Posts tagged with maps3

Why I Voted YES For MAPS 3!

December 4th, 2009

maps3park

I heard an ad on the radio today explaining that a vote for MAPS 3 is a vote for: more jobs, healthy living, and public safety.  The ad was paid for by the YESforMAPS campaign, so I guess it makes sense that it seemed carefully engineered to convince people to vote yes. In the midst of a major recession, who doesn’t like more jobs. And when you live in America’s #2 Fattest City, supporting healthy living seems like a good idea.  And public safety, who could vote against public safety.*  But I didn’t like the ad.  In fact, I hated it.  Because in the midst of the calculated message they failed to focus on the primary reason people should vote yes for MAPS 3.  In fact, it is the only reason I voted yes (I voted early), and it is a major factor in me and my wife’s recent decision to move back to Oklahoma City.  That is – MAPS has improved and will continue to improve quality of life in Oklahoma City!

MAPS 3 will add streetcar transit to downtown

The original MAPS was an effort to enhance quality of life in Oklahoma City and it has been an overwhelming success.  The laundry list of development, investment, and improvements that have occurred as a result has been recounted so many times that it serves little purpose to create one more such list.  But let me sum up the impact like this: Everday my life in Oklahoma City is made better as a direct result of MAPS.  If you live or work near downtown, or enjoy attending sporting events, or own a house that has a appreciated as a result – MAPS has made your life better too.  And our improved quality of life has brought with it a new sense of community pride.  People all over the city are proud of what we have accomplished, are working each day to make our city better than the day before, and, like me, look to the future with a hope and optimism that only a few quixotic visionaries might have had 16 years ago.

maps3whitewater

MAPS3 can build upon this success and ensure that our hopes and dreams today become line items on tomorrow’s laundry list of accomplishments.  MAPS3 will – without a doubt – improve the quality of life in Oklahoma City!  MAPS3 could provide our city with a park capable of serving as a physical heart and a gathering place for the whole community, something which has been conspicuously absent since the hastily planned grids laid out 120 years ago.  And after enduring almost a half century of a over-engineered drainage ditch, and only just now beginning to appreciate the benefits of having a waterway with actual water, MAPS3 could transform the Oklahoma River into, not only an elite international rowing venue, but an incredible recreational playground for the entire city to enjoy – whether as participant or spectator.  Finally, MAPS3 could provide the beginnings of a meaningful transit system by making areas around downtown accessible sans automobile.  Hopefully the future will bring a regional system that provides broader service, but either way, a legitimate downtown transit system will be a necessary first step for making a more expansive solution possible.

That is why I am voting yes for MAPS3.  Do I like all of the projects?  No.  But this is not MAPSforBlair; MAPS is an exercise in successful community compromise and MAPS3 is the most aggressive test yet of this principle.  You might not like all of the projects either, or are perhaps insulted by the simplistic rhetoric being spewed by both sides, BUT if you believe the city should continue working to improve our quality of life, you should vote yes for MAPS3 on December 8th.

* ironically it seems the answer is – according to the radio ad – police and firemen.

OETA Core to Shore Feature3

September 25th, 2009

Just took the time to watch this OETA video on Core to Shore all the way through.  Great production with a lot of people I respect and admire – basically every voice you hear speaking.  Gets you excited about the possibilities for the future of Oklahoma City!   There are still a number of details that need to be worked out with the Core to Shore plan and some “interesting” premises that need prodding, but we can save those conversations for 2010 following the passing of MAPS3 and a lovely Christmas holiday with the family.  Enjoy!

Picture 6

Click above image to go to the OETA site to watch video.

(via lasomeday at okctalk)

Quote of the Week

September 22nd, 2009



“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”



Ralph Waldo Emerson

Streetcars drive development.

June 23rd, 2009

More downtown housing creates more pedestrians, more demand for retail, and an altogether more vibrant downtown.  So what creates more housing?…a modern streetcar system for one.  In my opinion, this is the appropriate strategy for laying out the route of the (hopefully MAPS 3) downtown trolley system.  Existing proposals that attempt to be all things to all people – connecting every node of downtown with every surrounding center of employment – fail to consider the development generating power of streetcars.

