Monday, September 6, 2010

On the road again....

I guess it's time to blog about what is really good with me....

I'm now in Auburn trying to obtain my Masters of Community Planning and graduate minor in Economic Development.  I've been trying to adjust to this really small urban area compared to that of the Greater Birmingham and Metro Atlanta.  I'll try to include some of the happenings and debauchery that occurs in the Auburn-Opelika and Columbus areas.  However, it is going to be an ADJUSTMENT because the area is clearly a fractured region where everything is at least 5 miles from anything.  I consider this a "pit stop" along the journey of my life, so it will be interesting how I can blog about the Greater Birmingham area (Central Alabama), East Alabama, and Georgia (which I've been doing for awhile now).  I can already tell it's going to be an interesting 2-3 years in this area.  My heart is still in the major metropolitan areas, but my body is there.

Oh yeah, small rant.  The Columbus (Georgia) television market sucks ass.  I've never seen a market that needs to get its act together and I mean SERIOUSLY.  Why is that ABC affiliate, WTVM also known as "WTVM, News Leader 9" (HORRIBLE BRAND NAME, BTW) is the only news operation in the market that actually airs regular newscasts all 7 days of the week?  They also produce the lone nightly newscasts on WXTX "FOX 54", which is operated by WTVM via a shared-services agreement (legalese for co-ownership via a property trust or a front company).  The Media General-owned CBS-affiliate, WRBL, "WRBL, News 3",  used to be a strong competitor of WTVM, but due to the cheapness of Media General the station only airs 4 newscasts per day and 5 days a week (meaning no weekend newscasts).  It is a shotty at best news operation with practically no on-air talent at all.  It's quite embarrassing.  The piped in news product of NBC-affiliate WLTZ, "WLTZ NBC 38"  is so-so as they do try to make it look local, but like WRBL, it doesn't have air anything on the weekend and only have evening newscasts for 5 days a week.  There is practically no CW affiliate (unless you get WLTZ digital sub-channel called "GA-BAMA CW"), thus me having to watch my Thursday night show, The Vampire Diaries, online.  The sad and twisted irony is WTVM Raycom Media-owned sister station in the Montgomery market & NBC affiliate, WSFA, "WSFA 12" airs on Charter Auburn cable channel line up, which essentially means the market is fractured because WLTZ has no real pull on Lee County viewership.  Anything I've learn about TV market designation is that there is 1 affiliate allowed in each market's local area and if there is a duplication amongst the major networks then it is a fractured market with weak stations.  The Columbus (sometimes hyphenated with Opelika-Auburn, AL) market reminds me of most Southern TV markets in the 1990s, where there were only 4 full-powered TV stations and all the good syndicated old sitcoms that didn't put you to sleep wind up airing on the local FOX affiliate (which it does with WXTX) along with some other channels from other cities airing on the line-up in some of the key places outside the main urban area (Columbus metro area).

ON THE URBAN LANDSCAPE: The layout of the area is laughable.  U.S 431 is practically a two-lane country road most of the area until you get to the core of Opelika.  U.S 280 is a four-to-six-lane highway through the entire region and all the way to Birmingham as well as Columbus.  280 does come close to being an official freeway when it gets to the western periphery of the Columbus urban area in Russell County (Alabama) near Phenix City.  However, the only real freeways in the entire region is I-85 and I-185.  It's an area that lacks major freeway/throughway infrastructure serving the area population.   I will give Auburn some points for its continuous usage of sideways and crosswalk signals around most major intersections within its corporate limits.  The area also tends to lean towards a neighborhood retail center type of spread with some retailers like Winn-Dixie and Kroger locations.  However, the area is poorly laid out as the main regional retail area surrounding The Village Mall is located on East University Drive, which a road that less that 2 miles to the south is in a residential area.

If one to compare Auburn to Opelika then you would know Opelika is the better planned one of the two.  It is also more proactive in its economic development initiatives like the power center, TigerTown at US 280 & I-85 led by the Opelika Development Authority.  However, its also a texbook example of urban sprawl and short-term, retail-oriented economic development rather than more sustainable white-collar and self-investing knowledge-based developments like pushing toward getting a more research center or entrepreneur incubator (since it's near Auburn University).  Auburn seems to go more towards the latter mentioned since they recently opened the Auburn Research Park, which will have long-term economic development benefits for the region.

Columbus is just there.  I mean I've been there a couple of times, but it doesn't seems like beyond the military base, Fort Benning, that there is much to its economy beyond that.  The lack of direct freeway/throughway access is an impediment for accessibility to anyone.  I-185 suck since it's a north-south directional freeway that only serves as a way for others on the Georgia side of the region to get to I-85 from Columbus and Fort Benning.  There are the attempts by locals in Columbus to make the RiverCenter, the Riverwalk walk and bike path along & whitewater rafting in the Chattahoochee River, and the local theaters via "Broadway in Columbus" as a draw, but I'm unimpressed.  The city just lacks the population base to pull anything major which I'm more accustomed to in North Alabama and North Georgia.

In general, I'm in an "it is what it is" mindset about this region.  Lee County (Alabama) and Muscogee County (Georgia) are the main population centers, but they aren't very cooperated in their strategy to make the region more attractive or impressive to newcomers or outsiders.  I'll just spend my time focusing on my studies and networking with those in the Auburn-Opelika area and look forward to transitioning to Georgia...


  1. Thank you, V! I've been dealing with a full plate as of late...



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