Trains and Urban Planning: An Open Call for Ideas

The Journal has a big story this morning on questions regarding Rail Runner. It begins with a tasty bit of knowledge:

“But no business plan has been released outlining expected yearly operating revenues, costs, ridership estimates or fares.”

Unfortunately, the story then spends an inordinate amount of words on environmental issues and the track itself, but doesn’t get back to “yearly operating revenues, costs, ridership estimates or fares”. Yeah, the environmental stuff is important, but that teaser sentence makes me think I’m gonna hear all about the projected functionality/popularity of the thing. Besides, if you’re running three trains a day to start with, there ain’t gonna be alot of environmental degradation. Not a hell of alot of riders, either, and that’s what I want to hear more about. And how the train platform/station construction is going. And fare structure. And crossing improvements. And….

Meanwhile, I’m not a terribly bright person and I need some help on something I’m interested in but not very swuft when it comes down to it (I’m continuing to use hokey Texas expressions in continued celebration of Vince Young, et. al.).

An open call for anybody who knows what they’re talking about to explain two bits of urban planning news, and whether they are the planning equivalent of Satan or not. State Fairgrounds, sorry Expo Whatever, and Mesa Del Sol. There is something about the topical intersection of these stories that seems kinda serendipitous for some reason…there’s a connection, but I don’t have a clue what it means. Kinda like an urban planning version of “The X-Files”. I need some Scully’s and Mulder’s to tell me what it all means, to break it down, to whittle away all the Marty-speak and tell it straight. I’d really, seriously appreciate it.

Oh, and by the way, here are my uninformed biases going in:

1. Despite my vague libertarian tendencies, I can dig the idea of a huge intentional community like Mesa del Sol, if done right. I have some doubts about the idea of governments and developers doing it right. Strong doubts, but understand that good best practices exist elsewhere. In this regard I’m like a Socialist, but one who wants to have a gun held to goverment’s head the entire time, to make sure things go right.

2. Looking out my South Valley window, it pains me to see the unplanned garbage growth running up the Mesa, and I pine for something like a Mesa del Sol here for us little SV people.

3. The Fairgrounds are a dump.

4. When I moved here I could not believe the Fairgrounds were where they are, that anybody could give a rat’s ass about them, and that it was visually apparent nobody gave a rat’s ass about them.

5. I have sinced learned that many people, native Albuquerqueans primarily, give a rat’s ass about the Fairgrounds.

6. As someone who used to live three blocks away from the Fairgrounds, it makes absolutely no sense to me to have them there, especially as that neighborhood is “Fringecresting”, not in some Yuppies-with-Mercedes SUVs sort of way, but just folks priced out of the U area who like to living in established neighborhood settings with small, funky 1950s houses instead of modern shotgun shack single family apartment looking houses.

7. Personal note: If I hadn’t married a horse fanatic, I’d still be living three blocks from the Fairgrounds.

8. Using the State Fair lingo, isn’t putting $150 million into “renovating” the existing Fairgrounds like pinning a pretty corsage around a Duroc pig’s neck? Btw, Duroc’s are the red pigs. I know that because I raised pigs as a boy in Texas. I raised Chester Whites, which are the white ones. We white pig raisers didn’t care much for the red ones, and vice-versa. It’s interesting how much of life boils down to that episode in the original Star Trek where Frank Gorshon has the split black/white face thing.

9. Ummm…seem to have gotten off-track there. Which reminds me…why the hell do we have a horsetrack in the middle of town? As a sports/gambling person, I can tell you that horseracing is so, so, so, so very dead. To wit: Go to Las Vegas and hit a sportsbook. You’ll still see all these huge screens showing horse races throughout the day, looking impressive. But notice….all the young and middle age people are going to the betting windows for football, basketball and such. The only horse wagerers are the old and extremely old. I’m all for old and extremely old people. I plan to be one someday. But any eyeballed demographic will tell you that horseracing is beyond old, it’s, to use a rather unfortunate analogy, Ariel Sharon-esque at this point.

10. Oh, I still seem to have not gotten to the question. In short, why spend $150 million to upgrade our existing Fairgrounds, when we can get the Fair out of its anachronistic current site, lose the horse track and build a new facility elsewhere for $300 million?

11. It seems worth it to me when considering the redevelopment possibilities, not to mention little things like horse people, like my wife, trying to drive a loaded horse trailer down Lomas. Still, I’m reading with interest posts like Coco’s (who I respect immensely from afar) about how redevelopment is harder than development. I get that, but still want to hear more on the subject.

12. Which gets me, finally for Goddess’ sake, to the final bias. I see Denver’s LoDo and wonder why we can’t have something like that here. I see ABQ having about the same population in 20 years that Denver has now. Are we really ready for that? And what are we going to end up with….a Denver or a Phoenix? I want to live in Denver, not Phoenix. What’s it going to be, ABQ?

When I, admittedly with great ignorance, read about things like Mesa del Sol and the Fairgrounds I think about that Denver v. Phoenix question. Yeah, I know, ABQ will be its own place, with it’s own development style, but let’s face it, if we’re going to be 2.5 million people by 2025 about 3/4 of the 2025 population will be people who aren’t here now. I wonder what those 1.75 million people will think driving past that Lomas and Louisiana horsetrack on way to their new home.

But those are just my biases. I’m keenly interested in hearing more on the subject. Serious keenness. High keeniosity. Lay it on me, keensters, either here or elsewhere in the blog(jenga!)osphere. I really would appreciate it.

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2 thoughts on “Trains and Urban Planning: An Open Call for Ideas

  1. “As a sports/gambling person, I can tell you that horseracing is so, so, so, so very dead. To wit: Go to Las Vegas and hit a sportsbook. You’ll still see all these huge screens showing horse races throughout the day, looking impressive. But notice….all the young and middle age people are going to the betting windows for football, basketball and such. The only horse wagerers are the old and extremely old. I’m all for old and extremely old people. I plan to be one someday. But any eyeballed demographic will tell you that horseracing is beyond old, it’s, to use a rather unfortunate analogy, Ariel Sharon-esque at this point.”Don’t tell Bobby!

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