From Speck’s Oklahoma City Walkability Analysis:

Oklahoma City is in the process of considering a downtown streetcar system, which is another way of describing a trolley on rails.  Many cities have built these systems, and some have been very successful while others have never caught on.  The key to creating a successful trolley system is to understand that these systems are principally useful not as a means of mobility but as a tool for increasing the value of real estate.  The story of Portland’s trolley in the Pearl District is the story of millions in public investment leading to billions in private investment, because the rail line was planned in conjunction with thousands of units of new housing, which was made desirable by its presence on a rail line.  The lesson learned there and elsewhere is that the path of a new streetcar must be carefully coordinated with planned housing if the transit investment is to pay off.

To add to what Speck said, consider this.  How great can the benefit of streetcars be in places that are already fully-developed for people traveling by car alone?  Now think of how many empty storefronts, underutilized buildings, and bare lots exists, in and around downtown, that might benefit more from the addition of streetcars.  Streetcars are not just for connecting active places, they are for creating active places.  Before the MAPS 3 streetcars system is implemented we need a plan that understands transit’s ability to catalyze new development and create density.

Why public-transit is falling off the MAPS 3 track

May 18th, 2009

Just four months ago, Mayor Mick Cornett laid out the priorities for MAPS 3 in his State of the City address.

The Mayor said:

“From a quality of life perspective, there are two high profile shortcomings, two areas that, if addressed, would dramatically further our ascension as a city where people want to live.

The first is public transportation.

The second is a centrally located, large public park.”

The third project mentioned in the speech was for a non-quality of life element: a new convention center.

But fast forward four months later and you might be wondering what has happened. The campaign for a new convention center has been ratcheted up with the “release” of a pro-convention Chamber study and a coordinated media blitz, all topped off by a carefully orchestrated Mayor’s Development Roundtable that featured multiple “experts” (i.e. industry insiders that are unapologetically bias) brought in to propagate the pro-convention message. Meanwhile, public transit has received less, and less attention.


A NEW PRIORITY LIST?

On April 16-17, members of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce gathered in Stillwater for their annual Chamber Board Retreat. At the retreat, members of the Chamber’s board and board of advisors, along with top city hall officials, were presented a range of projects to be included in MAPS 3. It doesn’t appear that regular members of the media were invited to attend, but Leland Gourley, owner of the Friday newspaper, is a member of the Chamber board and offered this overview of the retreat in a April 24 editorial entitled, “Time to act on Maps 3.”

The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has heard presentations on a number of projects that could be included in MAPS 3.

Five of them are [numbering and bold-type added for legibility - bh]:

1. Development of the South Side of the Oklahoma River;
2. Building a new, large Convention Center;
3. Create a huge, several block downtown park;
4. Add some needed buildings at the State Fair Park; and
5. Build a new research building in the Health Sciences Center.

1. The River Plan would cost $100 million and would be for development of the South Side. The North Side already is booming with private investors building boat houses and vendor shops. It already has built a national reputation. It has become, in the view of many rowing competitors, the best rowing facility in the nation. Ivy league colleges love it. It is a mecca for boaters with more boat houses.

But we need to develop the South Side of the River with emphasis on spectators. We can build a stadium to accommodate huge crowds to watch the races. Improvements could include family-type facilities. The plan calls for a foot bridge across the river, and within a proposed $100 million budget there would be $20 million to complete the American Indian museum on a hill by the river.

2. The New Convention Center proposal would cost $400 million and would put Oklahoma City up to the next tier of convention cities. We could keep the Cox Convention Center for mid-sized conventions, and draw on a whole other growing group of major size conventions. Lots of them.

Scores of professional convention locators have visited Oklahoma City and have been overwhelmed with the wonderful attractions we have here. They WANT to come to Oklahoma City but we are way down the list in size of accommodations, meeting space and exhibit space. So they just can’t come here. Millions of dollars are lost to our OKC economy because of this. Thousands and thousands of new jobs would be created by a new, large convention center. This is a top priority need for Oklahoma City’s future growth benefitting all.

3. A new downtown park is a vital need for Oklahoma City. We do not have a huge downtown park like most progressive big cities already have. A giant park, with underground parking the same size under it would be a great draw and an A-plus for our city. Initial studies say it could be accomplished for $100 million.

4. State Fair Buildings. To stay at the top in the type of competition in which our State Fair Ground is engaged, some new, enlarged buildings, estimated to cost around $76 mil would keep us in the running for year-around events.

5. Health Center Research Building. For $24 million, we could have a facility that could attract millions of research dollars from outside.

Other projects. After the above suggested projects, $300 million would be left for others.

Wait, why isn’t public transit on this list? And where the heck did the river plan come from?

