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August 1, 2017 > Editorial: Ideal vs. Real

Editorial: Ideal vs. Real

Visualization has been a useful technique for achieving success in a wide range of human endeavors. For instance, athletes are often taught to visualize their goals and patterns leading to victory. Business too has used the concept as a practical method of achieving success in sales and marketing. The process is one of anticipation and proactive action rather than simply reacting to what has already happened.

In the political realm, visualization of goals is an important tool as well. It is important to build upon common ideas that may not necessarily be practical or achievable but represent an idea of, in a perfect world, the objective. At the local level, we are faced with a complex problem of growth and its sidekick traffic. Not only does internal expansion of housing within our boundaries work toward solving a housing shortage, but it exacerbates traffic snarls threatening mobility. More residents represent more commuters through our environment.

Without a clear understanding of goals, it is difficult to respond to these challenges with anything other than a temporary, band-aid approach. General Plans, Park Master Plans and the like are governmentÕs attempt to visualize an ideal community. These are important as dynamic and representational attempts to achieve an ideal society. Responding to immediate concerns without an eye on the long-term answer is nothing more than a brief respite without a concrete and comprehensive endgame.

Fremont is creating a Mobility Task Force to address traffic Ð automobile, bicycle, pedestrian - concerns and this is a good step forward. However, the first issue to address is what vision the City and other local communities have for the future of transportation. Vision Zero, a goal of perfect traffic control and safety is a good start. When an ideal scenario is created, solving practical problems does not become easier, but it does help to create a pattern of solutions designed to conform to and move in a coordinated direction.

The Mobility Task Force [should be a commission; this is not a short-term problem] needs to move beyond a standardized vision of the future. It should consider a broader and more specialized context. For instance: Does the City see mobility within its boundaries without individual automobile ownership? Will residents be without the need or desire for private ownership of cars, instead relying on services within walking distance, bicycle travel, mass transit, automated vehicles, Uber-style private transportation? If so, how does this affect plans for streets, traffic signals and automotive-related economies? If this is the vision, what is the goal? If, however, we visualize a future of private automobile ownership, albeit different in form, should emphasis be placed on maximizing technology for such travel? What would this look like?

The same can be said for housing. Is the future vision one that includes housing for every resident regardless of income or circumstance? Immediate fixes such as some variation of rent control may be an interim solution, but what is the ideal situation? To visualize intermediate stages of housing remediation, what is the final goal? Should emphasis be placed on better mass transportation from outlying areas that are able to accommodate large numbers of moderate income housing? Or should planning emphasis be to integrate working families of modest means into existing, but rapidly decreasing prime real estate acreage? How can access to commerce and livelihood be assured? Where will schools enter the mix? How do parents assure safe passage for students?

To facilitate a comprehensive and integrated plan of action, visualization of ultimate goals can be the first step. The Mobility Task Force is a good beginning; its scope should extend to the types, placement and effects of housing on movement within the City as well. We need to define our ideals to implement creative and practical steps to stretch toward them.

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