Two Stories About Walking Central Ave.: Yet Another ART Dust-up and another, “Invisible” Story

Note: Today’s BB Goes Duke City Fix post….

Implementing public policy is hard, but the team in charge of explaining implementation of Albuquerque Rapid Transit sure makes it seem far harder than it actually is. Today in its email blast “ART Updates,” that team indirectly refers to the current kerfuffle over sidewalk width in Nob Hill via the project.

As reported in today’s Journal, ABQ District 6 City Councilor Pat Davis has met with ART guruczar (okay, I just made that word up) Michael Riordan after having floated an ordinance to put District 6 “set-aside” funds toward the sidewalk widening promised, then pulled (allegedly), from the project. Riordan remarks in the Journal story that the current Nob Hill sidewalk plan “almost exactly mirrors the plans that we developed in 2014.”

The question is: What were/are those exact plans?

As pointed out in last week’s expletive-laden post here at DCF, online drawings at brt.abq continue to show “widened sidewalks” at Amherst/Tulane. As the Journal points out, business owners such as Susan Ricker of Off-Broadway Vintage Clothing, located between Richmond and Bryn Mawr, received an email March 1st relating that they would NOT be getting wider sidewalks.

Putting Riordan’s “exactly mirrors” comment together with that March 1st email means that Richmond/Bryn Mawr was NEVER scheduled to get wider sidewalks. While that’s only implied by these two communications, what is crystal clear amid all the clear-as-mud info and explanation coming from Riordan and ART is that they are doing an almost inconceivably bad job of providing info and explaining this project.

To wit, this now available drawing linked at today’s “ART Updates”:

Yeah, you’re better off going to the linked .pdf, as the above is pretty darn small. After doing that, let’s look at this drawing closely. Note the following:

  • It uses the phrase “Current Proposed” in the legend, but doesn’t include a date. The file name has a date of 1.9.17, but it’s not entirely clear when this was made available to the public. One gets the sense from today’s ART Updates that it was first made public, um….today.
  • It’s strange that the word “current” appears in the legend, for there is no “current” versus “planned” comparison between what the sidewalks were, to what they will be post-construction…
  • So you have no idea what’s actually being widened, only that sidewalk widths will be all over the linear feet map when construction is finished.

In short, the new information provided in the evidently new drawing above does the same lousy job of informing and explaining that has plagued A.R.T. from the get-go. For those of us who REALLY want to like ART, this inability is almost as aggravating as it must be for businesses to be told there will be construction-period loan programs, only to have them delayed to the point of uselessness.

What the HELL is going on here? Implementing public policy is hard, but it’s not this damn hard.


Speaking of Central Avenue and sidewalks, do you know what is considered by one important measure the stretch of Central most desperately in need of pedestrian improvements? The “Pedestrian Composite Index” (PCI) used by the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) of New Mexico:

…uses regional data to compare aspects that deter pedestrian travel (speed, traffic volume, crashes) to aspects that generate pedestrian travel (transit, land use, households with no motor-vehicles). Roadways with both high deterrent and high generator scores indicate that they have pedestrian travel demand, but they are lousy places to walk, thus making them priority candidates for pedestrian improvements.

Hence the higher the PCI, the higher the need for pedestrian improvements. The latest MRCOG data has the following two stretches of Central as highest (by some distance) in PCI scores:

  1. Central Avenue – East of Louisiana – West of Pennsylvania
  2. Central Avenue – East of Pennsylvania – West of Wyoming

Yes, PCI scores even higher than the infamous Central and San Mateo. I bring this up this morning primarily because a pedestrian was struck at the corner of Central and Texas yesterday. Here’s the complete, and evidently only available online, story from KRQE:

“Police said officers are currently on scene at Central and Texas for an accident involving a pedestrian. The area is currently closed off. APD asked drivers to seek an alternative route. As soon as News 13 learns more, an update will be provided.”

Yeah, that’s it. The incident isn’t even mentioned at other news venues. As for the “update,” having studied pedestrian injury/death reports quite a bit, I’d be surprised if there will ever be an “update.”

It’s also true that the stretch of Central between Louisiana and Wyoming is NOT receiving pedestrian improvements via the ART project, as that stretch is just to the east of the proposed bus line. As the PCI explanation quoted above points out, dangerous pedestrian areas require a combination of “deterrent” (i.e., no crosswalks, poor lighting, many lanes of traffic) and “generate” (i.e., reasons for people to walk there). A few Google Streetview screenshots illustrate how both are at work at the corner of Central and Texas:

Screenshot 1: Here we are looking eastbound on Central. What appears to be a young adult is crossing, evidently not too far in front of the Google Streetview vehicle. No there’s no light or crosswalk at Central and Texas. The nearest one is at Pennsylvania about 1,000 feet away.

Screenshot 2: Looking back west toward the intersection of Central & Texas we see people walking, a couple of folks waiting at the bus stop to the extreme left and even a cyclist riding in the gutter (no bike lane, of course). In the far right you can just make out the large Ed Romero Terrace senior public housing complex. Data shows that the elderly make up a disproportionate number of walkers involved in pedestrian crashes.

Screenshot 3: And looking northbound on Texas approaching Central, we again see walkers. Note also the white car waiting to turn left/southbound on to Texas, and the scooter appearing to pretty much ride the gutter on Central westbound.

I found it remarkably easy to find non-automobile users of Central/Texas at Streetview. They’re everywhere, just about in every shot, from every photo data point. That this heavily walked stretch of Central isn’t receiving pedestrian improvements via ART, or any other CABQ initiative anytime soon, at least that I know of, is troubling, yet not surprising. While the argument over wide and wider sidewalks in Nob Hill gets all the attention, it will almost certainly remain true that walking that more affluent stretch of Central will probably never be as dangerous as doing so in the far poorer part of town that is Central and Texas.


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