Underwater with work: shot off the latest Chinese math paper just as an indexing project came in. By yesterday afternoon, managed to mark up pages and create a five-inch-high stack of notecards. Entered an inch or so worth in the draft document.
Problem is, any given keyword recorded in this way may point to a topic that needs to be documented more carefully. So for about every fourth or fifth keyword, I end up having to run a “search” through the PDF. This is time-consuming and mind-numbing…but alas, it usually does unearth a few more indexable instances of the term. All of which means, put briefly, that it takes for-freaking-ever to type up the index terms, and then they have to be alphabetized and formatted to the publisher’s standard.
Alas, we don’t have forever: this thing has to go back to the publisher on August 2, but before that it has to be reviewed by not one but two authors and their changes entered. It will be a gold-plated miracle of we make the deadline at this rate.
Yes…it is true: I’m not working; I’m blogging. At 7 in the morning I get to do something other than work. For a minute or two, anyway.
Stupidly, I subscribed to Nextdoor, the social media site that puts neighbors in touch with each other. It’s interesting…but… Overall its effect is to reinforce one’s feeling that the neighborhood is being over-run with drug-using, potentially thieving derelicts. The other day on my way back from the fruitless effort to get the present stack of page proofs printed at the Metrocenter UPS store, I counted nine such folk — that’s just on the main drags, not in the alleys and on the neighborhood streets.
- 11 cell phones (older Kyocera and Alltec models. Cases to newer ones present but no phone)
- 30+ chargers and cables
- A/V cables
- License plate with current tags (97 Chevy)
- Sports watches
- Credit/store cards (numerous different names)
- Dismantled bike frames, parts, gears, broken locks
- Personal items like keepsake pins and work anniversary memorabilia
- Purses, backpacks, and makeup bags
The police responded that they weren’t interested in this loot because none of it constituted evidence of a crime. Right. Miscellaneous credit cards, a license plate hot enough to singe your fingers, a stash of expensive watches…clearly innocent stuff, hm?
Here’s our guy’s bed, cuddled up against the resident’s backyard. Doesn’t that look cozy?
The other day I had a long chat with a group of enthusiastic city bureaucrats in a teleconference about lightrail safety. This materialized, presumably, from some rant I put on Facebook or waypoints. No doubt I remarked online — truthfully — that I do not feel safe riding the lightrail because of the number of vagrants who use it as free air conditioning. All of these shady characters are dumped off at the corner of Conduit of Blight and Gangbanger’s Way, whence they osmose into our neighborhood. The city is accommodating them by installing a meth clinic around the corner and encouraging nonprofits to build homeless shelters. (Note that NarcAnon suggests there’s a fair amount of money to be made in the meth clinic business. Some investors seem to think so, too.)
The group members were very nice, and I’m impressed that someone in the City gives a damn whether some old lady feels safe riding the train. One of the speakers, who before acceding to her present position had a long and successful career as a police officer, pointed out that the city has increased patrols and enforcement along the train tracks where they run north from Camelback up Conduit of Blight. And it is true, arrest rates have skyrocketed along that stretch.
But: it doesn’t address the problems: homelessness, vagrancy, and drug addiction, deliberately brought into reasonably quiet neighborhoods by an ill-conceived, incredibly expensive trophy public-transit toy.
First, let us address the safety on the train issue: you can put as many officers on the street as you can spare, but it doesn’t put them on the train, where they need to be.
SDXB, recently back from Seattle, reports that their lightrail has a conductor on every car, and the person stays there and keeps the peace…as well as collecting fares, which are rarely collected here. You can jump on our train in north Phoenix and ride all the way to Mesa with a good chance that no one will ask to see your ticket. The cars are stupidly designed in that there’s no passway between them. So if you have four cars on a train, you have four separate pods. That means a single conductor cannot walk the length of the train collecting tickets and cannot see the length of the train to keep an eye on the goings-on.
It also means that if somebody who stinks or who is arguing with his voices or is shaking people down for change or shooting up or masturbating or pestering women gets into the car, you can’t get up and walk to another car: you have to get off the train and stand on the platform until another one comes along.
Next, let us consider the folly of the train project itself: the most efficient way to move traffic around a sprawling city like the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area is by bus, shuttle, and car. The infrastructure for those vehicles was already here. To build the light-rail system, which can only go where the rails are laid, the city has had to spend $70 million per mile! Think of that. That’s $1.4 billion for the first 20 miles.
Just imagine what $1.4 billion would have done for the homeless in this city. For the drug addiction problem. For our bottom-of-the-barrel K-12 system. Or how many electric buses and shuttles it could have bought.
