Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lexington Developments--Feb 2009

For those of you who follow my postings on Skyscraper City this may be nothing new, but I hope to give a little background for this weeks developments.
First off, there is the progress around the Medical Center ,and this time it's private money. The property between the Shell station and the new parking garage will soon break ground for a seven story hotel. I've been told that it will be Hampton Inn and the latest plan shows awnings or canopies protruding over the sidewalk, like they want to do a sidewalk style dining area.

This development is much different from that proposed many years ago. The first proposal for this site was dated Jan. 12, 1967. At that time they called it White Towers because the proposal was for two apartment towers of 9 floors each, above a parking structure which would cover the entire block. The engineering firm of Proctor, Davis & Ray owned and occupied the light colored building to the right of the photo above, had options to purchase the rest of the block and prepared the plans.

P,D & R's primary field was water and sewer projects with some aviation work and the project languished. They applied for and received their R-5 zoning, but I guess the options expired and others started acquiring the small residential lots. The Medical School students needed inexpensive apartments close to the hospital and between the Walton brothers and Henry Cravens that need was met.

When the University began accumulating property in the area, a revised plan for more of a mixed use project was brought forward. It is theorized that, with an approved plan in place, the owners could maximize their asking price in case of a condemnation by UK. Simultaneously, the need has grown for lodging of families of non-local patients under long term care. This latest plan will now apparently fill a portion of that need. Oddly enough, there was a small motel on the block now occupied by the Kentucky Clinic and Nursing School back in '67.


The other new announcement today was about the Downtown enhancements for the Farmers market and the Streetscape proposals. The images above show just the type of structure I would like to see and is what I had in mind when I posted about a possible entertainment district along Short St between Mill and Cheapside. A light, airy covering of late 1800's style and although this covers Cheapside and not Short, it will fulfill the idea. The possibility of using it for many other functions and events is really a plus. The rendering also seems to show that the Breckenridge statue will be moved toward Main St. and some more public artwork added(also topics of earlier blog posts). The addition of an "art style" bus stop would complete the trifecta.

Some comments on the Herald-Leader web site have called this a waste of money and suggest that it be better suited for the Lexington Mall location. Are these the same folk that raked former Mayor Issac about her foray into a condemnation of said mall and now chastise the current Mayor for not doing the same? Are they the same folk who complain the downtown is not vibrant and will not spend any effort to make it so? Some downtown decisions of the past have been shown to be less than useful and some just plain mistakes. Please, let us learn from those mistakes and move forward but not so rapidly as to make even larger mistakes.

With all the effort looking toward the streetscapes, I would hope that they don't forget the new emphasis on railed transit by the current Federal administration and at least contemplate a possible future rail tram in the downtown area.

Hopefully this next year will find downtown a mess with new building projects galore.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Supernanny Transportation Planning

Today's view from the street starts with a note from Wired and piece they have on Designing cities for people not cars.
That was the message transportation planner Timothy Papandreou brought to "Expanding the Vision of Sustainable Mobility," a symposium sponsored by the Art Center College of Design. The school could be called the Harvard of transportation design

Papandreou called for an end to "state, federal, and local land use policies that are literally forcing people to have to drive"
Yes, some of us feel that the policies force us to drive. I have come to think that these policies are similar the efforts of young parents that facilitate their children's misbehavior. In watching Supernanny the other night, I saw again what is becoming a recurring theme of the show. Parents setting limitations but then giving in and then giving the child whatever it wants. And whatever one child gets the others all get and more, until they all expect it as a right.

That was the way of automobile use. First it was one car to replace the horse/mule. Then it was not just driving to town, but all the way to the BIG city. Next, somewhere to store your auto at home, at work and during shopping or recreation. More storage for our autos because more of us were going shopping at the same time. More roads because we were going to the same places at the same time. More, more, more, we deserve it, we can't live without it. If I don't get it ...why I'll just stand here and scream my head off.

This is the part where the Supernanny steps in and tells the parents how to tell the kids No, but here is also where the benevolent Uncle Sam, who wants to be well liked, steps in first and makes it all better. R i g h t. At some point the government is going to have to set thing straight.

