2020 Asheville Candidate Election Responses

Image of clipboard and surveyWhat do our 2020 Election Candidates have to say about multi-modal transportation in Asheville?

Asheville on Bikes sent a survey to the City Council and County Commissioner candidates on the primary ballot for 2020, asking for their thoughts on multi-modal transportation. We have shared the answers of all who responded. Click on a name to read what each candidate who responded to the survey had to say. Thank you, Connect Buncombe, for helping with the County questionnaire.

Want more? Read the AoB Policy Positions and come to the upcoming Candidate Forums sponsored by Asheville on Bikes and Connect Buncombe!

City Council Candidates

Rich Lee
Nicole Townsend
Kristen Goldsmith
Sage Turner
Kim Roney
Keith Young
Shane McCarthy

County Commissioner Candidates

Nancy Nehls Nelson
Donna Ensley
Terri Wells
Anthony Penland
Parker Sloan

No response: Larry Ray Baker (City Council); Sandra Kilgore (City Council)

Asheville City Council Candidates

Rich Lee headshotRich Lee, Asheville City Council Candidate

Will you participate in “Get There AVL – Primary Candidate Forum,” on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

If you participate in the general election, will you participate in “Get There AVL – General Forum,” scheduled for Thursday Oct. 8 from 6pm – 8pm
Yes – The date is on my calendar

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Asheville?
I drive a car most days. I have an annual bus pass and ride the bus at least once a week. Working downtown, I walk to meetings or events whenever possible. I have a bike (an ’89 Fuji Touring). I love to ride but haven’t this winter since starting this campaign.

Rank these five projects in order from most important to least important.
Coxe Ave complete street treatment [Highest Priority ]
Fare Free Transit
Livingston St complete street treatment
Additional Downtown Motorized Vehicular Parking
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation [Lowest Priority]

Elaborate on your prioritization list. Explain your ranking.
The Coxe Avenue project is effective and community-sourced. An easy choice for #1 spot on this list. Fare-free transit edged out Livingston Complete Streets only because Southside neighbors raised concerns about the goals and details of the Livingston project that I believe deserve attention and more community engagement, which will require more time (so, it’s not truly less of a priority, but would not likely be ready for implementation until after implementation of the Coxe Avenue project and Fare-free transit). Downtown has available parking, but it is inefficiently located, advertised, and priced for the needs of downtown workers, residents and customers. I am much more supportive of the idea of a downtown circulator bus, funded by hotel-tax dollars, that could address those needs and open up satellite parking. I cannot see city dollars or hotel-tax dollars funding the $100 million Thomas Wolfe renovation when there are so many other needs higher on the list. I wish this list had included funding the Transit Master Plan, reclaiming land from the I-26 realignment, greenways in East and South Asheville, neighborhood sidewalks, Haywood Road bike lanes, spot intersection improvements and dozens of other local transportation priorities. I would have ranked all of those at or near the top of this exercise.

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
As chair of the city’s Multimodal Transportation Commission, I helped prioritize dozens of road, sidewalk and greenway projects for transportation bond spending, with a particular focus on neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and low non-vehicular access to jobs and groceries. Everywhere in the city, transportation works are underway that I had a hand in, and every bike lane, every sidewalk and bus shelter, is a part of making this a safer, more livable city. Throughout 2020, I’ll be on a steering committee for the Greenway, Accessibility and Pedestrian Master Plan, the next wave of planning bicycle and pedestrian facilities throughout the city, including community-driven natural-surface trails and other nontraditional connections. Like everyone who works on transportation issues in Asheville, I’m keenly aware that we rank among the worst NC cities for bike/ped safety. This, more than probably any other problem in the city, translates to lost and ruined lives, especially among low-income communities of color. We’re making progress, but transportation justice needs to be a focus of this next council. That’s one of the main reasons I’m running.

What are your thoughts regarding tactical urbanism projects in Asheville? How does AoB’s Coxe Ave report inform your position? Are you inclined to support or resist future tactical urbanism projects? Articulate your thoughts.
I’m old enough to remember Bryan Freeborn leading a group of neighbors painting a mural on a city street to slow traffic. I love — love — the idea of community-sourced transportation improvements moving more nimbly than the usual ponderous city process, testing ideas and refining our toolbox of traffic fixes without a years long yes-or-no process. The Coxe Ave project exposed cheap, effective improvements that should immediately be expanded to other city streets. It demonstrably reduced speeding and, with it, the risk of pedestrian injury or death in a collision. It also contained elements that, even months in, did not draw support from resident neighbors and surrounding businesses. Weaknesses in the original design aren’t bugs, though; they’re features. Thanks to this project, we have better ideas of what works and what doesn’t. That’s the point. I’m excited for the effort to continue to a permanent design for Coxe and new temporary treatments for Westwood intersection and other locations around the city.

Municipal funding in the form of 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?
My perspective is that we can’t deny improvements to neglected neighborhoods out of fear that the improvements themselves will hasten gentrification. If these neighborhoods’ infrastructure — sidewalks, bus and grocery access, schools, etc. — had been adequate and well-maintained all along, their property values would have risen steadily, protecting the wealth of nonwhite homeowners and keeping them from suddenly becoming such attractive targets for new buyers. I am concerned that the last hospitable parts of the city to low-income black renters and homeowners are rapidly turning over. I think this will take a multipronged approach around raising incomes, diversifying and broadening the economy, addressing the problems in the school system, breaking up clusters of concentrated poverty and, yes, building more truly affordable homes for new homeowners. The problem with transportation projects like Livingston, from my perspective, isn’t that low-income neighborhoods are finally getting their due. It’s that the projects are imposed from on-high, without appropriate community sourcing and buy-in. That’s why I support efforts like Participatory Budgeting, which encourages neighborhoods to generate their own projects with real city dollars, improving the things they choose, that they know to be deficient. That’s a different approach than the city has historically taken, but one that I think will result in a safer city prepared to resist gentrification.

What is the most impactful transportation investment city council could approve to advance transportation? How do you measure the return on this investment?
Better land management. Development decisions in Asheville are still largely driven by zoning written for a much smaller town in the 1990s. This has led, among other things, to the depletion of the tree canopy and intense development (especially hotels) in areas where the infrastructure is already overtaxed, while properties like the old Kmart on Patton and Innsbruck Mall, already supported by transit and sidewalks and ideal for dense affordable urban housing, sit underutilized. My perspective is that revizing our zoning for the 2020s is one of the most impactful things we can do for the city, full stop. But the way it can make roads, sidewalks, greenways, bike lanes and transit become more efficiently utilized will be significant — and will translate to saved lives.Besides land-use planning generally, I think the next council specifically has a generational opportunity to reclaim land on the western slope of downtown when it is freed up by the I-26 realignment. NCDOT doesn’t cede land under its control easily, but getting that land under public control and using it for a 50% expansion of downtown and near-downtown housing and office space is an opportunity few cities are given. Likewise, failing to bring that land under local control will leave another imprint on the city’s legacy of transportation failures.


