Downtown Obsession

Apparently, Albuquerque’s City Council has been listening to too much Petula Clark recently, because their obsession with downtown is approaching fever pitch. First and foremost, the recent decision to allocate a whopping $700,000 to study an arena and events center has seemingly placed this latest redevelopment issue on the fast-track with New Mexico First set to hold a meeting on the issue on Thursday, the 17th (I’ll be a panelist).
Then there’s the $28-million-a-mile streetcar that consultants recently recommended should be built from San Mateo to Downtown. The presentation can be found here. The presentation is full of platitudes and happy talk about the supposedly tremendous impact the streetcar will have in the form of additional residents and employers moving into the areas served by the system. But it is never stated why Albuquerque’s system will cost $28 million a mile while a “peer system” in Little Rock cost a mere $7.8 million per mile. Also, while anecdotal evidence that the streetcar will draw additional riders over the current bus system is presented, specific service improvements over the current Rapid Ride buses which run in the same area for far less money are nowhere to be found.
The fact is that the streetcar has support primarily among those who believe that other areas of the city exist primarily to support downtown. If a streetcar and events center are important to the public and are financially viable they will be built with private money when and where it makes sense to do so. Politicians shouldn’t force the issue on taxpayers.