America's eastern metropolis's had already reached critical mass before this phenomena could affect their inner cities and had started to deal with solutions like mass transit/streetcars/subways. These solutions did not extend out until it was too late and the damage was done. Meanwhile the sibling jealousy of the city child toward his suburban cousin(with a liberal dose of Madison Ave. prompting) led to an escape to the wide open spaces where you could drive(and shop) till you dropped(or the bank made you stop).

Well, we have just about made it to the point where the Supernanny bank will make us stop. And, good old Uncle Sam is living off social security, and can't give us what we need to survive. As post mid-life drivers, our mid-life crisis came in the 1970's, to which we thought about growing up, then snapped out of it to back to our old habits of wanting more... more... more.

Designing our cities for people and not cars means that we need to give up our "self-interested" ways. Scientific American ran an article in the February issue that dealt with just that matter. The article cites a study wherein a counterintuitive traffic design is shown to traffic flow when the self interest of the driver is removed.
This so called “price of anarchy” is a measure of the inefficiency caused by selfish drivers. Analyzing a commute from Harvard Square to Boston Common, the researchers found that the price can be high—selfish drivers typically waste 30 percent more time than they would under “socially optimal” conditions.
Both of these articles point to the same end, that we as drivers need to be less self interested and more common interested, less of whats in it for me and more of how can we all get along together. We could find that we become more neighborly, more connected and get more things done.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Price Savings of Connectivity

Thanks to Mary Newsome at Naked City for this one. The City of Charlotte did a study on the comparative costs of fire stations in different sections of their city. I worked out that the areas with the most cul-de-sacs, or the areas with the least connectivity, covered less square miles per station and cost more per station to maintain.

I wonder how our fair city compares, or if we have even done a look see.

Drive-thru to Drive Out Pollution

I dislike drive-thrus. No, I take that back. I HATE drive-thrus. Drive-thru restaurants are the worst. Five of the last six times I have been through a drive-thru the orders have had some sort of error. Between understanding the operator and giving requests that they can understand, to me, they are a pain.

Last summer, when gas hit $4 a gallon, Mrs. Sweeper would invariably insist that I cut off the engine while waiting at the drive-thru window and hopefully there would not be a long line ahead of us. Idling at a stop light is bad enough but in line at a drive-thru really irks her.

Lexington has seen some of the major fast food chains add a second drive thru menu board and order point in an effort to increase through put at their windows. But does that decrease the number of autos idling or the time of idling?

I have seen two articles in the past week from two separate cities regarding the growing awareness of car exhaust in urban areas. Arlington, Tx. and New York City are both starting to look at their situations and hopefully find solutions.

I found projects on the Mayor's Stimulus Wish List that will clean up the bus fleet and add technology for hybrid vehicles, but 10 buses and 4 trolleys is only a small dent in the problem in Lexington. What other steps can and WILL the Council take to start to whittle down our "carbon footprint"(one of the highest per capita in the nation)?

The small baby steps of the stimulus projects need to followed by bolder and larger steps. Two of our surrounding towns have considered allowing golf carts on local and collector street. The University has increased transit frequency to off campus student housing and reducing parking availability on campus. The Parking Authority has raised parking fees to discourage meter feeding and free up on street spaces(to, in theory, reduce the block circling and looking for a space).

Over the past 3 years, I have noticed a couple of government facilities which have built in generators( I imagine for emergency purposes) and generally once a week they run these diesel generators for a period of time. While running, they put out a great deal of fumes and particulate matter. Both locations discharge into locations which I would call dead air spaces and are associated with multi-storied parking structures. If the Council is concerned with air quality, then here is a project; to raise the exhaust point to the top of the parking structures or add scrubbers to the existing exhaust points.

I'm sure that a retrofit of or the replacement of the Transit Center would help an the matter of particulate and exhaust pollution, but I dont' see that happening , even if the Stimulus projects are selected. What if we ran a pollution free Fourth of July parade this year? No cars, no trucks, no Shriners in their go carts, just everybody walking or marching (yes horses are still allowed) and the officials would still be in golf carts.

How many more oppertunities can you think of that should be frowarded to the Council?

Friday, February 20, 2009

An Alternative to the Gax Tax

The new Secretary of Transportation has Ray LaHood will soon announce the intention of using the Vehicle Miles Traveled method of taxing instead of a fuel tax on gasoline. In the last year the Highway Trust Fund has not kept pace with the rate of disbursements and Congress had to allocate and extra $8 billion to cover expenses. The decline in gas usage has resulted from the rise of oil prices and the increase in usage of fuel efficient vehicles. (So if Congress had to subsidize the Trust Fund, what does that do to Randal O"Toole's arguement about "pay as you go" for transit systems?)

