Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Entertainment Loop Grows

Just about a year ago Lexington was told that its cultural heart was being torn out. The very essence of downtown nightlife was being snuffed out.

This, of course, was due to the fact that three fairly popular establishments were being forced to close and the block of decrepit building that they occupied demolished. Gone forever would be the nightspots where they whiled away the hours between 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.(the most active 4.5 hours of any city's downtown life. Vanished, the several thousand square feet from among the approximately 3 acres of the city center.

Downtown would never be the same.

In that year there have been a steady stream of announcements concerning the expenditure of private and public funds (mostly private funds) on renovation of the bars, restaurants and nightclubs from Victorian Square to the Esplanade and points east. The three previously mentioned establishments have all re-opened or announced a re-opening in bigger and better spaces. Public focus has shifted to a realization that there really is a night life in downtown Lexington. And it meshes well with its daytime alter ego.

Business after business has rented/bought space and renovated, expanded, opened and succeeded, so far, in the face of a down economy. They say that the new heart of the "entertainment district" is N. Mill St. and there is a movement to close it to vehicular traffic. I suggested such back in January 2008 on SkyscraperCity. I have also suggested to think outside the box and look at the north side of W. Short St., maybe even close it in the evenings during the summer, at least from Broadway to Upper. I have suggested here, running the downtown circulator, the Colt trolley, along Main and Short to help these businesses. These things are happening.

The latest of these amazing announcements came today. I say the latest because I don't think this will be the last. Dudley's, the 28 year veteran of restaurants is moving from the south side on downtown to the very epicenter of this burgeoning hub of night life, right beside the Pulse nightlife which opened not long ago. With the Metropol, Dudley's and the Pulse all on the north side of the street (and room for more) there are growing reasons to close Short St.

Some people may soon be looking at the block of Short between Upper and Lime as a way to connect this entertainment district with the Limestone corridor. In the neat year this will become "ground zero" for the WEG and all the doing of Spotlight Lexington. At that time I hope I can say that you heard it here first.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More Thoughts on Lexington's Rail Situation

As buoyed as I am about the possibility of R. J. Corman bringing his dinner train(or a second one, it is unclear which) to Lexington, I am a little unsure just why he is asking for the boarding area to be in the Lexington Center parking lot. I do understand that they would be using the parking for the dinner train patrons and that it is an existing paved area, but it is a bit of a way from any other existing or proposed uses and at the east end of the working rail yard.

I would think that it would make more sense being on the west end of the yard and across from the developing Distillery District. There is a triangle of property at the intersection of Thompson Rd and Old Frankfort Pike, just west of the yard throat, that could hold the station and a boarding platform. The property itself does not have room for parking, but the area directly across Old Frankfort is slated for a parking lot.

The property to the north is currently occupied by the LFUCG recycling center whose relocation is being considered. Its redevelopment could include another platform for boarding or servicing the dinner train. If Rick Corman and Barry McNeese could come to terms on this, I think that it could kick start that end of the Distillery District. I can also see this as a boarding point for the regional rail to Frankfort and Louisville.

While on the topic of regional passenger rail, I see where the CEO of Norfolk Southern Corp. Wick Moorman is looking to the future of railroading, including passenger rail.
The railroad is also looking at passenger rail. In an interview last week with The Norfolk- Virginian Pilot, CEO Wick Moorman was open about NS’ new receptivity to passenger rail projects:

“Moorman didn’t just offer his opinion on the matter.” wrote the Pilot, “He signaled in an interview that his company is open to becoming an active partner. Said Moorman: “If we think that it makes sense for us financially to take some role in the ongoing operation, we’d be willing to at least consider that; we certainly are more than willing to be engaged in the dialogue.”
If Norfolk Southern is really ready to embrace passenger rail, then we may have our direct route to Cincinnati and the Mid-West HSR network.