Nicole Townsend HeadshotNicole Townsend, Asheville City Council Candidate

Will you participate in “Get There AVL – Primary Candidate Forum,” on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St.
I will be speaking on a panel in honor of Black History Month

If you participate in the general election, will you participate in “Get There AVL – General Forum,” scheduled for Thursday Oct. 8 from 6pm – 8pm
Yes – The date is on my calendar

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Asheville?
The bus was once my main mode of transportation. However, as my work and family obligations changed I had to get a car. I needed to get to places during the hours the bus did not operate. In 2019, I was able to purchase a bike that I rely on during the warmer months. I also walk during the warmer months. I’m thankful to live in West Asheville, where I can bike to the market to get groceries for my family. When the weather is mild I can often be found walking my two dogs in my neighborhood.

Rank these five projects in order from most important to least important.
Fare Free Transit [Highest Priority]
Livingston St complete street treatment
Coxe Ave complete street treatment
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation
Additional Downtown Motorized Vehicular Parking [Lowest Priority]

Elaborate on your prioritization list. Explain your ranking.

  1. Fare Free Transit – I want equitable Fare Free Transit that includes accessible bus stops that have shelters and seating. Equitable Fare Free Transit must also include an action plan to create more crosswalks. Fare Free Transit will allow us to meet our environmental justice goals; address the deep rooted financial barriers than many folks in our community face; and it will reduce the amount of time buses are late because they are stopped to allow folks to hop, pay, and then have a seat.
  2. Livingston Street Complete Street Treatment – When our Southside youth are getting angry about the roads, I think it is time we step back and start listening. Frankly, we just need to make sure our roads are in good condition. If not, this becomes a safety issue for everyone regardless of the means of transportation. I do believe that we must engage the community should the city consider any redesign of the road.
  3. Coxe Ave Complete Street Treatment – I’m thankful for community members who stepped up to find a creative solution to public safety. What we have is now working.The Street Tweaks team modeled what collaboration looks like, and I believe could support many communities across Asheville.
  4. Thomas Wolfe Auditorium Renovation – As a child, theatre saved my life. Of course I want Asheville to have a state of the art theatre. I want us to attract productions that overlook us to go to Charlotte and Greenville. However, we can not do it at the expense of our people when we have things we should get to first such as Fare Free Transit and road repairs. We should also start the conversations around what it looks like to invest in the theatre in the Arthur Edington Center and in the YMI.
  5. Additional Downtown Motorized Vehicle Parking – I’ve listed this as the lowest priority because our city just signed a Climate Emergency Resolution. Which means we need an action that will get more cars off of the roads. Building more parking areas will only encourage more cars. I would however support investing in more bike racks and bike repair stations.

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
As a member of the Human Relations Commission, I have been engaging with community members about the deep need that we have regarding expanding our 2019 Written Consent to Search Policy so that it includes pedestrians and cyclists. I’ve learned that many folks in our community were not actually aware that people driving in the City of Asheville have more rights than those of us who may be walking or biking. While we are still waiting for the policy to be expanded, a positive outcome is that our community members are actively calling and emailing our City Manager to discuss the much needed policy expansion.

What are your thoughts regarding tactical urbanism projects in Asheville? How does AoB’s Coxe Ave report inform your position? Are you inclined to support or resist future tactical urbanism projects? Articulate your thoughts.
I am inclined to support future tactical urbanism projects. The Coxe Ave project was implemented with so much care and thoughtfulness. It created the space for our community members to work in collaboration, which we need more of. To do this work without funding from the city shows us that we actually can find creative ways to fund the things we need.

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?
[Question not answered by candidate]

What is the most impactful transportation investment city council could approve to advance transportation? How do you measure the return on this investment?
[Question not answered by candidate]


Kristen Goldsmith headshotKristen Goldsmith, Asheville City Council Candidate

Will you participate in “Get There AVL – Primary Candidate Forum,” on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

If you participate in the general election, will you participate in “Get There AVL – General Forum,” scheduled for Thursday Oct. 8 from 6pm – 8pm
Yes – The date is on my calendar

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Asheville?
My family bought a house in a walkable neighborhood so that we could leave our cars behind as often as possible for everyday errands and entertainment. As an avid bike and transit rider all of my adult life, I was disappointed in the lack of access to public transit and bike infrastructure when we moved to Asheville. The buses do not run early or late enough for folks with shift jobs, like myself, and biking to work is currently too dangerous as most of the route follows busy and unprotected roads. As your next representative on City Council, mine will be the first ‘yea’ vote for expanded, fare free public transit and alternative means of transportation, including funding for more bike lanes and greenways. Investing in alternative and public transit helps build healthier, more connected communities, reduce traffic congestion, and be better stewards of our environment.

Rank these five projects in order from most important to least important.
Fare Free Transit [Highest Priority ]
Livingston St complete street treatment
Coxe Ave complete street treatment
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation
Additional Downtown Motorized Vehicular Parking [Lowest Priority]

Elaborate on your prioritization list. Explain your ranking.
When we prioritize infrastructure projects we have to think about the number of people potentially served and the extent to which we can improve their lives by increasing access to goods and services, economic mobility, and housing opportunities. For those reasons, fare free public transit will have the greatest impact on residents in the City of Asheville and Buncombe County. Livingston Street is a neighborhood corridor that provides connectivity for folks living in that neighborhood to community resources at the Wesley Grant Center, medical services such as Mission Hospital, and education opportunities at AB Tech, as well as proximity to the riverfront redevelopment and Riverside Drive greenway. The Coxe Avenue project will provide valuable connectivity within the South Slope neighborhood, in an area where improvements are necessary for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. As the data collected by AOB after several street tweaks shows, vehicular speeds were significantly reduced along this corridor, while visibility of pedestrians and cyclists was increased. While the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium does require significant renovation, I do not support the $100 million proposal, because I believe this money would be better used on transit and affordable housing. By implementing fare free public transit and the proposed complete street projects listed above, we can reduce the number of cars on our roads (and the need for parking) and continue to make Asheville safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
As a candidate for City Council, I’ve had several meetings with members of city and county government to discuss how we can better fund public transit and multimodal transportation. In these meetings I’ve repeatedly advocated for using TDA funds for public transit and bike infrastructure, as well as a downtown circulator. I’ve also had discussions surrounding the expansion of transit by collaborating with Buncombe County to share our resources. Because half of Asheville’s workers live in the county, fare free public transit would enable them to get to and from work without having to rely on a car by using a series of park & ride facilities rather than driving. It would also improve economic mobility for folks by providing access to more jobs. Through the discussions I’ve had, I believe we are closer than ever to securing funding for transit.

What are your thoughts regarding tactical urbanism projects in Asheville? How does AoB’s Coxe Ave report inform your position? Are you inclined to support or resist future tactical urbanism projects? Articulate your thoughts.
AOB’s tactical urbanism projects not only raise awareness of the benefits of complete streets, but they’ve also proven effective in reducing vehicular speeds by raising driver’s awareness. I support the tactical urbanism projects as a means to test different types of interventions that will encourage bike and pedestrian use, and I will support funding for the eventual installation of more permanent measures as determined through these projects.

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?
By providing folks in all neighborhoods across our city with safe and reliable multimodal transportation infrastructure, they’re able to access daily needs (groceries, prescriptions, libraries), which leads to better quality of life and economic mobility. By contrast, forcing folks to rely on vehicular transportation places a significant financial burden on folks who are already struggling. The costs associated with purchasing, maintaining, and repairing a car, as well as carrying insurance create barriers for folks with limited means, and force them to make concessions that push them towards lower-cost housing, which tends to be farther away from job centers, and services.

