike for health (“sport”) and for those that bike for transportation (“utility”).  People bike for all reasons, just like we use cars.

Winter ride

Aside from the social networking you can do with Strava, such as tracking your friends’ rides, and taking pictures and uploading them to rides (the photos on this blog post are from my rides on Strava), you are serving a greater purpose too by making your riding more visible and making it part of a big data set.  Strava is my bike org. of the month for December 2015.

S14 descending

Sign up for Strava:  http://www.strava.com/how-it-works
Follow me on Strava:  https://www.strava.com/athletes/1817826

References:
http://metro.strava.com/faq/
http://metro.strava.com/
http://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#6/-120.90000/38.36000/blue/bike

from Strava Metro

Strava Metro is a data service providing “ground truth” on where people ride and run. Millions of GPS-tracked activities are uploaded to Strava every week from around the globe. In denser metro areas, nearly one-half of these are commutes. These activities create billions of data points that, when aggregated, enable deep analysis and understanding of real-world cycling and pedestrian route preferences.”

Here’s a little heat map screen print from our bicycle rides in Albuquerque:

Strava Heat ABQ 2016

Walking UNM

I took a walk on the University of New Mexico’s main campus yesterday after a meeting.  I had planned to visit the library but it was a nice day to walk and look at that horizon where the landscape meets the sky.  The wooden trim and decorated beams adorning buildings and the places where adobe brushes celestial blue make for an abstract charm such as music imparts.

UNM blanca

UNM chapel wood

UNM double corners

The integration of the built and natural environment is exceptional in New Mexico.  Cultural traditions intertwine and inspire new creations.  Trees lend a rooted and organic flavor.

UNM colors

UNM Maxwell Adobe Wall

UNM chapel

UNM spikey desert plants

Everything in planning and design is about getting it down to human scale.  And making the big things like buildings approachable and inviting.  The vernacular architecture of UNM makes the mundane seem extraordinary and imbues an everyday walk with a special character.  The upclose environment is warm and stimulating.  Clouds roll and dissolve in the mile high sky against distant mountain drops.  The omnipresent sun.  Time has a way of vanishing here.

UNM opening

UNM turqoise courtyard

UNM spiral

UNM big office

UNM greetings

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/

What Bicycling Can Do

When Lance Armstrong wrote about his comeback from cancer, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back To Life, he struck a universal chord.  The bicycle does so many things for individuals and society.  It’s a vehicle for networking and moving forward.  Here are opportunities to get more involved and learn about what the bike can do for you and your community.

Bike Summits
February 8 -9, 2016 – Colorado Bicycle Summit, Denver, CO
March 7-9, 2016 – National Bike Summit, Washington, D.C.
April 1, 2016 – Arizona Bike Summit, Mesa, AZ
April 5, 2016 – Utah Bike Summit, Salt Lake City, UT
April 23, 2016 – New Mexico Bike Summit, Las Cruces, NM

Interdisciplinary Conferences
June 13-15, 2016, International Conference on Transport & Health, San Jose, CA
August 30 – September 2, 2016 – 5th IENE International Conference on Ecology and Transportation
November 16 – 19, 2016, 6th International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health, Bangkok, Thailand

Check out the latest editions of Centerlines from the National Center for Bicycling and Walking to see more of what’s happening on the national and global stage around bicycling.

Mountains

Bicycling outdoors immerses us in exquisite places like this, even on a simple commute or lunch ride

ABQ Bike Tramway Trail

ABQ has a great multiuse path system. Here is the Tramway Trail from the Candelaria bike/ped bridge

ABQ bike Paseo del Norte Trail

The Paseo del Norte trail climbing up into Bear Canyon for more close up views of the Sandia Mountains

Corrales

NM tram

Tramway Boulevard from the Candelaria bike/ped overpass

La Luz trail

Foothill roads such as La Luz can take you right up into the Mountains (watch for snow and ice!)

 

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

Health and Transportation in Cities

“Denser metros where greater shares of residents walked or bike to work were healthier than more sprawling metros where larger shares of people drove to work by themselves.  The way we live — not just what we eat and how much we exercise — appears to play a big role in how healthy we are.”  –Richard Florida in The Gaurdian, The Sickness at the Heart of Modern Cities

“Individuals, communities, and governments around the world have, for decades, sought ways to curb the growing rate of childhood obesity. Some of the most successful efforts have happened at the community level.”  —Getter Our Arms Around Obesity , Santa Fe Institute

Transportation choice is a focal point for empowering public health and wellness, sustainability in cities, and an equitable and connected society.  In Southwest cities like Albuquerque we see the distinctive characteristics of post World War II urban growth oriented around the capabilities of the car.  We are becoming acutely aware of the limitations, costs and drawbacks of car centric development.  The next step seems to involve imagining a transportation ecosystem that moves past car dependence and gives us more balanced and diverse choices.  The new economy is about uniting people and technology to make positive impacts.  People, not goods and machines, are the orientation point.  For instance some of most cutting edge developments such as Facebook are really about growing networks and social connectivity amongst people.  Successful technologies are people-focused enterprises.

Amazingly the physical structures of our cities correlate with social symptoms.  When we spend too much time in cars cut off from the ability to speak to each other we can manifest social symptoms of alienation, loneliness and despair.  Even aggressiveness, frustration, violence.  When can get heart disease and diabetes.  “Social isolation that occurs in cities and vulnerability to disease are closely associated.” (Richard Florida in the Guardian).

The good news is we have purposeful work to do that unites us around common goals and objectives.  Its about an all of the above, inclusive approach.  Cars plus safety plus choices.  Albuquerque has genuinely made progress.  We have city wide initiatives like Innovate ABQ to spur the post-industrial, people centered economy.  And we have a strong welling up of community based organizations such as the projects sponsored by the Río Grande Community Development Corporation.  We don’t have to work alone but can use our passions  to be a part of an emergent way of living that brings us together.  Exploring with open minds helps us realize the potential benefits of simple technologies such as bicycling in our citiy’s ecosystem.  Sustainable transportation is something we can design that mimics the structure of energy flow in natural and biological systems.  Like blood in the body, we have to inhibit “free radicals” in our transportation system, such as irresponsible driving of vehicles, to protect the healthy cells.   Bicycling is part of the community toolkit we are developing to organize around core principles that promote the wellbeing of life on earth.  Health and happiness are indicators.

“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.”

“Cities themselves need to become more like teaching hospitals where researchers, policy-makers, urbanists and residents can come together to identify the most effective ways to promote healthier lifestyles.” ( (from Florida’s article in The Gaurdian).

Abundance and growth

engines of life in the South Valley