Presbyterian’s Plan to Turn Silver Avenue Into Parking: The Simple and Not-So-Simple

Like most things, it’s more complicated than it might appear. On a simple level, you have a health-care facility, a beacon of healthy living incarnate, suggesting it needs more places for people driving cars to park at the expense of people riding bikes.

On a simple level, it sounds amazingly ill-conceived.

But it’s more complicated than that. Or is it?

Presbyterian Hospital wants to reconfigure its vehicle entrance and expand its parking lots. If you’ve ever tried to park at Pres, you’ve experienced frustration in finding a spot in the hodge-podge of lots amounting to about 3,000 parking spaces. Employees aside, almost everyone driving to Pres is also experiencing the heightened stress of having somewhere dear to them in the hospital. Put together, these lots are a sad site of stressed folks driving up, down and around nearly filled lots, anxious looks invariably on their faces.

I know. I have seen these people many times as I cycle up/down the Silver Bike Boulevard amid these lots. The on-street parking along Silver constitutes something of a last-resort, and I’ve passed and/or waited on many over the years as they loop around the dead-end at Sycamore and parallel-park in the few spaces along the street:

sycamore and silver

So Pres wants to expand its lots, while better organizing public entrance to its “campus,” using Spruce at Central as its main entrance instead of the existing Cedar near I-25. Adding to the complexity is a number of permutations affecting projected parking needs. These include:

  • Current Pres parking north of Central that will lost with impending development;
  • A slight reduction in the number of beds/patients at the Hospital;
  • Moving handicapped parking from the site parking garage to a safer place closer to the front door of the Hospital;
  • City planning revision in the required size of parking spaces that would mean increased parking capacity in the same size lot; and,
  • A proposed Pres “greenspace” amid the lots that would offer a park-like oasis amid the sea of parking hell.

So the math is a bit complicated and the current situation stressfully untenable. Still, boiling away the complexity and stress, the bottom line is that Pres, beacon of health that it is, is proposing:

  • Terminating this idyllic portion of Silver Bike Boulevard three blocks early;
  • Losing the absolutely “sweet” diverter situation at Sycamore (in photo), one that allows for bikes while stopping cars;
  • Forcing Bike Boulevard cyclists south to busy Lead (downhill) and Coal (uphill) to/from downtown;
  • Eradicating these idyllic blocks of median filled with big old trees (the aged nature of the trees is, in fact, another complexity here) blending so nicely with the remainder of Silver in the “Silver Hill” neighborhood running east to Yale; and,
  • Encouraging the inherently unhealthy act of having more people drive cars and fewer take other means of transportation to get to the Hospital.

Any way you slice the bullet points…this just doesn’t look good. It doesn’t make any sense. Adding another dollop of complexity is that the City, at least certain departments in CABQ, are more than okay with Pres taking over care and maintenance of this stretch of Silver. I mentioned the old trees earlier, and City crews currently have the hassle that comes with old trees (fallen branches, watering, etc.).

So, once again, public policy deals with issues of simplicity versus complexity. Having attended a meeting on the Pres plan yesterday, it is interesting to note that one or two aspects of potential simplicity here haven’t, to this point, received quite enough consideration. Namely:

  1. Have fewer customers and employees drive to Pres;
  2. Provide navigation tools to customers that make finding available parking spots far easier.

In defense of the lack of consideration for these ideas, we’re are talking about a city and country that has, for decades, answered automobile parking questions with a simple answer: More Parking! Simple! And in this paradigm we, as a car-culture, have immersed ourselves, ideas like taking other ways to get somewhere and providing navigation tools once there seem complicated.

But are they really any more complicated than manufacturing additional parking and eradicating three blocks of neighborhood history and Bike Boulevard?

No.

The folks at Pres were very open to new ideas during the meeting yesterday, as they continue to prepare for formal approval of the project before CABQ’s Development Review Board (DRB) next Wednesday, the 13th. Information on the Board can be found at this page, including contact info. DRB approval, if granted, would be followed by City Council final action on the idea. Thus, there do exist avenues, so to speak, for interested parties to help decision-makers better understand what’s simple and not-so-simple regarding this proposal.

 

 

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