As mentioned a few days back, “Connections 2040,” the area’s long-range Metropolitan Transportation Plan update is currently in final draft form before a series of public meetings which start tonight up in Bernalillo.
I know each and every one of you is going to read the entire 287-page draft and craft insights and recommendations which you will email to the authors by the February 6th deadline, but, on the off-chance you don’t have time and energy to do so, BB will pass along a few SparkNotes-level observations over the next couple of weeks.
Naturally, these observations will be 100% unbiased and objective, just as SparkNotes is when it tells you that Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird represents “stolen youth” or some other similar bullshit. Sorry, as an English teacher for ~20 years, SparkNotes is, for me, to learning as baseball pitch sign-stealing via video and banging on trash cans is to sportspersonship.
What we quickly notice in a first reading of the draft is that the Plan has evidently been written for another metropolitan area. Here’s how its Chapter 4: Optimized Mobility starts:
I’m pretty sure any BB readers who have previously lived in cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver (hell, pretty much any other U.S. city) are still laughing at the “severe roadway congestion” reference above. Are you kidding me? Sure, the area does experience “areas of severe congestion” relative to downtown Questa or even the outskirts of Roswell. But at the very top of a chapter about “optimized mobility” in our 44th-most congested city in the United States?
In the opinion of this completely unbiased and objective SparkNotes reviewer, the big problem in first focusing on “optimal mobility” via whining about congestion is that it leads, as the rest of this chapter and pretty much all of the draft currently does, to:
Extremely high emphasis on getting people from Point A to Point B as fast as possible, and very low emphasis on the unmistakable fact that more and more area people are dying trying to get from Point A to Point B.
This priority in emphasis continues throughout the draft with the exception of its Chapter 5: Active Transportation. For instance, Chapter 5 uses the word “fatalities” 21 times in its 41 pages. The entire rest of the draft, roughly 230 pages, uses the term six times. Instead, the dominant word choice elsewhere is “safety.” Note that Chapter Five isn’t directly about traffic fatalities, it just happens to use the term 21 times on the subject of “Active Transportation.”
Some of you might be thinking: “Aren’t these just different ways of saying the same thing?” Uh, no, they aren’t, and, no offense, but maybe it’s this kind of thinking that made English Literature and Composition classes really hard for you.
Nowhere in its chapter on “Optimized Mobility” does the draft even come close to expressing the idea that MAYBE OUR “MOBILITY” WOULD BE MORE “OPTIMIZED” IF FAR FEWER PEOPLE WERE BEING KILLED TRYING TO GET SOMEWHERE. The chapter is currently all about things like folks living on the Westside and working on the Eastside and how much of a bummer it is that we have extensive environmental reviews before building more bridges over the River, ‘cuz man, wouldn’t that be great?!?
Using “safety” instead of “fatalities” reflects a mindset and its priorities. And that mindset and concomitant priorities outlined in the current draft is wrong for 2020, and is sure as hell wrong for 2040. Well, it’s wrong if you consider traffic fatalities anything more than a “cost of doing business” and consider a two-minute backup on Paseo del Norte “severe roadway congestion.”
Remember, the first rule of SparkNotes is: Never tell the teacher that you know SparkNotes exists. If you do happen to attend a public meeting or email the authors with your comments (by the deadline at precisely 5:00 pm on February 6th) and mention this “safety/fatalities” thing, don’t tell ’em you got it from me.