Thursday, March 31, 2011

We Need A Real Energy Policy

Once again, an American president has called for a reduction in oil imports. Once again the “leader of the free world” is making an effort toward energy independence, albeit a token one, that many are skeptical can succeed. I also do not believe that it will succeed because the American people have been told that we will succeed if we want to. Former President Bush said, “We are addicted to oil” and as true addicts, do we really want to get off of this addiction?

Funny thing about this new reduction plan, just like all the others before, it is short on details. It is not a road map to oil independence like some would like and it really doesn’t point to an eventual goal like the recently announced European Union plan. A one-third reduction of our 2008 import level would bring us down to 7.4 MBD, a possibly attainable level. It would be step one in our road to weaning ourselves off of our addiction.

"There are no quick fixes ... We will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we finally get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy," Obama said.

There are no quick fixes to addiction withdrawal and currently most Americans believe that any stepping down from the existing levels of consumption should be done by those who are the most hard core users. Man, see how much more bad off they are than I am?

We could also produce more of our own oil, but how is using more of a local drug any better that using somebody else’s product? In the end we are still addicted and we will need more, and more and more… More local drilling will not solve the problem, in fact, it will only make the problem worse. Currently, we rely on foreign imports for roughly half of our daily needs. American vs. Arabian oil or American vs. Colombian coke, does it make any difference?

Previous presidents have made similar promises on energy imports, calls for cut-backs, pleas for “voluntary restraint” in oil usage. In fact, all fossil fuels are being urged to cut-back since we know what it has done to our environment. That ecological damage is now so great that it will take nearly twice as long to undo as it took to get us to the point that we recognized the damage done. From the toxic bayous in Louisiana and Texas to the massive scars of mountain top removal in Kentucky and intermittent spills along the coasts of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, the damage costs are so great that we now want to prevent the EPA from even trying.

Americans have allowed this situation to exist for far too long now. Either by ignoring the handwriting on the wall (the oil embargo, the wars in oil rich countries, etc) or believing that should we ever run out, that our technology will save us. It has now become a political football, each party has solutions to which the opposite party will object and neither can convince the American people to abide by. So on it goes, no long term goal and no short term changes in the rising status quo.

Of the four areas identified in the most recent proposal, no political party will endorse them all. More local production (drill, baby, drill) will not sit well with the democrats and environmentalists, while the fostering of natural gas vehicles will cause the cause a restructuring of the existing fuel delivery systems. More efficient cars and trucks is only thought of in the context of gas mileage and not better mass transit or high speed rail. Lastly, the alternative fuels card is aimed directly at the auto industry not any other fuel users. Oil is still used as home heating fuel in many areas of the Northeast and a changeover will cause much gnashing of teeth.

At roughly 20 million barrels a day (and half of that imported) we really should stop and think about how much of that is truly NEEDED. A great deal of it is abused, strictly by the decisions that we have made about where we choose to live and work. Those decisions are compounded by our choices of how we get between the two. How much of the travel that we do is really necessary and do we do it because it is cheap. Remember, the “drive till you qualify” method of looking for a place to live may really be a thing of the past.

Analysts and experts said Obama's goal is ambitious and that truly reforming U.S. energy use would involve sweeping changes, including possible fuel taxes to encourage Americans to change their habits, which could be politically toxic

The goal is certainly ambitious and sweeping change will be involved, but whether by governmental edict or by global demand for the remaining fossil fuel, our resulting energy needs will march to a new drum beat. The fact that it has NOT happened in our lifetime yet, in no way indicates that it will never happen. We continue to see polls where a high percentage do not approve of the sitting president’s actions/positions on energy so I feel that most of us would like to go back to the days of $.25 a gallon gas and an open road. The corporations that took us from there to here don’t want to go back and have made it difficult to do so.

The people are not wrong and the corporations are not wrong, so we will just have to blame the President. Good luck with that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Power For The People?

Do you remember a few months back when the guys over at ProgressLex were complaining so vehemently about the power poles along Euclid and the new Oliver Lewis Way? Well, I hope that they don't get hold of the concept going around in New Jersey by their electric utility.

