Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thanks to R. J. Corman

I, like most of the rest of Lexington, have been on the Calipari watch this afternoon and evening. I also have found out a few things about my fellow Central Kentuckians.

Hell, were all nuts. We were, for the most part, on the edge of our seats or pacing the floor, waiting for the next hint of a Calipari sighting. Then there was the report on WKYT about the plane leaving from Memphis for Lexington, it reminded me of the slow chase of a white Bronco along the LA freeways of a number of years back. But it wasn't white, it was red-very red.

I have been interested in trains for as long as I can remember. I have also been a Wildcat fan for about as long, from my first game in Memorial up to today. Today someone else with a passion for both of these subjects, stepped up and helped bring John Calipari to Lexington and the mecca of basketball. R. J. Corman had his private jet fly to Memphis to pick up the new coach and his family and brought them to town in first class style.

The Corman railroad colors may be red and silver, but I now know that R. J. Corman's heart has a nice shade of blue coursing through it, a beautiful shade of Wildcat Blue.

I would like to thank R. J. Corman for all that he does in the railroad field and however he assisted the UK athletics program.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

On the Issue of Connectivity

I recently posted on the issue of connectivity and cul-de-sacs and it has occurred to me that Lexington has been faced with a lack of such connections before. Even in the days of the "streetcar suburbs" there was a lack of connectivity in the new developments. These are some of the ones that I know of.

When the Woodland subdivision was platted in the late 1870's the primary street, Woodland Ave. was built as a single block all the way to High St. Thus the addresses in the 100's were assigned in the re-addressing of 1902. Central Ave. followed a natural drainage feature from Woodland to Ashland and parallel to Main St. Roughly ten years later when the Ransom property was developed, the same thing happened with their residential street. It would take another 30 years for the city to build an extension of Vine St to the east of Limestone, past Rose St and approach the Woodland/Central intersection. I know of at least one house that they tore down and at least two others are possible.

Likewise, the Hollywood Terrace subdivision off Tates Creek Rd. Three streets facing Tates Creek and only a back exit to South Ashland Ave Extended by away of Ashland and Wilcoxen(now Hollywood) and itself an extension of an original court. Platted in 1929 it took until the summer of 1950 for the residents to ask for Sunset to be connected to Columbia Ave, which ended just about 200 feet away at Lafayette(now Marquis). After the Mt Vernon Subdivision was built farther out and Kastle Rd. extended toward town from Cooper, there was just a house and lot fron letting them connect. I watched as that house came down and the roadway built.

The connecting of Harrison Ave(now S Martin Luther King Blvd.) from High St. to Maxwell St. was first talked about publicly in 1949, took three properties and over four years to complete.

Waller Ave in the Rodes Addition was platted and built in the early '20s and I'm sure expected to be extended at some time. The Rosemont Gardens situation was the same except that it was extended just a few short years later. The Waller extension didn't come until the summer of 1960.

There are others I am sure, but I don't know for certain.

There are also instances where the wealthy have closed off some existing connections in order to privatize their areas. One such is Deepwood Dr, a street of less than 20 houses, that used to run from Old Paris Pike to Eastin Rd. The residents requested that the Eastin end be closed for security reasons. Several "high end" subdivisions have been built without connections to existing streets, some of which are Ashland Park, Griffin Gate.

We have done better in the recent past and we will have to do much better in the future, if we are to become a truly connected city.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Local Progressivies and State Conservatives

I saw a recording of the Transportation Planning Committee meeting held yesterday and was intrigued by a few bits of dialogue.

First, there was a comment/question by 5th District Council Member Cheryl Feigel. Her question was about the traffic congestion along Nicholasville Rd. from Southland to Man o' War, and whether we, the city, could have done better. I think that she wanted to know if there could have been better decisions made.

The simple answer is Yes. Actually a resounding Yes.

She asked if the Transportation Planning staff had not foreseen the problems that came with the developments there.

I can safely say that the answer to this one is... No.

You have to go way back in the records to dig it out, but I think that one would find that the Planning staff had warned of these problems ...at the time of zone change hearings...well before any development had reached this far. I can remember, when the building containing the Denny's was a grocery store, and the last major building until you got to the county line. Northern Jessamine County was an even more desolate area, a two lane US 27 all the way to downtown Nicholasville.