VMT , on its face, is a much fairer method of applying the "user pays" ideology that O'Toole and others are so adamant about for transit and rail projects. There are many more uses for gasoline than just automobiles and those who use gas powered lawn mowers, chainsaws, generators, ATV's and pleasure boats pay way more than their share to the Highway Fund than those who don"t. There are at least three states currently exploring the possibilities and mechanisims of such a program.

Come on, think about it. If we all went to hybrid autos, or alternative fuels or even, all the the way to all electric vehicles, who would pay for the highways then? Would all the roads become toll roads?

In LaHood's scenario, all cars and trucks would be outfitted with a device to record the milage and would not have two way communication capability(yeah, sure).
The system would require all cars and trucks be equipped with global satellite positioning technology, a transponder, a clock and other equipment to record how many miles a vehicle was driven, whether it was driven on highways or secondary roads, and even whether it was driven during peak traffic periods or off-peak hours.

The device would tally how much tax motorists owed depending upon their road use. Motorists would pay the amount owed when it was downloaded, probably at gas stations at first, but an alternative eventually would be needed.
I told you all about my feelings on "auto to auto" communications and some sort of automated control, so I won't go into that again. This all gets to be sounding very Orwellian and "Big Brother"ish. What is to keep the government from generating your location anywhere in the USA from the triangulation of signals from several satellites. That IS how GPS works and the transponder has to tell if it gets the signal(two way communication).

I also don't get the part about downloading at gas stations at first. Most gas stations these days have little or no help able to handle the task. What I would use is a specially made flash drive designed to connect to the device, activate the download and reset the memory. These readers would only be available at the government agency designated to collect the "usage fee", car tax, ... call it what you will.

This also brings to mind the thought of theft protection for this reader. They could have their own GPS or verification code set-up to prevent them from just walking off (with help).

If I take it one step further, you could use the advances in RFID and just have a drive-thru an the DMV. They verify and calcualte the tax and charge it to your credit card.

There would have to be a phase in period and how that is handled will set the tone for the full implementation. Who will pay for the devices and will the affluent get the better rates per mile? Will there be a penalty on gasoline engines for pollution control? Will there be double standards?

This is one reason that I wish that there were more transit possibilities in Lexington

Update: 2-22-09 It appears that Obama staffers put the kibosh on the VMT late on Friday afternoon, but the idea is still out there lurking in the shadows.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Transit Poll recap

Well the poll is closed and I was surprised at just how close the voting was.

I, of course, voted for the surface running tram. I just think that it looks cleaner. Some of the examples that I have seem, have the trams running along not only on the streets, but also through some very grassy strips beside the roadway. If the system utilized the power supply devised by Bombardier, the one that powers by inductive motors, then there would be no overhead lines to clutter up the scenery.

To those of you who voted for the elevated system, I would like to hear your reasoning if you would share them. My dislikes about this system revolve around:
  • (1) the massiveness of the poles and guideways. In our downtown, I think that this would detract from the overall look of the city. I know, the buildings downtown are mainly bland and boxy, but adding large supports and rails up to 35-40 ft in the air all through the downtown area is a bit much. The historic neighborhoods bordering downtown have restrictions on style and design, although the supports could be styled to fit in, I guess.
  • (2) The number of guided vehicles. Even the Starship Enterprise had a limited number of turbolifts. The photo shows just a few pod vehicles, which appear to carry 4-6 person each. Some other proposed systems are designed for smaller occupancies, thus would require a greater number of pods. Most systems have proposed the control of the pods to be done by computer and not by human steering. While this could be programed and work well for a simple number of pods we all know that with a rise in pods the complexity increases exponentially. I recall just how well the automated baggage system has worked at the Denver airport (that is to say it failed and ran way over budget).
  • (3) The appeal of the private auto, for most people, stems from one person exerting control over the timeliness and cleanliness of that persons vehicle. In an automated guideway system of pods, that control is limited or eliminated altogether, even if there is only one occupant at a time.
One can talk all they want about the advances in technology and the new computer systems coming on line, but the psychological makeup of of mankind has not made such strides. The Wall Street Journal had a report yesterday about some of the new "smart technologies" being investigated and how giving the driver more information allowed him to make better decisions. I see this as contrary to the programs trying to get drivers to put down their cell phones, ipods and other distractions that keep them from concentrating on the task at hand, driving. In watching my son playing his video games , with all that information on the screen, I finally asked about a certain symbol and was told "Dad, I ignore about half of that stuff, I don't know". Sixteen-year-olds don't care about it and 60 year olds can't understand it, so I guess that our best drivers will be in the 30-40 year old range.