PSE&G for putting up solar panels on their power poles and tying into the grid as a way to supplement power production. They are aiming at 40 megawatts annually by 2013. And a number of whining NIMBY's in town are really up in arms about it.

Some want to whine about the fact that they are there, others about the fact that they are not on every pole and still others that they were not asked (or told) before the collector panels were put up. The Deputy Mayor in one town came out and said that they were just plain “horrible”. (Something about this sounds familiar.)

I can see the good behind an effort to “untie the sky” and try to get as many of the power lines underground as possible and we did just that under the Urban Renewal project along Main and Vine back in the '70s. Do you see the results of that in the controversy and demise of the CVS store this past year? A forgotten location of an underground power vault can mess up someones whole day.

What does this hold for the future in Lexington, on the placement of solar collectors or wind generators should a private entity wish to invest in them? Will they be allowed on roofs of our larger downtown buildings? Will a private homeowner be allowed a residential sized wind generating unit, either on the roof or in the back yard? Will they become as ubiquitous as the satellite dishes mounted all over town?

To me, the pole mounted collector is not a big problem. I may prefer to see them arranged in a more vertical shape to more conform to the height and scale of the pole. I would also like to see more research into the application of a spray-on paint type of collector which uses nanotechnology. Put that on the pole and blend it into the background. I find this to be a beginning of the design curve not dis-similar to the table top sized VCR's, the projection TV's and the 12' cable dishes in the yard. We need to install the first units and then refine down to the best possible end result. Before the next new system comes along.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

We Don't Wage War On Things we Love

Google the phrase “war on cars” and you will surely find several references to ongoing diatribes from The Heritage Foundation written by Wendell Cox but there will also be some fine rebuttals and one of the best lately is by Todd Litman. Litman is the executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in British Columbia,Ca.. and has done numerous studies on traffic not only in Canada and the U.S. but internationally. The real story is that those who are claiming that there is a concerted effort to eliminate the automobile are making this whole thing up.

As far back as the late 1990s, The Thoreau Institute and Randall O'Toole was writing that this so called “War” was roughly comparable to the earlier “Wars on Poverty, Drugs, Crime and (now) Terror” except that this was a war that the American people should NOT engage in. Considering how all of those other “wars” have gone (and with large amounts of direct funding from the government) this new “war” should be looked at as a failure from the outset.

One of the claims has been that the skirmishes in the “war” began back when the Interstate Highway System and High Trust Fund was created. The highways that were supposed to link cities without running through cities and funded from taxes imposed on ALL gasoline sales, but the social engineering (that they are so afraid of today) intervened took the major interchanges into the city centers and through many existing (low income) neighborhoods.

It is probably more accurate to say that the initial sniping was back in 1935 with Wheeler-Rayburn Act which intended to regulate the electric utility companies. Such utilities were also parts of holding companies which owned the streetcar and interurban systems of America. Strangely enough the streetcar companies were where the electric utilities got their start, providing power for the trolleys and selling off the extra to customers first along the lines and then to the rest of the area. By 1935, the electric companies “extra power” and sales far outstripped its usage by the trolleys. Streetcars, once they were torn away from their private subsidy, then had to compete with the automobile which was (and still is)subsidized by the government. We can see the results of that today.

Transit became the mode of choice for those who were either on the lower levels of society in most cities or the typical white collar worker in the larger metro areas. As these ranks have swollen with the growing sprawl and the continuing stagnation of wages(especially in the past decade or so) potential transit users have been left out due to the subsidy imbalance. Thus began the push for better transit in the mid-sized cities of the U.S.

Transit advocates persuasively argued that, due to youth, age, or disabilities, some people were simply unable to drive. Society owed these people as much mobility as the auto offered everyone else, so society should subsidize transit. But behind this argument lurked a belief that mass transit was better than personal autos and that we would all be better off if we could go back to the late-nineteenth century when most cities had streetcars but no one yet had cars.

The belief alluded to in the second sentence above does not include the idea that no one would be allowed to have autos but does provide for the choice to use one or the other, and even both.

It is the claims of social engineering against the automobile and its elimination from cities that fuels the rhetoric of today's battles. These claims may work in other communities, but Lexington is not actively working to eliminate the automobile. What we would like to do is balance the equation a bit and fund all modes on a more reasonable level.