It is not a coincidence that Mr. Gourley failed to put public-transit on the list. Rick Caine, Director of the Central Oklahoma Transit and Parking Authority (COTPA), gave a presentation of COTPA’s MAPS 3 proposal at the meeting. A presentation that apparently failed to inspire the business leaders in attendance. In contrast, Mike Knopp, the “driving force behind the development of rowing” on the Oklahoma River, dazzled the audience with a presentation of ideas for redeveloping the river.

So river plan in, public-transit out.


THIS ISN’T HINDSIGHT

Of course, we could have seen this coming. Knowing that public-transit was a top priority for MAPS 3, perhaps we shouldn’t have relied on the planning, leadership, and vision for the system to come from COTPA, a transit authority that specializes in parking, and has a long, long record of poor performance.

I have long suspected that COTPA would not be up to the task of overseeing the implementation public-transit for MAPS 3. On February 3, I commented at OKC Central the following:

Any idea how many of the more successful urban transportation departments are also charged with providing downtown parking? Or leasing bad retail space?

COTPA is broken – period. I can only hope that we won’t let this organization influence the planning and management of the new transit improvements that are to be included in Maps3. We need to take a step back and think about what it is going to take to have an effective transit system, focused on moving people, and doing so with excellence.

It is not all COTPA’s fault that they perform poorly. The duties they are given, along with a severe lack of funding, have set them up to fail. But fail they have and it is time to move on.

I say all of this with the full knowledge that there are
great people there, some of whom are working hard and doing a great job. Still, moving forward, we need something better than what COTPA has to offer.

Unfortunately, COTPA was chosen to oversee the MAPS 3 transportation pitch and has failed to deliver. If things continue at the current pace, then the people of Oklahoma City – who overwhelmingly supported transit in the MAPS 3 online survey – will be left with nothing more than a token gesture and unfulfilled transit dreams reminiscent of the original MAPS.


WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

In my opinion, the focus of a MAPS 3 transit system should be to create a transit-connected downtown. The immediate need is for an streetcar network that connects to existing assets (e.g. Bricktown, CBD, hotels, ford center, etc) and emerging assets (housing, Devon, Automobile Alley, new convention center, new Central Park, etc). This downtown streetcar system would represent a first step towards a more comprehensive metro-wide system with light-rail/commuter-rail to Norman and Edmond, and an enhanced BRT bus-network servicing a broader area of the city.

Plus, in the meantime, the system would benefit people living and working in downtown, as well as visitors, by providing a “park-once” environment. Basically, the idea is that once people park their car, they are able to experience everything downtown has to offer without getting back into their car between stops.

Jeff Bezdek and Mark Gibbs have stepped up the campaign for public-transit with Modern Transit Project. Transit proponents still have some work to do. The route recommendation that came out of the fixed guideway study is insufficient. The single meandering line proposed attempts to do too much, resulting in a system that: is overally costly, hinders future expansion, and fails to activate areas of potential. Regardless, there is still time to refine the plans. The first thing we need to do is ensure that transit is a meaningful part of MAPS 3, so people need to get behind the efforts of Jeff and Mark, and ask City Hall not to do a repeat performance of the original MAPS, delivering all that was promised except for public-transit.


TIME FOR A COMMITMENT

I think it is time for city leaders to make some commitments on MAPS 3. So here are a few questions that I would like to see answered sooner, rather than later.

Convention Center
It is clear that a convention center is a major priority. I am not campaigning against it and I am really not against the idea; I have reservations about the process and location, but let’s save that for another post. Here are my questions for now:

- How much will be spent? (if you haven’t noticed the cost of a convention center has dropped $150 million over the last few weeks from $400mil down to $250milI guess we found a coupon)

- How much public money will be spent on the planned convention center hotel?

- How much of the $100 million planned for the MAPS 3 downtown park, will be used for the parking structure which will serve the needs of both the downtown park and convention center.

The River Plan

I think the river is a tremendous asset and excited to hear there are good ideas flowing, but it is time for all of this to be made public.

- What will it include?

- Why haven’t we seen or heard anything about it?

Public Transit

- If public-transit is really a major priority, as the Mayor earlier claimed it is, then doesn’t it deserve the effort and funding being put forth for other projects set to be included in MAPS 3?

Say what you want about the old Cox Convention Center, but its level of insufficiency pales in comparison to the sorry state of public-transit in Oklahoma City. If the request of city leaders is going to be granted in the form of a MAPS3 convention center, then the request of the people should be granted in the form of a MAPS3 public-transit system.