Any way, thank you all for voting and feel free to share your reasons for your vote.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Flying to the State Job

Last week I posted a tidbit about our Finance Commissioner and the question of whether she would stay or go. Well, it seems that this is not the dream job in her mind. Today she resigned and left for a position with the Legislative Research Commission.

Monday, February 16, 2009

CentrePointe misdirection?

I, like a lot of writers, look for various tidbits of information from which I can piece together a solid train of thought. Yesterday's ACEWeekly blog ran this piece that started with one of their favorite whine destinations and constructed a convoluted trail of data in order to arrive there. I have no reason to think that any of the news reports mentioned are false, but I do believe that the "facts " taken from them are nothing more than conjecture. This is not what i was taught in Journalism, those many years ago.

Mr. Schankula has again taken aim at the CentrePoint project and continues to refuse to believe ANYONE involved with (those who know about it in detail) the project when they give reassurances about the progress and/or the financing. There are many of us who have seen the recession coming for a few years now and I am sure that it has not snuck up on the Webb's. We have to remember that this particular project started nearly three years ago(well before Newberry ran for Mayor) and the Webb's most likley had their financing tied up then, so this economic downturn will be weathered.

The string of "facts" are all tied to the name of the hotelier Marriott International Inc. , yet in each of the articles referrenced, the individual developers are the ones seeking the finances to develop their properties. Marriott has not sunk any funds into the projects, only a committment to run the hotel when it is finished. The current financial health of the Marriott corporation is not the root of the delays in the other cities nor is it involved in the the CentrePointe progress so far.

Lastly, David leads us to the New York Times piece on the exodus of foreigners from a formerly "boom" town. The latest information show that those cities which were having the best of boom times are one having the greatest bust times. If, and that is an if, the financing is coming from Dubai and not from the Maktoum family personally, I would be worried. As it is , the Maktoum family already owns a large number of horse farm acres in Fayette, Bourbon and Woodford counties, so adding to their holdings would not be unheard of.

The Urban County Council is satisfied with the funding , as they went forward with initiating the TIF district. And the State seems to be satisfied as they moved it on. Each of these entities stands to gain from the TIF and the development. The Webb's will not gain from the TIF financing since none of the improvements will be done on their property, conversley itis their project that will fund the TIF district. It should also be noted that a number of the projects funded by TIF are on the Mayor's "stimulus wish list" , although it is unknown presently whether they qualify under the aproved plan.

So, yes Mr. Schankula, there is no need to worry about the CentrePointe financing. The financing is there. Leave the economic questions to the experts.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Lyric Theater

This morning I responded to a Herald Leader article about the Lyric Theater as follows:
The problems with the Lyric date back to the late Baesler/early Miller administrations and their failure to use the funds granted them by the State. The City tore down the Ben Ali garage and the Ben Snyder building to build an arts center. Delay after delay followed until the State judicial arm took the land for the new courthouses. Lexington had already used the money for other purposes(not arts related) so the State sued for the return of the money. Lexington settled on the Lyric, partly in response to the Tony Sullivan and Ron Berry fiascoes, without owning the property, something the State should never have allowed. After wresting the title from a local African-American, faith based organization, who appeared to be going nowhere with the property, plans were set in motion to repair the structure(albeit slowly).

The City has done little except have plans prepared and shore up the roof, and now there is an urgency to complete the project. With the passage and signing of the ARRA of 2009 and this project being on the Mayor's priority list, what are we willing to bet that it get high marks from his special commission. Lexington will get another $6 million for the Lyric, but will that satisfy the State's agreement or will they consider that to be "double dipping"?

