Sunday, December 27, 2009

Old Ways Are Sometimes The Best Ways

I am not so simple as to think that the City of Lexington could fund a demonstration scale streetcar line, along the lines of Cincinnati or Charlotte, as a public project. In these uncertain economic times, I am not sure how any city can initiate these kinds of projects.

I have read the history of the streetcar system of the early 20th Century where the mule cars and eventually the electric powered cars operated by franchise within the street rights of way. This is the same method employed by the local utility companies today. They(the utilities) own the transmission facilities, the poles, the wires, the pipes and all, and pay for the privilege to use the public street space. Lexington's first streetcars were owned by a corporation which traded shares either publicly or privately, just like the utilities of today. Can someone tell me why this scenario would not work in this day and time?

In a day when a billionaire like Warren Buffet will buy a railroad, European rail companies are expanding into the U.S. and the President of the United States is pushing rail transportation services of all kinds, why cannot someone form a corporation to build streetcar systems for cities?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Stakeholders vs. Shareholders

Is it just me, or are some of you also aware of the increasing number of street lights that are NOT lit at night. With the winter solstice now past us and a long, cloudy winter ahead, do we need to be driving around town with fewer streetlights to guide our way?

I was out the other night, driving along the older section of New Circle Rd. and realized that just about every other light pole was dark. I can now see why pedestrians take their lives in their hands in trying to cross this road at night. But worse than this is the outages in some of the older neighborhoods where, sometimes, two or three lights in a row are out. Or obscured by tree limbs, both summer and winter.

You do know that we the citizen taxpayers DO pay for these streetlights, whether they are on or not. Streetlights are a service that we are taxed for and KU is paid to provide, yet they are fairly lax in monitoring just what they provide.

Kentucky Utilities does have a page on their website that allows you to report a service outage. They take your name and address, your phone number AND your E-mail address(all are required) , then they want as detailed a description or address as possible of the outage. Yeah, right. I got all that while driving along at 45 MPH and dodging the other drivers on the road. I guess I shouldn't be doing this on an Iphone without pulling over. I wonder if they will call or e-mail me when they get the light repaired.

I see where KU can check to see if your air conditioning unit is overworking and will help you cycle it of during periods of maximum power generation, yet they cannot see the usage drop on their separate streetlight circuits. Maybe streetlight repair is one of those tasks which draws needed manpower from ice storm and other tree trimming tasks along the distribution routes. The utility companies have not fared well lately when it comes to any kind of storm damage repair.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission recently released a report on the responses of the states utilities to two natural disasters, Ike in late 2008 and the ice storm of 2009. To some extent, the utilities were exonerated due to the severity of the ice storm but it is pointed out that much more could be done to clear tree limbs from power lines during the summer months. Our latest December snowstorm in southeastern Kentucky has led the Judge Excutive of Letcher County to take the local utility to the Grand Jury over their handling of clearing the power lines and the restoration of electricity. And how will all of this play into the call for underground placement of utilities and power lines?

So how might all of this fit into the idea of a "smart grid" for the state of Kentucky? Will a "smart grid" replace the current grid, which we can't seem to make work well enough to please our existing customers? I was told, several years ago, that a major impediment to economic development is an insufficient power grid to go along with our transportation services. Will a "smart grid" be able to handle a complete switch to electric autos?(will our economy be able to do the same?)

The utility companies keep asking us to conserve(and from the people that I have talked to, many of us are) yet the bills keep going up. Services seem to be getting less and response times are taking longer. The last time I had to call for an power outage, the crew arrived from a community 30 miles distant and had no knowledge of the local layout or even where they were. When I called about a questionable water meter reading, I was told to request a "self administered" leak detection kit. If I am doing the work, what are the charging a service call fee for?

It is not the service person, I am sure that it is for the shareholder.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Look Local, But Not Too Local

I guess this goes to show that you just can"t find everything locally. A friend alerted me to this tidbit of information.
Rep. Ben Chandler, D-6th District, designated $2.5 million for foreign language programs in the Fayette County schools.

He also got $500,000 for the construction of a trail system in the Lexington area; $334,000 for the construction of a facility in Frankfort that will centralize all administrative services of the Kentucky National Guard; $325,000 for a domestic violence program in Lexington; and $300,000 for a study of mass transit alternatives in Central Kentucky, including light rail.
It comes from the Louisville Courier-Journal and was posted sometime Sunday evening after the final Senate vote. It was buried, way down at the bottom, but I would expect that from the Louisville paper. I cannot find it anywhere on the Lexington Herald Leader site nor do I remember seeing it in print. Not in print anywhere in Lexington.

Our 6th District Congressman, Ben Chandler has come through for us again in this funding bill.
  • $2.5 million for the foreign language programs in Lexington.
This is good. I can support this, and not just because my guys went through the Spanish program at Maxwell. I think that we are going to need to understand our foreign visitors while we still have them. It may also help with some of our more recent additions.
  • $.5 million to build a trail system
Not just any trail system, a multi-use system for walkers and cyclists. A system that connects our neighborhoods to the parks and schools nearby. If we can't get our developers to make the connections, then I'm glad that the Federal Government will help.
  • $.3+ million for a building to house the administrative services of the Kentucky National Guard.
We need to help out the guys in uniform if we are going to use them so much. GO GUARD.
  • $.3 million for a domestic violence program.
This is a violence PREVENTION program I am sure. We really don't need any more violence than we currently have.

Then, here we go, right here at the bottom. One of my passions(you know this if you have read me any time at all) is some money for transit.
  • $300,000 for the study of Central Kentucky mass transit. INCLUDING LIGHT RAIL
Right off the bat, I am not sure that $300,000 would do that much of a study. Then I wonder, who is going to do the study? Lextran? Oh I hope not, they don't cover enough of Central Kentucky. The MPO? I don't think so, I have not seen that much interest in regional transit or light rail from them. Bluegrass ADD? Tell me that is not right. We might as well give the money back for the kind of study that we would receive there.

Can we get Rep.Chandler, Gov. Brashear and Dr Dan Mongiardo together and make sure that this get done right? And maybe we can get a little press about it this time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Some Of The Work Ahead For Lextran

Here is a quote for the day.
For the bulk of the day, and on quieter routes, the average city bus usually undoes whatever efficiencies are gained during the few hours a day, on the few routes, where transit is at its peak.
Unfortunately, this is how many people think of Lexington's transit system. The many times that we see these buses, moments when we can take the time to estimate the current ridership, they are nearing the ends of their respective runs, either downtown or out in the suburban areas. And, as the quote says, during the "off peak" hours.

To all of the above, I can agree. Yet all of the above points out, to me, the need for Lextran to alter its thinking on some of the "off peak" routes and maybe all of its routes in general.

The current thinking for all routes appears to be "to get people from home to work". To that end all routes NEED to run from residential clusters, past job locations(shopping optional), past transfer opportunities, to residential clusters in order to start the cycle again. In this scenario, one can live at either end of the route and avail ones self to multiple instances of the middle opportunities. This seems to be very efficient, or would be if EVERYONE worked shift work or flexible hours.

Then there is this need for the destinations that are different than work/shopping and home. Destinations that are not ON a Lextran route. These are parks, schools and other special interest locations and may include some of the smaller shopping areas. Places that people also go to, in the middle of the day.

All in all, Lextran's system is less than efficient and it may not qualify for being "green". But is it less "green" than the mass of private vehicles plying the roads of Central Kentucky?

The personal auto may be proven to consume far fewer BTUs per passenger mile than transit vehicles, as per an article in the Vancouver Sun, but a majority of these said autos will be daily traveling nearly three times the distance of transit.

Adding to that, the yearly cost of ownership of personal autos which, on average, are used only 5% of the time. The other 95% is spent in some sort of storage, a garage, a parking lot or on the street, and the cost of maintaining said space should be factored into the expense ratios to transit.

Considering the environmental, economic and land use factors involved, Lextran has a great deal of work to do in order to become as efficient as they can be.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Business Lexington and Urban Grocers

I am glad to see that Business Lexington has posted a link to the story about Urban Grocers from the New Urban News. I am even more thrilled that the first comments come from Phil Holoubek, one of the main players in attracting such an entity to Lexington. Mr Holoubek cites the three reasons given as to why the grocers have rejected the locations so far proposed to them.