Finally, after this and all the other talk nationally about passenger rail and High Speed Rail and the like, I don't see how Kentucky's usually fiscally conservative congressmen are still funneling Federal dollars into the regional airports of Somerset and Owensboro for flights to destinations the present administration says are ideal for the HSR network that they envision. I myself can see that fuel prices will continue to rise and there is no alternative aviation fuel on the horizon, so why are they spending so much money of a possibly "dead end" transportation mode. At the very least it will be priced out of the means of the common family.

If anybody has other thoughts on this, drop me a line and we'll talk.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lets Include All The Jazz Artists

Tuesday nights in the summer are reserved for the Big Band & Jazz series in Ecton Park. They have been for about 17 years. We used to take blankets and the kids, have a picnic dinner then the kids would run and play while we listened to the music. We have graduated to collapsible chairs and a bit more adult fare now that the guys are teenagers, but they still go off and play with friends.

The musical groups originally would alternate weeks, with Big Band on one week and jazz the next, but lately the schedule has leaned heavily toward the jazz. I can see a possible explanation. I think that most of the Big Band enthusiasts are dwindling in number and moving on to the Big Band in the sky. And I won't say that it is a bad thing because there are a lot of young people out every Tuesday night.

Tonight I took a good look at the crowd while I listened and Mrs. Sweeper read a book. Here we were, smack dab in the middle of the lily white 40502 zip code, listening to jazz from an all white jazz band. Again this week, a black family arrived after we did and the disabled father rolled his wheelchair into the park to enjoy the music. This made me look around for additional similar families or couples...and there were a few...very few.

Twenty years or so ago I used to frequent a place in Chevy Chase called The Bistro. They usually had a jazz trio playing in the corner of the bar area. The owners wife and a small contingent of older couples or older ladies would spend a few hours sipping drinks and listening to the musicians. The majority of these musicians were black. Sometimes, the owner chef , his wife and a few of the regulars would be invited to a small storefront restaurant on Georgetown St for a Sunday evening jam session of the local talent. You never knew who might show up or how long they might stay, but they put out some mighty fine tunes. As white folks we were a tiny minority in that place, but we enjoyed going.

So, if the long running Big Band & Jazz program can be called Lexington's showcase of the talent in that genre, where are the black musicians? I can't believe that they all left town. I doubt that they all passed on. But maybe they aren't members of the Jazz Arts Foundation.

Can anybody answer these questions for me?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stop Waiting For It , DO IT

I read Miss Sekela's op-ed piece in the Sunday Herald Leader and wondered how these young people can come up with the ideas that they do.

She started out with the idea that Lexington has a serious problem with retaining young professionals. Is it really a serious situation? Are we losing the young people between 20-29 or 30-39? In sheer numbers, we are increasing and by percentage of total population they still comprise the largest of all age groups, so is this a serious problem?

Ms. Sekela then points out the main complaint of the these young professionals, the supposed lack of wanted amenities. Lexington is not a full bore, 24 hour city with something to do every hour of the day. For them to attract more young professionals, she says that we need to change our image. We need to update our traditional image, not do away with the tradition, just update it.

She claims that today's young professional is not that impressed with horses or the Wildcats, yet the still show up in force for the football, basketball and Keeneland meets. These are the young people who crowd the in restaurants and bar after work and weekends. They also get up and go to work every morning.

She is correct in that Lexington does need to broaden the focus and support the arts, but so far the monetary support still come primarily from the wealthy older patrons and not the young edgy plays and gallery showing of our young artists. Funding for the arts has been declining for several years as the older generation passes away and new sources need to be located. Will these young professionals step up to the plate? That remains to be seen.

Many people have said that things like Amtrak, Lextran and regional rail need to be self-supporting, yet the arts and humanities along with highways still take massive government support payments. Are they more necessary than the arts? If they cannot be supported without government help, are they really needed?