$12 million of taxpayers money to do a $6 million job which will still cost us taxpayers $ 300,000 a year to maintain, in an area that cannot or will not create something for themselves.
I know that now I am being called "racist"for questioning the need to renovate the theater, which I have NOT done, or it is being said that I have called for the demolition of building, which I have NOT, or that I am accusing the Newberry folks for wasting money, which it does sound like. What I am doing is questioning whether the State and the local populace will remember that, once again, a former administration has made promises and commitments (usually on the emotion of the moment) that cannot or will not be fulfilled.

I, for one, would like to see the building renovated AND new commercial activity extended toward MLK Blvd. to the west AND a renewed commercial vigor along Third St, from Race St to Midland Ave. Therefore I stand behind the recommendations of the Central Sector Plan and the East End Plan which should be released in the next few months. I know that the consultants have worked closely with the neighborhoods involved and have included many of their suggestions. The one thing that is not in the plan and should not be in the plan is a call for the local government to fund all the improvements.

The funding of the Lyric renovation can be a catalyst in the revitalization of the whole area, but you need the other ingredients to be active for a catalyst to work. This funding (or lack thereof) can either speed up of slow the work needed in the area AND the other elements need to be active for anythin gto happen.

Now what is necessary is for the community to come together and accomplish those recommendations, let us not leave it to the City to do all the work.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The driverless car

The other day, our favorite transit hater, Randal O'Toole brought up the subject of "the driverless car" in which he points out that research on the matter has apparently stalled. I guess that the boom in "mega" SUVs and the hybrid movement took up too much of the research dollars. Maybe it was the need to have the Federal Government become part of the implementation process.

There was one successful demonstration of an automated highway system in 1997 and since then the efforts have focused on more intelligent vehicles, not roadways. The designers are making the autos capable of recognizing passive road markings and talking to each other. This should allow them to "socialize" and then "run in packs" so as to relieve roadway congestion. Or, at least that is the theory.

I am not so sure that I want my car talking to others. I don't want my car talking to anybody without me knowing what is being said, but then I have a sneaking suspicion that most autos made today have the circuitry installed for a cell phone. That's right, those cars that charge premiums for Onstar, already have the circuitry and only have to uncover the little blue button. They can sell it all they want on safety, and it has been used for that, but when the car can tell someone( that infamous someone) where you are, what you are saying and with whom you are associating without your knowledge, I kind of worry a little.

Twelve years ago when they started, 9/11 had not occurred, Homeland Security did not exist and they assured everyone that only they would let the information out to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. At one point, you had to allow them to release the information, now if you report a car stolen, the police call for the information and track the car. (The car thief does not push the blue button)

I once thought that the greatest danger of this system was from the business community. Buying the information of where you shopped, at what time of day, cross-tabulating with the merchant for what you bought and then targeting you with specialized video billboards when you were in the proximity of your usual haunts. Now the biggest villain may be the Government, not commerce.

O'Toole postulates that of the two technologies, the automated highway may be the easier and cheaper.
I suspect the first paradigm has a lower cost and higher benefits, partly because (again, just a suspicion) the benefits of driverless cars may be greatest if they are not integrated with driver-operated cars. But the first paradigm has the biggest chicken-and-egg problem. Other people think the second paradigm makes the most sense, partly because the cost of computer processing power is falling rapidly. The second paradigm does not have as big a chicken-and-egg problem, but state laws that require drivers to be fully in control of their cars at all times would need to be changed and, I suspect, highway owners might need to better maintain signage, stripes, etc.
In both of these cases, The Antiplanner has mentioned that the Government must have some level of involvement and that meas that Government planners will get their hands on it. And according to O'Toole, the planners have screwed up just about everything that they have touched.

Take for example two of the greatest advances in transportation in America, the transcontinental railroad and the Interstate Highway System. The railroad was devised and completed without government funding(lots of free land, but no Federal subsidy) and fulfilled the idea of "Manifest destiny" to most Americans. It wasn't until about the start of the 20th century that the government started to exert some sort of control.

Interstate Highways are another story. President Eisenhower brought back the idea of high speed, divided highways from Germany, as a way to travel between cities. It was the planners at the state and local levels who messed up the game and drove them straight in to the hearts of cities, ripping out great swaths of established neighborhoods, and in cases like Louisville and Cincinnati, separating the downtowns from their historical lifebloods , the rivers. Thankfully, Lexington kept I-64/I-75 on the periphery. And all of it financed(subsidized) by the federal government taxpayers.