As the '60s rolled in, residential subdivisions sprang up on each side, but particularly on the east side(between Tates Creek and Nicholasville Rd). The west side was being held for uses like industry and warehousing because of the railroad and the hopes that it would bring manufacturing and jobs. 1956 had seen the arrival of the Reynolds Tobacco Co and a spur into their plant, so it seemed logical to think that more would come. But this was also the time of our decision to enact an Urban Service Area to contain growth, the start of the Interstate Highway system and the labor problems on railroads exacerbated by the trucking industry. An increasingly auto-centric lifestyle of the residents brought the retail and soon the southern part of New Circle Rd. whose interchange would entice many a larger retailer.

The problems were seen and the recommendations were for residential, high density residential, at the interchange on the east and industrial on the west. Any zone change would have been argued against diligently. The Urban County Council, and before them either to City Commissioners or the County Fiscal Court could have held the line and not granted the requested changes but that was not the case.

Could a form of transit been planned for in this corridor? Yes, but transit was a form of travel that meant that you could not afford a car and this boom area was for auto owners. Transit riders were losers and we had the north side of town for them. Over the years plan after plan spoke of roadways replacing the railroads as it was thought that the railroad industry was dying and trucks would rule the freight as the cars and airlines ruled the passenger hauling.

The solutions devised over the past 30 years are the same ones used in the previous 30, add space to increase capacity. This is as useful as knowing the work expands to fill time available and junk expands to fill space available therefore traffic will expand to fill capacity available, except that we all know that there will never be enough time, space or capacity.

That takes us to the other statement of interest. The comment by Dr. Blues of the 2nd District, in which he asks if some of the current planning will include new innovative methods of transportation, like newer forms of mass transit, light rail, even regional rail. I know that Dr. Blues and his constituents have waited patiently for the Leestown Rd. widening, the Citation Blvd. completion and other enhancements to happen, but he also seems to be looking on down the road so the another Nicholasville Rd. situation doesn't occur.

The answer to this one is that nobody knows. Despite their name the Metropolitan PLANNING Organization does not do any of the real proposal or design work. An MPO is set up to prioritize and allocate projects to be considered for funding and like the other staff of planning can be side-stepped by the legislative process based on political need rather than societal needs. It was refreshing to hear some one of his experience and years seeking to look to future solutions to solve future problems and not just doing it the same old way as before.

There them followed a short expression of Dr. Blues' desire to seek new ways of transit and his attempts to include them in the planning process, to which the Transportation Cabinet's representative plainly stated that rail of any kind "would NEVER be a solution in Lexington". This is not the kind of state level thinking that I want for my children or for my fellow Kentuckians.

Help me find some way to change this.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Virginia goes with connected streets

Virginia has changed the rules.

The state of Virginia has declared that henceforth all new subdivision streets will connect to some other street. That means no more cul-de-sacs, no more dead end stubs with out possibility of extending further and more ways of getting through in case of emergency. What have they been smoking/drinking/taking to have come up with this?

Apparently, they have taken a good long look at how increasingly expensive it is to provide services to those residents of the suburban standard, the cul-de-sac. All those courts and stub streets that seem to define the idea of suburbia. Developers and Realtors say that they love them(why not, they can mark them up by 10%) and residents say that they love them(safety, security and a sense of neighborhood), but once they exist, all those who have to provide services there find them a nuisance.

First off there are the daily and weekly providers, like the postman and newscarriers. They have to maneuver their cars and trucks into and out of each and every individual cul-de-sac, each and every day, regardless of the condition of the street. If there are cars parked in the street instead of the driveway, that just makes it worse. The other weekly folk are the friendly people from Solid Waste. You know them as the garbage, trash and recycling folks. They ahve the larger trucks and the need to maneuver in larger spaces. They lately have been trucks designed to operated by a single driver/operator, but they don't work very well in courts filled with autos and basketball goals.

Next, there are the occasional service providers. Those who come on an as needed basis. The utility repairman or the moving company. These guy have even larger trucks and I wonder how we would feel if they charged extra for every turn that they had to make off of a truly connecting street.

