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July 23, 2008 > Editorial: Will we be ready?

Editorial: Will we be ready?

Last week, public meetings and comments about local transportation issues were raining hot and heavy. A work session of the Fremont City Council on Tuesday evening focused on challenges facing the greater Tri-City Area for commuters and residents. Discussions included a vision of future traffic measures by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and a presentation by Alameda County Transportation Authority (ACTA) personnel on the progress of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) of the Highway 84 "Option 2," now called the East-West Connector Project.

According to transportation analysts, traffic will continue to increase along with the population of the greater Tri-City area. Stemming the flow of people and automobiles is not an option so dialogue focused on how to accommodate more traffic. So far, ratings and projections of the ability of our roads and intersections to handle peak volume traffic are not encouraging.

A meeting at the Fremont Public Library on Wednesday evening continued a discussion of "Envisioning Fremont Boulevard." This exercise is an extension of the Fremont General Plan project, an attempt to peer into the future of the city and help shape its form 30 or 40 years from now. This was the second meeting of citizens to ponder the role of what might be termed the "spine" of the city. This road takes different shapes as it forms a north/south corridor through Fremont. Although opinions of what to do with the road differ, one thing has become abundantly clear, the future design of Fremont Boulevard will have a significant impact on the city and this street will probably be transformed in the process.

An intriguing possibility is to focus on intra-city public transportation that will alleviate the need for short automobile trips. An example might be shopping at stores in the Centerville District and the Irvington District. Mass transit that is appealing, safe and comfortable might lure drivers to leave their car parked at a single location and use other forms of transportation for brief excursions. Access to Niles, Mission San Jose and Warm Springs could form a network of travel. Alternatives to bus routes that take circuitous paths to increase ridership could be explored.

An example of such a system might be a trolley adding an aesthetic touch to the general ambiance of Fremont. Looking "back to the future" may provide a direct path of travel along the grand boulevard and to all historic districts. Formed from the original five districts, well worn paths have been converted to main thoroughfares leading to each providing a basic transit network. Electric trolleys can add flavor and atmosphere - no exhaust, please - while decreasing traffic within historic district nodes. This type of transportation can entice shoppers to discover local stores and encourage retail expansion in its path.

The central question of civic revitalization is whether retail growth attracts consumers or if the opposite is true; high pedestrian traffic volume attracts retail growth. The answer may be a bit of both, but for many consumers, ease of access is a key element. Whatever use is made of roads within the city, encouraging pedestrians to explore our districts is a vital ingredient for Fremont's growth and economic vigor. Mobility is a prime factor of our lives. Cities are also living units that depend on mobility for their economic wellbeing. The sheer magnitude of population growth and anticipated traffic increases will necessitate a well planned approach to the future. There is no question that they will come, but will we be ready?

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