What did I just hear? A loud cry of "Wait, We pay for what we get". Well, apparently not enough. The national infrastructure has received a failing grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
American Society of Civil Engineers says under-funding has caused the nation's infrastructure to crumble - and stimulus won't do enough.
We cannot maintain what we have and still we want to build more. More lanes to carry more single occupancy vehicles heading to same mass storage spaces instead of mass occupancy vehicles heading to no storage space at all.

The solution is not to have more of the same option to similar problems but to have more options to the one problem. Mr. O'Toole is heading in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Transit preference for Lexington

Anyone who has read my entries for any time at all will know my preference but now I am asking you.

Enter the poll to the right and let me know
which you would like to see in Lexington


Transit 2










Transit 1


Which of these would do best for Lexington?


Will she stay or will she go now...

Transform Lexington is relating some interesting material tonight. Mayor Newberry is apparently asking to increase the salary of the Finance Commissioner to keep her from jumping ship to the State. Some would find this as a good thing for her to go, others just think that in these times of economic tumoil any raise is out of the question.

So the question is, will she stay or will she go?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Say it aint so...

More things that I hope never happen in Lexington.

This comes to us from BrokenSidewalk out of Louisville. The Mayor there recently presided over the grand opening of a luxury parking garage. A very small luxury garage. The developers pulled out all the stops and left no detail unattended. The media gave great coverage for a ....wait....for....it.... a 15 car luxury garage. Fifteen cars, are you kidding me?

I can't even imagine what could comprise a luxury garage. Do the stalls come with soothing colored walls and extra padded tire stops. Is there mood lighting and special artwork on the support posts? Does the maid come in to tidy up every day? Does it come with a soak and/or a shower and its individual fuel pump? All this and only for fifteen cars. The other 34 cars get to sit outside on the new surface lot...peons.

Let us hope that Lexington's mayor never get himself stuck playing this kind of gig.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Should Lexington emulate Columbus, Ohio

I have been to Columbus, Oh. three times in my life. Each of those trips were of short duration and left me with no great ambition to return much less move there.

Mrs Sweeper lived in Columbus for a year or so in the mid 80s(before I met her) and is not greatly enamored with the city, especially the downtown area.

A week ago this past Thursday, DLC and Business Lexington brought a delegation from Columbus to explain how and why their system of "one stop permitting" has enhanced their downtown area. I did not attend either of the sessions, because as I say, I am not that impressed with what I have seen or heard.

This past Thursday, the Urbanophile posted an article about Columbus.
The city of Columbus, Ohio is planning to demolish City Center, its struggling downtown shopping mall, and replace it with a park.
This is not a historic block, nor is it a block with a few thriving businesses and it is not a block with a proposed multi-million dollar project, so just how do the folk in Columbus feel about this.

Below is a view of Columbus with what looks to be twice the downtown area of Lexington and about five times the surface parking and fewer major buildings




Compare and contrast that with the view of Lexington below.



We have more active residential neighborhoods and fewer expanses of surface parking. We have fewer massive parking structures and a denser office building arrangement. The two each have the possibility of more residential buildings but Lexington has (in my opinion) a greater probability of achieving that goal. Both cities have a rail line in close proximity to the downtown so that passenger transportation is available in the future(hopefully , the near future).

Lexington may take some of the good points of the process and incorporate then into the local system but, as for the results in Columbus over the past twenty years, I'll take Lexington any time.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Distinction Setting

The latest Business Lexington is out and has a wonderful piece about the "art style" bus stops. They write:
Our first public art bus shelter radiates with a sort of mesmerizing green glow, but if you have not seen it, it might be because the new shelter is inconspicuously situated along Versailles Road just outside of town.


As you can see, it is a beautiful resting place, out of the elements to wait for the bus. This is a program that I can get behind. The article had a rendering of the, apparently next, art bus stop to be built somewhere along Newtown Pike and the plans filed for the Distillery District show a bus shelter at each of their current project phases. I can't imagine Barry McNeese not desiring to have them in the "art type" for this very creative district.