His number one reason is the income levels of the population around downtown. This is and has been a problem since Lexington began growing in the mid '50, that is the 1850s. Those Lexingtonians with money, bought and built on what were called the "out" lots of the original town plat. They moved away from the squalor and congestion of the, then, "inner" city. This also happened on the south side of town on, estates known as Aylesford and Woodland.

These home places attracted other thriving businessmen as they were developed as subdivisions in the 19th century. And then gave way to lower and lower income levels as the wealthy and thriving businessmen continued to go farther and farther out of downtown. The households were replaced by offices, apartments and even a pair of growing universities that went along with an expanding downtown. All of this brought a decline in income despite the few pockets of upper income residents that remain.

My solution to this would require a change of attitude in both the retailers and the urban shoppers. One cannot come without the other.

A downtown resident and shopper should realize that he/she does not need to purchase everything at one store, or at the same time. One also need not shop for the entire week at this one time. One stop shopping is a myth that was told by the strip shopping center developers, expanded upon by the mall developers and then the"big box" retail developers.(This trend is slowly reversing itself with the rise of "lifestyle centers")

Downtown retailers should return to the style of having a multitude of storefronts and each having a separate speciality niche. That is not to say that someone like Kroger could not have a location downtown, but try to envision one of their Marketplace models where each section would have an individual outside entrance. All deliveries could be made from the rear and parking(should it be needed) as a garage level above the main retail level. A few levels of residential apartments/condos above that(to insulate them from street level noise) and you have built in demand with convenience. Two hundred and fifty thousand square foot footprint and a whole new way of living for Lexington's downtown dwellers.

The previous solution may also play a part in the second of the retailers reasons, the lack of rooftops( i.e. dwelling units). The Lex is currently building a model that could go a long way toward proving, or disproving, the above solution. Their residential concentration and that of others nearby, along with the planned residential of the Bolivar extension(aka. Newtown Pike), despite being mainly student population, may support an urban grocery.

The third, and last, reason is certainly one whose time has come. It may have been a mistake to make them a one way couplet in the first place, but the handwriting has been on the wall for a while. In that they were the last to be made one way streets, I fear that they will also be the last to revert back.

Mr Holoubek also mentions his collaborations with Steve Austin and the thoughts they have on other cities. Perhaps it would be nice to sit down with them some time and pick their brains for a while. But that is a thought for another day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mongiardo's 21st Century Public Transit Plan for KY

The Mongiardo camp has responded to last night's entry and is apparently willing to arrange a time for a presentation sometime after the first of the year.
...we have read your post regarding Lt. Governor Mongiardo's 21st Century Public Transit Plan for KY.

Daniel is interested in presenting his proposal to you and anyone else in Lex who are interested in public transportation and answering any questions you may have. ...

We may have to wait until after the Holidays due to fact his schedule is already pretty much set for the next 2 weeks - but he is definately interested in listening to your ideas and those of other folks interested in the issue.

Kim Geveden
Mongiardo U.S. Senate Campaign
Now I have a dilemma. This is my forum, my place to present myself and invite comments. So far there has been little dialogue and no face-to-face meetings. I now need to find a suitable location where we could either host Dr. Mongiardo's presentation or join a larger group to do so. I am exploring some other group options and am willing to entertain any of your suggestions. Hopefully we can keep the number over 25 or so.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What Does Mongiardio Think Of Lexington Transit

I don't endorse any candidate for office on this blog.

That is not its purpose, but I do bring some of their speaking points to the fore and would hope that they will pick up on some of the points that I bring up.

Last Thursday US Senate candidate Dr. Dan Mongiardo addressed a group of public transportation advocates at Louisville's Union Station. There he unveiled a plan for Louisville's multi-modal public transit system that his web site calls "very detailed". As a candidate running for state wide office, I hope that this is not his only public transit plan, or that this just his endorsement of someone's plan that he can really get behind. And particularly, can this plan be adapted for Lexington?

What really got my attention was the plan for a renewal of state-wide PASSENGER rail travel, see here. This plan does not seem as detailed, but this is more of what I think that a US Senator should doing for his state. Our two current Senators have done more than enough to try and kill what little rail travel( freight or passenger) remains in this state.

I am bringing this to your attention so that, if you are interested in public transportation as I am, we can find a way to get more details in the form of a presentation to some of our folks. So Dr. Dan, if you are reading this, will you give us a chance to get behind your passenger rail plan? Will you give us in Lexington a little help with our transit planning and keep some our tax dollars here in the state?

Is there someone else out there who has any better ideas? Let me know.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Will We Miss Out On The Money?

Is anybody here aware that the US Department of Transportation has $1.5 billion in ARRA funds available. These funds are multimodal discretionary funds, also known as TIGER grants, and are part of the stimulus package passed earlier this year. There is a small catch, this funding is to be used to support livable cities.

The criteria used to evaluate the projects that request this funding have livability right up at the top, along with safety and economic competitiveness. All we need now is the true meaning of "livability" or at least in the minds of DOT.

The deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy, Beth Osborne, gives the description as focused on mixed use, walkable neighborhoods, and pedestrian access to transit, jobs, stores, schools, and other public buildings. US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s definition is, “Livability means a community where you can take kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, go to the grocery store, have dinner and a movie, and play with your kids in a park, all without having to get into a car.” It is also felt that DOT will likely request funding for a livable communities program in the next surface transportation re-authorization

Any one of you who have read my last two entries will realize that I do not believe that Lexington would meet these criteria. Although our city officials have talked of it, I don't think that there has been near enough progress to say that we are moving into being a "livable city". There is so much more that we could be doing but we still come up short. We keep waiting for someone else to make the first move.

Earlier this year a Partnership for Sustainable Communities was formed in a collaboration involving, DOT, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Their aim, under the Obama administration, is to promote sustainable and livable cities.

HUD’s 2010 budget calls for $100 million for sustainable communities planning grants and $40 million for community challenge grants that could be used for zoning reform and other implementation tools for smart growth. How much of that will be looked at or requested by our administration?

While Lexington has not been hit as hard by the foreclosure crisis as others, HUD studies have shown that neighborhoods with a higher livability rating have a lower foreclosure rate. Can you imagine how we could have fared, had we been more transit and pedestrian oriented?

One last tidbit, it is estimated that if the US shifted just 10 percent of new housing starts to smarter growth development over the next 10 years, Americans would save about 5 billion gallons of gasoline and about $220 billion in household transportation expenses.

How much of that could be your share?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thoughts On Lextran

A friend and I were talking the other day about some of the deficiencies of Lextran's service.

I have felt for a long time that there is not enough co-ordination between our downtown events and enabling our residents to attend via transit. He, on the other hand, was speaking about getting to some of our recreation areas(parks, etc...) and back by bus. This led us to consult a Lextran route map to test or confirm our thoughts and the most current one, we thought, would be online at their website.

I have been working with maps, particularly those of Lexington, for nearly 4 decades and I know my way around a map, but this one is a travesty. It would be bad enough if it gave no information to the reader but this one give out bad information-VERY BAD INFORMATION. I hope that they do something about it soon.

First, my friend asked about being able to take the bus to the park. This would obviously be a community park like Jacobson or Shillito, as the local parks are generally within walking distance of ones house, but the community parks are where Lexington has their larger get together's and widely advertised functions. Can someone ride the bus to the pool in the summer, without walking several blocks? Can we take the kids to Jacobson Park, to Kitefest, for the afternoon by bus? We can get to work, we can go shopping, but we can't go somewhere to relax-by bus.

Next, we looked at getting to school, by this I mean middle or high school. (I think that middle schooler's are able to use the public transportation to get home after school.) All of the high schools ARE on bus routes, but the middle schools are usually at least a block or two from a route.

And finally we talked about the city's continued efforts to have events downtown, sometimes in locations that severely disrupt Lextran's operations. Yet even if they did not pose any problem, there is no advertisement of park and ride to the event or shuttle trips from outlying lots for better attendance. From downtown to UK ballgames, yes, to the Art Fair, yes, from Beaumont or Hamburg for the Second Sunday, not a peep.

These are things that I think are reinforcing the public's impression that transit service is not a viable method of travel in Lexington. That "When they make it easier, then I will ride but right now, nobody is riding it" attitude is alive and well, and being fed by Lextran.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Case For Urban Grocery's

The New Urban News has an article posted about the rise in downtown urban grocers. Something that is happening mostly in the larger cities and places that understand the meaning of density. Washington DC has ten in the building or planning stage currently. Lexington has at least one in the wishing stage.