I cannot believe that "creative cities" like Dallas and Chapel hill have more government funding for the arts per capita than Lexington. Or that the governments of the cities have mandated the development of venues specifically for the young professionals there.
Lexington's downtown area must be developed to attract young adults, many of whom are interested in a thriving night life. Not only is there a deficit of live music venues in the Lexington area, but also an inadequate variety of entertainment options.
Here we see the meat of her argument. The downtown area. There is a very vocal contingent of young professionals who think that downtown is where its at. Many of these are newly married or couples without children and many are life partners(though they rarely stay that way for life), who like the downtown area for its traditional architecture and neighborhoods. These are the one who want the greater diversity downtown, and they are a small percentage of the whole. Those young professionals in the suburban neighborhoods(outside New Circle Rd) rarely get back downtown at night, if they even got there during the day. In reality, large numbers of working people never get downtown but once or twice a year. When they do it is for some special event.

Ms. Sekela cites a lack of venues for the diverse interests that she perceives to exist. This may be true, but these places operate on an economic principle of support thresholds. There have to be enough patrons to support the venues. If she and her peers believe that there is sufficient need for such places, then by all means , start one. The businesses that are currently thriving, both downtown and in the subdivisions, did not beat the people out there. The people followed the business.

So far the tone of Ms. Sekela's comments sound like the whine of children of entitlement, children who have been given most of what they have had in life. A phrase that I heard growing up, went something like this " the helping hand that you are looking for is at the end of your own arm".

If this is the real "creative class", then stop waiting for someone else to to something for you, get creative and build something for the rest of you. Stop waiting for it , DO IT.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June Gallery Hop

Friday night we did the Gallery Hop in downtown Lexington. We had talked about it for over a year now, but this weekend the boys had something else to do and Mrs. Sweeper and I could go alone.

It was a hot late afternoon for a walk in the urban heat sink of downtown and the humidity did not make it any better. We started off in the air conditioning of the Government Center and particularly enjoyed the series of paintings of the Ashland Estate. We thought that we might be greeted by the Mayor until some woman began to relate what may have ended as her whole life story. There was much more to see, so we moved on.

Next was the Central Library gallery and its display of, what I thought were, extremely small (and very expensive for their size) prints. Mrs. Sweeper saw some that caught her eye, but then mentioned that each one had a small naked man somewhere in the print, and that was off-putting to her. The upstairs gallery had some nice watercolors and crayon drawings along with very nice woodworking examples.

Next it was across the street to the Tower gallery and our encounter with a large contingent of our "creative class" artists. I thought that some of the object on the wall were reminiscent of what our sons had brought home from elementary school and the Mrs. commented that from the prices, that we had nearly $30 thousand worth of artwork on display at home. While ther the Mrs. stopped at the refreshments for a cup of wine. The attendant for the red wine was busy changing the garbage but soon returned to the box of wine, without washing her hands or using sanitizer, which did not go unnoticed.

Leaving the children behind, we arrived at Gallery B which had some stunning pieces and beautiful equine art. All of the art was well above my price level but were beautiful none the less.

We had just enough time to hit the spots in Victorian Square before we had to leave downtown so off we went. Before stopping to see our friend Rachel Savane, we thought that we would pick up a menu from DeVassa, the Brazilian tapas bar on down the street. The Mrs. had been to a tapas bar when she was in Washington D.C. a while back and has been wanting such a place to open here. We approached the door, I pulled it open, and was told fairly rudely, that this was a private party. We pulled back and read the sign announcing a reherasal dinner.

Two of the servers had been smoking next door and were returning to work, so we asked them if we could get a menu for later. "We're having a private party. We'll be open at 8" she said.

We told her that all we wanted was a menu to take home. "It's a private party. We 'll be open later at 8" was the reply. "Do--you--have--a--menu--that--we--can--take--HOME?" I asked slowly. She stuck up her forefinger, indicating just one moment, and slipped inside.

We waited. And waited. And waited. She did not return. Then the apparent manager appeared and asked "Can I help you?" We restated our desire for a menu to take away with us and that we did not want to eat at that time. "It's a private rehersal dinner" he said, and pointed to the sign. We pointed out that nowhere on it did it say private, nor did it state an opening time. All that we wanted was a take away menu, so that we could come back later. He explained that the menu had been revised and was on the website, we could download it from there.