All of America is not “at war” with the automobile, in fact most of us revere our car more that most all that we own.

The family car used to sit “out back” either in the driveway or in the garage. The garage was a small wooden shed type structure, unheated in the winter, some distance from the house and usually neglected to the point that it sometimes barely stood up by itself. Today it sits proudly on the driveway in front of the house, guarding the wide overhead door which dominates most facades and proclaims to all comers “our homes may be on par with each other, but I am the status symbol that you should be impressed with”. In the '50s, the good car was kept in the garage while the old workhorse auto was left in the drive or on the street and today it is the work vehicle that is hidden in the back and the show car on display. Americans love their cars.

American's buy cars, primarily due to marketing(another type of social engineering), not because they need to get from point “A” to point “B”, but to show just how far they have progressed up the social ladder. Today's autos are tricked out with so many extras, most of which we don't need, some we don't use and a few that we just don't know about, yet we buy them(at premium prices) because those just one step up the economic ladder have them. We buy cars that can go 130 mph. and are limited to 35 – 45 on most urban roadways. We buy cars with four wheel drive and never go off-road. We buy cars with all the comforts of our living rooms so that the 25 minute commutes will not inconvenience us and then use it less than 1/10 of the day on average.

It will not be the government planners or the social engineers who will wage the “war” on the driving habits of the American public. Most likely it will be those whom we have willingly thrown our support behind and our now hard earned money toward, the auto and petroleum corporations which have enticed us into this mess where we now find ourselves.

Where do you see yourself in the next stage of the situation?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Surprise And A New School Of Thought

I received an email yesterday from a recent reader informing me that this blog had been included as an entry on one of their blog lists. The link that was supplied indicated that I was one of 40 international bloggers writing about living in the suburbs and a quick scan of the list revealed some blogs from which I have tried to take my inspiration. I was really quite flattered. I quickly passed on the good news to Mrs. Sweeper since I was feeling real good about myself.

Then, I spent a great deal of time last night reading most of the other links and I am not so sure that this is a good thing. To be sure, they do have a balance of positions. Everything from the rabid “we have to move to the suburbs” to the “man are they going to be sorry someday” type of blog post from around the world. From those selling the myths of suburbia by retelling the myths of downtown to those who claim to see the despair of massive decaying home tracts. I think that they may have done a Google search on the word “suburb” and took a random sample of them all.

Oh well, exposure is exposure. I will take the good with the bad.

One of their links did cause me to contemplate the continued, less than cost effective, manner in which we use our schools. Take for example, the use of buses to get our students to and from school. Can it or should it be done a better way?

The first thought was to find out which portion of the annual school budget is used for transporting students and is it required. Finding the Fayette County Schools annual budget online is not an easy task and even then it would be an old one, so I took another tack. I looked at their fast facts.

They have 250 buses on the road daily, burning an estimated 2,200 gallon of fuel, to haul an estimated 34,000 students to 50 separate locations (and back) and covering approximately 15,000 miles. That is in a day.

Their start of school year enrollment is stated as 36,900 so that means that an astounding 92.1% of all enrolled students ride the bus. Daily. That makes 7.9% who walk or are driven by parents.

Why is it then, that there is always a traffic nightmare when passing any and every one of the 50 individual schools, morning and afternoon. The number of parent driven autos dropping off and then picking up the non-bus riding students is impressive. It also makes it difficult on those others of us trying to get to work on time.

I suppose that the 34,000 number could be the total daily rides and not students and that would cut the amount of students carried to about 17,000. That results in 46% who ride the bus daily and 54% who arrive some other way. Now we are talking a more reasonable figure.

But, do we need to pick up and deliver students to school when their parents clearly demonstrate that they for the most part are willing to do it? Our state law says that a public education needs to be provided but I know of no requirement to provide for transportation to and from said education. Have you seen the long lines of idling autos lined up in front of and looping around most of the schools in the hour before dismissal time? The environment would benefit greatly if all these carbon belching vehicles could be held to a minimum. Would it not make sense to route at least some of the existing public transit services to the schools and have a portion of the trip accomplished that way?