Lastly, we have the first responders of public safety. They have the really big trucks and the need to be where they are going quickly. For every street name on all the cul-de-sacs and stub streets it is just more directions that they need to know. Even with computer aided dispatch, these names need to be filtered through and correct match displayed. Add on top of that the increased response time to reach an emergengy that they can see but not reach by the shortest distance. Many times the 200-300' distance between two courts ( if connected) would save precious minutes and seconds in fighting a fire or saving a life. The response time problem also means that there have to be more fire stations, as the goal of every department is to continually decrease the response time. Police have a similar but slightly different need as it takes more vehicles to cover all the cul-de-sacs in a particular area simultaniously.

I once had a discussion with a gentleman who had come in to protest the extension of his street, across a short stretch to connect with a major highway. The distance could not have been more than 500' and he just couldn't see why the connection was so necessary. His first contention was that the connection would increase the traffic in front of his house and be used as a "cut-thru by everyone". Now, this neighborhood currently had two entrances/exits to collector roads and this would add a third. I explained that this would add to his street, but would decrease his "cutting thru" in front of his neighbors property and proportionally decreasing the traffic for all the neighborhood.

"But the kids roller skate and play basketball in the street here" he countered. "So, you teach your children to play in the street? I asked. "Certainly not." came the retort, then realizing that by not preventing them, he was teaching them to play in the street. "Where are they supposed to play?" How about in the yard, and if you are not comfortable about the street , then the back yard.

I had it easy. I had a big back yard and a major city park across the street. Every street for blocks around were connecting streets save one and it ended in the park. Somewhat constant traffic but no high speed traffic and parents had no fear of kids playing in the front yards.

The State of Virginia has the right idea. For every inconvenience for the residents of the cul-de-sac suburbs and having to travel out for even the most minor task, the inconvenience is multiplied on all citizens, in increased costs of time, fuel, manpower and benefits needed to provide for the services to those residents. Even the engineering and planning fields have recognized that two way connected streets are safer than the suburban cul-de-sac sprawl.

Thanks, Virginia for getting the ball rolling.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lunacy at Lunchtime

Earlier this week there was an e-mail circulated about the traffic situation for the rest of the week. In short, it encouraged those of us who park in the various garages around the downtown area to walk to lunch and only drive if you could part with your parking space. Oh, and also be courtious to our visitors for the boys Sweet Sixteen basketball tourney. Unfortunately, that did not get to some of our local delivery personnel.

Today, on my lunchtime ramble, I saw a beer delivery truck blocking a lane of traffic, directly in front of Cheapside, where the demolition and improvements have commenced. Right behind it were two other vehicles from the same distributor, apparently some sort of supervisory trucks. All were sitting with their flashing lights and doors open, just to deliver their product to places that were either busy with the lunch crowd or would not be open for some time. What was most ironic, was that they were blocking a Lextran stop(it was that or block the N. Mill St turn lane) when they could have parked on Short St. which has 1/10th the traffic and is the same distance from all customers for which they were delivering.

One of my pet peeves is the growing size of the delivery vehicles in the downtown area. The beverage deliveries now come in very extended trailers, some in excess of 110 feet in length. I understand that the reason for this is that one man may deliver to more places on a single route, thereby cutting costs and manpower. The three people-three vehicles-one delivery stop seems to discount this theory. The downtown area should have more compact delivery vehicles, preferably electric powered.

And the timing of the deliveries is another point of contention for me. Delivering during the noon dining time is bad enough, but when they arrive and idle on the street in close proximity to the sidewalk tables occupied with diners it is shear lunacy.

Downtown Lexington is compact, with a tightly packed area of dining and entertainment places that have few "back door" delivery options and where they do exist, they are little used. I have seen deliveries to the food court in the Lexington Center being done from the pull off on Vine St instead of the extensive loading dock area in back. We need to have a set time periods(which avoid the dining times) and set delivery spots(loading zones of the past, if you will) and enforce them. We have company coming in less than two years as the countdown clocks will tell you(they blocked a lane of Vine St to effect repairs on one just Tuesday noon, by the way) and we need to be on our best behavior when they get here. Mucking up our downtown traffic in their presence will not endear ourselves to them in the least.