Urban-format grocery stores are built mostly in transit-served, walkable neighborhoods — often where new urban development is taking place according to one of architects involved with three of the DC stores. I guess that leaves Lexington out in the cold, as we have a dearth of walkable transit served neighborhoods. The closest that we would come is the Kroger on Romany(it lacks the transit) or the Kroger on Euclid(it needs to be up on the sidewalk and lose some of the parking).

Urban-format stores are also characterized by having the parking being reduced and placed below or above the store — or in the interior of the block. Lexington has nothing remotely like this scenario, nor does there appear to be a chance to have one. Such stores usually have street facing retail flanking either or both sides to give activity and avoid a blank wall to the pedestrians or passing traffic.

At least one entrance to an urban-format store must open to a quality urban environment. and usually there are two. One will face the active street scene and the other will lead to the parking. Suburban style developments will have all entrances leading to parking and be some distance from the street. One again, Lexington seems to be sorely lacking in this type of retail.
Until recently, supermarket chains focused primarily on the suburbs. The business model involved rolling out the same store with parking in front, again and again. When supermarkets did build in cities, they plunked down the same suburban box whenever possible. This approach worked as long as new growth was taking place primarily in the suburbs and the cities languished.

New Urban News
Safeway is one of North America’s largest supermarket chains with more than 1,700 stores is changing their urban strategy. “We are definitely focusing on stores in our urban core and will not be building stores in urban areas that are growth dependent,” says Craig Muckle. Kroger, a much larger chain and currently adding fuel centers and Marketplace big-box locations in Lexington, cannot be oblivious to this emerging situation but they don't show any evidence of jumping on the band wagon. On the other hand, Whole Foods pioneered this movement in the mid 1990s, just as there was the beginnings of a resurgence in downtown living.

Since an urban-format grocery is generally placed in a higher income area and walkable/transit enabled neighborhoods our Lexington residents will need to rearrange their priorities and actually move downtown before the stores will consider building there. The mindset of the shopper at an urban-format store is different, people often shop daily at urban stores instead of weekly, and purchase less food per visit. Less food per visit + a walkable neighborhood = less parking required per store. Also, fresher more wholesome food and less storage space in the kitchen or pantry.

So, our question now is, can our Lexington residents request, demand or encourage:
  • more walkable neighborhoods,
  • more transit-oriented development,
  • more downtown density,
  • less of what has been proven to be unsustainable and
  • progressive design for our city
I guess that we will see.

UK Blue To Go Green

The University of Kentucky is going to cut their utility bills. This should be great news for the Commonwealth and will probably be another financial burden for Lexington residents.

The University's Board of Trustees has voted to approve a $25 million energy savings performance contract in order to slice about $5 million from their annual utility bills. That would include approximately $2 million in savings in their coal fired electricity usage and that after they showed their support for all of those coal operators of eastern Ky.

One of the ways proposed for implementing the savings is what is called "behavioral modification." This is the same tactic used in clearing the air around campus by eliminating smoking from the entire campus, indoors and out. If you are going to smoke, take it off campus. Just like you did with drinking and partying. After four years of education these students will not be the smoking, drinking, partying animals they came here to be.

Another way of saving on utility bills is the installation of new plumbing facilities. Probably the "low flow" type that will trim their water usage and their sanitary sewer user fee. This will then cause the fee structure to be recomputed for the surrounding residential areas, compounding the existing neighborhood problems that we have seen lately.

What I see missing from this contract is the University making an effort to either reclaim energy from the normal loss points or to capture any solar or wind energy that is readily available on the campus proper. How many of their large flat roofed building are capable of handling solar panels and which of their campus breezeways could be fitted with mini wind generators?

This contract is only the first phase of what they say is an ongoing effort. We will see.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kentucky's Future Energy Usage

Lexington has been a Sister City to County Kildare in Ireland since 1984 mostly on the distinct similarities of the land, climate and cultural resources prevalent in both locations. Our first settlers originally came from Ireland and England so there should be some sort of connection between our two counties. Now I find that our "older" Sister City is also a wiser and more forward looking community than we are.

Mrs Sweeper pointed out this link to me after looking though the Energy Bulletin for some ideas pertaining to Peak Oil. This blogger is comparing Kentucky and Ireland and their plans for energy production and usage. Ireland is apparently looking to reduce their energy usage in the next decade or two while Kentucky, along with the rest of the US, will continue to use more and more energy, possibly due to our coal industry's influence within the states hierarchy.

There are many points in this report that I can agree with and many more in the Governors proposal for energy independence that I find questionable. So many of our projections about energy usage is based on trend lines going forward from our recent history and I doubt consider either a major shift in population and economic trends or a collapse of the existing economic system altogether. Should the price of our fossil fuels, especially oil and particularly foreign oil, rise to a level where transporting food products long distances becomes prohibitively expensive, will our land be better used for growing bio-mass for fuel or for feeding our local population?

Ireland is probably setting themselves up for a better future both energy wise and local sustainability wise.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How Some Others See Us

I was very much surprised to stumble upon this link. A blog site run by some young professionals with a mission to inform and discuss the issues facing their city, Metro Jacksonville. The reason that I found it, was that I was doing some research about Lexington's planning history and they had written a comparison of Jacksonville, Fl. to Lexington.

Although the text was written in June of '09 and posted in Aug., I found that it is a fair presentation of our city's current situation and where we stand vs. Jacksonville. I would hope that you all will read this site and see what you think. The comments are particularly revealing about some popular conceptions of Jacksonville. There is also a post on their comparison to Austin, from 2006 that I wish that they would update.

If you do go and take a look, please drop me a line and let me know if this is something that should be done here in Lexington.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Trolley Concepts

After reading a commentary in the weekly newsletter Destination: Freedom, I now have a fresher concept of proposing and laying out a viable trolley system for Lexington. What if we allow the users to determine the route "tweaks" that will make the system really work for the people.

We have long looked at places like New York and Boston or Chicago and asked, "Why can't we have something like theirs?". The simple answer is, we don't have the population to merit something as big as those. But we can begin to build a basis for a system to grow to that scale. The larger systems in America and those in Europe have been established for well over 100 years. We, in Lexington and many other cities, had systems that could have grown into what we sometimes envy in the rest of the world. Even those in our larger cities went through a stagnant period where they stopped growing or shrank to barely subsistence levels and are just now seeing a renewed expansion phase.

Lexington has talked about a new trolley circulator route or two( I can't really call it a "system") for nearly two years. They have assembled the equipment and done the public surveys to determine the routes and yet I now hear that they will wait until spring to begin service. They want everything to be "perfect" at the outset. That will assure the acceptance by the publicand make it a complete project.

Many of the light rail project that have been undertaken in the past decade have had their detractors and some have struggled for precisely the reasons put forth by those detractors (Randal O'Toole and others). Often, it seems, the chosen routes are from some perceived central location yet not easily reached by a majority of the people without some other motorized transportation method. Way too many of them rely on park-and-ride lots for their stations to succeed. A steetcar or trolley system(tracked or not) need not follow this same methodology to determine routes or destinations.

Campus planners on a small scale and urban planners on a larger scale have for years placed sidewalks and streets respectively and through observation and traffic studies rerouted those sidewalks or redesigned those streets which gained the most usage by using the "desire lines" of the users of the systems. Such a method could and should be used in the circulator trolley routes being pursued today.

First establish a general route direction and then let the riders assist in tweaking the routes under certain guidelines (no deviations more than x number of feet per y number of blocks traveled). This allows the rider to determine for himself whether the trolley ride is effort effective or not. Secondly, the frequency need to be such that one will see the trolley (or streetcar stop or tracks) and allow the impulse buying instinct to kick in. This may encourage travel to a more distant destination with the same effort. Thirdly, the routes should allow for adjustments and changes in climates of the seasons and business. The whole idea of a service is to be flexible and cater to the needs of those being served. The user's needs should come before the desires of the provider, otherwise the user will find an alternate solution.

As I have stated before, I am not greatly enamored with the idea of a rubber tired version of the trolley but I can see that using this to help in determining an optimum fixed route, "heritage style" streetcar is a benefit toward future planning efforts. This is then something that we can build upon in an effort to achieve that which we now envy in the Europeans and others around the world.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Examples Of Good And Bad Interstate Use Or Reuse

I am continually amazed at the seemingly thought out opinion pieces that with one sentence can eliminate all credibility built in the rest of the work. One recent op-ed in the New York Times was penned by such a writer, Karrie Jacobs.