The development patterns of the past 80 years, and particularly the last 40, have contributed more to the time and distance needed to provide the services like school buses and public transit than they have in the rest of recorded history. We seem to be working at crossed purposes when we build in a lack of connectivity and demand that a service, supposedly delivered as a courtesy, be extended through a convoluted, circuitous path and expect our streets to remain tranquil and serene. Good luck with that.

I guess, my whole point here is that with the school district spending over $11,500 per student and a great deal of that in transportation costs how much more effective could they be by spending that money on class room work instead? The cost of fuel will continue to rise and the distances could get longer, so now is the time to consider/plan for a viable alternative and all options should be on the table. What is the sense of burning 2,200 gallons of fuel a day for 46% of he students and the parents burning probably half again as much for a remaining 35-40% while being taxed for both the schools and Lextran.

As an aside (and final thought), this would also add some stability to the school calendar since the calling of school for snow would depend on the parents decision of whether their child attends in inclement weather or not. Classes will be held, it is up to you to get your child there.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Are There Also Suburban Myths?

Ann Bransom had a great column in Business Lexington on Dispelling the Downtown Myths which attempts to convince some our suburban residents that downtown is not so bad. I love being downtown and being part of the new vitality that has happened in the past decade.

I have worked downtown for nearly the past forty years and have seen a lot of changes over that time, most of the changes have been for the positive. Many of the old stores and restaurants that I frequented when I began working are gone, moved to the suburbs or replaced by others. Stores that I went to with my parents are long since sent to the mists of history. If I were to stop an calculate it, I feel that the decline began in the late'40s, at the end of the war, and any new stores after that time would stay in business only for 20 years or less. Those in the food and entertainment business probably lasted just 10 years, max.

I used to tell my friends that it took over 25 years to realize the downtown had fallen so far and that, even with Urban Renewal, it would take roughly twice as long for it to be brought back. It took no work at all to bring about the decline but it will take a huge effort to reverse it. Many who have grown up in the suburbs and have no knowledge of how it was, be it here or anywhere, may see it differently but the walkable sections which they call downtown were the epitome of the American dream in the early 20th century.

The combination of zoning and cheap energy led to the development pattern which we all call auto-centric sprawl. The culture today feels that driving a mile or more to buy groceries or other goods, even gasoline, is an inconsequential situation and just a fact of life. At the turn of the last century, those living in subdivisions similar to Aylesford area, and later the area just the town side of Chevy Chase shopping center, could either walk or take the streetcar to adequate retail and usually not travel over a quarter of a mile. Most subdivisions were located within a 1 mile radius of the court house up until the mid '20s which is when both automobiles and zoning began to take a major hold on urban development.

Farm folk, the original rural dwellers, are used to traveling distances to get to town, either to purchase supplies or bring their products to market. Even going to church meant a bit of travel just to get to the meeting house, but there was an ebb and flow of goods and services between them and the city folk. The direction of the flow of services now appears, to me, to be one way-- out of town, because I don't see these commuters bringing and goods with them.

The goal of the current subdivision dweller is to have a house on a good sizes lot, a decent back yard on a quiet street. One commenter said “Many people like living where they have a big yard and quiet streets where their children can play. Their is nothing wrong with that.” but from what is can figure, the typical lot size is roughly one third smaller, the house is one third larger and the street, unless it is a cul-de-sac, is not as quiet as our older areas. Streets are not a place for children to play, either in places like Meadowthorpe, Castlewood or Gardenside, although looking at historical photos of the old days it was probably a lot safer then.

I don't have figures but if more neighborhoods had more retail sites within walking distance, then there wouldn't be as many cars on the road, not as many parking lots and all the streets would be safer. Would you believe that just about all the streets in the previously named subdivisions have a 50 foot right-of-way cross section? Meadowthorpe and Gardenside were done in the '50s and '60s but the others predate the invention of the automobile. Woodland Park and Loudon Park areas date from the 1880s and could not have anticipated the auto, but their streets are wide and I can't put my finger on the reason why.

