Posted by: cantmisssd | October 4, 2010

A different kind of transportation

There are a number of reasons that I’m getting back to blogging, but a series of things in the last week have really kickstarted me. First was a post on outsourcing and blight that Kelly Davis put up over at CityBeat, and an exchange we had on Twitter about it. I can (and likely will) expand on my comment to the blog post about our perception on blight, but in a broader sense it brought home for me how easily narratives are constructed and accepted in San Diego. Things will happen just because people have been talking about it for long enough. It’s fair, but it highlights the lack of competing narratives from outside the bubble of conventional wisdom.

Second, this video from EMBARQ, highlighting the strides that New York City has made towards greening transportation and generally moving away from a car-based transit system in a meaningful way. Obviously, New York City and San Diego are very different when it comes to transportation. Density, topography, the network of intermingled agencies, the impact of the Mexican border on the broader commuting and trucking picture, and Southern California’s unique relationship with cars all mean that San Diego has to come up with its own set of answers.

But the fundamental shift that’s taken place is one that San Diego needs as well. To stop thinking about transportation as how to move cars and start thinking of it as how to move people. There is no rule that the two must be interchangeable, or even that they must largely overlap. It’s perpetuated by familiarity and inertia.

But communities that don’t rely on cars are stronger for a wide variety of reasons- they’re more cohesive, they’re healthier, they’re safer, and they’re cheaper. We’ve seen this pop up piecemeal in various parts of town, but rarely (if at all) has the existing character of a neighborhood been combined with smart redevelopment.. yet.

Finally, I had a chance to speak with City Council candidate David Alvarez about the future development plans for Barrio Logan and the Commercial Street corridor. This is an area that’s primed to get a lot of attention in the coming years from the city council, developers, and community groups as the next area for revitalization.

Unlike redevelopment of North Park, there’s already a vibrant community with a strong, unique character in Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, Sherman Heights, and Grant Hill. The challenge going forward will be how to maintain, support, and grow that community through the process of development. It means committing to mixed use projects that prioritize retention of current residents. It means finding ways to give those same residents opportunities to lead the new business development, own and operate new stores, and ensure that the community creates functional, inviting public space that prioritizes people over cars.

Median incomes are declining, demand for walkable communities are rising, and technology makes it increasingly easy for businesses and people to locate themselves anywhere. Reconsidering how we talk about the future development of our communities is key.

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