Ms. Jacobs feels that the U.S. should take a look at re-purpose the Interstate Highway system, mainly to transport things other than fossil fueled vehicles. On its face this sound all well and good, until you look a little deeper. Placing America's electrical grid under the existing pavement of the Interstates would probably take as much federal dollars as building a new system from scratch. Not counting the logistical problems of heat build up or the regular maintenance requirements of the equipment, the excavation of the subsurface would be very expensive. Secondly, these Interstates do not always go to places that would require electrical service, such as facilities that cannot be placed near usual transportation routes.

What kills it for me is the assertion of her "most obvious" alternative.
The most obvious use for the Interstate’s corridors is rail transportation. If we are going to spend billions rehabbing the highways, shouldn’t we, at the same time, invest in adjacent rail lines like the 800-mile high-speed rail system voters approved last year in California
As I have written before, the current vision of High Speed Rail in America would be considered only medium speed in the rest of the world and the Interstate system was designed for automobile speeds of 90+ at best. Any reuse of the Interstate by rail, high speed or otherwise, would have to take this into consideration. The curves are designed much too tightly for high speed rail and the hills are at too steep a grade for just about any rail and the current interchanges are not suitable for transitioning from one line to another without sacrificing way too much time in doing so.

This is an idea that will not work without way too much effort for the good that it will do.

In contrast, the city of Providence R.I. is well along with their project to relocate Interstate 195 from downtown to the outskirts of the city. In doing so they will free up 39 acres of prime downtown land, 20 of which will be sold to developers and a reconnected street grid will aide the inner city neighborhoods.

Providence is just one of the many urban areas that have decided to remove their massive expressways, once thought of as necessary for the survival of downtowns and now considered hindrances to continued urban growth. Lexington's lack of a downtown freeway has usually been blamed for our traffic troubles. I, for one, am thankful that we will not be following other cities in this pattern.

Monday, November 9, 2009

15 Years After An Expensive Master Plan

Back in the mid'90s there was a movement to expand the Urban Service Area because the developers and builders were running out of land. There was a long and protracted battle before the Planning Commission and eventually it was decided--and expansion with a new way of looking at development.

The Expansion Area would be designed around two major concepts, the preservation of streams and drainage ways to eliminate flooding and promote greenway trails and linkages to civic amenities and the establishment of various community centers, each with a transition area into the surrounding residential development.

The greenways and the connecting walking/biking trail systems are largely taking place, in part due to the EPA suit and the consent decree(yet to be finalized). The community centers, well not so much.

The community centers were envisioned to be places for social gathering, associated somehow with structures of auditoriums or meeting halls(schools, churches or park style shelters), a small amount of retail and a residential component which ideally could be mixed with the retail(think Chevy Chase Shopping Center as it was, not as it is now). They were to be a central gathering place for the newly developing neighborhoods, accessible by foot or bike and would eliminate the need for an automobile to get to a neighborhood meeting. This was forward thinking, planning for peak oil without actually saying so.

There have been four CC/TA zones created in the expansion area so far. The first one developed is at the intersection of Polo Club Blvd and Todds Rd, or at least the proposed intersection with it not having been connected as yet. The end result here is a collection of townhouses and an anticipated gas station/food mart at the proposed corner. There are several large churches with property(10 acres or better) immediately adjacent and yet lacking any direct connectivity to the neighborhood.

The second is at the intersection of Polo Club and Man o' War Blvd. The plans here call for townhouses(again) some retail and presently several large lots and no specific proposals. What has been built is a gas station, pharmacy and bank. No townhouses or trails or anything else. I am starting to see a pattern here.

The third is located on Newtown Pike and Providence Parkway(north of Stanton Way and the Cracker Barrel). There is not much here right now but the approved plans say a gas station, several one story shops and a grouping of restored farm buildings centered around an antique dealer. The residential component is again several townhouses (not yet built).

Our latest to be developed is at Hays Blvd and Sperling Dr., near the elementary school. The mixed use shopping/residential was to encourage connectivity between the school , the shopping and other civic activities in an area nearly in the exact center of the development. The latest thoughts of the developer are some apartments behind the school, more single family lots and... get this... a pharmacy and a gas station on the corner. What a novel concept. Why did we not see this coming?

The residential zones of the expansion area (EAR 1, 2 & 3) were set up with a wide range of densities, anywhere from 3 units per acre up to 24 units per acre(with density transfer rights) or 18 without the transfer rights. As yet, the development density fifteen years into the plan is approximately between 3 and 4 units per acre, or just about what we were developing before the expansion plan was approved at great cost.

A new way of planning? Maybe not. I think it has been a zero sum game and maybe Pogo said it best, "We have met the enemy, and it is us."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gridlock And What To Do About It

Our favorite transportation planner, Randal O'Toole has a new book coming out soon called "Gridlock: Why We Are Stuck In Traffic and What To Do About It". This book is supposed to set the planning world on its ear.

The ideas put forth here are the same that we have heard from Mr. O'Toole for years. That American people cherish their mobility and that the personal auto is the ultimate in convenience. Not only is it inexpensive but it is available to nearly any family in the developed world. That mass transportation(buses, trains etc.) are not a replacement for the personal auto and limiting auto mobility would be detrimental to society. I wonder what the good people of New Orleans will say when they remember the post Katrina days of no transportation out, even when there were plenty of buses with no drivers.

O'Toole says that this book will oppose any government subsidies to any transportation mode as well as any government efforts to reduce individual driving. Any subsidies? Does that mean funds in addition to the Highway Trust Fund which cannot cover all that is expected of it now? Lexington and the state of Kentucky cannot currently maintain the road that they have sufficiently, much less any new or upgraded roads.
Users should be able to choose whatever transportation they like as long as they pay their way.

The Antiplanner, from The Ultimate Transportation Antiplanning Book

As a resident of Lexington and a driver in the state of Kentucky, I do not see my personal local money being used to repair any street or any parking lot. Those funds come from the hidden increase in the cost of goods and services that I buy, and not just the frivolous stuff, I am talking about the basics of life. Anything that moves over the roads is subject to the fees and the additional cost is passed on to the consumer. The cost of maintaining the parking lot at the local grocery is added to the price of food, the lot at the movies is added to the price of the tickets and the road in front of my house is added to the property tax bill(given the residential density of our suburban sprawl, most streets will not pay for themselves).

O'Toole also tries to get away from the old argument of rails vs. roads by pushing a new third position, using technology to provide mobility and congestion relief, by making the current roads more efficient. Using driverless vehicles. Driverless cars that will allow more vehicles to move closer to each other and at higher speeds and hopefully with no collisions.

This, of course, would require the rebuilding of all the roadways with the technology capable of controlling such vehicles AND the requiring the retrofitting of autos with these controls. I imagine that this would be paid for by the auto's owner and the owner of the roads. Currently the government owns the roads and since they(the government) are not allowed to subsidize the system, the government may not upgrade the roads, so I wonder who will. There is also, at this time, a strong opposition the the installation of GPS tracking devices for the recording of VMT on which to base a roadway fee(tax) in lieu of the gas tax, so will total control be allowed by the general driving public? Anyone with the OnStar system already has the GPS tracking so it may not be a problem.

I am curious to know which roads will be the first to be fitted for the driverless controls. Will it be the Interstates and the major US highways between our major cities( the one that flow fairly well as it is) or will it be the urban arterial and collector type streets where the commuter back-ups occur today? How far down the functional classification list will the control level go? Will it extend to the local and cul-de-sac level, if not how will you get your auto to the closest control point? Will manual control and driverless control be able to mix on the roadways? And what will become of the "complete streets" movement that seems to be sweeping the country these days.

Thinking about this brings to mind an online conversation I had with another commenter to a Herald-Leader article. A resident of Richmond, Ky. had expressed his opinion on spending money on some changes to Esplanade. His premise was to spend more money on widening the streets of Lexington, to allow his daily trip through town(from Richmond to Lawrenceburg) in a 4x4 truck to be made in a less obtrusive manner. He wants us to spend our funds to make his commute better and he does not live or pay taxes here.

I, of course, took offense to his callous abuse of Lexington's already horrendous carbon footprint and suggested that we(Lexington) did not need his type mucking up our county. It soon became evident that this Madison County redneckwas not the type to be told that he would(or could) give up control of his vehicle. Clearly his actions to get ahead were ones that have been taught and will, if followed, place one squarely behind the eight ball in the coming environmental and financial paradigm reset.