What is the most impactful transportation investment city council could approve to advance transportation? How do you measure the return on this investment?
City Council should prioritize collaborating with Buncombe County to create a fare free public transit system, with park & ride facilities in the County and expanded and more reliable service. This suite of public transit expansions is the single most impactful change City Council can make. It is broadly supported by city residents, and it would have far reaching returns on investment. Specifically, it will increase residents’ access to jobs and services, especially for lower income individuals who may not have reliable access to a car. It will take cars off the road reducing our net carbon emissions. Finally, by creating an expansive and reliable public transit system, we will make other alternative transit safer as vehicular congestion decreases.


Sage Turner headshotSage Turner, Asheville City Council Candidate

Will you participate in “Get There AVL – Primary Candidate Forum,” on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

If you participate in the general election, will you participate in “Get There AVL – General Forum,” scheduled for Thursday Oct. 8 from 6pm – 8pm
Yes – The date is on my calendar

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Asheville?
Your question implored me to study this. Turns out, I walk significantly more than any other mode. I live and work along primary corridors, affording me the opportunity and infrastructure to do so. Followed by electric vehicle use. Then biking.

Rank these five projects in order from most important to least important.
Fare Free Transit [Highest Priority]
Coxe Ave complete street treatment
Livingston St complete street treatment
Additional Downtown Motorized Vehicular Parking
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation [Lowest Priority]

Elaborate on your prioritization list. Explain your 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 Ashevillians’ 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.

Please identify one way in which 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 and Chair of Affordable Housing. The outcomes include: Financial incentives when building affordable housing near transit stops and along transit corridors; Urging Council to approve transit passes for volunteers (just passed!); 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 regarding tactical urbanism projects in Asheville? How does AoB’s Coxe Ave report inform your position? Are you inclined to support or resist future tactical urbanism projects? Articulate your thoughts.
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 pedestrian 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.


Kim Roney headshotKim Roney, Asheville City Council Candidate

Will you participate in “Get There AVL – Primary Candidate Forum,” on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

If you participate in the general election, will you participate in “Get There AVL – General Forum,” scheduled for Thursday Oct. 8 from 6pm – 8pm
Yes – The date is on my calendar

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Asheville?
I am a transit-dependent pedestrian and cyclist who occasionally carpools. I’m excited about installing a removable, wheeled crate on my bike this Spring that will make grocery shopping much easier!

Rank these five projects in order from most important to least important.
Fare Free Transit [Highest Priority]
Coxe Ave complete street treatment
Livingston St complete street treatment
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation
Additional Downtown Motorized Vehicular Parking [Lowest Priority]

Elaborate on your prioritization list. Explain your ranking.

  1. A fare-free, regional transit system is at the intersection of equitable access, economic mobility, and environmental sustainability. It is not only doable, it is critical to the health and well-being of our entire community. I first got on the bus during the fare-free trial in 2006 because removing fees as a barrier of entry meant my next biggest concern was, “now I just have to figure out how to get off the bus!” I fell in love with Asheville on the bus: I’ve watched children grow up; I’ve gotten to know my drivers and fellow riders; I’ve navigated our hilly terrain more efficiently by putting my bike on the front of the bus; and I’ve experienced many ways we can and must do transit better. Asheville needs collaboration with Buncombe County and across Western North Carolina, prioritizing truly multimodal accessibility.
  2. The Coxe Ave Street Tweaks project, which was always meant to be temporary, now has a year of data to inform next steps. Because the design dramatically slowed vehicular speeds of our neighbors and visitors, improving safety for all commuters, I do not think it’s wise or moral to revert to the street’s original design. It’s time to follow through with permanent solutions that include community input from the neighborhood as well as adjacent neighborhoods commuting through the corridor.
  3. The Southside community has expressed specific needs for their community for years, and neighbors are organizing through Southside Rising. The City needs to acknowledge those needs through additional engagement followed by community-led solutions for Livingston Street. Using participatory democracy and budgeting, which are key tenets of my platform, we can remove barriers to participation and realize a community-led project with a neighborhood that has too long lacked investment in infrastructure.
  4. I’m a classically-trained musician who’s training musicians, and I want a home for the Asheville Symphony, but not as currently proposed. Just 5 years ago, the Civic Center Commission proposed rebuilding the Thomas Wolfe with an estimate of $55 million. The new proposal’s price tag has exploded to $110 million at a time when our community’s most pressing needs are being neglected. Asheville just became the first city in North Carolina to officially declare a climate emergency, and we need to act responsibly and urgently. Before we completely overhaul the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, let’s determine what an investment from occupancy taxes towards our resilient future will look like. We need to invest in deeply-affordable housing through creative and collaborative solutions along transit corridors; address our crumbling infrastructure; secure our food and water systems; restore our tree canopy; and connect our neighbors and visitors through an accessible, multimodal network. This network can be built through serious improvements in multimodal infrastructure, including but not limited to: complete streets, sidewalks & pedestrian infrastructure that meet NACTO guidelines; ADA accessibility; separated bike lanes; and signal timing that permits crossings while all vehicular traffic is at a complete stop.
  5. Through coalition, we are demanding multimodal infrastructure that intersects with transformational public safety and environmental justice. This means divesting from vehicular infrastructure like parking so we can invest in people while healing our planet. This work cannot be done alone, which is why I’m sharing in the work by running with Nicole Townsend. Hearing her call to action, I have filed an official complaint with the Human Relations Commission, demanding that the written consent to search protections now provided to Asheville drivers be extended to cyclists and pedestrians as well. Let’s join in collective liberation so we can all commute safely; then we can prioritize building housing and multimodal infrastructure instead of parking spaces!

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
When Nathanael and I donated our car to charity in 2008, our intention was to address our dependence on fossil fuels. It was a year-long experiment that became a lifestyle, and the transition wasn’t easy. By changing my habits I’m shifting my attitude, and I understand that we need a social attitude adjustment that addresses the stigmas of using active transportation.Asheville has the 3rd highest bike and pedestrian accident ratio in North Carolina. We need experience from those most impacted represented on Council, ensuring prioritization of the budget, planning, and policies. Because not all of my neighbors can get out of their cars yet, and for all those who don’t have a car to rely on, I advocate through Better Buses Together; work in solidarity as a member of Asheville on Bikes; report back from over a dozen civic meetings every month; have attended all but 3 Council meetings over the past 5 years; and I have applied my experience by serving on the Multimodal Transportation Commission and Transit Committee for 4 years, also serving on the Downtown Sub-Committee for Parking & Transportation.

My volunteer roles included advising Council and staff on safety issues for dozens of projects and plans, like the Transit Master Plan and equity issues around Vision Zero policy, which is used across the globe to address safety through design but has a variety of issues around enforcement. I’ve learned that the work we need to do requires collaboration. Now I’m asking my friends & neighbors to send me to the Council to ensure follow-through with and for our community to Be ‘Bout it Being Better.

What are your thoughts regarding tactical urbanism projects in Asheville? How does AoB’s Coxe Ave report inform your position? Are you inclined to support or resist future tactical urbanism projects? Articulate your thoughts.
I will enthusiastically support tactical urbanism! My students and their families joined me in participating in the Coxe Avenue tactical urbanism project, which was such a brilliant, participatory action for positive change. The street was previously designed to move cars quickly, and the report shows that needed safety metrics like traffic speed reduction through design, affordable infrastructure, and art is possible. Our community has learned a lot from our first tactical urbanism project, and I’m thankful the Street Tweaks partners like Asheville on Bikes have shared comprehensive review, as have neighbors and local businesses.I’m excited about the next project at the intersection of Westwood and Waynesville, an intersection that’s part of my daily commute and will improve safe, multimodal access for my neighborhood. I understand neighbors across the city are ready to participate in community-led solutions like this, so let’s roll!

