While some residents are “thoroughly disappointed” by the city’s proposed 20-year transportation plan, and others are “very encouraged by the vision,” both critics and proponents of MOVE Louisville fear the project won’t move from paper to the streets.
“I predict it will do little more than maintain the status quo — structural dependence on private transportation and the obesity epidemic that goes with it — without sufficient staff, funding and commitment from the mayor and metro council,” one commenter from the 40204 ZIP code wrote. “I’m tired of talk and plans. I am tired of media conferences without follow through.”
That is one of the 105 comments submitted to Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government following the unveiling of the $1.4 billion MOVE Louisville plan in April. Insider Louisville requested all comments submitted to the city regarding the plan. With the exception of three signed letters, the commenters are only identified by their Louisville ZIP code.
Despite disagreeing on multiple points, a letter from the city’s chamber of commerce Greater Louisville Inc. and another from Broken Sidewalk founder Brandon Klayko both disparaged the fact that the plan doesn’t identify specifically how the city will fund the 16 multi-million projects it prioritizes in MOVE Louisville.
“It is our opinion that although the Move Louisville plan points to vitally important goals for our city, it does not lay out a comprehensive enough strategy for achieving them. While there is certainly merit in many of the outlined priority projects, the projects described in the plan will, unfortunately, be insufficient to the task of reshaping Louisville,” Klayko’s letter states. Bicycling for Louisville‘s Chris Glasser and Justin Mog, who advises the University of Louisville’s provost on sustainability matters, co-signed the letter with Klayko.
The city currently spends about $14 million annually on transportation but would need to up that to $69.7 million a year to accomplish MOVE Louisville’s goals. Mayor Greg Fischer said previously that the city could increase property tax rates or take advantage of a local option sales tax — should it ever pass the Kentucky General Assembly — to help fund the various initiatives.
In its letter, GLI stated that some income sources such as fuel tax aren’t an option for Louisville and others such as taxing districts or fees charged to developers “may stifle development.”
“Local governments are extremely limited in their ability to raise sufficient funds for road and street changes or transit upgrades and expansion,” the chamber wrote. “We encourage support for increased budget allocations for transit … without adequate local and state funding, Louisville is at a disadvantage in competing for federal grants for basic upgrades such as new buses to replace vehicles that are more than 15 years old, or a significant public transportation project that would improve mobility options and advance the local economy.”
Urban versus suburban
The comments also show a battle between urban growth and suburban sprawl. One commenter from southeast Jefferson County (40291) complained that MOVE Louisville focuses too much on urban neighborhoods with “not much left for the suburban area” and that too much emphasis is being placed on the needs of cyclists and pedestrians.
Another commenter — this one from The Highlands and Cherokee Park area (40204) — suggested removing from MOVE Louisville’s priority list plans to improve connectivity in the East End, complete the Louisville Loop and extend Urton Lane.
“Our city needs to make some hard choices about where and how to prioritize investments and this plan refuses to make those choices. It promotes a set of contradictory strategies which do not hold the promise of significant change,” the person wrote. “The vision laid out here is for continued sprawl with a loss of population in our urban core and massive growth in the suburbs and exurbs. That is precisely the pattern that has gotten us into the current crisis of deferred maintenance, car-dependency, and malfunctioning, unsustainable transportation alternatives.”
Some residents applauded the city’s efforts to add more bike lanes and the introduction of a rapid bus transit line along Dixie Highway. Meanwhile, others stated that few commuters ride bicycles to work and changes could decrease the vehicle capacity on main and secondary arteries.
GLI spoke against complete streets, a type of road design that melds together various modes of transportation, including public transit, bikes, pedestrians and vehicles. The design aims to relieve congestion, beautify streets and make roads safer.
“GLI is concerned that a complete street redesign would hinder capacity” along Broadway and Lexington Road, a letter from the chamber reads. “Even where they are beneficial, ‘complete streets’ involve re-striping and creating fewer lanes for automobiles. If this is done to major corridors of traffic, this will not work for moving goods and services around Louisville in order to satisfy a minority of people who bike.”
GLI isn’t the only critic of sacrificing vehicle capacity for cyclists. Pat Durham, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville, penned a similar letter that noted its support of GLI’s comments, and a number of comments bemoaned prioritizing bike lanes over other infrastructure.
“I find it difficult to support financially bike lanes when we have decaying roads and bridges. Supporting taxes for bike lanes is something I will not support,” wrote a resident who lives in the 40241 ZIP code, which includes The Paddock Shops and E.P. Tom Sawyer Park.
The extension of Urton Lane from Middletown to Taylorsville Road was a point of contention for some commenters. A segment agreed that the project is an investment in suburban sprawl and that the cost — an estimated $40 million — would be put to better use elsewhere, while others applauded the move as an investment in the city’s economic future.
“I doubt if there are many or any transportation projects in the state that will generate greater economic development and create more jobs than the Urton Lane Extension,” an individual living in the 40245 ZIP code stated.
A streetcar (or light rail) Louisville residents desire
Numerous residents called out MOVE Louisville for failing to include a streetcar or light rail transit system.
“Light rail should be number one. It can start off small,” stated a resident living near the University of Louisville in the 40208 ZIP code. “This isn’t leadership; it’s a routine failure to make a statement, a bold move. You aren’t going to get outsiders to move here on such pathetic limited goals and backwards attitudes.”
A commenter from the Middletown/Douglass Hills area (40243) called into question the need to spend $160 million to improve connectivity to the newly opened Parklands of Floyds Fork, an area of rapid expansion in the far east of Louisville. That money could instead be dedicated to a streetcar system, which the city estimates will cost $5 million to $7 million per mile, the individual suggested.
“The streetcar project would bring about real connectivity,” the commenter wrote.
Mayor Fischer said the city doesn’t have enough population density to support a light rail or streetcar system. However, several commenters noted that such a system could help bolster the city’s population and create the density needed to support it; the city just needs to make the leap first.
“Louisville needs to build for the future and not for the present. Light rail will enhance transportation options in Louisville and put the city on par with other cities like St. Louis, Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Portland,” a commenter from west Louisville (40211) wrote.
City leaders regularly talk about the need to attract young professionals to town and offer that as justification for giving tax incentives or other benefits to multifamily housing developments and other projects in the urban core. One self-identified young professional who moved to the Prospect area from San Francisco commented that a light rail or streetcar system “can be a huge asset.”
“Young professionals (and the companies that hire them) are seeking efficient, reliable, and clean public rail transit… It also would help facilitate better logistics for the tourism and convention business.”
Read all the comments submitted to Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government below.