Build Yourself a Mother of a Road: Central at Tulane

Note: BB wrote yesterday that our next post would be one offering solutions on the currently problematic plans to “improve” the intersection of Coors Blvd. & Blake Rd. S.W., and its immediate roadway environs. We’ll get to that one, using today’s post as a bit of a pedagogical springboard. Apologies for the misdirection, but check this space tomorrow for how we used “Streetmix” to craft a potentially better Coors & Blake.

Regardless of how one feels, positive or negative, about the many road construction projects going on around the Duke City, it’s inarguable that orange barrels, orange poles, orange poles with lights on top of it, you name it, orange is the color of more than just the President-Elect’s campaign skin tone these days. We’re awash in orange.

And, of course, nowhere is the orange of road construction more prominent and controversial than the “Mother Road,” Route 66, Central Avenue. Whether you like it or not, Mayor Berry and his “merry band of progressive thinkers” (a.k.a. “henchmen and henchwomen,” if you’re against the project) are tearing up Central Avenue and, in a manner of speaking, starting from scratch.

Maybe you would like to have that kind of power and realize your dream for Albuquerque’s Mother Road, whether that vision is keeping it exactly as it has been in recent years, precisely how it looked (at least the road and sidewalk) in that iconic Ernst Haas photo taken back in 1969 (you know the one), or something like this photo taken in 1917 along Central.



(Photo: Albuquerque Museum Photo Archives; Milner Studio/Crouch Collection)

Yeah, ABQ did have first a horse-drawn and then electric streetcar running on Central. For decades. Some of us are pained that such a service went away. By the way, note the cyclist in the photo above riding a few inches from the truck. Probably could have used a well-lined, buffered 6-foot bike lane back in 1917. And, arguably, a helmet.

But I digress, selfishly focusing on my own multi-modal proclivities.

And here is your chance, at least virtually, to selfishly focus on your own roadway proclivities by using a simple website called “Streetmix” to design Central however the hell you want.  Yes, you can play Mother Road God, a.k.a. Mayor Berry.

Here’s how you play, using Central at Tulane Dr. deep in the heart of Nob Hill as our canvas.

First, we gotta find out how wide Central is and/or will be with A.R.T. in place. Because we’re not actually building this, we can guesstimate a general distance in width and go with that. Here are two ways we’ve ballparked a figure. First, Google Map’s birds’ eye view has a right-button feature that allows you to measure distances. Using that, we get something like this screenshot:



We get 78 feet, noting that a precise width is really, really difficult using this tool, although it is very fun to play with. Nevertheless, to augment this, let’s also go to the cross-section drawings from A.R.T. for this stretch of road:




Before adding up the figures, you’ll note that “widened sidewalk” isn’t tied to a specific width. I don’t know this for 100% sure, but I’m almost certain that’s because the width isn’t identical throughout any section. We’re basically measuring from building to building across the street and there’s obviously variation. That’s why I didn’t include sidewalk in the Google birds’ eye measurement.

All that in mind, especially the “we’re not actually building this” motif, let’s add up all the 7.5′ parking lanes, 13′ driving/A.R.T. lanes, etc., and throw a number out there, let’s call it 8 feet of “widened sidewalk” on average. I get 83 feet of width using this imprecise method. So, 83 feet will be our Streetmix canvas. Let’s visit that canvas now:



Like everything on the Internet, and in life, Streetmix isn’t for everyone. It appeals to people who hate reading manuals and just want to click on stuff until they figure out how the hell something works. If that seems appealing to you, click madly to your’s heart content. If that doesn’t appeal to you, there is a “help” feature that you might like, but that I wouldn’t click on in a billion, zillion years. To each their own.

All I’ve done in creating the canvas above is to change the default “empty space,” i.e., roadway, to 83 feet, and put buildings on both sides. You’ll note the interactive box above the building to the left showing you how to change the height of the building and/or other options (my favorite is the cyclone fence “empty lot”).

Along the bottom are all your choices to make the Mother Road of your dreams. Let’s start by hearkening back to that electric streetcar from 1917:


Yeah, buddy! That’s what I’m talking about! Streetcar!!! Both ultra-retro and a helluva lot cheaper than the streetcar we almost got back in Mayor Chavez days. Notice you can change the default 12′ setting as you wish, as well as the streetcar look and color detail, for people who are into that sort of thing.

As the Head & Shoulders instructions so helpfully state: Shampoo, rinse, repeat. In other words, click on a bunch of things, add/subtract features to your heart’s roadway content, and, voila!, you have the Mother Road of your dreams. And yes, if you’re really pissed off about the trees in the median being wiped out by A.R.T. you can put trees back. In fact, let’s kill the streetcar, again, and posit a mono-modal dreamworld for your top-down, wind in your hair, open road tree-loving motorist out there:




These 17-foot driving lanes would be even wider than the friggin’ airplane runways that are the current lanes on Gibson Boulevard (insert maniacal motorist’s laugh)! Another great feature here is that every Nob Hill business becomes a “drive-through,” as there’s no sidewalk. No pesky pedestrians to think about, folks! Parking/schmarking, you never need to leave the car! It’s beyond the Ernst Haas car-centric photo to something like “American Graffiti” on a grander, modern-day scale!

Okay, we’re being a bit silly. And you might enjoy the kind of silly Streetmix engenders, but you also might get serious and really craft a detailed vision of what you, just you, dream Central (or any road) might be. Mine would have the streetcar, horse or solar-powered, plenty of room for the 1918 guy on the bicycle and plenty of trees. Your mileage, as they say, may definitely vary.



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