Randal O'Toole and this fellow from Richmond will both resist the government's intrusion to their lives, but I doubt that they will agree on Lexington's traffic problems.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lexington's Future Should Be On Track?

By now everyone has heard the news, the Oracle of Omaha has bought himself a railroad. Warren Buffet has bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. I am so jealous that he gets to play train--with real trains.

I have known several model railroaders over the years and many of them have had elaborate set-ups and layouts. Each one had a different goal in mind when they started their design phases. Some wanted be able to run their railroad in a manner best fitting their interests; operating a train using the historical methods and rules of bygone days, bringing their favorite prototype into the present using an alternate reality or using some specialized equipment related to a facility that they were familiar with. The common thread in all of these is a remembrance of days gone by and the thoughts of what might have been.

Mr Buffet is now going to tread where few railroaders have dreamed to go--he is going to march proudly into the future, with the idea of renewing the promise of what rail transportation can do and creating new possibilities of fond memories in younger generations. And he is not going alone, one of our local rail professionals is moving into the future right there with him, R.J. Corman.

Corman, with his recent acquisition of the Railpower Co. and their industry leading GenSet locomotives is working with other railroad companies to make rail transportation services once again the best in the world. Some of us have watched in wonderment as the Corman Railroad group has steadily built a reputation of excellence and said that he is just doing it to please his own ego. His purchase of a steam locomotive and rumors of excursions/dinner trains have fueled dreams of more tourist attractions, but I think that it is much more than that. I am just waiting for the next hint of the wonderful things to come.

With such railroad visionaries as that, why is it that the State of Kentucky and the City of Lexington don't see more possibilities for rail in the future? Why are we finding more ways to remove ourselves from any remote possibility of re-establishing rail service to our downtown. We still herald the removal of the downtown tracks and the redevelopment of rail related industries as though they will no longer be needed as our fossil fuels depletion drives up transportation costs.

Warren Buffet did not buy a railroad on a whim or as a way to play with trains. $34 Billion is a lot of money to play with but Buffet does not like to lose money and if he thinks it is a good bet, then maybe the city, state and the rest of the country should listen. Buffet thinks that this a bet on the country and I'm following him.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Economic Development With Sustainable Living

According to Neil Pearce "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s cautious if not hostile approach to climate control legislation isn’t just putting it at odds with the Obama administration.". I t may also be putting it at odds with its local organizations. It has certainly played a part in the decisions of national and international corporations like Pacific Gas and Electric and Apple to resign from the larger body.

The local Chamber, known locally as Commerce Lexington, is the entity usually chosen as the prime economic development arm of Lexington's leaders. What I'd like to know is, are they working with the Urban County Government to bring in the more environmentally conscious companies, or even is there an effort to work toward a climate controlled Lexington development scene. I don't necessarily believe that man is the cause of the recent climate changes or that the changes are irreversible. I don't even totally believe in the whole global warming scare theory, but the majority of the country's leading scientists do and yet I am not sure that I see our leadership working to do something about it. I do believe in the peak oil scenario(and the coming paradigm reset) and I certainly do not see any efforts to deal with what I see as arriving before any catastrophic effects of global warming. Our global economy may kill us all before global warming does.

A report from the Partners for Livable Communities details some of the local chambers around the country which have begun planning and doing projects in their hometowns all in the name of sustainability. Many of these chambers were in the southern and eastern US. Lexington was not on the list.

This is not just about global warming or peak oil or even reducing the outlandish per capita carbon footprint here in Lexington. It is about making and keeping Lexington a desirable place to raise a family. It will take dealing with each of the elements and making responsible choices when it comes to land use and transportation. How will we deal with our heat islands of parking lots and exhaust spewing autos? How will we reduce our use of fossil fuels, thereby leaving some for our children and grandchildren to use even more sparingly? How will we leave a more positive footprint on the Earth than our parents and grandparents did?

Where was our Commerce Lexington when we decided to expand the Urban Service Area in the mid-'90s. I think that they were right there helping to set the density targets for all the newly planned acreage. This was to be a new way of planning, a new way of looking at our fringe areas, more density in a more community center oriented setting. Now nearly fifteen years later, we look back and see that there are no community centers to which to orient and the density built that equals any development done prior to the expansion. We set the bar just above minimum and barely made it over the bar. Hooray for the status quo. And where is our Commerce Lexington these days? My bet is living right in the middle of that very expensive status quo, driving their luxury autos across town to work and leaving a larger carbon footprint than 75% of their employees.

So much for expecting a sustainable lifestyle in our economic development.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chamber Trips To A Black Hole

Much has been talked about the recent Commerce Lexington trip and its follow-up visit by Rebecca Ryan, a Madison consultant, but we are not the only ones to have controversy about these types of "Chamber trips". Mary Newsom, on her blog "The Naked City" had a review of Charlotte's visit by the Minneapolis/St Paul Chamber of last week. Apparently, one of the questions brought up by some of the participants was whether the visited city had audacity while the visitor was considered ambivalent.

How does this translate into the Lexington experience? Does Madison, Wisconsin take on the mantle of audacity while we here in Lexington sit back in our ambivalence and cruise through on our southern hospitality, college basketball and horse industry? Some of you will think Lexington needs to show a bit more audacity and promote itself more on its aspects that are far removed from those that I've already listed. Some will maintain that we should take on more of how other cities do things and yet not look like Anywhere, USA. I think that we should look at other cities, not for just what works but also how it works(and I don't mean the mechanics of it working) and why it works. What are all the pieces needed to allow it to work rather than forcing it to work in spite of lacking key elements? The true success to gathering ideas of others is that it is not a buffet, to pick and choose parts, but a jigsaw puzzle which need all the pieces to be give the complete picture.

Often the best part of these types of blogs are comments made by the readers and this one is no exception. One commenter went so far as to read the agenda, notice that the topics were things that normal readers heard little about and asked why this information, freely given to those from other cities, were kept from the average Charlotte resident.

Trips like this may be useful to those taking them(or so they say) but also may be becoming fewer and farther between with the demise of cheap oil. And some of these junkets are(or have been) simple excuses to visit other cities' night life(i.e. gentlemen's clubs etc...), have expensive meals or visit tourist sites at no charge. We have all read about these kinds of things lately haven't we?

The point is, that there is only so much of the economy that can be split between the various communities without stealing from others. We don't need to steal our portion of the economy, we need to grow our own. I have a feeling that in the coming economic reset that there will be the need to do more of everything for ourselves, even a lot more local food production and material fabrications. Our wresting of a larger portion of the economic pie from the larger cities would be like retrieving matter from a black hole after it has passed the event horizon.

What is the catalyst that will make Lexington an economic black hole and start to draw from other areas without copying them?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Downtown Circulator, 10+ Months And Counting

One of my sources has revealed to me that the Lextran "Colt" service is just about ready to be set free on the streets of Lexington. If you remember, this is the faux "trolley" system that was formerly known as the downtown circulator.

There were to be two routes. One along Limestone and Upper streets and running between Transy and UK . The other along Main and Vine, although I still believe that a Main and Short loop is far more preferable. With South Limestone in the middle of extensive roadwork expected to be completed in July, I guess that this route will come some time from now.

A recent meeting of the committee directing the Colt service discussed the finalization of the Main/? route. Woodford Webb, a major player in this venture, was not in attendance but he did send someone in his place. I am told that representatives of UK and Transylvania also missed the meeting. Other key supporters, Phil Holoubek who holds key parcels on Short St. and Harold Tate the director of Lexington DDA pushed for the route along Main and Short, purely for reasons that I pointed out back in January.

I am told that Mr Holoubek informed this committee that "an older gentleman around town" had made this suggestion in a blog. Is he talking about me? Does Phil follow my blog? If so, how many other ideas have gone farther than this mere blip in cyberspace? (And I refuse to think of myself as an older gentleman, even at my age.)

I am sure that Mr. Tate and Mr Holoubek have the best interest of this city(and their own investments ) at heart, but I hear that this decision went the way of all "high level" decisions. This decision was made by using the golden rule-he that has the gold, makes the rules. Thats right, you've got it, the Webb Companies will be paying for a "trolley that runs around their development and serves everybody else on the periphery. It makes no difference that the route passes practically NOTHING else along Vine St that could be considered a destination, or that the previous "trolleys" had to be run along the Old Vine St. in order to justify their being on the east end of Main St. If this Main/Vine route makes sense, then the UK to Transy route using Upper and Mill(until S. Limestone is finished) would also make sense.