If this is the type of customer service that we can expect from them, then I don't want to go back. The service personell these days don't think the customer is right, or even the potential customer. We walked away declaring that we would not darken the door again. As Mrs Sweeper put it, they are children playing at being a restaurant, pretending to be grown ups.

We went back to Savane Silver, watched Rachel give a demonstration and hit the Main Cross Gallery(no website) before we noticed that it was time to leave. All in all it was an enjoyable evening, just a little warm, and that we will do it again. When we do, we will try to stay with a more sophisticated crowd and let the children be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Lexington Dinner Train?

I have been waiting for this for a few years now. R. J. Corman wishes to bring his dinner train into downtown Lexington.

Several years ago when I first learned that Mr Corman had acquired the line to Versailles, I hoped that a Dinner Train could run to Versailles and back, even though at that time there would have to be an interchange across the Norfolk Southern tracks to reach the old Louisville & Nashville yard in west Lexington. I mistakenly thought that no one would allow the connection across Old Frankfort Pike that had been removed well before I became interested in trains. The plans soon became known and the connection was built along the old alignment into the yard.

Then came the rumors of Corman buying a steam locomotive. This also came to pass and then I felt "Is there anything that he won't do to increase railfanning?" People started talking about using the steam loco for the dinner train.

When the Chinese locomotive arrived and the crew began working with and learning its peculiar ways, a bunch of us railfans talked hopefully of excursions to Frankfort and Louisville. Mr Corman disappointed us by announcing that the loco would not be making more than a few trips a year and that the upkeep was much more than expected. As I understand it, the lease with CSX does not allow any revenue producing passenger service on the line to Louisville. Therefore when the steam train made its run from Louisville it could carry no paying customers.

Today the chairman of the board of the Corman Railroad, asked the board of the Lexington Center to consider using some of the space in the Cox St parking lot, for a boarding station for the Dinner Train to operate out of Lexington. Those dreams that I and others have had for five years or more look closer to becoming a reality. The wishes of establishing some sort of passenger service in Lexington to anywhere, look to be considered by some to be possible.

Mr. Corman, again I thank you for all that you are doing for the transportation needs of Central Kentucky, the University of Kentucky, the folks in Jessamine County and the rail industry in general. If there is anything that I can assist with, I hope that I will be allowed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Transportation Gap?

We have all read the stories about the recent implosion of the American auto industry and the notices that were sent out to the various auto dealerships across the country. Between GM and Chrysler the total come to over 3,000. Who among us did not see this coming?

The competition between brand and models lately has become more of a difference of rebates and financing than quality and function. The autos offered provided less mechanical innovation and more size and flash and the dealers convinced the buyers that that was what they wanted. Very much the way that home builders built only a few basic styles and told everyone that they were the ones that were selling. Even when the hybrid autos (and highly efficient houses) appeared there were so few and they cost a premium price that the sales numbers could not match to usual models. Thanks to those who held out and waited for them (and higher fuel prices) the offerings of the automakers (and homebuilders) are beginning to change.

The local headlines of the past few weeks have declared that only a handful of Kentucky's dealers have received notice of their contracts ending, but have we only seen the first wave? According to the FHWA the vehicle miles driven in the US has fallen for almost a full year now, but strangely the total miles driven in Kentucky are on the rise. This may be the result of having to travel farther for employment in the more rural eastern portions of the state or the sprawling of the suburban areas of the population centers, but this will change as the price of fuel rises again. I doubt that we have seen the end of dealer closings.

In conjunction with the vehicle miles driven reduction is the loss of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund which pays for the government's portion (80%) of new highway jobs. I also feel that the balance in Congress will affect the way Kentucky will benefit in the future. The Democrats in power may try to coerce Mitch McConnell to compromise by withholding highway money and projects for our state and local jobs.

Today, I also read the American's are flying fewer miles for the thirteenth month in a row for both business and vacation travel. Here the decline is even greater than in auto miles in a year to year comparison. This may have an adverse affect on the Alltech WEG in 2010, and for that we have no contingency plans.