And speaking of traffic and our guests, I hope that they will not be too put out at our not having an advanced transportation system as they might expect. One can zip around Europe by rail and connect to the streetcars to get around the cities and town, but you cannot get to Cincinnati or Louisville except by auto and the resulting traffic jams. Rail lines run to both of those places, but you can't hop a train to get from there to here. Even with all the grandiose road plans in the works, if we don't get started soon we will be too late.... real quickly.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Memorial Coliseum

Last night the basketball Wildcats played in Memorial Coliseum for the first time since 1976. From what I understand, the place was rocking with the capacity crowd. The coliseum has hosted many events in the 30+ years including all the women's basketball, volleyball and gymnastics competition, so it was interesting to me, to notice that they had erected portable light stands for last nights game.

I have been down along this section of Avenue of Champions before at night and it is quite dark right in front of the building. It also is a little difficult to see along Lexington Av. in front of the Wildcat Lodge and the Craft Center, so I realize the reason for the auxiliary lighting system. The one thing that I cannot understand is why, with the recent emphasis on safety, this area is not better illuminated.

This is all University property and the usual occupants/participants are students. The sports activities are largely female oriented and they let this space remain poorly lit? What are they thinking? There are dorms on the west side of the Coliseum and restaurants and the Euclid Av. corridor on the east, so that anyone coming home after working or partying has to traverse this dark stretch. The rest of Euclid does not appear to be this dimly lit. so why is this area allowed to be?

On a little bit brighter note, I was talking with a colleague the other day and we have had an idea that maybe, just maybe the Wildcats should play one game a year in Memorial, just for the students. Imagine, if you will, how the building would be filled with a crowd as rabid as the eRupption zone. It would remind me of Duke's home court, or the old Allen Fieldhouse, or even when UK used to go to Florida and the fans would be right up next to the court. It could make it a very difficult place to play if you are the opposing team.

I can't say as I can remember my first time in Memorial, but it is just as old as I am. My dad bought season tickets from its opening until they moved his seats to Rupp. They were great seats, second row, opposite the home bench, right behind the cheerleaders. He usually had at least two harsh phrases toward the cheerleaders every game. Wayward ball were commonplace and side outs were only five to ten feet away. I got to attend at least one game a year, each of us kids did up until mom got sick and passed, then we went more frequently. I swear, my dad knew everybody in the building, or so it seemed.

I would like to hear others thoughts and memories on Memorial Coliseum if you would like to share them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Photo of the Month winner

We have a winner.

ps.Lex sent a guess of "Is it downtown, Vine St. facing east?" and yes that is a correct guess.

The location of the camera is on the original walkway bridge from High to Main St over the railroad tracks. Vine St was not built yet but the Dixie Brewery(left edge), C&O freight house and the Bryan Hunt Wholesalers are major clues. Also the Avery Hay & Grain elevator which stood at the Rose and Vine intersection can be seen. I am not certain, but I think that it was taken around 1900

I'll have to find a harder one for next month.

Weekend thought for a slow weekend

Mrs. Sweeper and I have been talking about what we can do in our little backyard in the way of urban gardening and we have concluded that some raised beds would do the trick. We are now preparing to construct the same as soon as we can acquire the proper materials. The other night, while she was perusing a seed catalog, I ran across this new twist on Urban Farming. It has some really different ideas.

There is also a movement around the country for keeping chickens in the back yards in urban areas. Vancouver, Canada is now considering allowing the practice while New York, Seattle and Portland among others apparently never outlawed it. I can just see how the idea would play out in Lexington. Could we again see live chickens being sold at the Farmers Market? Could you take them home if you went to the market on the bus?

This would be a large step toward re-localization of agriculture.

A preview of the plans for the East End were released to the newspaper and the whole plan will be unveiled tomorrow night. That means that the easy work is done. Now the hard part, getting the implementation work started with little or no stimulus money.

Stimulus Watch shows that the $250,000 wish list entry has 80% of 35 votes saying that it is not a critical project. The Lyric Theater and the Issac Murphy garden are on the list and both are garnering a lot of negative votes. (The Lyric will proceed due to a previous government commitment). The Issac Murphy garden is supposed to be a Legacy project for the World Equestrian Games, so they had better start on that soon. I have also heard that there is some question about legal ownership of the property.