I am not in favor of this tourist attraction and you can go back and see that I have not been silent about my concerns, but if we are going to follow through with this, then it should be done as best as can be done. I, for one, cannot see leaving my office , catching the "trolley" to a restaurant in Victorian Square and arriving in less time than I could have walked there. I also don't want to see this set of baby steps get tripped up by any construction, either near-term streetscape or long-term major building work(Remember, they would like to get started tomorrow).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lexington's Image, Revitalize It Or Not?

Rebecca Ryan, a Madison Wis. consultant, came to town recently and gave her opinion of what we need to do to jump start Lexington's race into the future. That make about 28,000 and one. I figure that just about everybody has an opinion of what to do in Lexington and can find 100 or so others to go along with him. We also know that consultants have credibility that is inversely proportionate to the distance that they had to travel to do the study. Let us look at some of what she said.

I don't see anything on the CommerceLexington website so I'll have to go by the Herald-Leader story.

Ms. Ryan first gives us what we already know, that God has blessed Lexington with some of the best natural beauty available. The educated work force and the population diversity are of more a product of our own selection. Just about everywhere that people settle has some sort of natural beauty that the residents desire to be around, so this is a very generic platitude to start out with.

I believe that all Lexingtonians feel that we don't NEED a mountain, more sunshine, or a couple of lakes to be "world class", but then I don't think that Madison is on any list of world class cities either. World class, in her opinion, has more to do with how the residents attitudes are than with the considerations of the world opinion at large. To "be" world class, to most people, is to measure up to the standards of other cities around the world, to be mentioned in the same breath and sentence with other cities. Ones attitude of being a runner may be good, but means nothing until he competes with the best of the rest of the world.

While here, Ms. Ryan met with business and education leaders, entrepreneurs and young professionals AND did some cycling, walking and driving around. Well, I would expect so. Her analysis resulted in recommending the we create more "stroll districts" like pedestrian-friendly Chevy Chase. News Flash, there are some of us who have been saying that for several years, yet even the former councilperson from that district admits that the patrons of the area don't want to park and walk more the a half of a block to the stores. Granted it is pedestrian friendly, but the people don't want to walk? Making places more walkable also meas bringing the nodes of congregation closer together be they shopping, recreation or other and then giving reasons for people to go there.

Constructing buildings on "a human scale" does not only mean eschewing the development of high rises, but creating places of meeting at "human" distances from each other. High rises have their place and that is usually in the center of the largest concentration of development. As for the one-way street conversions, are we not already moving in that direction?

Ms. Ryan also is said to believe that Lexington is "wrestling with an inferiority complex", but folks I know think that we are actually having a superiority complex. There are those who feel that we don't do certain things because "we are better than that" or "we are beyond that kind of thinking". I hate to tell her, but trash talking goes on in all kinds of games and it is the ones who can back it up that end up winners. In Lexington, talking like you have game is better than worrying about if you have game. Those who really do have game actually will leave those "naysayers" behind. I see a majority of those "naysayers" as being a newer crowd trying to get "those who have game"(the ones that can get things done) to play a different style. We see how that worked out for Billy G, don't we?

Lastly, her comments on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games ring of someone with 20/20 hindsight. Or is she giving her reaffirmation of the work that is already in progress, those things that are causing the most controversy these days? Telling the common folk that they are the beneficiaries of the preparations for the WEG means little if there is not a dollar sign attached to it. The WEG will come and go and the little man on the street will see relatively small change in his pocket. The greater the anticipation, the smaller the change.

Her last two admonitions, in my opinion, should both be heeded. The current leadership(those who talk and do the good game) should take the time to teach as they play the game. And those who are coming up(the trash talkers who haven't been able to back it up) should bring their talent and spend some time in the classroom.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts On The Coming Reset

Earlier this month I posted about how I am not ready to face the coming lifestyle of $5+ fuel prices. I don't think that the rest of us are either. Wendy Waters of All About Cities then had this giving two scenarios possible for cities in the event of nearly $8 gas.

Wendy starts off with this interesting question.
Will the city be able to offer the housing, transportation options or amenities that its residents may prefer if fuel becomes a more expensive item relative to the family budget?
My question is "Will the city be able to provide enough housing or transportation that the population needs in the event of such a situation?". Will there be the expected new technologies and will they come with their own set of inherent problems, some of which will become evident as we get down the road(so to speak)?

I have started to become concerned that way too many of us have decided to live well beyond the reasonable commuting distance of the future. That and we have not put into place any good alternatives to the primary chosen mode of transportation, the automobile. Somehow , we have let ourselves be persuaded to separate ourselves from our sources of income by time and distance to the extent that now, reducing that gap may bring societal upheaval. The farther the distance the greater the possible upheaval.

Commerce has always followed the population, but in recent years, with the growth of "big box" mega-stores, the interval between commercial nodes has become bigger and the possibility of walking is nearing remote. This may be attributed to zoning as well as population growth. The original concept of zoning was to separate noxious uses from residential areas, but as we became accustomed to the idea, our definitions of what to separate became more and more strict. We are now nearly to the point of having walls between single-family and duplexes or townhouses.

In any case, the budget battle between housing costs and transportation costs, our two largest monthly outlays, will have to waged , much to the chagrin of the majority of our populace.

Suppose the Wendy's second scenario is what comes to be, how will we fare here in Lexington, Ky.? We will not have time to change all of our cars to burn alternate fuels, nor will we have the luxury of installing a meaningful mass transit system. Despite all the warnings and lead time(the gas crisis of the '70s) and the examples of the Europeans and Japanese, we have mostly believed that it just can't happen here. Will the re-purposing of our subdivisions work their way out in ripples of waves or from the outer edges in in a flood of more urban style development around our major roadway intersections? At that point, will those intersections become the new "civic centers" for the provision of necessary government services, the schools, the post office, the light rail station, much like the old corner store but on a larger scale?

I don't have any of these answers and Wendy, as well as I, is willing to hear your thought on this matter.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lost Lexington Subdivisions 1

Tonight, I am posting an article that I have been holding for a while. It demonstrates the ongoing situation around the UK campus

When I started this blog , I intended to recount some of the histories of various subdivisions and neighborhoods and over the past months I have been distracted by other development related topics. Today I wish to get back to one of my original topics, one which I will call Lost Lexington Subdivisions. These are platted areas or subdivisions which have been swallowed up by other institutions or public works projects and very little or no vestiges of the original area can be recognized. One of the first of these is an area I encountered as a ten or eleven year old visiting friends from school, Clifton Heights.