It may already be too late for Lexington and Kentucky to prevent some kind of transpotation gap from occuring in the near future. We have not planned for any structured mass transit(i.e. light rail, streetcars) nor have planned for greatly walkable cities and complete streets. We will also need to plan for the delivery of goods and freight by some other means than truck, if fuel prices get too high, as well as growing more foods locally.

What are you doing to close your transportation gap?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some Solar Follow-up

On the heels of my entry about solar prospects in Lexington and the thoughts on moving forward with a "smart grid" for Central Kentucky, I read some very interesting posts this week.

First, an announcement of a solar powered car to be made available in the Spring of 2010. This is how the European auto companies are doing better than our own auto industry. The innovations that used to emanate from Detroit are now claimed to be "unfeasible or too expensive" for our companies to produce. This is one new that I can see myself getting, too bad they will just be introduced in Europe. A few of the details include:
The BLUECAR is a compact and elegant town car with four seats, five doors and an automatic transmission. Its L. M. P. battery gives it a range of 250 km between charges, well in excess of the 40 km clocked up on average by a driver in an urban environment. To recharge the BLUECAR, simply plug it into a public power outlet or a standard power socket at home. It takes six hours to recharge the car’s battery from a standard power socket, and only two hours on the future fast-charging outlets. If need be, the batteries can be fast-charged for five minutes, giving the car enough power to run 25 km. In big cities, car parks are already being fi tted with electric power outlets, demonstrating the commitment of leading private operators and local authorities to promoting and fostering the development of electric cars. In terms of performance, the BLUECAR will feature a top speed that is electronically capped at 130 km/h and enough acceleration to get it from 0 to 60 km/h in 6.3 seconds.
I would also NOT park this in a garage during the day so as to gain as much solar charge as possible, although I guess that the garages could add solar collectors and/or charging stations as part of the hourly fee for use of the space. At home the garage may then become a more usable space for living and not for auto storage.

Secondly, a post that I saw by way of Planetizen. This piece speaks to the need for the architects, designers and builders to lead the way in changing how our structures fit into our desire for a sustainable lifestyle. There is no reason why we cannot design some of the wind or solar power generating technologies into our new buildings, or even retrofit some our existing buildings to reduce our carbon footprint.

And lastly, a piece that ties both the European mindset and the design of a sustainable city together. The city of Amsterdam is moving ahead to implement a smart grid in which individual houses may install some sort of power generating device (wind or solar) and be able to sell the extra power to the system. In effect making the electric grid a community effort. Here in Lexington we can't even keep the power connected in a high wind and our electricity comes from destroying the natural beauty of our state.

When is Lexington going to make a move in this direction? As always , 20 years after the rest of the nation, and they will probably be 20 years behind the rest of the world.

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Case For Solar Power in Downtown Lexington

I read several days ago about San Francisco's first solar bus shelter. It seems to me that a city as advanced as San Francisco would have done this already. I have seen reports from other cities and their efforts to add signage and notice boards announcing the next bus using some radio and tracking system. These things take power and solar just seems like the thing to supply it.

Lexington's new parking meter system uses solar collectors to power the units, but I suppose that they are running on very low voltage, yet they operate year round.

The one real nice thing that I liked about the San Francisco shelter was the ability to feed into the regular power grid. Just think of the usage of the technology on an "art style" bus stop in Lexington. Oh wait, they did include a solar panel for the Bottle Stop location so as to make it a really green project. The Newtown Pike shelter is also to be solar powered.

When these individual projects are designed as stand alone shelters and off the grid, then the solar panels are scaled to the needs of the stop itself. Now if these are to be a series of stops as needed for say the downtown circulator or some themed area such as Hamburg, as I have posted of before, then the solar collectors could be incorporated into more of the shelter's surface (a la San Francisco's).

By incorporating these series of shelters into the electrical grid the city could help these stops pay for themselves. I understand that in doing so there would have to be a meter through which to connect and for which there is a minimum monthly charge, but that could be offset by what the solar panel feeds back into the grid. This is one more way that the City could show encouragement for a green initiative.