There is the $2 million Race Street Shotgun House Redevelopment project that does not have a description and the @250,000 renovation of the Charles Young Center, both of which are gaining negative votes. The only other project on the list is a rebuild of the signalized intersection for $200,000 and it has 2 positive votes.

The consultant has said that the people have spoken, but these are not wealthy folk in a time of recession so there will be a lot of hard work ahead of them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More on Cheapside

I cruised over by Cheapside today to check out the progress on the old Northern Bank building remodel. Sure enough there is a new night spot going in there. It will be called Pulse nightlife and presumably feature, as their website claims, Dance...Drag...and Drinks. They do not list any live music and feature plainly their D.J.s on their own page. It looks smaller than the Dame and that is why they passed it up, I think. It will be a great addition to the burgeoning entertainment district and will make some of old-timers recall the LMNOP and Johnny Angel clubs from the past.

The Cheapside bar has their new addition nearly complete and there is a curious shuttered opening facing the sidewalk that looks like they will be serving directly outside to the street. Will this be for food or drink going to the patrons sitting in the seating area where the old Cheapside street was?

It will be different seeing Mr. Breckenridge facing Main St and not the court house. I saw a tree with a plaque dedication it to the innocent victims of crime from 1988 and a tree memorializing the World War I dead from 1929. The renderings of the new proposals show the '29 tree as being retained and do not show what happens to the '88 tree. I will have to check in to that detail.

From what I see, there is a lot of work to do in the next month to be ready for the season opening of the Farmers Market and in keeping the current businesses along Cheapside happy.

The vast amount of parking around the Metropol building should already be increasing in value and in a better economy would already be looked at for development.

In other news the Tin Roof is OPEN

I did have one guess so far on the Photo of the Month. The guess was around Cox St. That is incorrect. Wrong railroad and looking in the wrong direction.

Keep guessing, I have a bunch of these.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Some thoughts on transit

There are transportation statistics galore flying around these days. The more you read them the more confusing they get.

First there was this snippet from the San Francisco Chronicle
Amtrak, the passenger rail service that struggled for years to attract riders, drew a record 28.7 million in the year ending Sept. 30. That is 11 percent more than the year before and the sixth straight year that ridership has increased. Ticket revenue hit a record $1.7 billion, a $200 million increase from a year earlier.
Last year's high gas prices caused many to find other ways to get between cities.
Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., said higher gas prices and concern about dependence on foreign oil have made people more willing to invest in passenger rail.

"There is an appetite for city-to-city rail," Rendell told reporters recently. "Why should we be different than any other country in the world? You go to Europe and you can't get an airplane to a city less than 200 miles away."
Then came this from the same source. Transit ridership up, highway travel down in 2008
People made 10.7 billion trips on public transit in 2008, a 4 percent increase over 2007, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Over the same time, Americans drove 3.6 percent less on the nation's highways. Gas prices peaked at more than $4 in July before falling, but ridership remained strong.

In 1956, Americans made nearly 11 billion trips. However, the percentage was much higher because the country had far fewer people — about 170 million compared with some 306 million today — and not as many cars.
The date 1956 is significant because that was the year that the Interstate Highway System was enacted and the Highway Trust Fund was created. It was also the year that the Thunderbird and the Corvette became established as America's dominant sports cars. Two years later the word "sprawl" was coined to mean the unfettered growth along these new Interstates.
Public transportation use in America peaked in the 1940s and steadily declined after World War II as more Americans moved to the suburbs and highways were built. The number of people taking transit bottomed out in 1972 at about 6.6 billion trips.
Lexington was little different than the rest of the country. Here the streetcars closed down in the late '30s, as I have said before. The buses held sway as the shape of the city was small and compact. It was the mid-'60s before Lexington began to wildly expand develop.

1956 brought IBM to Lexington and more importantly a class of corporate executives that were used to the types of suburbia in the New York/New Jersey area. Larger ranch style homes on lots of about 1/3 of an acre and a little farther from the downtown district. Land and houses were(and still are) cheaper here and these people didn't mind driving at all.