The beginnings of Clifton Heights predate me by a considerable margin. Consider this newspaper snippet below:
"Clifton Heights"
Lexington will have another boom on hand within a few days. A land company has been incorporated under the title of the Clifton Heights Land Company, and has purchased one hundred and six acres of land near the suburbs of the city and fronting on Rose Street.
Lexington Leader March, 5 1890
Right beside this was an advertisement of the incorporation of the development company and signed by the corporation president, Louis Straus. Straus was a well known businessman and civic leader, who with his brother Gus, had operated a clothing and tailoring business since the mid 1860’s. The land was belonged to Oliver P. Alford, a local horseman, a brother of R.F. Alford (a member of Morgan’s raiders) and uncle to Mitchell C. Alford, the Lieutenant Governor. O.P. and M.C. Alford were also incorporators. The rest of the incorporation signers were J.E. Keller, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Realtor (moved to Louisville in 1891), C.F. Simonds, owner of the Phoenix Hotel until he sold it to his son John, Watts Parker, an attorney who at times was City Attorney, Master Commissioner, County Judge, and Circuit Judge, and Charles Seelbach of the Louisville hotel family. About 2 weeks later the Lexington Leader had this to say
"In a flurry"
…Although but a short time has elapsed since the Clifton Heights Company made their large purchase of suburban property, there are many persons who want lots in that subdivision. …In the first place Rose Street will be widened ten feet from Maxwell Street to the intersection of the Nicholasville Pike. In the next place the first avenue, running parallel with Maxwell Street, will be one hundred feet wide
Lexington Leader March, 23 1890
The above appears to describe the Aylesford development more than the Clifton area in its reference to a street “one hundred feet wide”. That better describes Euclid Ave. than any other street paralleling Maxwell. Even so, there are not lots being platted or built upon at this time only desire and great interest in the subdivision as this excerpt from more than two years later shows:
Clifton Heights is to be the scene of extensive improvements. Brick and macadam streets are to be put down and handsome houses are to be erected this fall.
Lexington Leader August, 21 1892
These were heady days in the America of the 1890’s. Prosperity was around every corner or so the political leaders claimed, even though 1% of the people controlled more than the other 99%. There was a bump in the road coming called the Panic of 1893.
The 1880s had seen a period of remarkable economic expansion in the United States. In time, the expansion became driven by speculation, much like the "tech bubble" of the late 1990s, except that the preferred industry was railroads. Railroads were vastly over-built, and many companies tried to take over many others, seriously endangering their own stability so to do.... As concern of the state of the economy worsened, people rushed and caused bank runs. The credit crunch rippled through the economy.
Louis Straus took ill in 1898 and as his illness wore on the prospects of the new subdivision diminished with his health. The Clifton Heights lots were advertised for auction and sold in May of 1899 and the newspaper had this to say.
"To build at once"
The purchasers of lots in Clifton Heights have already commenced arrangements to build and today witnessed several loads of lumber and other building material hauled out there. Mr. J. W. Hendricks, the well known contractor and builder, was the first to begin work. He will put up a pretty cottage and others will follow suit at once.
Lexington Leader May, 16 1899
Clifton Heights was set, as its name implies, up the hill of Rose St. from Euclid Ave. and had a fine view of the campus of the State College of Kentucky and its agricultural farm. The first plat was recorded in May of 1899 and encompassed 45 acres or so bounded on the west by Rose St., the east by Woodland Av., the south by the Ag farm and the north by the un-platted portion of the former Alford farm (soon to be the Aylesford Subdivision). Three interior streets and a network of alleyways served the 130 parcels so that no lot required a break in the curb to access the property. Roughly half of the development was in the City proper which in that day was described by a circle, I mile in radius, centered on the county court house.

The property had two bodies of water just outside the City limit which may have been natural and, strangely located at just about the highest point for several hundred feet around. These water bodies became features of the primary residential street which bore the name of the development, Clifton Ave. Seventy seven of the 130 lots faced or had a good view of these ponds and were most likely the prime lots of the entire subdivision. Clifton Ave ran east from Rose to Woodland and paralleled the other residential street, Columbia Ave. Connecting these two main avenues and proceeding north from the larger of the ponds, across Columbia and then toward the Alford property was Linden Ave.

Approximately 5 years later, when the Aylesford subdivision was platted, there was no connection to the existing Linden Ave. and any hope of extension was dashed by naming the only possible candidate, for the new subdivision. To be fair, it can be said that there is a steep incline and the existence of a considerable stream along the property line dividing the two developments. Due to this disconnect the name of Linden Ave was changed to Pennsylvania Ave. sometime after 1904.

As noted before, alleyways served all lots from the rear. Two of these alleys ran adjacent to the north and south property lines and , in the case of the northern one, proved to be less than successful in that it was parallel to the creek and along the toe of the hill making it quite inefficient for lot access. I believe that for this reason, portions of 17 of the 22 lots on the north side of Columbia making use (or trying to) of this alley were further subdivided into Dixie Court, in 1923, (see image at left) and Pennsylvania Court sometime later. Dixie Ct. plat labels this alley as “unused”.

The 1907 Sanborn Insurance map shows that 8 houses had been built on the north side of Columbia while more than 2/3s of the south side built up and a clear majority of all lots on Clifton occupied with housing. Commercial uses are also creeping into the area to serve the residents. The 1934 version shows some lot consolidations and all but a few built out with no increase in commercial intrusion, still the lots on the north of Columbia Ave show little use and further aides their need to re-subdivide.

It is not surprising that the owners of homes in Clifton Heights soon began to let rooms to college students who had come to Lexington to go to school. In 1902, one such student unfortunately died of undisclosed causes at the home of J.H. Hendricks of 432 Clifton Ave. The State College had been admitting women since 1880, but there were no dormitories for women at the time. J.H. Hendricks was the father of John W. and Thomas A. Hendricks, two well known contractors, noted for building both the Union Station downtown and the Queen & Crescent station on S. Broadway. J.H. and his wife Bettie were in their 70’s and would have been prime candidates for housing out of town co-eds.

In the early years the residents of Clifton Heights probably mirrored any other new subdivision, with the up and coming and the regular working class families. Some were inventive, such as Robert C. Hall , who was granted a patent on a fibre breaking machine, and Peter Geiser, who installed at State College one of the Geiser combination smoke consumers, which he invented and patented, By 1912, Geiser claimed more than half a dozen patents to his name. There were the well known and the little known, the entrepreneurs and the salesmen, the academic and the manual laborers all mixed in the residential structure of the area.

I noted before about the ponds, or as some called them “lakes”, it appears that someone did not take kindly to the beauty of the water features and in the early hours of a May weekend of 1906 some person, or persons, used dynamite and shovels to cut a number of trenches through the embankment, thus permitting the body of water to escape until there is not enough left to dignify it with even the name of a pond. We do know that the damage was repaired from later press reports and it was not until 1947 that it was finally drained for good. The year 1913 had many comments about the ponds, or at least the larger one, as February brought very cold weather and the ice skating was said to be the best in town. March of that year a reflective piece about the hidden beauty of the pond that would be the memories of a future time, was printed by the Lexington Leader. And October, the news brought a tale of what has been a State College (and then University ) staple for decades, the tug of war contest over the pond.
At the close of a three minutes struggle, the doughty Sophomores of State University overpowered the Freshmen students Tuesday afternoon, drawing many of the lower classmen and the large steel cable through the Clifton Heights pond. Many of the Freshies who were not pulled through the water bravely plunged in the cold water and swam safely to the opposite shore.
Lexington Leader October, 15 1913
Even after the pond was drained the University students, especially the fraternities and sororities had “mud bowl” flag football games and tug o wars in the grassy field that was the bottom of the pond.

Along with people, services came to the new subdivision. In July 1907 a new florist shop was announced and September brought the establishment of a branch of the Library in someone’s home and just two weeks later a second location in another’s home. Clearly the residents wished to be well read. I did find one curious news excerpt from 1908;
"New park"
Mayor Skain and Superintendent W. M. Bateman drove out to Clifton Heights, on South Rose Street, Monday morning, to take a look at that section of the city and consider its capabilities for a driving park. The result of their inspection was that they came away thoroughly convinced that Clifton Heights will make a fine resort for those who go driving.
Lexington Leader June, 16, 1908
I am unaware of just what a “driving park” is, or of what it consists, but I do feel that in the early years of the automotive age, when few families could possess an automobile, it may have had more to do with horses and carriages than autos.

Other services were being requested by the residents, an extension of the streetcar line from its southeastern most point, at Maxwell and Woodland, southward to serve Aylesford, Clifton Heights and the Chautauqua Woods/Columbia Heights areas. Over one hundred residents met to discuss and request this service but the extension was never done. The mayor did propose and recommend some improvements as shown here;
Plans for extensive street improvements in the Clifton addition, beyond Aylesford, were discussed and ordered advertised for by the Board of Public Works upon the recommendation of Mayor Skain Tuesday morning. These include new streets, sidewalks and sewers out Woodland to Columbia Avenue, along Columbia Avenue to Rose street and down Rose to Euclid avenue in Aylesford.
Lexington Leader September, 14 1909
This may have meant the repaving of the streets and sidewalks or the paving for the first time, as referenced here.
"'Worst street'"
As the result of a message from residents of Columbia avenue, requesting that their street be taken into consideration as being among those most thickly laden with mud and the least improved, an inspection visit was made Saturday afternoon by a Leader representative.
Lexington Leader March, 3 1907
I don’t know.

Recreational services for the children were promised in 1916 and land deeded to the City in the summer that included the Clifton Pond. A playground opened in 1919, in the depression created by draining the smaller pond, with some fanfare. Two years later a 14 year-old local youth drown in the pond and it appears that there was some effort to close the park, since a petition of the neighbors was circulated an given to the City. The park stayed open. In August of 1930 the park played host to a circus, arranged by the Lexington Civic League, as the big event to close out their final week of operating the playgrounds in the city. It was well attended as approximately 6,000 people were estimated to be there and, as with any circus, there was a parade through town.

