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Asheville on Bikes Questionnaire

Rank these 5 things in order of priority:

Fare free transit

Coxe Ave complete street

Livingston complete street

Parking downtown

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovations

Elaborate on priorities; explain ranking

Increasing transit use and getting more people out of their cars is key to our climate, affordability, equity, and accessibility goals. Oh, how our cities would be different if we could rewind the clock and not become so car and highway centric. But here we are, trying to unwind the dependency. Cars are noisy, polluting, expensive boxes of steel that frequently hurt people, cost up to 25% of Ashevillian's personal incomes, and require billions of dollars for road creation and maintenance. 77% of Ashevillians drive alone in theirs every day. Moving transit to fare free will increase ridership and get more community members out of their cars. As part of fare free transit, we need covered bus stops that protect riders from wind and rain, and I would prioritize placing those first in neighborhoods where ridership is already relatively high, in order to serve necessity riders first.

Complete Streets refocus our priorities on all modalities, not just the personal automobile. Pedestrians, cyclists, transit, and environmental accommodations are built into the designs. They activate streetscapes, helping build community with shared experiences. Complete streets can include lighting, street furniture, and art, each of which grow our cultural experiences. They can have greenery and trees, bioswales and stormwater plans, each helping to reduce the heat island effect. And they always, always include differently abled and bike infrastructure. I support both complete streets and chose Coxe before Livingston only because it is further along in the planning process and being lined up for tourism tax dollar investments as I type.

Parking, parking, parking. Ask an environmentalist about parking and they’ll scowl. Ask a planner (under 50) and they may grimace. Like I said above, we are both dependent on and frustrated by our car use. Businesses in downtown will tell you we need more parking solutions. It’s true, in a sense. For me, our parking solutions include a downtown circulator shuttle. Currently 33% of our workers in downtown park in meters. This costs them a lot of money, reduces access for their customers, and increases congestion and circling. My vision includes optimizing loading zones and hours, adding signage showing vacancy (Civic Center), more bike lanes, more crosswalks, demand-based meters, better wayfinding and education on parking decks, and meters in areas like South Slope (coming soon).

Thomas Wolfe Auditorium lands last on this list but is a priority. We value our arts and cultural programming and I attended the unveiling, where many locals expressed their concerns over safety, repairs, limitations, and needed upfits. I struggle to find a way to prioritize 100M in spending and hope we can come to some reduced spending models. Design fees tend to run as much as 15% for these projects; we’ll need millions just for the design itself. I do support a more strategic set of improvements that can utilize a small portion of the tourism tax dollars to float bond payments. Let’s get creative.

One way you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.

I consistently review options for improving our urban infrastructure and lobby for improvements to for pedestrians, transit users, and cyclists as I serve our community as Chair of our Downtown Commission. The outcomes include: the Biltmore Ave crosswalk, brokering a deal for a new, to-come crosswalk with signaling on land I manage for the French Broad Food Co+Op (at Biltmore Ave at Hilliard Ave.), installation of the Coxe Ave tactical urbanism project, wayfinding improvements, sidewalk repairs and expansions in downtown, Haywood Street updates, updated lighting, new bus shelters, renovating the transit station, art installations, and strategies to plant new street trees. The outcomes are incremental and compounding and leading to shifts in behavior. We need to do more, but we’re building more and more cases and evidence for supporting these types of projects. Ever seen someone dance across the Biltmore Ave crosswalk at Eagle Street? It was probably me.

What are your thoughts on tactical urbanism projects in AVL? How does AOB’s coxe ave inform your positions? Are you inclined to resist or support future tactical urbanist projects?

Bravo! What a joy to watch and partake in. What a creative way to see a problem, rally around solutions, find funding, implement it, and measure our successes. AOB did an incredible job telling the story and informing our community on the results. Reducing the likelihood of a pedestrian fatality from over 30% to under 10%. Dramatically decreasing car speeds while serving the same amount of vehicular traffic. (In case readers of this questionnaire haven’t read the full report: Before the project, 65.9% of drivers using the road were speeding. The highest recorded speeds each day were: 75.5 mph, 85.5mph, and 89.2 mph. After the project, only 21.3% of drivers were speeding and the highest recorded speeds were 40, 41, and 40.2 mph. Car volume counts were nearly identical in both the before and after time periods.) Installing a four-way stop and crosswalks at two intersections to provide safe passage for pedestrians. Adding cycling infrastructure and safe intersection protections. Adding planters and other calming by design and artistic beauty. We learned lessons about materials and durability. I am inclined to support future tactical urbanist projects. In the future I’d like to see us integrate educational components and stormwater solutions, i.e. wayfinding like info boards and filtration techniques that cleanse the water before it flows to the river.

Investment in ped / bike facilities has been criticized as an agent of gentrification yet according to the US census lower socioeconomic groups use active transportation at disproportionately higher rates as compared to more affluent individuals. What are your thoughts regarding active transportation investment and gentrification?

Neighborhoods are at the greatest risk of gentrification when demand is high, supply is inadequate, and housing costs and utilities are rising. Gentrification does three things: prices locals out, pushes locals out, and commodifies history and culture and markets it to newcomers. The opposite of gentrification is not to do nothing. The opposite of gentrification could be: support locals in place, sustain locals in place, honor and enrich the history and culture of place.

Before cars came along, bikes were prevalent and a status symbol. Cars replaced them to become a leading method of transportation and symbol of wealth. In Asheville, transportation can cost as much as 25% of an individual’s income. Multimodal access is a necessity for improving equity and affordability in Asheville. While we work on a more reliable and readily available transit system, we need to also improve bike and pedestrian access. Improving safe multimodal access in low income areas provides access for those without cars, freeing up income to help weather increasing costs of housing and defend against pressures of gentrification. Bikeitecture can also serve as a safety buffer against fast moving cars.

In the last 10 years, Asheville has reported 910 bicycle involved accidents. That’s 91 a year or 1 every 4 days. Bike and ped infrastructure need to be spread more equitably across the city.

Additionally, if we truly want residents to use our sidewalks, we need to expand written consent to search to include pedestrians so people can feel safe while moving throughout the city.

What is the most impactful transportation investment city council could approve to advance transportation? How do you measure the return on this investment?

Implementing the Transit Master Plan and examining the feasibility of fare free transit. ROI could be measured in reductions to the 77% solo car use and improvements to the 1.7% transit use.

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