IBM was just the opening of the industrial expansion for Lexington. We wanted clean manufacturing and took just about any industry without a smokestack. Ohh...for those days again. We now need the manufacturing plants and jobs that really make things.

The one thing that the Yankees did not bring with them was a willingness to use public transit and the local transplants(from eastern and southern Kentucky) brought their "drive to the big city and back home" style of transportation mind set. Therefore, is it any wonder that Lexington is one of the highest driving metropolitan areas in America?

The Brookings Institution released this study in December. The Road…Less Traveled: An Analysis of Vehicle Miles Traveled Trends in the U.S. in which Lexington is identified as 89th in the top 100 metropolitan cities in the U.S. in terms of total Vehicles Miles Traveled(VMT). Eighty-ninth! Out of 100. That means the 88 other cities drive more than we do. Until you look at the population differences. Lexington rates #87 in terms of VMT per capita. Thats 6,892.1 miles per person, in 2006. There are only 12 other metropolitan areas that drive more per person than we do.

But there is some heartening news here too. In looking at the Lextran ridership numbers I am glad to see that every month, in a year over year comparison, that the percentage ncreases have been mostly in the double digit range and the year end totals 16.2% for 2006-07 and 11.5 for 2007-08.

I'm sure that there is more to be learned from all this but it may take some time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Pedestrian Chevy Chase

Today's Herald-Leader had an article about the parking situation in Chevy Chase, and that means the shopping area not the residential area. The local businesspeople wish to call it a problem but it is just the latest situation on parking.

When I was growing up, and living not too far from there, I spent a lot of time in Chevy Chase. There was a great range of stores and things to do. From food to services to some auto related places, all in a 2-3 block area, that served to immediate surroundings.

From the corner of High and Ashland, southward out High St, we had a Gulf gas station, then a pair of apartment over retail buildings with its parking tucked neatly in the back. The retail contained a driver's school, a general retail space with an average turnover rate, a barber shop, ladies tailroing and a wig shop. Rounding the curve we found a pharmacy, a florist and a small grocery. Again some apartments over retail with a hairdresser and some professional offices followed by the infamous Saratoga restaurant. Passing the other apartment/retail and the Ashland gas station and we are at Euclid Ave.

Working our way back toward Ashland Ave. we would find, on either side of the street, a TV/Appliance store(which had previously been a five and dime and a Kroger grocery, before it moved around the corner), the Chevy Chase Inn, a liquor store, the Fireplace(restaurant), the Ashland theater, the Toddle House(restaurant), a doctor, a jeweler, a florist, some more retail including a hat shop, hairdresser, barber, interiors, crafts, dresses, hardware and another liquor store.

Continuing to the next block were two gas stations, three banks(I watched two of them being built), a real estate office and a suburban style grocery.

From Euclid southward, I can remember the Texaco station, another liquor store, an apartment house(again with parking in the rear) of 32 units, an enlarged Kroger, three cleaners, some hidden retail behind a realtor's office, the hardware store, a barber, a hairdresser, a pharmacy, shoe repair, an ice cream parlor and a church. And this is not all inclusive, I have not even touched Ashland Ave.

This area was a walkable area, most if not all, of these stores has a majority of their customers walk to do their shopping from the surrounding neighborhoods(at least 4-6 blocks).

The problem with parking is that now the businesses have become so specialized and the extended families of the patrons of the past now live so far away, that they have to drive to the store yet they want the convienence of the way it used to be.

Former Councilman Bill Farmer Jr., made a statement about the area being a "pedestrian area" and then confused me by adding that "people want to walk as short as they can." A pedestrian area is ALL ABOUT walking. A pedestrian area is designed so that you can park the car and WALK to all the shops and then walk back to the car.

The streetcar used to come out this way when it traveled out High St. and made the curve onto Hanover and back to Main St. The 1931 plan called for it to be extended on out Tates Creek Rd and be an "out and back" type route instead of a continuous loop type, but as I have noted before, by 1938 the streetcar was gone. The time for the streetcar to return could be close at hand and this pedestrian area is ripe for becoming a TOD area as an intersection of a Tates Creek to downtown and a Fontaine/Euclid stretch of a car line to UK. The retail hub that this area used to be in the '40s -'60s could be revisited and built upon into the future. Then, again it would be a location where I would spend a great deal of time.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday bits from the street

Just a few things that I heard on the streets in the last week.

