Thursday, March 10, 2011

Giving Mr. Farmer A Hand

I commented the other day about the deplorable conditions of our streets and the possibly diminished prospects for actual repair in the near future and probably the long term future.

I also see that the Councilman for the 5th district has reported to his constituents that he is opposed to the expansion of the city's urban services area.

I will chair the LFUCG Planning and Zoning Committee, where I will oppose any additions to the Urban Service Area and will have a vote and a voice on issues related to city's Comprehensive Plan.

Well, now that is out in the open. Ain't nobody going to stand up to that kind of talk. Is anybody going to ask for large expanses of new land for development with the economy the way it is?

Just what kind of topics do you think Mr. Farmer should have an opinion on? I believe that we should have more neighborhoods like Aylesford and the early Ashland Park portions of the Chevy Chaser circulation coverage area. You know, the parts where everybody can walk to the store or school and maybe even the pub for a toddy in the evening. Some of these things are missing as get to the subdivisions which were built in the '60s and later. What do you say Bill, is this something that you can get behind?

I see that you are all for upgrading and repairing the storm sewers of your district. Can we change the way that the residents keep creating more impervious surfaces which places the rainwater, that used to soak in to the ground, into piping designed for considerably less capacity? I don't think that we are getting that much more rainfall, on a yearly basis, than we did 80 years ago, we just expect the old style pipes to handle it. What started off as houses with yards for the kids or maybe a small garden are now entertainment spaces designed like an extension of our family rooms, paved patios and pergolas included.

I have also mentioned the trolleys coming to Chevy Chase like you want. Some folks say that that would be just free mass transit for the well off in the area to get downtown. Others see it, like I do, as a way to get downtowners to a little bit farther away on their lunch hour. (the trolleys won't run all the time, that is what buses are for.) I, myself, don't see the Chevy Chase residents giving up their autos for a trip downtown. A short jaunt of a walk for the normal person but maybe a bit much for those past middle age.

Can we have a discussion, a realistic discussion, on what we may have to do should the relatively cheap energy that we have grown up with start fading like a Cheshire cat, leaving us with a sickening grin of memories. Will our newer subdivisions realize that they will be faced with decisions about major changes which may be needed in order to survive? How can you effectively route pedestrian traffic to distant facilities in a neighborhood fraught with cul-de-sacs and dead ends? Will we end up with houses being remodeled into store fronts for some local retail? You do remember that many of the shops in Chevy Chase started out that way, don't you. (Go around back of those places on the south side of Euclid and check it out.)

There you have a few of the topics that are ripe for consideration in this next Comprehensive Plan process, anyone have some others? Let us give Billy Farmer a hand.


danny said...


Can you offer a reason for why Chevy Chase, as opposed to say Meadowthorpe or Castlewood or Georgetown or Southland or Eastland neighborhoods, happens to get the buses? Is it just a coincidence that the neighborhood the city provides free public transportation for happens to be, at worst, in the top 5 richest neighborhoods in the city?

As you correctly point out, Chevy Chase has a number of things going for it: it is close to downtown, it is within walking distance of perhaps the most developed and variegated non-downtown area in the city (in terms of shopping, food, entertainment), and it has a stable population able to support such commercial size. In addition, it also has arguably the city's premier park.

If one was interested in making the desolate post-50s suburbs more workable as live-work spaces, wouldn't free bus service aim to work at improving these neighborhoods, which tend to be less linked-in to the city, poorer (and therefore less able to get into cars for downtown dalliances), and generally more in need of city grant money and services?

Streetsweeper said...

I don't believe that the decision has been made to extend the trolleys to Chevy Chase as yet, it is just that they have asked for it. I also feel that someone, probably the merchants, will have to foot the bill or at least part of it. As of now, they are not a part of the funding source, which is why they have to ask. Any extension, their route or mine, would likely add in excess of $85K to the annual operating costs. neither the City nor Lextran is going to pick that up.

Free trolley(or bus) service is not an answer to improving neighborhoods, the post-50s or any other, and as cheap energy wanes the "free" services will disappear. The sprawling subdivisions are not so desolate or poor as yet but that could change quickly should the economy continue to go as it seems to be going. The time of relying on Federal and State grant money is coming to an end.

danny said...

I completely agree on the grant funding, Sweeper, which is why I question why a grant-funded trolley service, which is at least also partially funded by diminishing city coffers/resources, is going to that particular trolley route.

That businesses will, potentially, partially fund any extension of a free route into Chevy Chase from its present site route to Woodland implies that the city will also partially fund (subsidize) the route.

I've got reservations about this sort of leveraging. The area is already functioning better in comparison to the rest of the city. Chasing businesses that can pay/partially fund a route pre-dispositions the city to direct its limited resources to areas where people can pay. This is the fundamental problem of public/private partnerships--they chase private capital, which chases profitability, which happens to nestle among people who have greater amounts of capital--in this case, Chevy Chase.

City government needs to leverage its resources to redirect that flow in other directions, to other neighborhoods. I don't see that the Chevy Chase trolley line extensions do that. I really don't see the routes as they stand doing it, either. (UK/Transy route potentially, but they should be funding that primarily.)

Streetsweeper said...

Danny, since Lextran has been able to levy a portion of the property taxes due in Lexington, they have received NO money from the City's general fund. Therefore your implication of leveraging city money to assist a wealthy neighborhood is incorrect.