Many a suburb dweller will claim the they are tired of paying for the upgrades to downtown since very few of them will spend large amounts of their time there. I will assert that more of us taxpayers in older areas are paying extra for the services being delivered to the new suburbs. Since we all are paying equally based on property values and our infrastructures are already paid for(probably twice or more times over), then our taxes are going for the newer services benefiting the newer areas. What has the EPA all bunched up is that we are accepting lesser quality new infrastructure for the taxes levied.

All in all, I think that those downtown enthusiasts have had to live with the evolving downtown myths while the suburban area myths have been perpetuated as a desirable lifestyle based on unsustainable situations.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Learning from Japan

By now we have all heard of, and been shocked by, the devastation of the natural disaster in Japan. We watch it daily on the nightly news and shake our heads at the images of utter destruction, human misery and suffering. Then, there is the added peril of the growing nuclear radiation threat from the damaged power plants.

I heard from a friend, that some folks on our west coast are fearful that enough fallout and radiation could drift over here and cause wide-spread damage to property, crops and people. I am not so sure that it will happen but it could. But what about Lexington's preparedness for a similar sized disaster.

Way back in 1967, when we were near (or at) the height of the Cold War, Lexington had a plan for community shelters to protect residents from the dangers of “fallout”. This plan had its own section in that year's Comprehensive Plan and Lexington had many buildings designated, signed and stocked for such emergencies. The plan was simple in concept, but really quite simplistic.

At the time (1965), there were only 185 buildings usable for shelters and they could hold approximately 140,000 people out of an average daily population of 155,000. In dealing with fallout, maybe there were too few public spaces allotted but what if we were considering a massive earthquake along the New Madrid? Where would we go for community shelters then?

The “plan” divided the city into four areas; Downtown, UK Campus, VA Hospital and US Public Hospital (now the Federal Prison). Now, here is the fun part, all people assigned to the first three areas were REQUIRED to walk to the shelters since the streets “must be left completely free for police, fire and other authorized emergency vehicles”. The people making their way to UK were coming from Loudon Ave., The Shriner's Hospital and nearly out to Turfland Mall. Those going to the VA (that is the old Va on Leestown Rd) had to get through all the industrial areas with limited connecting streets and sometimes no sidewalks.

All of them walking.

I remember the ice storm of 2003 and all the streets that for several days became impassable. Now consider that ,in the event of an earthquake, all the streets would be littered with not just trees and wires, but piles of rubble and trash with no stable structure in sight. What is the plan for community shelters at that point? Where would most people go if their whole subdivision were leveled and they had to walk? I don't think that most of us are prepared for any like that.

The 1973 update of the original plan did little more than revise the numbers and switch from the VA Hospital to all of the major medical centers in town. It appears that some driving would be allowed but that walking would still be the preferred mode to get there. Still, we are talking about “fallout” here and basically nothing else in the way of sheltering during a community disaster.

The Cold War waned and the global threat of nuclear war seems to have let us get beyond planning for such contingencies, so all subsequent Comprehensive Plans have let the idea of “community shelters” just fade into the mist. Nothing of such a magnitude as the events in Japan have happened in our lifetime, in Lexington. We do have to remember that most of our suburban housing is farther than 1/2 mile from the nearest major intersection or shopping center. Planning for major disasters is still ongoing and information is readily available through the Division of Emergency Management (DEM) but the idea of citywide community shelters being identified and easily reached by a the populace is NOT being done.

Where will you go for shelter in instances like these? What would do if it wasn't there? Will you be prepared?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Do You Feel About Public Transportation?

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is predicting that ridership on America’s public transportation systems will increase should gas prices reach $5 a gallon.

We, here in Lexington, are already seeing a steady increase in Lextran’s monthly tallies and there will be more to come. Of course, we are speaking of just a local city’s bus system and not any type of regional transit or intercity passenger service. It is our lack of planning for and implementation of any regional service that will stifle our ability to enhance the local economy.

APTA President William Millar said in a prepared statement. "We must make significant, long-term investments in public transportation or we will leave our fellow Americans with limited travel options, or in many cases stranded without travel options."

Well, I wonder who those stranded will be. Do you think that it will be the wealthy drivers of those fancy SUV’s or the less well off suburbanite located out off Man o’ War Blvd.? Looking at the Lextran route map, I think that there will be a great deal of those who will need to travel more than a mile or two to work and get groceries.