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?
I know my fellow Asheville on Bikes folks to be kind and empathetic. I’m going to dig into this one a bit and share my what I’m learning on the journey to advocate with and for our community.I’ve been thinking a lot about long-term accountability. I recently knocked on the door of the home where my great-grandmother lived in Kenilworth, and I’m having conversations now with young adult neighbors I taught when they were in elementary school. I feel the pressure as we’re acknowledging our history while writing the next chapter of Asheville’s story.Understanding Asheville’s history of redlining, urban renewal, and how our school system has failed our Black students and families means listening to heart-breaking stories of intentional divestment and displacement. Addressing our root issues of poverty will include building bridges and breaking down walls as we remove barriers to participation in community engagement around our budget, planning, and policies. The journey to becoming one of the fastest-gentrifying cities in the country didn’t happen overnight, and addressing the fears of vulnerable neighborhoods will be tremendous work.We need creative ways to address needs identified in neighborhood plans. That means following up on the input provided by those most impacted by systemic racism, and ensuring frontline communities are represented at the table during every point of decision making. I hear so many neighbors say they’ve gone to meetings and filled out surveys, but nothing came of it. I acknowledge the fear when being labeled an “opportunity zone” means having to ask who benefits from the opportunity. Infrastructure and mobility improvements make a neighborhood more accessible and safer to navigate and therefore more desirable for folks to move in so property taxes to go up. We’re in a challenging situation since neighborhoods are being left behind and neighbors displaced, but we need to invest in preservation of our historic Black neighborhoods.One tool we can use to build trust is participatory budgeting, which is currently being implemented in Greensboro and Durham. This is a pool of funds for capital improvements that are decided through a community process outside of the structures of government, which means you can start voting in middle school and the process could be housed in places like community centers, food trucks, and music venues. It funds capital projects (anything you can build). Think sidewalks, pedestrian-activated crosswalk signals, and bus stop infrastructure. My hope is that this will lead to more neighbors joining in the conversation about how our tax dollars are being allocated, and that our youth participating in the decisions will be a contagious cause for celebration!

What is the most impactful transportation investment city council could approve to advance transportation? How do you measure the return on this investment?
Our occupancy taxes from our tourism industry should be funding the Downtown Circulator identified in the Transit Master Plan. The benefits would be measured in traffic counts for all modes and accounting for parking revenue, which could be increased if the circulator connected with park and ride service centered on the needs of the people of Asheville. A trolley-style service similar to the one in Knoxville would honor our city’s history of having a trolley that my great-great Aunt Faye used here; could be fully electric with a fast-charging system; would be a solution to getting our visitors out of cars while supporting our Downtown businesses and workers; and would look really beautiful in our city.


Keith Young headshotKeith Young, Asheville City Council Candidate

Will you participate in “Get There AVL – Primary Candidate Forum,” on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

If you participate in the general election, will you participate in “Get There AVL – General Forum,” scheduled for Thursday Oct. 8 from 6pm – 8pm
Yes – The date is on my calendar

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Asheville?
I mostly drive a vehicle.

Rank these five projects in order from most important to least important.
Fare Free Transit [Highest Priority]
Livingston St complete street treatment
Coxe Ave complete street treatment
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation
Additional Downtown Motorized Vehicular Parking [Lowest Priority]

Elaborate on your prioritization list. Explain your ranking.
Fare Free transit will help get more people out of their cars and onto the buses and it is equitable to those who ride our buses as a necessity and not as a choice rider or second option. Also, prioritizing infrastructure needs is critical to our city’s basic needs. Coxe Ave. and Livingston could be interchangeable priority wise depending on whether or not an equity lens is applied. Thomas Wolfe is a city asset we should take care of, but how we move forward on that is still being determined. Lastly, more parking means more cars. Simply put I’d like to move away from that prioritization in downtown Asheville.

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.

Since being in office the city of Asheville has paved more roads, built more sidewalks and improved more city infrastructure than any other time within the last 25 years or more. A great deal of that is due to my involvement in being a key architect of our bonds program to help improve our critical infrastructure needs.

What are your thoughts regarding tactical urbanism projects in Asheville? How does AoB’s Coxe Ave report inform your position? Are you inclined to support or resist future tactical urbanism projects? Articulate your thoughts.
I support it. Cities around the world are using flexible and short-term projects to advance long-term goals related to street safety, and public space. It can also be cost effective in many instances. It can change the way we as a community think and view project development and delivery methods.

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?
I would encourage our equity and Inclusion department to do a deep and wholistic dive into any policy recommendations when you bring up the term gentrification. There are many variables at play for any given situation. One should not paint a response with such a broad brush. The definitions of gentrification itself seem simple but when applied to real life situations I’d prefer we take advantage of what most cities don’t have, and that is an equity and inclusion team to give us Asheville specific observations and recommendations.

What is the most impactful transportation investment city council could approve to advance transportation? How do you measure the return on this investment?
Between continued implementation of the transit master plan, building system capacity and implementing fare free transit, those priorities would have the greatest impact on our system. ROI looks best when ridership numbers go up, the system is fully funded, and it operates at a more efficient level than our system currently does.


Shane McCarthy headshotShane McCarthy, Asheville City Council Candidate

Will you participate in “Get There AVL – Primary Candidate Forum,” on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

If you participate in the general election, will you participate in “Get There AVL – General Forum,” scheduled for Thursday Oct. 8 from 6pm – 8pm
Yes – The date is on my calendar

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Asheville?
Since I work in construction, I have to transport tools and materials all around Buncombe and Henderson counties, so driving is usually my only option. I live in the East End/Valley Street neighborhood close to downtown, so when my wife Emily and I want to meet some friends after work, we will usually walk downtown. She is also a downtown worker and commutes by foot.

Rank these five projects in order from most important to least important.
Coxe Ave complete street treatment [Highest Priority]
Livingston St complete street treatment
Fare Free Transit
Additional Downtown Motorized Vehicular Parking
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation [Lowest Priority]

Elaborate on your prioritization list. Explain your ranking.
Asheville is consistently one of the most dangerous cities in North Carolina for transportation, so street improvements that increase safety for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians are a top priority. I have a civil engineering degree from NC State University, and I’ve worked at an engineering firm where we designed roads and intersections, and at the NC Department of Transportation where we oversaw contracts for highway projects. This gives me the skills and experience to prioritize cost-effective improvements to make our city safer.A thriving transit system is essential for a 21st century city, so that should be another top priority. We need to extend our hours, increase frequency, and eliminate fares so our bus system works for the workers who keep our city running. Because of the format of the form above, I had to enter this is “”low priority”” – It is NOT low priority! And we can certainly do both instead of pitting these two cohesive goals against each other.