First off, Hanna's is getting a new neighbor. The building at 208 S. Limestone is going to be remodeled into a night spot called the BLU Lounge. From what I understand, the ground floor is the first part to be redone and if successful, then the upstairs will be made into additional space. I don't know the age group that they are aiming toward but I would guess it is the "creative class".

From there, I have noticed that North Mill St. is starting to look real nice, with all the renovations going on. Cheapsides will look very good when they are finished. Someone stated the other day that the CentrePointe block was a location that had "critical mass" prior to the demolition of the Dame building. Now, I'm no engineer but do we want to exceed critical mass, with the resultant explosion, or do we want the controlled chain reaction of a vibrant power plant? Cheapside, N. Mill, W. Short and on down to Broadway is becoming a bonafide entertainment district and I've posted scads on that before.

Then there is the newest rumour, from out along Winchester Rd.(I still want to call it E Third St.). You may know about a little business out there that was started by a 1939 mechanical engineering grad from UK. In 1946 , after a stint in the Army he began a food processing plant making Big Top Peanut Butter on land that had previously been the L&N Railroad yard. This is not to be confused with the C&O yard, across the street, which lasted up into the late '70s. This plant was across a small access way(side street) from the local National Biscuit Company plant that made Saltines. In 1955, he sold the peanut butter plant to Proctor& Gamble, out of Cincinnati, and stayed on to run the company. The product name was changed to Jif although I still find some jars labeled Big Top for some off brands stores. The entrepreneur's name was William T. Young and he also gained success in the soft drink, storage and trucking business'.

I have heard that the current owner of Jif, the J. M. Smucker Co, now wishes to expand the plant, which is claimed to be the largest peanut butter factory in the world. Even in this down economy Smucker's is doing well, thanks to having recently bought the Folgers coffee brand from P&G, their profits for the third quarter rose 84%.

Don't forget to send in you guesses on the Photo of the Month. Somebody has to know where it is.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

High Speed Rail... Ten Years after

I came into possession of a document that I thought would not have been produced. An Examination of I-75, I-64 & I-71 High Speed Rail Corridors. Wow, was all I could say.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet...I mean KENTUCKY's...Transportation Cabinet asked for a study on High Speed Rail. Ten years ago. How many people knew this existed? How well was this publicized? Ten years ago did anybody care?

Ten years ago, when the SUV was just coming into it's own and gas was fairly cheap, no state transportation agencies were seriously studying High Speed Rail. Forget the fact that the Europeans had basically created it and the Japanese had perfected it, Americans had no need for it. The Americans had gas(we liberated Kuwait for it), we had autos (GM & Ford saw to that)and we had the Interstates(Congress and the the 1956 Highway Revenue Act took care of that). The airlines had been deregulated two decades before and fare were about 9% lower than 1978, even though nine of the MAJOR airlines had been sent into bankruptcy. We Americans had everything we needed to move about the country-time, money and modal options galore. We, as a whole, were not thinking about rail in any form, commuter, regional, standard or High Speed.

For just those reasons, I believe the premise of the above study is flawed. The methodology is sound but the assumptions and the associated data may have directed the conclusions toward a less than accurate assessment of the travel demand projections between the three cities..Lexington, Louisville and Covington

The first flaw that I see is the intent to connect the airports of the these major urban areas. Two of the airports are greatly removed from the population cores and any existing rail facilities. If the desire is to build a seamless multi-modal transportation system, why add to the expense by starting at the least integrated modes terminals?

Secondly the search for comparisons of city pairs connected by existing rail that would be of similar size led to only two previously studied areas, Detroit/Chicago and North Carolina's Piedmont Corridor.

Thirdly, I think that they limited their ridership estimates to the trips between the three cities although the did generate their numbers as a percentage of the air passengers of the three cities. It was recently reported that in Spain the HSR trains will beat the airlines and this analysis was estimating the demand to get to a different airport for a longer distance trip.