I have mentioned before the idea of "branding" and bus stops for the Colt circulator. Possibly a design contest among the horse owners and breeders, but why stop there, others of our signature industries/business could sponsor a shelter. Lexington is fortunate to have some unique business entities located here. Those that come to mind are:
Smuckers (The only location to produce Jif peanut butter)
Big Ass Fan Co (A major producer of industrial fans)
Wabasto Sunroof Systems
There are probably more but this is all I could come up with on short notice.

I have heard that a prominent developer is considering designing art stops for their extensive retail and shopping/office park endeavors and having met them before, I believe that it will be done with real class.

And talk about being "shovel ready" projects, some of these will take a little design work but will employ artists and craftsmen for at least a few years.

I wish to thank everyone involved in this distinction setter for Lexington, just let me know how I can help.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Somebody reads me"

I was not prepared for this. I know that some of you have been reading what I write for some time, but with no one giving any comments(except for one dear friend) I have happily typed along in my own little world.

The first I heard of someone using one of my posts was when my ideas were presented to the Downtown Circulator steering committee. I understand that they were received quite favorably. I have also seen my blog as a link on other sites that I enjoy and have commented so. Then today the dam let go.

One of my posts about the current Stimulus Package now winding its way through the Senate was exerpted and posted on Barefoot and Progressive, then on ACE’s blog and shortly after that, referenced in a comment to an article on Kentucky.com. My hit counter went wild(for me) and has nearly tripled my daily average.

I am flattered to be read by some of these older blogs but I thought that I was a bit more laid back than these “in your face” sites. I have read some of their entries and found that I did not agree with most of their premises. B&P is to political for me and ACE has strayed very far from their original Arts, Culture and Entertainment format and into some free form whine and rant sessions.

The referenced entry was my take on the Mayor’s “shovel ready” projects list and what I perceived as possible duplications of expenses. There was no detailed explanation attached to any of the projects nor was there a justification given. A web site has been set up to keep track of the projects on the national list, which allows a brief explanation to entered Wiki style. I hope that the Lexington administration would add these for the benefit of those who follow such things. I would like to be added to the Mayor’s evaluation committee but I doubt, from my understanding of the current administration, that it would ever happen.

In relation to the total stimulus package, I feel that anything that is not related to infrastructure repair or expansion of transportation of people, goods and services in the most efficient methods possible (i.e. Mass Transit, Light rail and High Speed rail), Transit Oriented Development and expansion of localized manufacturing is of second tier importance. I believe that, in opposition to Mitch McConnell, we should put our people back to work first, buy American first, and let the world follow us out of this recession.

In other words “Think Globally, but Act Locally”.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ice Storm 2009

The past week has been taken up with stories about the woes of this year's ice storm. We were some of the lucky ones, we lost no power... this year.

In 2003, it was a different story. That year we were living in our old house, a little closer to downtown, on a quiet side street with some old trees. When the storm hit we figured that we would be all right because the house was brick-solid brick- and we had gas heat. In the middle of the night when the rain switched to freezing rain and the basement sump pump was working off and on, then the power went out. As soon as the daylight arrived I made my way to the home store and came back with a generator, quickly assembled it and ran an extension cord to the sump. while the basement drained an dried , we called an electrician to install an outlet for the thermostat circuit and plugged in the generator. With heat restored, we ran a few more extension cords, set up a light in the kitchen to cook by, a TV for information and lit several candles in the other rooms for light. This set-up let us hold out for 8 days and we were some of the last ones to get our power back. It was then that we started looking into placing electric lines underground.

Lexington has had all electric subdivisions for some time and they have their service supplied underground. Even where I live now is set up that way, but just last year a squirrel tripped a breaker on the line and knocked out about 12 units here. Mrs. Sweeper and I believe that there has to be a way to retrofit the older, well treed areas, so as to have the electric buried underground.

I know that it would be expensive to do a retrofit for all of Lexington, but if we took all the overtime and cost of calling in repair crews from out of state, applied it to a systematic effort to do the retrofit, then the city would fare better during the next ice event.

From the reports I have read from Louisville, the power was restored much faster across the river in Indiana. Their power company is said to have a much more responsive attitude and a much friendlier web site.

Lexington has made great progress toward being a very tree friendly city and has been named a Tree City USA. We have a strong street tree ordinance and a good tree preservation record even though there are fights over some significant examples. There is a price to be paid for being a Tree City USA and it is not always the trees that pay it, sometimes it is the residents.