Gone: Clearing the Path for California’s Last Freeway

Westpark is a neighborhood like any other in Central Bakersfield. It’s filled with single-story ranch homes from the 50’s and 60’s; its streets are wide, clean, and lined with orderly parked cars; its lawns are neatly divided by fully matured palm trees.

But Westpark is a neighborhood under siege.

Over the past several years, city bulldozers sliced a wide, sterile arc directly through the heart of the neighborhood; they razed at least 300 homes and 120 businesses. And now, where the humble homesteads of hundreds of families and retirees once stood, there is nothing–just woodchips and orphaned cross-streets as far as the eye can see.

The city was clearing the way for a titanic construction project. It’s building a six-lane freeway, called the Centennial Corridor, that will someday wind its way through Westpark in a trench. But until the excavators get the go-ahead to carve out the highway’s sunken alignment, the land will sit barren, in a bizarre state of limbo.

On one foggy January morning, I took a childhood friend of mine to Westpark to document the neighborhood as it stands in 2018. Our plan was to meet up with a mutual friend of ours and take photos while getting some exercise. I told them we were exploring an “abandoned neighborhood,” but none of us was really prepared for the scene we came upon. Continue reading “Gone: Clearing the Path for California’s Last Freeway”

Downtown Bakersfield, an Urbanist Perspective

Of all places, is downtown Bakersfield in the midst of an urban renaissance?

Ten years ago, that claim would have been laughable. Bakersfield’s economic future was clearly to the far west, where affluent new strip malls, subdivisions, and high schools were sprawling incessantly in the direction of Interstate 5. Any neighborhoods east of State Route 99 had been left on the dusty shoulder of Edison Highway, while downtown itself was on life support in Memorial Hospital.

When I was a boy, my father used to drive me down to the Kern Island Canal on 21st Street, where we fed pieces of bread to the ducks. (I shudder now at the ecological devastation that probably caused.) It was an unremarkable dirt-lined ditch back then, a relic of the nineteenth century rush to harness the Kern River, surrounded by derelict low-rise factories and warehouses. As late as the 80s, there was also a large Southern Pacific railyard nearby that occupied several city blocks.

Then, in the twenty-first century, things began to change. Continue reading “Downtown Bakersfield, an Urbanist Perspective”

GET Upcoming Service Changes

Golden Empire Transit is going to hold a public hearing on some proposed service changes.

A few thoughts:

  • 21/22/44 are due to see more buses (which means slight frequency increases, I guess). Always a good thing! The 21/22 especially deserve 20-minute or better frequencies on the weekends.
  • 61 finally gets evening service! (As this is my go-to bus route this is advantageous for me personally 🙂 .) It sucked not having a ride after 6 PM. Still needs a frequency increase (which is actually on GET’s long-term plans). One can dream.
  • 62 will get evening service too.
  • 82 will now provide evening service to the Northwest Promenade, meaning better access to the businesses there and connections (albeit poorly-timed) to the 61.
  • Holiday service has been eliminated, but with those abysmal boarding numbers, I suppose it’s not hard to see why.

Since GET is just now proposing these changes, perhaps their ridership is finally starting to see an increase since the route reorganization and the summer 2014 strike.