Better yet will be those who are employed in our ring cities and towns and have to commute to places like Frankfort and Georgetown. You remember, places to where we used to have rail service. Carpooling will become popular again, but will it be enough for everyone?

Lexington government workers will not be immune either. More and more of our firefighters and police personnel live out-of-county and commute in. Quite a few of the city’s other administrative jobs are held by non-residents of the city.

Lextran could, of course, strive to become a regional transit agency more along the lines of TANK and TARC in Northern Ky. and Louisville. Those agencies cover areas outside of their home counties and even cross State lines. This movement would mean serious negotiations and agreements with our surrounding neighbors and an expansion of the existing taxing authority just as a basic funding source. The local Tea Partiers would love that, right?

All of this and not a word about connecting the three major cities of Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati by passenger rail. I don’t’ think that we will get real serious about that until we get near $7 or $8 gas. It may already be too late to get started. Using the existing freight rails is not a realistic concept, as they will be hauling the goods that are now moving by truck.

So, how good do you feel about how well you will get around when if gas gets to $5 a gallon?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lexington As A Business?

I have been hearing the new mayor saying for a while, like many others before him, that the government should be run like a business. That business principles should be used in the running of our or any government. To that I would like to ask - Do we have a particular business model in mind?

Is there a business model that applies to government?

Businesses usually are formed for the purpose of making a profit. The larger the business the larger the profit. Businesses typically perform some kind of service for which they can charge a fee and good businesses will charge a large enough fee to cover their costs AND make a profit. Entrepreneurships will make enough profits to allow small families to get by and possibly support a few others as employees. Corporations will use the money of many investors and split the profits among them as dividends.

Non-profits provide services for which they charge a nominal fee and they may solicit money from willing benefactors consisting of individuals and corporations. Should a non-profit have funds left over after all programs have been completed and salaries paid, then new services or programs may be considered or undertaken.

Governments, on the other hand, are put in place usually to do for the citizens what they cannot, or will not do for themselves. They work for the general public good an taxes are collected to ensure that such services will be funded to their proper levels. Governments are not supposed to make a profit but they should collect enough in taxes to enable themselves to properly provide such services.

What business model would work best for a local government?

Lexington's government is a corporation primarily for legal reasons of liability and as a non-profit needs to charge some nominal fees, solicit from the citizenry(otherwise known as the usually willing benefactors) and provide services in return for those fees and funds. There should be NO profits to be distributed to the investors or returned to the willing benefactors. All the proceed should go to provide for the general citizenry.

So, what happens when the need to provide services exceeds the amount of funds gathered from the various sources? What would a corporation like FedEx or UPS do if the costs of fuel rose above a certain point? What have the airlines done when fuel and personnel costs rise? Did they go back to the investors or did they go to the users of the services? FedEx and others have raised their fees and the airlines have applied many new fees along with fare increases. Such fiscal moves are thought to be unheard of for government.

Should we manage our government like some of our larger, successful corporations? The ones where the CEO is paid at 300% the wages paid to the line workers and massive dividends are distributed to the stockholders. In this case, the services are being provided to those other than the investors/benefactors and governments just don't work that way.

Just what business model would you like to see for running government?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Giving Mr. Farmer A Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Thoughts On This Winter And Beyond

This past winter has been very rough on our streets and the rising gas prices will be even rougher on our wallets in the months (and years) ahead. The state has already announced their pothole repair days along the Interstates but the local roads are really showing signs of deterioration in some locales.

The one spot that comes to mind first is the Avenue of Champions. The portion just west of the Rose St intersection. It always seems to be in a state of collapse into a pothole. One day they will just have to excavate all the subsurface and solve the problem for good.

Elsewhere there are developing problems on Chinoe Rd, in the s-curve south of the traffic light at Lakewood Dr. Boy is it getting rough. Speaking of the Lakewood light, does anybody know why it is still there?

I remember that when I was growing up there was a problem getting out onto Chinoe from the side streets and that there were quite a few residents with power and wealth living there. I am sure that they were the ones who requested and got that light. But times have changed. There are now more ways to get out of the side streets and the traffic on Chinoe is not as intense. So, why is the light still there? Should there not be some mechanism to remove traffic signals like this?

