People not Parking – What Next for Louisville?

I wrote an in Op-Ed in the Colorado Hometown weekly back in December 2018. On August 21st, CHW printed a follow-up. The website for the Hometown Weekly seems to have stopped updating back in April, so I’ve reproduced it here.

It is, I think, very germain to the November Louisville CO election. There are 3x councillors and a new mayor up for election. I attended the City consultation on the Transportation Master Plan, and there are little to no improvements under discussion for Main St.

Louisville can change and still be historic

If things don’t change, they’ll stay the same, except they won’t.

Back in January this year, the Louisville City Council got the feedback it asked for from the Louisville Revitalization Commission (LRC) on a design and cost for a multi-story parking garage in the heart of downtown. Citizens showed up ‘en masse’ and rejected the concept. The city council agreed not to proceed, everyone was relieved.

Except that’s not what the council actually did. The city council agreed that “this council” would direct staff not to spend any more time working on a parking garage at “that site”, the site being the surface parking lot next to Sweet Cow.

Since then the LRC has had a number of resignations; in November the city will elect a new mayor and two new Councillors. So “this council” will no longer exist, and LRC with a host of new members will be pushing to deliver economic sustainability for downtown Louisville.

Add into the mix that the former ConocoPhillips’ (StorageTec) Campus is finally getting developed over 12-years and based on Daily Camera reporting will create “a new, mixed-use neighborhood featuring a 500,000-square-foot campus designed for a corporate headquarters — which reportedly already has an interested tenant — as well as a 1,500-unit senior living facility, and more than 3.4 million square feet designated for office, retail and hotel space.” and in the words of the developer “connect seamlessly with Historic Downtown Louisville”.

If nothing changes, the parking garage will be back somewhere, sometime soon. There is another way.

Louisville downtown/old town is a small compact area. It is served by much of the town from within 2-miles. The ConocoPhillips campus is less than 3-miles away. The challenge for Louisville is how to continue to enhance downtown while avoiding an $11+ million parking garage and strangling downtown with cars. If the garage was used to its full capacity, that would be hundreds of additional cars per day in downtown at least. Before we go any further, I’m not anti-car, we own two, neither of them is electric or hybrid. I’m pro people, pro a compact, safe, walk-able downtown. We often ride bikes and occasionally walk to downtown from a mile or so away.

We can make that the default for the majority of residents, leaving the parking spaces to those who have no choice. We do though need to go further. The core of downtown doesn’t need to be pedestrianized, but pedestrians do need to be prioritized. If I’m at Sweet Cow, and want to get to the History museum, I shouldn’t need to even think about driving. Once I get back in my car, I’m not limited to going somewhere else locally, I can go to Boulder, Broomfield, Westminster, even Denver. Continually enabling cars doesn’t provide economic viability, it provides traffic and congestion.

I should be able to cross diagonally at intersections, I should be able to cross mid-block, I shouldn’t have to fear cars won’t see me. Instead of shoehorning bike racks in on valuable sidewalk space, we should be dedicating a parking space on every block for bike and micro-mobility parking. We shouldn’t wait for electric scooters, bikes and whatever else to get mysteriously dumped in downtown Louisville and become a problem. We should be embracing and designing for it now as a solution.

Vehicles coming to downtown should be exactly that, coming to downtown. Not driving through it. The Louisville History Museum in their Summer 2019 newsletter revealed that “nearly 10,000 vehicles pass through the Pine and Main intersection each day”. If those vehicles were coming to downtown we’d already have an economically viable downtown. The majority are not. Stand on the corner by Moxie Bread Co in the evening, or on an art walk or street faire night, and try to get to Huckleberry Restaurant and Bakery. You shouldn’t have to wait for traffic to stop twice, to stair with trepidation into the windshield of cars wondering if the drivers see you. Vehicle speeds in the downtown core should be restricted to 10MPH and enforced. People coming to downtown won’t mind the 10MPH speed limit, after all they are less than 1/2 a mile from their destination.

On August 22, the City starts rolling out it’s Transportation Master Plan or TMP. The TMP will be used to prioritize investment over maybe the next 5-10 years. We should ensure that the investment goes into connecting people, not cars, to downtown. Everyone who lives within a 1.5-2-mile radius should know it’s quicker, easier and safer to get downtown without a car than it is with.

Louisville, it doesn’t have to stay the same to stay historic.

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".

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