I, for one, would desire to take HSR not just to Cincinnati for the day but on to Washington for the weekend, much like the short plane trip to connect on by air. A short hop to Cincinnati by plane would not only involve airfare, but cab fare or car rental fee, into downtown and back. A train should take you from downtown to downtown and connect with the urban mass transit node there. I took a trip to Washington D.C. in the early '90's where I flew into Reagan, switched to the Metro, changed trains in Farragut Center, exited the Metro, walked across the street to the hotel, signed in and changed clothes, back across the street and a train to Union Station, hopped a MARC train to Baltimore for a ballgame(opening season in Camden Yards), back to D.C., the Metro to the hotel. All with a minimum of effort and cost, plus the idea that I had never been to D.C. before.

This study needs to be redone, and this time the estimates of ridership should include the desired destinations of a 600 mile radius as an initial "order of magnitude". I don't want anyone to get me wrong, I am glad that they were thinking ahead but their thinking was clouded by the highway first mentality of most transportation planners today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

First Milestone

I started this blog on August 29 and in a short six months, I now find that I have had an official 1,000 hits. I didn't think that it would come this soon although I did believe it would arrive.

Some of you have given me comments, but most of you have not. I hope that I have kept you entertained and believe, for the most part, that I have. I mean, you do keep coming back. I get the odd visitor from overseas, looking for real street sweeping equipment, but there is a quiet core who show up every day. I wonder if you check in to see if I have something new or inflammatory to say or if I'm just going to say something stupid.

I did have a decent response to the poll and hope that the quiz on the Photo of the Month will work out, I have a bunch of other good mysteries in photo form.

I would like to hear from some of you if you like what I post and even if you don't. I can say that there are some new transit developments in the works to be discussed in the future.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guess the location

Lets have a little fun. See if you can guess the location of the Photo of Month. It is in an area that is in the news this week.

I'll give you the answer next month.

Commentary and Comments

I normally like to read the comments of others to the blog entries and news articles I find online. Lately, the news pieces about downtown and the announcements of things to come have revealed some of the best evidence that Lexington is schizophrenic to the core.

When past mayors have allowed things to run along as they were the readers called for some kind of bold, dynamic action to be taken, now they decry the actions announced as wrong and misguided. Former Mayor Issac once proposed thinking about condemning the Lexington Mall to alleviate an eyesore and was rebuffed by property rights commenters, now when a large project is set for downtown, the comments run to a majority for taking the Mall property instead. When the Farmers Market desired a permanent location, many asked why the City couldn't supply one and now that one is proposed, they ask why is one needed.

About two years ago, we elected a new mayor and council which was supposed to change the direction (or better, yet give direction) of the management of the city. We currently have people clamoring for now another new mayor because this one hasn't done much better. Yet the city still keeps progressing.

Downtown IS different than it was 37 years ago, when I first came downtown to work. There are more people working here than there was then, they do different jobs but they do work.

Those who write comments seem to run 2 or 3 to 1 against anything happening downtown and claim that there is no reason to come downtown. Even Mrs. Sweeper claims that there is little to do downtown but has been genuinely surprised at the activity when we have had a reason to go. I see comments talking about most people wanting a house and a yard in suburbia and them not wanting their "hard earned tax money" going for downtown waste, yet the majority of new residential development will not cover their provided government services from the taxes that they do generate. The increased public safety personnel (police/fire), educational and sanitation personnel and support facilities, (schools,sewers, garbage...) and roadway infrastructure is never covered by the new taxes generated by a sprawl of low density residential housing. Those costs are picked up by the rest of the urban area taxpayers, some of them after paying for their own development 3 or 4 time over. The people in Chevy Chase are paying taxes to cover the new housing in Hamburg/Gleneagles and elsewhere and the entire country is paying for the Federal contribution to the widened roadways needed to get these people to their work and shopping.

I also have a problem with those who continually claim that the current administration, no matter who they are, is corrupt or not doing the will of those who elected them yet refuse to run for office themselves. There are even ones who claim that they have the answers to the city's problems and have never successfully put their plan forward nor had a program implemented from it.

There, I've had my rant for the day and I don't think that it will change anything.