But wait a minute, just what are those green initiatives that the City is working on? A check of the LFUCG website shows that they want to take their buildings green, although they have left out adding solar panels or wind generators for the building roofs.

A new stadium in Taiwan is being built that will supply 100% of its needed power from solar with enough left over to add to the grid to take care of 80% of the neighboring area's needs. The roof of Rupp Arena at Lexington Center is easily the largest area of rooftop in the downtown district and could easily accomodate an array of solar panels to offset the power needs of the arena. And if another arena is built, then there is another roof space.

Each and every tall building in the urban area has updrafts and wind currents that could be used as a source of wind power and while they may not meet all the power requirements of the individual building they could put a dent in the utility bill, if not the carbon footprint.

There is so much else that can be done, so why don't you tell me some of your ideas?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The MPO's Relationship with Freight Rail

As much as I love talking about passenger rail, I can also get into discussions on the other aspects of railroading and by that I mean, its freight hauling reason for being. Railroads from the very beginning have been in the business of moving goods from one place to another, with the conveyance of people as a side benefit to augment revenues. It is from this perspective that I have taken a look at the freight portion on the latest Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP).

Freight is a method or service of transporting goods, according to the dictionary but it is also the name of the goods being hauled. In the realm of a complete transportation system, freight should be carried by all the modes of transportation in the same way as "complete streets" efforts now underway to make streets work for all modes of movement.

The freight portion of the earlier 2030 plan was found to be lacking and was recommended to be expanded in a stand alone plan for freight in the next plan. The 2035 MTP states this very clearly in the inventory section of Chapter 3, yet Chapter 6 then states:
The adopted highway plan is intended to serve truck carriers for the efficient movement and supply of goods. To relieve conflict between truck traffic and other modes, it is recommended to continue the existing methods which explained in MTP Freight Plan. ... These methods include: Sign restriction of truck movements; enforcement; established truck route systems (by city ordinances); on and off-street loading/unloading zones, facilities, restrictions and regulations.
Oh, and there is the mention of the Freight Plan being available on the MPO website See it here. I wouldn't look too hard because there is not much there. A brief description on how goods are shipped and why it matters to the public, an overview of the highways used for freight, a description of the trucking industry and a review of the accidents involving commercial vehicles in the Lexington area.

I hope that that is not the complete plan.

I was hoping to see an estimate of the trucks that use our Interstates on a daily basis(and an estimated tonnage), an accounting of the rail traffic through the two county area daily and what get picked up(delivered) daily from(to) whom. I wanted to see recommendations on how to shift some of our shipping or delivery points from truck to rail or vice versa.

The MTP document's stated recommendation is to "relieve conflict between truck traffic and other modes" and "to continue to existing methods" to do so. If the subject is freight, I cannot tell where the conflicts exist between trucks and other modes of freight movement, because there are no other freight modes mentioned.

It may be that all other modes of transportation discussed in the various plans use the publicly owned, built or controlled facilities, except rail. America's railroads are all run by private corporations on privately maintained rails, with the exception of AMTRAK and a small portion of the Northeast Corridor. If the reason that rail is not mentioned in the consideration of freight transportation is because they take no public money and submit to no local government control, then the plan should explain this.

There should be a clear delineation of what the MPO can and cannot influence or control.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Some Follow-up on the 2035 Plan

In my haste last night I forgot to look at the previous 2030 Plan for what it said on the subject of passenger rail.

Well, there it was, on page 28 of Chapter 3 under the topic of RAILROADS. the section on passenger rail is an exact duplicate. Or should I say that all they did was cut and paste from the old plan into the new, without changing(or apparently checking) anything. Even with that, the study for the 2030 Plan would have been done in 2004 when the Kentucky Cardinal service from Louisville had already been discontinued.

What really grabs for your attention is the next section which is a discussion of Light Rail. This is another of my great passions. Here is some of what they wrote:
...Light Rail is and has been area of interest for the Lexington Area MPO for many years.

...This started the MPO Staff to begin light rail research and to work light rail visioning into the Lexington Area MPO transportation planning process.