It is time for a commitment. It is time for a plan. It is time for public-transit in Oklahoma City. Anything short of a complete downtown streetcar network, is simply not good enough.

MAPS 3 Convention Center to Cost between $250-400 mil

March 10th, 2009

My immediate reaction when I read this was to wonder how much money would be left for the other MAPS 3 projects – public transit and the downtown central park.  My impression has always been that MAPS was about focusing less on what outsiders want and more on what the people of Oklahoma City want.  Mayor Norick used to tell the story of how after OKC’s incentive package was rejected by United Airlines, he visited Indianapolis to see what they had that OKC did not.  It was there that he realized the quality of life was the difference, which inspired him to create MAPS, providing a way to invest in ourselves and create a place where both people and businesses want to be.

Mayor Cornett echoed this thinking in his State of the City address:

…we’ve also focused on building a city where people want to live. In fact, when you look at what we have and how far we’ve come in adding and improving amenities like libraries, sports arenas, music halls, canals and a river you see many of the reasons why the quality of life in Oklahoma City has so dramatically improved and so many jobs have been created.

And discussed the three elements in MAPS 3:

The first is public transportation. The second is a centrally located, large public park…while these two initiatives are focused directly on the quality of life for our residents, we have a third important opportunity that focuses directly on our economy and indirectly on job creation. And that is a resolution to our undersized, and thus underutilized, convention center.


PUTTING IT IN PERSPECTIVE

My sense right now is that with this convention proposal we are beginning to deviate from the original idea behind MAPS.  While we, as of yet, don’t know how much will be spent on the quality of life elements in MAPS 3; currently, when you add in the proposed convention center to the project mix from the original MAPS, less than half of the total dollars spent are going to quality of life elements.

Quality of Life elements in original MAPS projects

Ballpark: $34 mil
Canal: $23 mil
Civic Center: $53 mil
Ford Center: $87 mil*
Library: $21.5 mil
Oklahoma River: $53.5 mil
Transportation: $5 mil

Total investment in QUALITY OF LIFE: 277 million dollars



Convention/Tourism elements in MAPS projects and proposed

Fairgrounds: $14 mil
Cox Expansion: $60 mil
Proposed Convention Center: $250 – 400 mil

Total investment in CONVENTION/TOURISM: 324 – 474 million dollars

*this does not include the estimated $121.6 million raised for Ford Center improvements through the Big League City campaign.
Also, this excludes Maps for Kids which specifically targeted improving public school facilities


WAITING FOR THE FACTS

Interests within the city have been working toward a MAPS 3 convention center for sometime.  Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL) was hired by the Chamber of Commerce to consult on Oklahoma City’s convention needs – I am not sure of the exact date but sometime before last summer.   As of right now, the CSL Tier II convention center report has still not been released by the OKC Convention & Visitors Bureau to the public.  I have requested a copy of the draft report, but have thus far been denied.  Until I have an opportunity to review the report and other information related to the convention center, I don’t plan to take a definite position on whether the convention center is worth the money and should be part of MAPS 3 (I also don’t plan to take a definite position on where it should be located if it is built).  Of course, this is problematic as the public discussion weighing the merits of the proposed convention center is now in full-swing, with only the pro-convention center lobby having access to the study.

In the meantime, I can only hope that the quality of life elements – public transportation and the downtown park – will remain the clear priority.

Maps 3 Coming Soon…

January 16th, 2009

Checking out the Mayor’s state of the city address, it is exciting to see him talk about the need for public transit, stating that “the time has come.”  It looks like Maps 3 will focus on:

  1. Public Transit
  2. The Core to Shore Central Park
  3. And a new convention center

Here is a lengthy excerpt from Mayor Cornett’s speech:

But today, I am here to tell you that there is much work to be done. And while our momentum is still moving, and our position relative to the rest of the United States is strong, now is not the time to slow down.

So now let us view the city with fresh eyes, concentrating not so much on what we have but what we don’t have. To begin with, look around the country. From a quality of life perspective, there are two high profile shortcomings, two areas that, if addressed, would dramatically further our ascension as a city where people want to live.

The first is public transportation. The second is a centrally located, large public park. Let me expand on these two topics.

