Letter to US Dept of Transportation re: Smart City Challenge

9 February 2016

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx
US Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington DC 20590
202 366 4000
anthony.foxx@dot.gov
smartcitychallenge@dot.gov

Re: Smart City Challenge

Dear DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx:

Louisville, Kentucky could be a great city if we correct the local land use and transportation mistakes of the past 65 years.  Unfortunately, Louisville’s Smart Cities Challenge application and plans will only postpone the day we take remedial action crucial to our sustainable future. The Smart Cities Challenge application submitted by Louisville is itself being challenged by local citizens and organizations that find the application to be unrealistic, undemocratic and unambitious.

Undemocratic because the application has had no broad public input. Local transportation voices of dissent (voices which advocate more transportation equity, greater public transit, greater CBD and transit corridor density, fewer one way streets, slower traffic, fewer surface parking lots, and a protected tree canopy) have been excluded from the process. Undemocratic because Louisville’s transportation plan, Move Louisville, is years behind in it’s unveiling. It remains a secret kept from the public, though it is cited as a driving force behind Louisville’s Smart Cities proposal.

Unrealistic because Louisville, under the excessively lauded leadership of Mayor Fischer, has recently violated the most simple principles in creating a transportation system worthy of a “Smart City”. Though promoting Louisville as “moving forward”, this administration has repeatedly undermined the community by encouraging new exurban development, at the expense of Louisville’s urban core.  This includes:
· allowing WalMart to steamroll over our land use guidelines in a neighborhood having the lowest number of drivers per capita. At an intersection where two major public bus routes have been cut due to budget, another huge parking surface is planned. Like the surplus of parking lots that cover Louisville, it will be underutilized and pose safety and heat index challenges.
·  developing plans to move the Veterans Administration Hospital to a suburban location. Despite widespread opposition from veterans, neighborhoods and advocacy groups, the transportation challenges of an already overburdened roadway have been largely ignored .
· destroying urban historical architecture that could be repurposed to provide dense, walkable neighborhoods..
· permitting more surface parking lots.  Ignoring the codes that would preclude them and failing to invest in public transportation option to reduce the number of cars.
· designing and building structures, new roads and highways that encourage sprawl outside the city and its neglected urban core.
· prioritizing the resurfacing of suburban roads, while the urban streets requiring more serious repair are ignored.
· refusing to sign a letter to President Obama requesting implementation of air quality standards (a mayoral decision).
· pushing a methane plant onto an urban community without up front input, transparency or the existence of regulatory oversight.
· marketing Louisville to conventions and visitors as tourist friendly, while having no intercity or regional passenger rail – nor making plans for such.
· spending three billion dollars on interstate highway bridges and approaches while we have an impotent local public transit system (TARC) that in many areas practicly ceases to operate after rush hours.

Unrealistic because Louisville transit users do not need real-time data on the arrival times of buses. We already know the buses run woefully infrequently outside rush hours, and in many places, not at all.

Unambitious because the city refuses to implement immediately some of the transportation changes that can be taken now. Unambitious because the real changes we require are being delayed by many decades.

Too many of the recent accolades bestowed upon Louisville are a result of PR smoke and mirrors. Louisville’s full potential will not be realized until we address the serious land use and transportation missteps of over six decades.  Please do not encourage the perpetuation of our mistakes by selecting Louisville as a finalist in Smart Cities Challenge.

You will be hearing more from local organizations and Louisville citizens in the days to come.

Sincerely,

Jackie Green
Former Independent Mayoral Candidate
Former Executive Director of the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation
107 W Market St
Louisville KY 40202

Bryan Burns
Fourth District Metro Council Candidate
604 Camp Street
Louisville KY 40203

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