Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Trail Riding Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The City Different has put itself into another minor skirmish over how to spend a little over a quarter million dollars left over from a 2008 trail bond. The decision involves two issues. One, that the bond was voted on to support projects in the 1st District and two, that there are compelling social justice and transportation planning issues for moving the funds to the South side. Here, according to the New Mexican, are the two options:

Option A: Connect the 25-mile La Tierra Trails system in the city’s northwest quadrant with the Frank S. Ortiz Dog Park, a popular north-side play space for residents and their pups. Restrooms, shade structures, picnic tables and drinking fountains would be installed at the trailhead. (Note added: connecting to the Dog Park would probably increase parking at the dog park. Not sure it would reduce the number of cars being driven to trailheads very much. Is there a study?)

Option B: The Tierra Contenta Trail on the far southwest side needs a 0.4-mile connector segment to link the growing mixed-income neighborhood with South Meadows Road, where a pair of public schools sit, and eventually to Camino Entrada, the Santa Fe Place mall and points beyond. (Added note: observe on the map all the arterial and cul-de-sac development there, a transportation design which is usually not conducive to cycling, especially by less experienced cyclists. Such a design funnels large amounts of traffic onto heavily trafficked arterials, rather than providing multiple-option grid transportation patterns found in older parts of cities. In addition, to be truly useful as transportation and recreation, this trail should be connected to more destinations and cul-de-sac developments along its length using spur trails).

As far as the reallocation, here is my read. Beware of moving money around if the voters specifically earmark it for one job.  The City Different already has voters wary over the 30 million parks bond issue dustup. Although city spokesperson Matt Ross says that this reallocation can be done, I'd like to hear that from the city attorney's office rather than an administration spokesperson. Meanwhile, city voters may be a little leery of voting future bond issues if subsequent decisions are made to use earmarked money for something else.

My dog in this fight...
although Cash was more a 
lover than a fighter.
 As far as the relative value of the projects? I live in the 1st District and ride La Tierra trails a lot. So I have a dog in this fight, seen on the left here.  So do a lot of other cyclists, given the constant stream of bicycles I see being pedaled passed my house on Camino de las Crucitas. If these numbers are a vote of confidence, the system works pretty well as it is. To me, it is a wonderful resource as it is today. I would recommend fixing the broken pavement edges on Buckman road (and a few locations on Camino de las Montoyas) and some day, if the state doesn't fix it first, continue a paved path from the NM 599 bicycle underpass to Camino de las Montoyas so road bikers don't have to pray the rosary when crossing 599  at grade. As far as increased use or a magnet for tourism? Maybe, but we have to balance the desire for tourists with the needs of the folks who live here.

"...The six primary schools in the SFPS Southside region—including Amy Biehl Community School, Nina Otero Community School, César Chávez Elementary, Sweeney Elementary, Ramirez Thomas Elementary and Piñon Elementary—almost exclusively serve their surrounding neighborhoods, which has seen a 57 percent increase in the population of children that are pre-K to sixth grade-age since 2002, according to the district. They also average out to 88.2 percent Latino. These are some of the most crowded schools in the district.
In contrast, there was only a 5 percent increase in pre-K to sixth grade-aged children over the same time period in the neighborhoods around Acequia Madre, Wood Gormley and Atalaya, clustered near Canyon Road in the district's Northeast region..." -A tale of three schools, in the Santa Fe Reporter, by Aaron Cantu.

And on that note, the South side has been undergoing more development, including affordable housing and kid-raising. Those folks need connections and resources too and perhaps there is an undercurrent of thinking, elucidated by Tomás Rivera of the Chainbreaker Collective, that the nice upscale folks on the North side get first pick at the goodies. So on the social justice scale, Option B wins hands down. On yet another scale of spending money on facilities that have dual transportation and recreation components, Option B wins too. As Councilor Chris Rivera was quoted as saying, “Right now, they (people in his district) don’t have that (access to different parts of the city),”  “Right now, it’s a challenge to take your bike from Tierra Contenta and ride it downtown, and this would make it much easier.” With schools, kids, and a need for active living on Mr. Rivera's side of town, we need to make sure everyone in the City Different has a similar size bite of the bike path.

I think a very good case can be made for reallocating the money to the South side and its pretty easy to argue that this is money spent on the greater good, given that La Tierra is already a damn nice resource. I also suggest that Council put more money into grade-separated connectivity where needed so folks can get around Santa Fe as seamlessly on a bike as we can in our cars. Especially as we develop in new areas where we have the tendency to be auto-centric in our development.

Meanwhile, I will go ride my bikes.
Salsa La Cruz 'cross bike shod with 700-40 Donnelly MSOs
Works great on those La Tierra trails

Exploring the far side of La Tierra trails on the Stumpjumper