Rescuing New Ideas From the Purgatory of Old Bureaucracy

Louisville has solid transportation goals, but it’s having trouble delivering on them.

Your city may have a complete streets policy. Your mayor may say all the right things about making streets work for walking, biking, and transit. But if the inner workings of government — city budgets, agency protocols — aren’t set up to enable big street design breakthroughs, all you’ll get are scattershot improvements.

Writing for Network blog Broken Sidewalk, Chris Glasser of Bicycling for Louisville says his city is ready for safer, multi-modal streets — it just needs to figure out the mechanics of making change happen:

In the city budgets of the last three years, there has been funding for sidewalk improvements, for bike lanes, and for road repaving — all the ingredients needed for a complete street. But all that money is in separate pots, all going to separate projects. We’ve got the ingredients we need, but no recipe to follow to make a better street. We don’t provide any funding for the holistic approaches that make the street safer for everyone. This needs to change.

In Louisville, we have an 8-year-old, 160-page document that’s gathering dust and the promise of a multi-modal plan that’s more than a year overdue. What we don’t have is a strategy or funding source for implementing complete streets. Instead, we come by our most people-friendly streets somewhat haphazardly…

Why is this important? Here’s just one example: Metro Louisville Public Works is currently considering a redesign for Jefferson Street through Downtown. Their design features bus islands, a protected bike lane, and curb extensions for pedestrians. Four driving lanes would be taken down to three. These are all great things — design concepts that benefit all users.

But there’s one big problem. There’s no money for a project like this. To be sure, there is money in a city budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. For instance, “bike money” could pay for this project — but at the cost of 75 percent of its annual allotment on a bike lane that goes 0.9 miles and for which the vast majority of the project cost is not related to a bike lane. There is money available, just not money for this complete street project.

Glasser’s first goal is to implement “a funding mechanism for holistic roadway redesign.”
Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network: Baltimore InnerSpace assesses what went wrong for the Red Line project and offers some advice for local transit advocates. And Bill Lindeke at Twin City Sidewalks asks, “How would Gandhi drive?”

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Louisville Removes Sidewalk “For Safety”

|
Louisville is in the middle of a three-year, federally-funded safety initiative to reduce the city’s high rate of pedestrian fatalities. Per capita, four times the number of people are killed walking in Louisville than in Washington, DC. Some good improvements are in the works, but the people in charge of Louisville’s streets clearly need to get over some bad habits. Branden Klayko […]

Combating the Myth That Complete Streets Are Too Expensive

|
Live in a town where bicyclists and pedestrians are personas non grata and buses get stuck in automobile congestion? Do you put on your walking boots only to find that your city’s street design conveys the message, “These roads were made for driving?” It’s time for a complete streets upgrade, then – but often, when […]

Adding Sidewalks Shouldn’t Cost a Bundle

|
Even in some of America’s biggest cities, you’d be amazed at the gaps in sidewalk networks. Most of Seattle has sidewalks, says Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog, but some of the more recently annexed sections of the city do not. The cost to fill in the gaps was recently pegged at a whopping $3.6 billion. But Seattle […]
A buffered bike lane in Louisville. Photo:  Bicycling for Louisville via Broken Sidewalk

To Get More People on Bikes, Louisville Needs to Raise Its Game

|
Louisville is making an effort to build out its bike network, adding a number of buffered bike lanes and beginning a network of low-stress "Neighborways" along residential streets. It's a start, but peer cities like Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are doing more to make cycling an appealing way to get around. Here's what Louisville needs to do to catch up.