Friday, August 8, 2008

Completely tied

For a while I've been noticing the results of the poll that is being taken on the left margin of this blog that will be going on for the next two months. I want to point out that since the inception of this poll the race between Light Rail and C2S as OKC's most-pressing priority has been neck-and-neck, with neither ever really having a majority. It was 1-1, then 2-2, and so on, each time I've checked it. It is now 10-10.

Personally, I voted for light rail. I believe that OKC is big enough to be able to finance a light rail system of decent proportions, and any city that can financially pull it off can become a light rail city regardless of factors that detractors bring up like density, traffic, etc. Basically my belief is that any major city that wants to be a light rail city can do so, all it needs to do is build light rail. Light rail itself transforms any city into a light rail city because of the way it builds up density, adds to the walkability of an area, etc.. even in cities such as Phoenix, where light rail was a success in terms of spurring urban development in Phoenix, probably the worst example of sprawl in the nation.

If light rail can bring up Phoenix's density, it can at least have a similar effect on OKC, if not more drastic. This is because OKC is already a light rail city even without it presently, since OKC was built on light rail. The reason strips such as NW 23rd and Capitol Hill exist is because those were well-traveled streetcar lines. Neighborhoods like Jefferson Park and Gatewood were literally 'streetcar suburbs.' OKC, being a city that was designed around rail when it was born, will see an amazing impact and transformation back to its roots once light rail is running in the city again. Light rail can do for OKC everything that we're looking for: a thriving, bustling downtown with lots of street activity, more density, a decrease in obesity (America's fattest city), and more business at the center of the city as visitors are whisked from Bricktown to MidTown in a New York minute.

That's not to say that C2S isn't an equally bold and important venture that OKC should be focusing more on. OKC is in the lucky position it wasn't 20 years ago where it has multiple things going on right now that will be able to propel the city forward to the next level. Light rail would be the best stimulus for gentrifying the rest of the inner city, C2S is important so that downtown has a new, defining part of downtown, highways are important so that growth further from downtown is managed and the suburbs and downtown don't feel segregated, WRWA expansion is important so that OKC can reach the world non-stop, the new convention center is important so that OKC can position itself as a national leader in business, and the Medical District planning is important because it too is going to become a defining area of OKC, almost a research-oriented C2S, as construction is about to take off on many new facilities that will make OKC a leader in medical research. It's a good time to be in OKC because never before could we have actually had a decent debate over which one thing out of many is the one that will take OKC the furthest. If you voted in the poll, you ought to take a brief few seconds to mention what you voted for and why, and I'll do a follow-up on that later. If you haven't voted in the poll, go vote!


skye said...

I would love to have light rail service here but I'm not convinced it would go over well. Okies are too in love with their cars and god forbid they might have to get their butts out and walk a block or 2. I'd be happy with halfway decent bus service here but I really don't see that happening anytime soon either. Would be very pleased to be able to say I'm wrong about that.

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

I think Okies would support light rail just because it's cool. The truth though is that it could do wonders for OKC, in terms of sustainability and generating more development, it would easily pay for itself. That's why 80% of people in OKC want to see a Maps 3 and the #1 suggestion for Maps 3 is none other than light rail.