The following is commentary on the ‘State of the A.R.T. project’ – a BRT project underway since May 9th in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The “Boyd Trial” got underway on Wednesday. It was billed as the “Stop A.R.T.” effort. Those that supported it saw it as the lawyer solution, based on the theory that the devolution of modern society has reached the point where only lawyers, guns, and money can carry the day in any situation.
Indeed, such may be the case.
The court action in question was for a preliminary injunction to stop construction on ART filed in federal court. The complaint alleged that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) erred in granting a Categorical Exclusion (CE) regarding an otherwise required environmental assessment report.
At this point we are far beyond the sound-byte capacity of the average modern brain to effectively frame what is really at issue. Please let me explain.
In testimony, the City attorneys (the side supporting ART, and defending it), argued persuasively that the federal FTA funds were only an adjunct to the project, necessary perhaps, but not necessarily necessary. Even the opposition (the Boyd team, joined by the Maria Bautista team) submitted testimony and evidence that the City had other resources with which to ‘stay the course’, to continue building ART, to ‘carry on’.
Much of the hearing was like this – two ships, some might say giants, passing in the night – like the metaphor, or like the metaphor of the blind man and the elephant.
One side saw feet and inches, concrete and guideways, an old corridor often wracked by urban decay and ruin. The other side saw culture, history, historic places sometimes well worn, but well loved. This side spoke too, of the people – not concrete and steel, not artificial ART, but the art of the people.
For those that know, and care about, history it is a very old theme. When the modern technological wonder, the Titanic, went down, some mourned the loss of a ship – S.O.S. – Save Our Ship. Others, more wisely, mourned the loss of the souls – “1,500 Die in Disaster.”
The John Boyd motion was not aimed at saving souls, nor was it aimed at stopping the disaster. The motion, the action, was simply stated – to stop (temporarily) the federal funding, not the City financed ongoing A.R.T. construction.
So it is not surprising that Mayor Berry will officially break ground on Monday, August 1st, on a project actually started nearly three months earlier. It’s what happens when one losses control about following the facts. The actually apt metaphor is smoke and mirrors, or a fit description of what happens when smoke gets in your eyes.
In an Albuquerque Journal op-ed piece today an ex-Albuquerque resident advanced the cyborg theory of the ART project – the idea that part man / part machine creatures are the future of the earth. It is a point that most have missed, the idea that only with the advance of machines can human life carry on. The irony, of course, is that this is not a new idea. The car culture itself was a cyborg event – the wedding of people and machine – the advent of the family car, the personal car, the car culture.
So is the transit to a bus culture the answer, just a change of machines, or the size and scope of the machine component in the cyborg set?
Elon Musk, the electric car and bus guy, has a vision for the future. It supports the car culture, but embraces the bus culture too. He will soon release the next generation, the new generation, of electric bus vehicles. And Albuquerque just can’t let go of the past as Mayor Berry will stick us with buying the last of the last generation of electric battery buses for A.R.T.
Complexity is seemingly always a good excuse for not thinking.