Providing quality public transit in Oklahoma City is a difficult task. We were built around the automobile, and as a result, we are spread out. We don’t have the density to easily do it well. We don’t have the density to do it efficiently. So, we have built-in excuses. We have developed into a city where if you don’t own a car, you are out of luck.
But if we truly want to progress as a city, we have to do better.

I have told you that in these addresses before. During my five years in office, I have used this platform to push this conversation forward. Today, I am here to tell you that the time has arrived to take another step.

I urge each of you to check out the Fixed Guideway Study that provides our blueprint for a 21st Century transit system. It can be found at on the Internet at OKFGS.org.

Fully implemented, it calls for a greatly enhanced bus system, including Bus Rapid Transit, and there are also light rail and downtown streetcar components. This blueprint is complete. You may recall we spent a year and a half on the study.

We now know enough to get started, and there are a number of places we can start. But the key is that we need to get started. Not so much for today, because we are not in a public transit crisis. But transit programs take years, if not decades, to implement. Most cities wait until their highways are at gridlock before they begin taking action. Our city has a history of planning for the future, and now is the time to get started. It will take vision from each and every one of us. When gas if affordable and traffic runs smoothly, it can be difficult to gather support for public transit. I will need your help.

The large central park in the Core to Shore project is also critical to our city’s future, and necessary to our ability to adapt to the relocation of Interstate 40. A year ago, in this State of the City address, I showed you the first conceptual images of the Core to Shore project.

Since then you’ve seen them in many other places, and you’ve probably followed the announcement of the first signature project, the Oklahoma City SkyDance pedestrian bridge over the new I-40.

We have never built anything like this before in Oklahoma City, and this bridge will become an iconic image for the millions of motorists who pass through our city. Let this be the first signal that we are serious about Core to Shore, and it also serves notice that we are raising the standards for design in this city. But there is much more to Core to Shore.

The Core to Shore plan is the result of a large and inclusive civic planning process, and it illustrates the benefits of building a large central park that connects the core of downtown to the shore of the Oklahoma River. Also central to the project is the at-grade boulevard that will replace the current I-40. This boulevard won’t just be a street that gets you from point A to point B. With this boulevard, we have the opportunity to create one of the most special streets in the United States.

This opportunity comes upon us because of the relocation of I-40. That relocation will remove the physical barrier that has separated downtown from the River and everything in between. Now, we have the opportunity few cities ever get. We can create a new urban center, just blocks from our central business district. The park and the boulevard are the lynchpins, and they serve as the catalyst for future retail, housing, and a potential Convention Center, which I’ll discuss in a moment.

A fully programmed urban park that ties to the Myriad Gardens and retail development along the new boulevard will be yet another eye-popping signal that Oklahoma City is moving forward. Combined with a public transit system that we can be proud of, a citywide sidewalk program that is already under construction, and a growing trend toward density in the inner-city, the park can be another giant step towards creating the pedestrian-friendly community that we desire. The timeline is doable. Keep in mind, the interstate should be relocated in 2012. The resulting boulevard that will be built along the current interstate alignment should be in place by 2014. The park, ideally, needs to be ready at the same time, roughly five years from now. But like an expansion of public transit, the park is not currently funded.

Together, better public transit and the creation of the Core to Shore park are significant “quality of life” amenities. You have heard me say before that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. I suggest that for transit and the Core to Shore park, that time has come.

You have heard me say before that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. I suggest that for transit and the Core to Shore park, that time has come.

The only decisions left are how we proceed and how soon.

And while these two initiatives are focused directly on the quality of life for our residents, we have a third important opportunity that focuses directly on our economy and indirectly on job creation. And that is a resolution to our undersized, and thus underutilized, convention center. We are in it today. This building was constructed in 1972 and was last improved in 1999. In 1999, we had one downtown hotel and it wasn’t doing all that well. Now we are soon to have seven downtown hotels and counting. And it appears they are all healthy. But we are currently losing convention business we could otherwise obtain because of the size of this facility.

Kudos to the Mayor for taking a stand on public transit.  The time truly has come!  Designing the park and deciding on the details of the transit system will give us plenty to discuss in the coming months.  And I look forward also to arguing why the placement of a new convention center along the length of the eastern edge of the new park is nothing short of a terrible idea!  You would think one under utilized downtown park ruined by an adjacent convention center would be enough, but apparently we want another one.

Time is of the essence – if they are going to put this to a vote in the fall then the plans will have to be nearly complete sometime this summer.  But for now, Maps3 is on the horizon and public transit is coming with it – enjoy it.  It is a good day!