Clifton Heights figured in the controversy of being annexed into the City in that not all of the property was originally included, as detailed above. Below we see how it affected the area.
City limits extension bill goes into effect June 13th, extending limits of Lexington ½ mile in each direction.
Lexington Herald March, 13 1906
The residents of Woodland, Chautauqua Woods, Columbia Heights, Clifton Heights and some other smaller subdivisions found themselves in danger of being annexed into a city, in which they had no say as to representation. Woodland was the most vocal as they had the greater number of wealthy, influential inhabitants and they explored the idea of creating their own city government.
"Initial steps taken"
Resident of that portion of Woodland, beyond the city limits who have had under consideration the advisability of organizing a new township of the sixth class for the purpose of avoiding annexation to the city of Lexington, in accordance with the city extension bill, recently passed by the Legislature, mention of which was made in Sunday's Leader, held a meeting Tuesday night at which decided action was taken toward carrying out the proposed project.
Lexington Leader March, 14 1906
Due to their population they would have been a city of the sixth class but the area would be booming in the next few years. Chautauqua Woods, with its smaller, denser cottage style housing, would be platted and built in the next three years. Columbia Heights, Current Addition, L. B. Shouse Addition and others in the few years after that.
Taxation without representation"
Taxation without Representation. That is the trick sought to be turned by those who are shuffling the political cards at the expense of the thousands of good citizens who live and own property in the suburbs that are to be annexed to Lexington by an extension of the city limits. The Leader has learned from several sources that a scheme is on foot to postpone the extension of the city limits until after Tuesday November 6, next, when it is proposed to nominate State and municipal officers on the same day as the Congressional election, in which event all of the residents of the section to be annexed will be shut out of the city primary election . . .
Lexington Leader May, 27 1906
City leadership sought to increase revenue while denying responsibility at the ballot box to a large population of influential citizens.
"Official survey"
By the middle of next week the official survey of the Woodland district will be complete and an ordinance providing for its annexation to the city of Lexington, as an integral part of the municipal corporation will be introduced before the General Council at the first regular meeting in July. Matters in connection with the first step towards territorial extension, that expansion which is hoped will induce the "Greater Lexington" so universally sought, have reached that stage where decisive action is in sight.
Lexington Leader June, 24 1906
The surveys progressed through the next weeks with negotiations and lawsuits (Pepper Distillery on Versailles Rd) to the point that the expansion was not a true ½ mile in all directions but an irregular shape. I have not found a map of the exact annexation yet though I am still looking. By the end of August the deed had been done and in the words of the Commissioners, a greater Lexington accomplished.
"'Greater Lexington'"
"Greater Lexington" is now a fact. When the residents of the outlying districts awakened from their slumbers Friday morning they were full-fledged citizens of the city of Lexington for all purposes under the law. Retiring Thursday night they went in sleep in Fayette county, but awakened in the city of Lexington, in that the General Council met Thursday night in special session and by unanimous vote adopted the annexation ordinance.
Lexington Leader August, 31 1906
Then the troubles began. The easy part was finished and the hard part lay ahead
"Hogs must be removed"
One of the unpleasant circumstances attending the extension of the city limits by the recent annexation ordinance is that many of those brought in will be compelled to abandon the custom of keeping hogs on their premises. To carry out this rule, Dr. Simmons, the health officer, served notice upon two of the new residents Saturday, that they will not be permitted to keep hogs in the city limits at any time, a practice to which they have long been accustomed and were following when the limits were extended. As a result, they must now immediate sale, or by removal to the country beyond the half-mile limit.
Lexington Leader September, 2 1906
"Extended limits"
The recent extension of the city limits has brought a world of trouble, worry, doubt and confusion to some of the city officials, but so much to the City Assessor and the principals of the several schools, that each of them is demanding block maps showing the annexed territory.
Lexington Leader September, 4 1906

"Suburban districts"
Unless Mayor Combs and the General Council come to the rescue and order a sufficient appropriation for putting up street signs and house numbers in Arlington Heights, Columbia Heights, Forest Hill and Herr Park addition, which are included in the territory recently added to the city by the annexation ordinance, these residence suburbs are likely to lose the free delivery service which Uncle Sam has generously provided for them. By order of the postal department two new carriers were, beginning September 1, added to the free delivery department and assigned to these districts, greatly to the delight to the citizens of these outlying residence sections who for some time have been clamoring for free delivery.
Lexington Leader September, 9 1906

"Mrs. Faulconer's home cut out of the city"
The Joint Ways and Means Committee of the General Council, and Joint Improvement committee, met Wednesday night in the office of the Mayor. One of the matters coming before the Ways and Means Committee was the effect of the annexation ordinance upon Mrs. Nannie G. Faulconer, superintendent of County Schools. Under the law she is required to maintain her residence in the county, and at the time of her nomination, election and qualification, she was a resident of the county. The recent annexation ordinance brought her home within the corporate limits of the city and special provisions were necessary in her case.
Lexington Leader September, 13 1906

"Complex problems"
Some rather serious complications have arisen in regard to the recent annexation of new territory to the City of Lexington, the principal among which are the acquisition of common school property and the necessity of changes being made in the location of certain voting places in the county precincts affected by the change.
Lexington Leader September, 16 1906

"Voting status obscure"
Are the three thousand voters residing in the newly annexed territory to the city of Lexington to be denied the right or privilege of participation in the next city Democratic primary, or, in other words to be disfranchised to that extent? is a question even the county authorities seem unable to answer.
Lexington Leader September, 30 1906

"Express company"
People who live in the recently annexed territory of the city may protest in vain against the refusal of the express companies to deliver their parcels free of charge. As a result of their refusal to deliver parcels free during the Christmas rush, many of the citizens of the newest portions of Lexington entered a vigorous kick with Mayor Combs on the grounds that they were no longer "out of the city," and requested His Honor to ascertain why they did not have as much right to free delivery of express as any one else in town.

Lexington Leader January, 14 1907

"Will resist taxation"
Since the holding of the County Democratic Convention Saturday has developed the fact that residents of the newly annexed territory of the city are in Sixty-first (county of Fayette) instead of the Sixty-second (city of Lexington) legislative district, and as such are not entitled to have a voice in the election of representatives from this city, they will resist the collection of the city taxes this year.
Lexington Leader June, 9 1908
Everything from “You can’t keep your animals”, “We don’t know where you are”, “We can’t deliver to you for free”, “You can’t keep your job and live where you do” and ”You can’t vote”, all the way to “We won’t pay any taxes”. All of these would seem to be quickly solved but the voting one. It wasn’t that they weren’t allow to vote, it was just in which district and for whom. The City could move a municipal boundary, but the State legislature would have to wait for the 1910 Census results to apportion their new State district lines. The residents could vote, but they could not vote for the City candidate , they would have to vote for the county representative even though they lived in the City.

Eventually it all worked out and the City slowly set in place a procedure for annexing newer developed areas into the corporate boundary and by tweaking and trying, the process lasted until merger.

The growing pains out of the way, Clifton Heights settled into a period stability. People moved out and people moved in. Slowly, almost inexorably, the University moved into and started to take over the quiet little area. First the sororities bought the little frame houses facing Rose St, then along Columbia, and with a church sandwiched in, created a “greek” enclave which the guys matched on campus, on the south side of Clifton and the lots facing on Woodland Ave.. Between 1950 and 1956 they had taken roughly 1/5 of the original Clifton Heights plat for college related uses.

The University took over some of the housing that had been built along Pennsylvania Avenue and two other sororities joined in on Columbia Ave. Then the Baptist Student Center came along and the future of Columbia Ave was sealed. Meanwhile the University took the south side, set the Faculty Club on the corner and just kept adding parking. The Mines and Minerals Building connected the Faculty Club to the structured parking and phone center and the roadway of Clifton Ave had to go.

In 1992, the University announced that they were going to build a new library, hired a design firm, then settled on a location. Right in the middle of Clifton Heights. Right in the middle of the two former ponds. The design called for acquiring the rest of the block. Eminent domain and State money meant that there was no hope, although some fought it, but they soon gave up. The building occupied by the University Church of Christ, built in 1952, was swapped for a new building on Columbia and all that was left, was a few frame houses.

Those houses on Pennsylvania Ct and one, lone, two story on Woodland Ave look like they won’t last much longer. The University surrounds these houses and has bought up about half of the blocks between Rose La. and Euclid, so it won’t be long.

So there we have it, 100 years, one century from farmland to redevelopment, one subdivision come and gone, and this is not the only one.

As this series continues, I hope that it evolves into something useful.