Community

Louisville Metro government’s long range transportation plan is drawing praise and criticism from residents.

A public input period for the plan, called Move Louisville, drew more than 100 comments from people in nearly every Jefferson County zip code, including some from outside the county.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer presented the plan to the public in April. Residents were encouraged to provide feedback regarding its specifics and the general scope of the plan.

Public review was accepted until July 5. This week, city officials released the submitted comments, which included residents’ zip codes, but not names.

Here’s an interactive map showing where comments came from. One comment not shown on this map came from Washington D.C.

Some residents cheered the plan for it’s focus on a “fix-it first” approach to existing infrastructure.

“That is well overdue,” said one resident from the 40206 zip code.

“We need to be able to repave our existing roads before we go around building new roads,” said another resident from the 40243 zip code.

Louisville Metro Council members have focused heavily in recent months on the need to repair existing infrastructure. The recently approved budget contains nearly $27 million in allocations for road and sidewalk repair.

City planners who authored the Move Louisville plan recommend an annual increase in the city’s transportation budget of about 80 percent to fulfill the desires within the plan.

Officials with the city’s Public Works department have stressed that the city faces a near $112 million road repair deficit.

Other residents submitted comments that praise the plan’s focus to improve the city’s public transit.

City planners will begin looking beyond buses and consider more fixed transit options like Bus Rapid Transit and even streetcars, under the plan.

Dixie Highway is already slated for improvements to encourage more rapid transit options, thanks to a $16 million federal grant.

Preston Highway is a top candidate for similar transit service, said Jeff O’Brien, deputy director of advanced planning. O’Brien said much of the public concern gathered during development of the plan centered on lackluster transit service from west to east or vice versa.

A resident from the 40218 zip code said the city’s existing bus system, TARC, lacks efficiency.

“TARC has failed at many avenues,” said another from the 40220 zip code.

“Every bus stop have a sheltered space for in-climate weather,” said another from the 40206 zip code.

“My hope and wish is we take the public transit system and turn it into something attractive for everyone to use,” said another resident from 40222.

The Move Louisville plan authors did not specifically call for the addition of light rail into the city’s transportation network. That drew a swath of criticism from residents during the public review process.

“The best way for Louisville to grow as a city and work on sustaining itself is to begin investments in a train system,” said one resident from the 40205 zip code.

“I think that we need rail,” said another from the 40299.

Some transit advocates have viewed light rail as a must. Its absence is disappointing, said Clarence Hixson, a spokesman for the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation, in an interview earlier this year with WFPL.

“But I can’t say I’m shocked,” he added.

Hixson’s group has called for light rail service for years. He said city officials refuse to consider a light rail plan because of their ties to the automobile industry.

On the other hand, the head of Louisville’s transit service said the absence of light rail from the plan is a good thing.

“I think for where we are at, at this point, in some ways, it would be a distraction,” said Barry Barker, executive director of TARC.

He said light rail isn’t practical for the city’s present transportation needs. Barker said the city should prioritize more funding for the bus service, which is struggling to meet current needs.

Some residents submitted comments that accept that notion, yet they contend the plans for such a project shouldn’t be scrapped.

“Don’t make it impossible for future generations to do this,” said one resident from the 40207 zip code. “While Louisville may not have the density right now, trams and trains generate density around them.”

The Move Louisville plan hinges heavily on the proliferation of bicycle friendly infrastructure. The notion of more bike lanes scattered across Louisville Metro irks some, while pleasing others.

“Concentration on bicycles as effective alternative modes of transportation in the city is wishful thinking,” wrote one resident from the 40026 zip code.

“Enough with the bike lanes. They may look cute but traffic is tied up and nobody uses them,” wrote another from the 40059 zip code.

“To truly encourage and boost bike ridership, a protected barrier between cars and the bike lane is the most effective way of having riders feel safe,” wrote a resident from the 40206 candidate.

“I am very encouraged by the vision put forth in the Move Louisville plan, particularly in its emphasis on the need to reduce reliance on cars and encourage a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly city,” wrote one resident from the 40204 zip code.

A letter was also submitted from Greater Louisville Inc. regarding the Move Louisville Plan. The city’s chamber of commerce praised much of the plan for it’s ability to promote economic development across the city. Yet still, the entity wrote there “several concerns” remain regarding the plan’s proposed projects or policies that could “hinder capacity or place undue burden on businesses.”

Next Steps

City officials are currently reviewing the public comments.

After review, they’ll be submitted to the Move Louisville Advisory Committee for final approval and inclusion in to the final plan, which will eventually be included in the city’s upcoming comprehensive plan update.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.