The Total Vision

Aug. 14, 2015

“[The arts] help us make sense of our world, and they broaden our experience and understanding."

- Dr. Mitchell B. Reiss, president of Washington College

I had been to Denver a number of years ago and had walked the 16th Street Mall, but seeing it the other week, it was a different place. While riding the Regional Transportation District’s MallRide after a long morning of travel, I did a double-take out the window as I saw a brightly painted piano. There were numerous pianos along the mall. As well as chess tables and in one section, miniature golf, ping pong, bean bag toss and other games.

I was with other transit folks so I wasn’t the only one excited about the focus on placemaking and the energy it all created. Though that’s not a widely accepted sentiment.

I worked in several museums before I came to Mass Transit and there was always the fight of justifying the arts. Those pianos and chess tables aren’t necessary. The money that provided for them could have been used elsewhere. But they made me want to be there and that’s where I walked, spent my time and spent my money at the coffee shops and restaurants along that stretch.  And I’m not the only one as day and night, even during the middle of the week, it was always busy.

This issue’s cover story is on the Transbay Transit Center, currently under construction in San Francisco. How they funded such a massive infrastructure project is an amazing story and looking at a project that has utilized value capture is really important. But I also wanted to share information on the art that they have worked at integrating into the center to make it not just a multi-modal transit center with shopping and dining, but to make it the place you want to go to.

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan described it as providing the public with a place to meet and to have a respite from their daily lives. While the word "transit" may conjure up thoughts of "dirty," "unreliable" or many of the negative stereotypes we often here, making places for transit that are places where everyone wants to be will only elevate its status.