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
Last November, someone asked me for help at a community meeting. She has vision impairment, and asked if I could help her get audible pedestrian crosswalk signals at the intersection of South Charlotte Street and Biltmore Avenue so she could get around safely. I said I would try my best. Asheville consistently ranks as the most dangerous city in North Carolina for pedestrian deaths. You shouldn’t have to take your life in your hands to get around in this city. After a week of phone calls and emails, we got a commitment from the NC Department of Transportation to install the signals. A couple of weeks ago, it got real: I saw a crew out installing them! I had to stop by and thank the workers. This is one of many projects we needed to do to make our city safer. The person who asked was thrilled, and she said it would greatly improve her independence. On City Council, I will be an advocate for more projects like this so we can make our transportation safer and more accessible.

What are your thoughts regarding tactical urbanism projects in Asheville? How does AoB’s Coxe Ave report inform your position? Are you inclined to support or resist future tactical urbanism projects? Articulate your thoughts.
I love tactical urbanism! The Coxe avenue improvements had some issues with flaking paint, but overall, it was a big win for the community. By narrowing the roadway, placing planters and parked cars near the travel lanes, and including visual indicators that drivers are in an urban space, the project made Coxe Avenue much safer.According to the Coxe Avenue report, average vehicle speeds dropped significantly. This is a huge win for pedestrian safety, since the speed of a collision dramatically increases the chance of a fatality. I would certainly support projects like this in the future, and I would support making these installations permanent.”

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?
It’s cheaper to ride a bike than to own, maintain, and drive a car, and it’s even cheaper to just walk. Some people have a deeply ingrained cultural image of cyclists as wealthy hobbyists, but that simply isn’t the case for many riders who use a bike as their primary form of transportation.If we’re going to be a fair and equitable city, we need to make our transportation system accessible to those who can’t afford to have a car. That means filling in the gaps in our sidewalk and crosswalk networks, and expanding access to safe multi-use paths (greenways) and bike lanes where appropriate.These improvements need to be prioritized in the neighborhoods where there is the most need, not just the loudest voices. We can’t just make things better in wealthy neighborhoods. We need to get these projects done in historically black neighborhoods where the city has always avoided investment: Southside, Shiloh, Burton Street, and the East End.

What is the most impactful transportation investment city council could approve to advance transportation? How do you measure the return on this investment?
The most impactful thing we can do is improve our bus system so it works for the people who keep our city running. That means increasing frequency and making the bus run later so our service, retail, hospitality, and healthcare workers can make it home. It also means moving to an electric bus fleet so we can fight climate change and keep diesel fumes out of our lungs.It’s going to take some investment to fund these improvements. We will measure success by seeing bus ridership skyrocket like it did the first time we went fare-free. We will see this investment pay for itself through fewer car commutes, less strain on downtown streets and parking, less money spent on ride share services, and more people making it to work on time.


Buncombe County Commissioner Candidates

Nancy Nehls Nelson headshotNancy Nehls Nelson, Buncombe County Commissioner Candidate

What, if any, is your party affiliation?
Democrat

What district are you seeking to represent?
District 1

Asheville on Bikes & Connect Buncombe are hosting a city council candidate forum on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St from 6pm – 8pm. While this forum is focused on city council candidates, we welcome you to join us.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Buncombe county?
Truck

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Buncombe County safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
Working for 14 years on County Land Conservation Advisory Board to protect farms and open land from unwise development while encouraging updating county land use ordinances. This issue demands multiple participant buy-in which continues to be a challenge.

Local governments in North Carolina have opportunities to fund greenways and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure from a variety of sources including the government’s general fund which is mostly derived from current property taxes, proceeds from general obligation bonds approved by voters, and when allowed by the legislature, a proportion of sales taxes. What are your thoughts about appropriate sources of funding for Buncombe County to utilize into the future?

  • Municipal funding in the form of voter-approved general obligation bonds (in Woodfin and Asheville) as well as from municipal general fund sources

  • Federal transportation grants under the Surface Transportation Program program administered by the local French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization

  • Tourism Product Development Fund Grants from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

  • From the NC Department of Transportation when done in conjunction with roadway projects.

  • Grants from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund

  • Private foundation grants

  • Private donations of both funds and property easements for greenway corridors.

Consider many of the above for different phases of development. Prioritize what would give our county residents the best return on investment, which in my opinion is moving people to and from their home to where they work. This is desperately needed. Workers are needed at locations without public transportation, so regardless of what their wages are, they need to get to and from work. How helpful safe, well-planned greenways would be between, say, Asheville and Woodfin.

Greenways and bike/ped projects in Buncombe County have gained funding from the following sources. What should the county’s role in these funding partnerships be? Leading or following? At what general funding proportion or percentage? Should the emerging Dogwood Healthcare Trust be a partner as well – why or why not?
I firmly believe different sources should be considered for different phases of alternative transportation projects. The county should be a major player where the economic well-being of the county is a priority, including moving workers to and from jobs. The emerging Dogwood Healthcare Trust may be a partner in the future. Currently, other issues are taking priority with them.

About 50% of the county’s tax base is located in unincorporated areas and about 50% is located within municipalities. In light of this geographic distribution of property taxpayers, how should county resources be allocated for greenways and bicycle / pedestrian projects outside and inside of municipalities?
Combining Asheville, Montreat, Black Mountain, Weaverville, Woodfin and Biltmore Forest as municipalities most likely amounts to more than 50% of the county tax base. As a commissioner, I would have access to this information and would study allocation of county resources on a case by case basis.

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?
Everyone in a community benefits when alternative transportation is considered.

The following are often seen as the community benefits of greenways and bicycle pedestrian facilities. In your vision for Buncombe County, which of these are more valid and relevant, and which are less?

  • Recreation

  • Fitness and Health

  • Tourism Development

  • Community Redevelopment and Economic Development

  • Transportation

  • Environmental 

 

More: Community redevelopment & economic development, transportation
Less: Tourism Development
Others in between

What is the most impactful transportation investment Buncombe County could support to advance our transportation system? How would you measure the return on this investment?
An investment to build, maintain, and promote a reliable digital broadband network for the entire county. This would allow people to live, work, and play outside of Asheville. People would be able to work from home, live farther out in the county, and take advantage of NOT having to use transportation for a major part of their livelihood. It would be measured by growth away from Asheville and attracting new businesses to other municipalities, reducing traffic to and from the center of the county.


Donna Ensley headshotDonna Ensley, Buncombe County Commissioner Candidate

What, if any, is your party affiliation?
Democrat

What district are you seeking to represent?
District 3

Asheville on Bikes & Connect Buncombe are hosting a city council candidate forum on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St from 6pm – 8pm. While this forum is focused on city council candidates, we welcome you to join us.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Buncombe county?
I live in Arden where the roads are narrow and windy. I get around town using a car, however, I love biking and often take my bike to local green ways to get out and enjoy the fresh air and exercise. My vacation last summer was a bike and barge trip in Germany. Spectacular!

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Buncombe County safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
I have been standing up with neighbors asking for infrastructure before development. Ideally this infrastructure will include bike lanes, green ways and multi modal transportation options. Roads that were once lightly used and possibly safe for walking and biking are now overcrowded. Roads I once considered “safe” for biking I would no longer use for recreation because of the traffic volume. As we plan for our future, we must create options for folks seeking a healthy alternative to using their cars to get around.

Local governments in North Carolina have opportunities to fund greenways and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure from a variety of sources including the government’s general fund which is mostly derived from current property taxes, proceeds from general obligation bonds approved by voters, and when allowed by the legislature, a proportion of sales taxes. What are your thoughts about appropriate sources of funding for Buncombe County to utilize into the future?

