Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has released the long-awaited draft version of the city’s sustainability plan. It’s an ambitious list of ways the city wants to be greener, but some of the goals and initiatives will be difficult to measure.
The plan is broken up into six sections: energy, the environment, transportation, the economy, community and engagement. It sets out 19 main goals that the city wants to achieve, and sets deadlines for most of them.
Among other things, the plan:
- lays out plans to decrease energy use by incentivizing energy conservation;
- divert 90 percent of solid waste from landfills by 2042, by launching a composting pilot project and banning plastic bags for yard waste;
- cut back on vehicle miles traveled by launching bike share programs, researching car and ride share programs and increasing TARC ridership;
- expand the local food system and increase access to healthy foods;
- combat heat island effects by encouraging green infrastructure and complete an analysis of the city’s tree canopy.
The plan’s initiatives are marked by verbs. Many of them indicate action; words like launch, require, implement, establish, install, increase, form, develop, expand, incorporate and acquire. There are also more passive verbs, suggesting the city will identify, assess, explore, promote, investigate, research and support.
Bud Hixson is the attorney for the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation, or CART. His group has spent years fighting against the Ohio River Bridges Project and advocating for public transportation.
Hixson says the transportation sections of the sustainability plan are good in theory, but seem slightly disingenuous after the Bridges Project has been approved and all other lower-carbon alternatives were ditched.
“Now to turn around and to announce a sustainability plan that cites as one of the big mistakes of transportation planning the 30 percent carbon footprint contribution of single-occupancy vehicles is a day late and a dollar short,” Hixson said.
Kentucky Waterways Alliance director Judy Petersen says the sustainability plan’s broad goals sound good, but she found several of the plan’s initiatives lacking detail. The plan sets out a goal of “decreasing impervious surfaces and improving water quality by 2018,” and mentions two programs: one a pilot project to restore a mile of riparian vegetation, and one to decrease the amount of impervious surfaces in the watershed. (Impervious surfaces, like streets and parking lots, don’t absorb rainwater, so the water and pollution runs off into nearby streams.)
But the goal and the second initiative didn’t include any benchmark. How will the city know if water quality is improved by 2018? By how much will the city decrease the amount of impervious surfaces? Petersen says she would have liked to see more detail.
“One thing I’d like to see explored a little bit more would be the opportunity for green infrastructure and reducing things like impermeable pavement with the area schools and government buildings,” she said.
There is a section on green infrastructure—with the goal to just expand green infrastructure by 2018—but the initiative was similarly vague.
The most scathing criticism came from former mayoral candidate and bike shop owner Jackie Green. The plan sets a goal of reducing vehicle miles traveled 15 percent by 2025 through a combination of increasing bicycling, TARC ridership and possibly car share programs.
Green says if Louisville wants to increase bicycle ridership, it should focus on slowing vehicle traffic within the Watterson, because the city doesn’t have the resources to build separated bike lanes. But he says all of the city’s environmental problems boil down to one thing: “we need to challenge private motor vehicle use,” he said.
Green says the sustainability plan could have just focused on two core issues: public transportation and land use. “By doing so you address the climate, the air, the water,” he said. “By doing so, you address energy. By doing so, you address economic development.”
This is a draft version of the plan; the Office of Sustainability will accept public comments on it until the end of February. There’s also a public meeting scheduled on February 20 at 6:30 at the Jefferson Community Technical College Health Sciences Building for people to offer input.
Ways to comment:
On Twitter @sustainlou
On the Facebook page Sustain Louisville
Emailed comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Written comments mailed to:
Director of Sustainability
Louisville Metro Government
444 S. 5th Street
Louisville, Ky. 40202