Then there is High St. from Ashland to the center of downtown. Alligatoring of the pavement every so often and some potholes that have formed and been patched, yet are beginning to fail again. I am sure that you know of others around town in the same shape.

The Division of Streets and Roads's budget has taken a big hit this winter with all the salt use and overtime for the drivers. There may be enough to work on the potholes now but the budget for next year is being asked to be trimmed by 4%. Just in time for the petroleum based material sued in roadway repair to rise by double that. At this point we may have to live with failing roads.

Lexington has not left itself in a good position to deal with rising oil prices. We have spread our residential subdivisions far from the supposedly centralized shopping and service providing commercial areas. The occupants of those subdivisions will fight for the services which they believe that they are entitled, but they will want everybody else to help pay for them.

At some point, and I believe it will be soon, we will have to make some very tough choices about where we will live. I think that I have set myself up fairly well but even I will have to make some more sacrifices.

These are some of the topics that we will have to tackle during the next deliberation on the Comprehensive Plan, and that is coming up soon. Sooner than you think.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chevy Chase, The Trolleys And Other Happenings

I picked up the latest Chevy Chaser the other day and saw where the Business Owners group there are exploring the possibility of being added to the Blue (or Main/Vine) trolley route.

The last that I have spoken of this was back in August when I suggested adding the Woodland Triangle shops into the route. The Chevy Chase folks want to bypass that idea and team up with the restaurants on Main and Ashland to make a longer loop.

As their proposal is described, they would take their extension from the existing turn at Woodland and Vine/Central and continue on instead of turning left. They would go to Ashland and proceed to High St and the Chevy Chase area proper. Then, returning to Ashland for a run up to Main St. and then back downtown.

I, on the other hand, would proceed to the next street and turn right on Kentucky Ave., run up by the park and turn right on High St. Then loop around the Triangle, head straight down High, past Ashland to the Euclid/Fontaine intersection where I would hang a right. After another right onto Ashland, would proceed to Main St for the run downtown.

This route would limit the number of left hand turns for which we have no dedicated timing at the signalized intersections, while passing a larger number of businesses or points of destination. The expected extra cost could be split among a larger number of participants and the distance is not significantly more than the alternative. There also would not be any repetitive travel by backtracking over the same street in both directions. It would open up the possibility of a noontime stroll in Woodland Park, or a picnic of take out from some of the restaurants along the route.

While on the subject of Chevy Chase, I also see where they will be losing another of the neighborhood churches. The Greek Orthodox Church at Tates Creek and Melrose has been given permission to head farther out Tates Creek and build a new, larger facility on the corner with Rebecca Rd.

This location is right across the street from the exit of Immanuel Baptist Church and right in the middle of the mega-church row. It just happens to be on the other side of the street. I have a friend who attends this congregation and she tells me that they can rarely fill the seats that they have, much less do they NEED a bigger building. This is just one more instance of neighborhood churches leaving to become “available” to their constituents.

Funny thing is, this could have become my neighborhood in my teen years. About the time I was 10, my mother toyed with the idea of moving from the area around Woodland Park and joining a few of her sorority sisters in the spacious suburbs. She went so far as to find a lot and sketch out the type of floor plan that would suit her and our family. Next, she found a builder and convinced my father to go along with the scheme. Everything was a go, until she found out that we kids would have to go to the County schools. This was pre-merger of the schools which occurred well before the merger of the governments.

We would have to ride the big yellow buses and spend some hours in traffic both morning and evening. This did not set well with her.

At this time Tates Creek Road was a narrow two lane country road and a dairy across the from the lot she had chosen. Our new house would have been quite some distance from shopping, any other entertainment and the rest of our relatives, who then resided not more than 6 blocks from our current home. I would have grown up a much different person had we moved.

Well, my mother backed out of the deal, but the builder took the plans, made some slight modifications and built the house on the corner of Rebecca Rd and Tates Creek. On the town side of this photo and across the street from what will be a new church.

I am kind of glad that I did not move to the county, it would have given me a different and wrong slant on life. I am a city kid.