  • Municipal funding in the form of voter-approved general obligation bonds (in Woodfin and Asheville) as well as from municipal general fund sources

  • Federal transportation grants under the Surface Transportation Program program administered by the local French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization

  • Tourism Product Development Fund Grants from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

  • From the NC Department of Transportation when done in conjunction with roadway projects.

  • Grants from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund

  • Private foundation grants

  • Private donations of both funds and property easements for greenway corridors.

All are equally important. As a strategic planning specialist who has helped organizations plan for growth and future development for 20 years, I would seek a consensus from the Commission and all entities of interest to implement all phases of the Buncombe County Greenway Master Plan including:

  • Secure Local Funding Commitments
  • Identify available funding through Buncombe County’s annual budget for implementation of the Greenways & Trails Master
  • Plan. Coordinate programs and projects investment with cities and towns.
  • Identify Strategic Grant Opportunities
  • Work with County leaders, non-profits, local and regional governments, and major employers to methodically identify the most appropriate funding sources for new projects and programs.
  • Cultivate Existing Partnerships & Identify New Partners
  • Build upon the momentum created by Connect Buncombe and the Greenways Please campaign to formalize existing partnerships and pursue new partners with public and private sector interests.
  • Create a Landowner Outreach Program Develop strategies along with a robust program to maintain consistent contact with landowners adjacent to planned greenways as the County and its partners work toward acquiring property for greenways.
  • From that work we could move forward and:
  • Update Ordinances
  • Pursue Conservation via Ordinances & Alliances
  • Develop Standards & Specifications for Greenways
  • Work with cities and towns to develop a common set of design standards and specifications to be applied to new greenway construction to ensure consistent construction standards and maintainability.
  • Develop corridor-specific plans

Greenways and bike/ped projects in Buncombe County have gained funding from the following sources. What should the county’s role in these funding partnerships be? Leading or following? At what general funding proportion or percentage? Should the emerging Dogwood Healthcare Trust be a partner as well – why or why not?
Buncombe County should take the lead to secure federal, NC Dept of Transportation and foundation grants. Additionally, I would advocate that the county work in collaboration with the TDA, towns, municipalities and the City of Asheville who are impacted by the plan to succeed in reaching the end-goal of funding the building and connection of all greenways identified in the master plan. The county should encourage private donations through each of the Greenway segments identified in the Master plan via the municipalities they serve.

About 50% of the county’s tax base is located in unincorporated areas and about 50% is located within municipalities. In light of this geographic distribution of property taxpayers, how should county resources be allocated for greenways and bicycle / pedestrian projects outside and inside of municipalities?
Due to the benefits of the overall economy of the county, the health benefits of ALL residents of the county who use the greenways and the positive environmental impact, all taxpayers should benefit from the greenways, even if they do not live directly in a town impacted. If the financial plan consists of a shared approach involving a combination of federal, state DOT grants along with business/TDA and through educational outreach show the benefits to all residents, I would advocate for this even-handed approach to the completion and maintenance of the greenways.

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?
I see the creation of transportation hubs as we address infrastructure needs that make public transportation more accessible and reliable throughout the county and would advocate and support this a part of infrastructure development. Ideally a master plan for greenways will impact every area of our county so that the health benefits can be realized by everyone in every part of our community.

The following are often seen as the community benefits of greenways and bicycle pedestrian facilities. In your vision for Buncombe County, which of these are more valid and relevant, and which are less?

  • Recreation

  • Fitness and Health

  • Tourism Development

  • Community Redevelopment and Economic Development

  • Transportation

  • Environmental 

All of these benefits are of vital importance when talking about greenways and bicycle pedestrian friendly facilities.
NCDOT recently changed its mission statement to “Connecting people and places safely and efficiently, with accountability and environmental sensitivity to enhance the economy, health and well-being of North Carolina.” By including health and well-being in its mission statement, NCDOT is recognizing that transportation is more than just getting from one place to another, but also has a measurable effect on quality of life.
I would advocate on the Commission the position of (1) economic impact of upfront construction of the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, which translates into a one-time stimulus of economic activity and job creation during the construction period; (2) The economic impact of ongoing use of the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. This impact comes largely in the form of tourism that is attracted to the state by the existence of the infrastructure. Tourism attractions bring in purchasing power from outside the state to support economic activity and employment within it; (3) The direct use value enjoyed by users of the bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure; (4) The health care cost reduction from increased active living resulting from the newfound access to a recreational amenity; (5) The commuting gains that will occur as commuters opt for biking.

What is the most impactful transportation investment Buncombe County could support to advance our transportation system? How would you measure the return on this investment?

  1. Create transportation hubs as we address infrastructure needs that make public transportation more accessible and reliable throughout the county
  2. Implementing fully the Buncombe County Master Greenway Plan

Terri Wells headshotTerri Wells, Buncombe County Commissioner Candidate

What, if any, is your party affiliation?
Democrat

What district are you seeking to represent?
District 1

Asheville on Bikes & Connect Buncombe are hosting a city council candidate forum on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St from 6pm – 8pm. While this forum is focused on city council candidates, we welcome you to join us.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Buncombe county?
I live in Sandy Mush, and I rely on my car for transportation when commuting. When in Asheville, I enjoy walking where we have safe sidewalks and on the greenways. When living in Chapel Hill and Boulder, I regularly used their bus systems; I think we can benefit from a better mass transit system in Buncombe County and I look forward to working collaboratively to help improve it.

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Buncombe County safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
I collaborated with Jen Billstrom of Velo Girl Rides to help launch Sandy Mush Cycle to Farm in an effort to promote our farms and conservation efforts, as well as improve cycling awareness. I still meet people who tell me that the Sandy Mush Cycle to Farm was their favorite experience. It was, in part, a great experience due to the excellent safety support provided during the event; I do, however, realize that many of our roads are not as safe as I would like them to be for cyclists. Additionally, I recently advocated on behalf of those in the surrounding UNC-Asheville neighborhood when a newly planned parking lot was going to be placed in a small forested area at the corner of Barnard and Edgewood with an exit and entry that was going to be very dangerous for pedestrian and cycling traffic on Edgewood Rd. I emphasized this safety element in meetings with UNC-Asheville staff, and they did not proceed with building this additional parking lot. This respectful dialogue and meetings between community leaders and UNC- Asheville leadership brought about a resolution to community safety concerns.

Local governments in North Carolina have opportunities to fund greenways and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure from a variety of sources including the government’s general fund which is mostly derived from current property taxes, proceeds from general obligation bonds approved by voters, and when allowed by the legislature, a proportion of sales taxes. What are your thoughts about appropriate sources of funding for Buncombe County to utilize into the future?

  • Municipal funding in the form of voter-approved general obligation bonds (in Woodfin and Asheville) as well as from municipal general fund sources

  • Federal transportation grants under the Surface Transportation Program program administered by the local French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization

  • Tourism Product Development Fund Grants from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

  • From the NC Department of Transportation when done in conjunction with roadway projects.

  • Grants from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund

  • Private foundation grants

  • Private donations of both funds and property easements for greenway corridors.