In the folly department, our crew from the City reported that our city fathers and mothers intend to continue building the train tracks to Metrocenter, the ghost mall of which we have spoken in the past. For this to happen, the line will have to cross over Interstate 17. In the past, the Arizona Department of Transportation has stated that they will not allow that to happen, because sooner or later they intend to convert the I-17 along that stretch into a double-decker freeway. That plan seems to have been ditched…or at least, they’re not talking about it in any venue that ranks in a Google search. 😀
In terms of people-moving, doubling the freeway’s carrying capacity — even though that, too, will be quite the little horror — probably makes more sense than the train because within the next 10 or 20 years, most cars and many trucks will run on electricity. And probably a large number of those will be self-driving, cutting the accident rate and eliminating the Sunday drives up the wrong side of the freeway.
If we must put billions of dollars into transportation schemes, why not dedicate it to building an infrastructure for the inevitable self-driving electric cars?
Folly continued: The idea that developers are going to fall all over themselves to renovate the Ghost Mall or to build offices and apartments there is…well, a pipe dream that makes one wonder what who put into whose pipes. That whole district is dangerously blighted: it’s the sort of place where you reflexively check to be sure your car doors are locked when you drive through. There’s not enough customer base to support a middle-class shopping area there — that’s why Metrocenter crashed and burned. Right now they’re building a Walmart Supercenter amongst the ruins…not the kind of venue guaranteed to attract the young urbanites who ride from their pricey mid-town digs to their downtown or ASU jobs. About the best one could do is try to lure light industry or a big medical center. Most likely, though, the site will end up as a gigantic park-&-ride.
That alone is silly: why would you drive 40-plus minutes to Metrocenter from the westside or Anthem and then park your car in 110-degree heat in a high-theft area, walk through said high-crime area to stand in the heat, and climb into a vehicle that will put you elbow-to-elbow with folks who need a bath and a handout?
Finally, let us consider the question of whether, as the city asserts, the lightrail system really does jack up property values and does lead to upscale development.
It’s undoubtedly true for certain districts and certain demographics. Studies have shown that the effect is modest, and in some cases may be negative. In the Phoenix area, there’s a certain set of urbanites, most of them in well-paying jobs, who prefer to live in centrally located areas — first, because they dislike commuting long distances and second because they want to take advantage of downtown and mid-town cultural amenities. My ex-DH and I were among those: we lived in the centrally located historic district specifically for those reasons, and because we could afford to put our child in private schools. Those people will regard a lightrail or a trolley system as a convenient urban amenity and will ride it.
And certainly, mid-town and downtown Phoenix’s economic development has exploded.
But interestingly, that does not apply everywhere. The slum apartments across Conduit of Blight are still slum apartments, despite several years of shiny tooting and honking up that road. The abandoned golf course behind the slum apartments is still a derelict piece of property, one that houses a number of human derelicts. There’s no serious sign of fancy development up here.
• Some people work in places where they can park for free or for a modest cost and so have no interest in rubbing shoulders with their fellow citizens twice daily on buses or trains.
• Some have sporadic or contract work to which they have to drive, and whose customers provide parking.
• Some prefer to live in the suburbs where there are more children for their kids to play with, more people like themselves, and at least a shot at usable public schools.
• Some — make that “most of us” — can’t afford to live in those “value-improved” districts. Downtown and mid-town rental rates here rival Portland‘s and Seattle‘s…and believe me, Phoenix ain’t Portland and it ain’t Seattle.
What seems to be happening is that while the thing pushes property values up in some areas, it may push them down in others — areas where people have no vested interest in riding the lightrail to work and where the train serves mainly to transport derelicts into formerly placid neighborhoods. The City no doubt knows this. Clearly the strategy of building shelters and installing a meth clinic belies the claim that the lightrail merrily improves districts through which it moves. A population of drug addicts and mentally ill bums does nothing to increase property values.
Here in the ’hood, there’s not a thing we can do about the train: it’s already built. Unless we sell our homes and move a long way from Folly Central, we’re pretty much stuck with the result.
So…what can be done?
Well, to start with, take some of the funds planned to build still more miles of track — which as we can see must amount to billions of dollars — and apply the money to the problems of homelessness, untreated mental illness, drug addiction, and health care for the indigent. The Man Who Is Not Dog, for example, had pinkeye — no, not red eyes from drug use, but an itchy infection in one eye — that clearly was untreated. He didn’t even have a place to wash the sweat off, much less get his infected eye treated.
• Provide SRO-type housing for single homeless men and women — not religion-based, a status that repels many non-believers.
• Provide medical care targeted at specific issues common in that demographic.
• Provide mental health care and counseling that does not substitute one addictive drug for another and is not thinly disguised preaching.
• Engage neighborhoods in empathizing and working with the poor: possibly create grants to provide services that reliably get people off the streets, out of established neighborhoods and parks, and into SROs and off of drugs (alcohol included).
• Provide grants to landlords to upgrade deteriorating apartments in return for dedicating some portion of the complex to homeless housing or space for service facilities caring for the homeless.
The point is this: Just driving a light-rail train along a route and adding a bunch of police officers is not going to increase property values or get the people whose neighborhoods are damaged to like it. Or persuade people who’d rather drive to ride it.