Every now and then news comes along that gets people stoked. Such is the case for me with news of the establishment of the Transportation Institute at California State University, Fresno, more commonly known as Fresno State.
In fact, the university circulated a press release Sept. 12, 2017 to this effect. Its title: “Fresno State announces opening of new transportation institute.”
Now why is this news important?
A few reasons: Area air quality, driving and traffic, and safety, primarily.
The university in the release provides perspective:
“The institute will address four measures consistent with the Region Transportation Plan and Sustainable Community Strategy.
“Education: The institute will support the development and offering of undergraduate, graduate, certificate and other professional development programs, workshops and conferences in areas of advanced multimodal and transit systems and other related fields such as city and regional transportation planning, economics and business, among many others.
“Research: The institute will incentivize Fresno State students and faculty to pursue and establish innovative research programs that focus on advanced multimodal and transit solutions and optimizing of existing systems; facilitating mobility, improving air quality, and reducing traffic congestion and energy demand.
“Technical Service: The institute will partner with and provide local agencies human resources and technical expertise to facilitate the pursuit of project grants for the development, implementation and operation of advanced multimodal and transit projects in Fresno County.
“Public Outreach: The institute will increase public knowledge, acceptance and expectations for advanced multimodal and transit systems. It will organize K-12 and other public outreach and education that will focus on multimodal and transit challenges and local transportation solutions.”
All of which sounds really encouraging.
Understanding this, one has to wonder how much of an impact and influence the institute can have and be, respectively, in a community where air pollution and entrenched development and building ways have ruled the day for at least a half century. It’d be great if that impact and influence is indeed both far-reaching and leads to significant positive differences being made.
As to how, exactly, the institute came into existence nearly $3 million has come from Fresno County’s Measure C’s (transportation sales-tax measure extension which, by the way, was approved by 77 percent of county voters in 2006) New Technology Reserve fund, according to the university in the press release in question. The institute is to open this autumn.
To this the university adds: “The Fresno State Transportation Institute is a collaboration between the 15 cities within Fresno County and Fresno State’s Lyles College of Engineering, Craig School of Business and College of Social Sciences.”
Truly a first for Fresno.
So, will the order of the day be new ideas brought to the table or will the rehashing of old ones be par for the course? For that matter, will new solutions be discussed or will those brought forward be the garden variety only maybe repackaged? These are maybe tough questions to ask but considering that in the San Joaquin Valley and in Fresno in particular where the Transportation Institute is based old habits seem to die hard, and their needing to be asked practically goes without saying. That said, new ideas and new solutions would be a welcome and refreshing change to the current development scheme which has been in place for eons, it seems.
Being I’m the curious type, I wonder what the institute’s position on the street going in on six blocks of what previously had been the outdoor Fulton Mall, a downtown Fresno-based pedestrian promenade lined with office buildings and ground-floor shops and restaurants is. It’s a project that cost at least $20 million and, presumably, is part of the city’s downtown revitalization effort. The word revitalization says it all. It remains to be seen if this will be a good investment or good money thrown after bad. We shall see.
Bottom line: Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley have some of the worst air pollution in the entire country. The right transportation solutions – coupled, of course, with sensible land-use changes – can go a long ways in terms of helping in this regard. There is so much that stands to be gained here and, as it has to do with that, a lot of good can be done. Let’s hope.
Image above: Copyright James G. Howes, 2009 (used with permission)