It is wise to look at all funding sources, utilize private/public partnerships, and work collaboratively with our municipalities to help fund the projects that will benefit our citizens and community. I would be open to using any of the funding sources suggested, and I am especially interested in how we could use more of the hotel taxes to fund local greenways and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure that will benefit our residents, as well as tourists, and improve our quality of life. I support a greater percentage of hotel taxes going into the tourism product development grants, and I support those grants being more easily available to these infrastructure projects.

Greenways and bike/ped projects in Buncombe County have gained funding from the following sources. What should the county’s role in these funding partnerships be? Leading or following? At what general funding proportion or percentage? Should the emerging Dogwood Healthcare Trust be a partner as well – why or why not?
Greenways improve quality of life and create healthier, more livable communities. You can count on me to help lead on this important quality of life issue that will impact our health, economy, and environment. Yes, the county should lead. It is likely that the benefits of greenways will be in line with the desired outcomes of Dogwood Trust grants. As Commissioner, I will pursue every potential partnership to move forward on greenways and bike / ped projects to benefit our residents now and in the future.

About 50% of the county’s tax base is located in unincorporated areas and about 50% is located within municipalities. In light of this geographic distribution of property taxpayers, how should county resources be allocated for greenways and bicycle / pedestrian projects outside and inside of municipalities?
As with any county budgeting issues, the totality of the county needs must be taken into account when assessing spending. I am known for listening and bringing people together to find common ground and develop and deliver solutions, having done so on farm and forest conservation, expanding broadband, and improving outcomes for our public school students. You can count on me to work collaboratively with municipalities to ensure that we have a strategic approach to connecting Buncombe.

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?
Active transportation can have a major effect on a community’s quality of life. It affects not only the public health, but also the economy, environment and overall livability of a community. Lowered transportation costs, reduced air pollution, as well as the increase in transportation options are beneficial to everyone, especially lower socioeconomic groups. I would seek to invest in active transportation that serves the people living in their communities, which requires listening to and connecting with locals to understand and champion their transportation needs.

The following are often seen as the community benefits of greenways and bicycle pedestrian facilities. In your vision for Buncombe County, which of these are more valid and relevant, and which are less?

  • Recreation

  • Fitness and Health

  • Tourism Development

  • Community Redevelopment and Economic Development

  • Transportation

  • Environmental 

These benefits are interrelated, which actually strengthens the case for greenways. A well designed and connected greenway system will encourage recreation and an active and healthy lifestyle that will also benefit the environment by providing multimodal options for people to utilize thereby improving our public transportation system. Well designed greenways and communities are attractive not only to tourists, but also for economic development opportunities because the companies we want to attract with high paying jobs want a high quality of life for their employees.

What is the most impactful transportation investment Buncombe County could support to advance our transportation system? How would you measure the return on this investment?
We need to have a broad vision to advance our transportation system. We must address affordable housing density, a more efficient and accessible public transit system, and multimodal greenways connecting Buncombe. When our citizens are healthy and active and able to have transportation options, we will be making progress.


Anthony Penland headshotAnthony Penland, Buncombe County Commissioner Candidate

What, if any, is your party affiliation?
Republican

What district are you seeking to represent?
District 2

Asheville on Bikes & Connect Buncombe are hosting a city council candidate forum on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St from 6pm – 8pm. While this forum is focused on city council candidates, we welcome you to join us.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Buncombe county?
I drive an automobile for my transportation needs.

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Buncombe County safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
A primary and critical role of government is the safety of its citizens. As a member of the public safety sector for thirty years, I have personally witnessed tragic circumstances involving cyclists and pedestrians when mixed in or near motor vehicle traffic. I have been blessed to have been educated more and more on cycling safety, relevant laws and have pursued information to assist increasing the safety of our cycling community. With that being said, I do more than just gather information and facts. I have committed emergency resources and my personal time to assist in multiple cycling events. From planning with cycling professionals, putting emergency personnel and equipment into action during large scale events, to putting on a traffic vest and directing traffic for the cyclist’s safety. These activities and support have always been a very positive engagement. As hundreds of cyclists rode by my post, almost all yelled “Thank you!” as we both gave a head nod of appreciation for each other. The Bookwalter Binge, Cycle to Farm and other events are an important part of economic development and many other positive aspects for our area.

Pedestrians and cyclists have several safety factors that I believe need addressed throughout the county. Resources, education of the public on laws, infrastructure and many other aspects will be looked at. You can be assured that safety will be at the forefront of my efforts when serving you.

Local governments in North Carolina have opportunities to fund greenways and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure from a variety of sources including the government’s general fund which is mostly derived from current property taxes, proceeds from general obligation bonds approved by voters, and when allowed by the legislature, a proportion of sales taxes. What are your thoughts about appropriate sources of funding for Buncombe County to utilize into the future?

  • Municipal funding in the form of voter-approved general obligation bonds (in Woodfin and Asheville) as well as from municipal general fund sources

  • Federal transportation grants under the Surface Transportation Program program administered by the local French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization

  • Tourism Product Development Fund Grants from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

  • From the NC Department of Transportation when done in conjunction with roadway projects.

  • Grants from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund

  • Private foundation grants

  • Private donations of both funds and property easements for greenway corridors.

There are many differing opinions and people who are on different sides of the issue when it comes to greenways and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure. Keep in mind; I believe it is the role of government to make sure our citizens feel safe and secure. I also believe that we must be mindful of those citizens who do not want their tax money spent in this manner. It is a balancing act of what needs to be done and who will be asked to pay for it. As a public safety professional I am an advocate of safety and I am sure that others will say the same thing, we just need to find a source of funding that will assist us in finding that common ground of what is best for all our citizens. I believe the first goal would be to find a source of funding that will not place a burden on our citizens, such as grants, fundraisers and other mechanisms and then examine what is available from county government. Greenways can have a tremendous positive impact on quality of life and a bonus for economic development. That balance will have to be examined for each step.

Greenways and bike/ped projects in Buncombe County have gained funding from the following sources. What should the county’s role in these funding partnerships be? Leading or following? At what general funding proportion or percentage? Should the emerging Dogwood Healthcare Trust be a partner as well – why or why not?
Without the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is the role of government to make sure that our citizens feel safe and secure. Greenways and bike/ped projects will assist in accomplishing that role. I also believe that elected officials are elected to be leaders not followers. We should look for, identify and create partnerships that will assist in completing projects that promote the safety and security of our citizens, while reducing the impact to those same citizens. We also have to realize that other items will be brought forth to the commission that will require a partnership with the same individuals that we have partnered with for the greenways and bike/ped projects. We have to work together with all parties involved to find what is best for all the citizens. We need to take each request, look at the request and work with our partners. We also must be mindful that this is a process that will take some time to accomplish. Any partnership agreement should not come without the proper due diligence being done to make sure that the goals set forth in the partnership are both the goals of the county and the partnering agency.

About 50% of the county’s tax base is located in unincorporated areas and about 50% is located within municipalities. In light of this geographic distribution of property taxpayers, how should county resources be allocated for greenways and bicycle / pedestrian projects outside and inside of municipalities?
Here is where the aforementioned balancing act comes full circle. It may be that 50% of the tax base comes from the unincorporated areas and 50% comes from the incorporated areas, what is known is that 100% of that tax base generates the revenues needed to support the county operations. Each jurisdiction, each project and each aspect must be examined for justification. What I will focus on is assuring that our core services can support new projects such as these. Greenways will require public safety services to allocate resources and some special operations to assure adequate protection. Cyclists and pedestrians should be asking how they will be protected by law enforcement, fire and emergency medical in these special areas. That is why looking for outside funding resources first to assist in these projects will help the elected officials with this balancing act. It is more than just about a 50% statistic of tax income, the percentage of people willing to drive projects, use the resource and the willingness to fund the project will all have to be taken into consideration.

