Big steps for El Paso
On the far west of Texas, officials are showing how to bring back historical patterns of transit-oriented, walkable neighborhoods in a low-density, spread-out city.
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El Paso, which means “the step” in Spanish, took a big one toward livability and sustainability with approval of Plan El Paso in March. That’s the latest of many strides the city has taken in recent years toward smart growth.
The 19th largest city in the US, El Paso is expected to add more than 400,000 new residents by 2035 through substantial planned military base expansion and nonmilitary growth. Plan El Paso accommodates this growth in compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development (TOD). The agenda is one of the most ambitious and multifaceted local sustainability efforts in the US.
The big transportation move is a 55-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) system that’s under construction — one of the most extensive in the country. The four BRT lines will extend from downtown to all corners of the city, connecting with existing bus routes. Major rapid transit transfer centers are slated to be development hubs, and streetscape improvements are planned.
“El Paso has been deliberately innovative, because there aren’t a lot of examples of bus rapid transit with transit-oriented development (TOD) around the US,” says Jim Charlier of Charlier Associates, a consultant on the transportation plan. “The plan used the same principles as rail TOD —