... While currently economically unfeasible, this plan and subsequent plans should continue to investigate/examine the potential role and the feasibility of light rail in the future transportation system of the Lexington Area.
Now here we are five years later, and not only is there no further planning for Light Rail, but even the topic has been stricken from the document. With three of our surrounding, major cities clamoring for light rail and the rest of the nation beginning to develop and install such light rail, Lexington's commitment, so prevalent in the last plan, has vanished.

If only there was some investigative group dedicated to getting the information to the people, but I guess they have all been laid off over budget cuts or some such nonsense.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Passenger Rail in the 2035 MTP

Today I would like to take a look at the recently adopted 2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan for Lexington and the MPO. My particular focus will be on one or two of my pet peeves, anything concerning rail.

Beginning in Chapter 3 the plan details an assessment of the present state of the transportation system and I am unaware of the reasoning behind the order of their sequencing. Obviously, the surface road network is of first priority as it has been since the '40s or before. This is followed by, and I don't know why, school transportation and taxi/limousine services. Passenger rail, which is next, does come before a practically, insignificant water transportation element(the Valley View ferry). Aviation, freight(road and rail) and transit(Lextran) make up the last items in the assessment. This order does not seem to fit any currently perceived hierarchy of transportation thought.

The initial paragraph of the passenger rail section states the AMTRAK operates the Kentucky Cardinal service from Louisville to Chicago daily while the highlighted link shows that the service was discontinued over 6 years ago. There is then a detailed(?) breakdown of the three closest AMTRAK stations, Cincinnati, Maysville and Louisville. The information given is apparently from a six+ year old schedule as the times and frequency data does not agree with the AMTRAK website and nowhere is it clarified that there is only ONE train a day(in alternating directions). The Louisville information, besides being old, does not show that the connection is made by motor coach and all the departure times for all stations are for service to Chicago. I have taken this route to Washington and on to New York(and back) in the past two years and can personally testify that there are very few empty seats.

This assessment does not include any estimations of current usage or demand nor does it contain any AMTRAK projections or on-time statistics. I don't see how any proposals could be set forth in the form of recommendations using this inventory of data.

Chapter 6 of the document contains the plan recommendations for each plan element. Their listed order is: Highway (of course) both short and long range, Transit(Lextran), Mobility(primarily rideshare/carpool/vanpool and awareness of transit/bike/ped/telecommuting), Bicycling/pedestrian, and other transportation modes.

At this point transportation by air is placed before rail despite ongoing consolidations in the airline industry and the demonstrated willingness of the new administration to push passenger rail, especially high speed rail. This new commitment to HSR(High Speed Rail) is mentioned yet any and all leading of the effort is left to the state Transportation Cabinet. What with the mayors of Louisville, Cincinnati and Nashville each touting regional rail in their areas, Lexington's mayor and Council are very quiet about the subject in public.

The one type of urban mass transit that is being discussed is, as most of should know I am not in favor of, the Automated Guideway Transit or AGT. These highly automated, elevated transit pods do enable a higher level of flexibility than the traditional streetcar model, but may not be able to be used in the case of failure of the automation system. The elevated guideways would alter the streetscape and the look of the downtown and may not fit with the proposed Downtown Master Plan, which though not adopted yet, is still in the minds of many urban citizens. An AGT wold certainly make Lexington a bit more unique, but the more traditionally minded Lexingtonians and others in Central Kenucky may be a roadblock. The AGT, although it may be next to last in the priority if recommendations, does have an impressive amount of information for something with so little publicity.

What you may have noticed over the foregoing paragraphs is the the mostly Federally funded, local MPO agency has little or no control over the planning efforts of Lextran, the Airport, Amtrak or, as I may get into later, the freight hauling modes of rail and trucking. As the umbrella transportation planning agency through which the Federal dollars should flow, there is little that they can do to influence how, where and when the funds will be disbursed.

I have not scrutinized the rest of the plan, nor do I intend to, as I dont want to get into which of the highway projects should get priority over another when I feel that they both could obtain the same results with a different mode as the solution.

Feel free to let me know if you believe some other solution is better.