Walkable, bikeable and mass transit are the buzzwords of new urbanism these days.
A walkable, bikeable urban environment with mass transit is conducive to reducing our dependence on cars – or so the reasoning goes – which has the domino effect of reducing our carbon footprints and, in turn, reducing climate change.
A new generation of consumers, known as millennials, has given some added impetus to that rationale.
“The millennials get it,” said Todd Clarke of Cantera Consultants & Advisors. “They want to live in a city where you spend less time in a car and more time enjoying life.”
It’s not easy to illustrate visually what walkable, bikeable and transit oriented means to our carbon footprint – not to mention air quality and rush-hour traffic – but a group of people from both the public and private sectors has produced a posterlike image that seems to do it.
Headlined “NM Transportation Comparison,” the poster has three side-by-side photographs taken on the first block of Gold Avenue SW, looking east toward the Alvarado Transportation Center.
The photo on the left shows the block filled curb to curb with 36 cars. The photo in the middle shows 36 bicyclists stopped in the middle of a mostly empty street. The one on the right shows one city bus stopped with 36 passengers standing in front of it, again on a mostly empty street.
“The idea was conceptualizing an image so the public could understand it quickly when they look at it,” said Augusta Meyer of the Mid-Region Council of Governments.
The idea for grouping the images on a poster originated almost 15 years ago in Muenster, Germany, and has since achieved almost iconic status, said Clarke, who orchestrated the effort to do a localized Albuquerque version through the Urban Land Institute’s New Mexico chapter.
“We were all tired of using the dated German poster,” he said.
The poster image will be distributed free to urban planners, economic developers, real estate brokers and any others who might want to incorporate it in presentations, Clarke said. The poster’s target audience is primarily millennials, so called because they came of age somewhere around the year 2000 and later, he said.
An important element in the poster is the line that gives the walk, bike and transit scores for the Gold Avenue location. The scores are impressively high – 91 for both walking and biking, 58 for transit – and emphasize that Albuquerque has been called one of the most walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented cities in the West, Clarke said.
The walk-bike-transit scores are from the Seattle-based website WalkScore.com, which ranks Albuquerque as the 28th most walkable large city among 141 that have been rated. In addition to offering its walk-bike-transit scores, the website is a marketplace for rental housing.
Noting that most errands require a car here, WalkScore.com says, “Albuquerque has some public transportation and is somewhat bikeable.”
Albuquerque also shows up on the website as the fifth worst city in the country for residents to have grocery stores selling produce within a five-minute walk from their homes.
Only 7 percent of Albuquerque’s population can walk quickly to a store to buy fresh vegetables, according to WalkScore.com. The bottom cities are Indianapolis and Oklahoma City at 5 percent, and Charlotte, N.C., and Tucson at 6 percent.
The low rating brings to mind the yearslong effort to locate a grocery store in Downtown, which could come to fruition with the planned construction of the Imperial Building at 205 Silver SW. Scheduled to get underway in December, the ground floor of the four-story building has space for a grocery store.
WalkScore.com has walk-bike-transit scores for neighborhoods in Albuquerque. Not surprisingly, the top 10 includes nine neighborhoods in the Central Avenue corridor from Old Town east to roughly San Pedro, and one neighborhood on the east side of Uptown.
It’s likely not a coincidence that at a recent “Infill 101″ seminar held by a commercial real estate group, the Central corridor was described as having high potential for redevelopment from Old Town to Nob Hill. The seminar featured a series of hypothetical redevelopment scenarios, two of which were in the corridor.
A third hypothetical redevelopment scenario was the novel concept of a cyclist-oriented brew pub on a vacant lot at Menaul and Vassar NE, next to the heavily used bike path along the North Diversion Channel. A bicycle shop would be co-located with the brew pub.
A cyclist-oriented brew pub sounds hipster, but it was noted at the seminar that a lot of people would bike to a brew pub to avoid drinking and driving.
Don’t expect Albuquerque’s love affair with the car to go away anytime soon. Most home builders will tell you that a garage is prerequisite for a new home to sell, thus all the subdivisions where the view from the street is rows of garage doors.
It remains to be seen whether millennials will prove all that different from their parents living in bedroom communities.
By: Richard Metcalf (Albuquerque Journal)
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