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?
When we are inclusive of all aspects of improving pedestrian abilities, cycling areas such as greenways or bike travel infrastructure I will refer to basic human needs first. There are people in this county who must use a variety of ways to access vital services, travel for jobs, or just be able to participate in society. I see a combination of reasons why people might use some of these services. Citizen A cannot afford a car and has to walk along a tight rural road where people have been struck by a vehicle, Citizen B is financially secure but chooses to bike or walk to many activities including work, Citizen C is homeless and wants to get to a drug addiction treatment program, Citizen D has a health condition and their doctor has advised they need exercise. While gentrification may be a topic during roundtable discussions, my key point will remain on looking at citizens who need something, how many there are, the impact, and working to problem-solve in a fiscally responsible way if justified.

The following are often seen as the community benefits of greenways and bicycle pedestrian facilities. In your vision for Buncombe County, which of these are more valid and relevant, and which are less?

  • Recreation

  • Fitness and Health

  • Tourism Development

  • Community Redevelopment and Economic Development

  • Transportation

  • Environmental 

To say that one of these items is more valid or relevant than any of the other items is going to send either a message of support to those who choose this one or a message of non-support to those who choose that one. To me all of the items are relevant to the safety and security of our citizens. These six items compared with all the other items that we are facing are items that have some significance to many of our citizens in one way or another. Can we address all of them? Will addressing one over the other be in the best interest of our citizens? Will addressing this one or that one make us feel safer and secure than the other. The answer to those questions can only be answered once I am in office to be able to do the research as to what the benefits will be and what the investment strategy should look like. I am going to support and push the safety and security of our citizens.

What is the most impactful transportation investment Buncombe County could support to advance our transportation system? How would you measure the return on this investment?
This is another area that will have differing opinions. Currently, our interstates are not sufficient enough to support the vehicles that are using them in and around Buncombe County. Some of our citizens will request that we put our investments into our interstates. There will be some of our citizens that will say we should invest more into the public transit system to reduce the number of vehicles that are using our roads as the mode of transportation. There will be some that say connecting greenways from the county into the municipalities is the investment we should make. Again these are questions that the answers will seem as a promise to the citizens and these are questions that answering without complete research of all the ways maybe we ought to invest in transportation is the research that I will be willing to do once elected to office. How might I measure the return on the investment, do our citizens feel safer and more secure.


Parker Sloan headshotParker Sloan, Buncombe County Commissioner Candidate

What, if any, is your party affiliation?
Democrat

What district are you seeking to represent?
District 3

Asheville on Bikes & Connect Buncombe are hosting a city council candidate forum on Thursday, Feb. 27th at Wedge at Foundation located at 5 Foundy St from 6pm – 8pm. While this forum is focused on city council candidates, we welcome you to join us.
Yes – The date is on my calendar.

Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you most often get around Buncombe county?
I live in Candler with my family. I own a Prius specifically because it allows me to reduce the environmental impact of driving. My office is downtown, and I enjoy walking to do errands when I am downtown. When I lived in West Asheville, I was able to walk and bike to work and other places. I would love for each part of our county to have reasonable access to nearby greenways for walking and biking, for recreation or commuting.

Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Buncombe County safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. Share the outcome for the community and what you learned.
I have worked on local progressive political campaigns to elect candidates with strong platforms for pedestrians, transit users, and cyclists. One specific candidate was Gordon Smith, who served Asheville for two terms on Asheville City Council and was an effective and ardent advocate for these issues. He lobbied for more sidewalks, bike lanes, and expanding transit.

Local governments in North Carolina have opportunities to fund greenways and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure from a variety of sources including the government’s general fund which is mostly derived from current property taxes, proceeds from general obligation bonds approved by voters, and when allowed by the legislature, a proportion of sales taxes. What are your thoughts about appropriate sources of funding for Buncombe County to utilize into the future?

  • Municipal funding in the form of voter-approved general obligation bonds (in Woodfin and Asheville) as well as from municipal general fund sources

  • Federal transportation grants under the Surface Transportation Program program administered by the local French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization

  • Tourism Product Development Fund Grants from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority

  • From the NC Department of Transportation when done in conjunction with roadway projects.

  • Grants from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund

  • Private foundation grants

  • Private donations of both funds and property easements for greenway corridors.

 

I am a planner by training and professional experience, and I support comprehensive planning for our community so that we can have a plan for responsible growth that includes investment in affordable housing; multimodal transportation options that connect people to places of work, schools, and necessities; farm and forest conservation; and environmental protections. All of the sources of funding specified would be appropriate. I have steadfastly advocated that a greater portion of the hotel taxes go to local projects, which would mean more money available in Tourism Product Development Fund Grants. Our infrastructure needs, however, are great and not able to be funded solely from even a greatly increased TPDF grant program. Our needs should also be significantly funded by Federal and State transportation programs because greenways and bike/ped infrastructure are transportation infrastructure. Transit isn’t mentioned in this question, but I also support these funds being used to create a more robust regional transit system that can connect our residents to greenways and bike/ped infrastructure.

Greenways and bike/ped projects in Buncombe County have gained funding from the following sources. What should the county’s role in these funding partnerships be? Leading or following? At what general funding proportion or percentage? Should the emerging Dogwood Healthcare Trust be a partner as well – why or why not?
The county should absolutely be leading on these issues because we have a responsibility to plan for our community’s future and serve our present needs. I’ll work to develop, maintain, and improve relationships between the county, Asheville, and other municipalities so that we can create more partnerships. It is past time to move beyond the city-county divide. Dogwood Health Trust should be a strong partner in these projects because access to safe recreation and affordable transportation are part of the social determinants of health. Conditions where people live, learn, work, and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. These are called the social determinants of health. Greenways and bike / ped facilities can be health promoting factors because they are used for recreation and exercise, and when used for commuting can reduce transportation costs while encouraging exercise. Dogwood Health Trust (DHT) anticipates total grantmaking of at least $40-$50 million in 2020 (year one), and $75 million in annual grantmaking by 2022. As Commissioner I will lobby DHT for transportation project funding.

About 50% of the county’s tax base is located in unincorporated areas and about 50% is located within municipalities. In light of this geographic distribution of property taxpayers, how should county resources be allocated for greenways and bicycle / pedestrian projects outside and inside of municipalities?
My education and experience includes degrees in Geography and Community Planning, which is a good foundation for approaching how to select potential locations for greenways and all bike/ped related projects, how that infrastructure can support affordable housing and environmental protections, and how to have dialogue with the public about what infrastructure needs they see versus what someone sees when looking at the big picture.

In terms of the geographic locations of projects like greenways, as a Commissioner, I am responsible for the improving the quality of life for all residents within our County. Geographic diversity would be one important consideration in project funding. I, for example, am excited by the Hominy Creek greenway because of its potential to integrate into our existing parks system and transportation/commuting systems. I am also really excited by the proposed Ivy Creek greenway in Barnardsville because of how beautiful that area is, the opportunity to provide infrastructure to an underserved community, and how it could become a unique destination for locals and people throughout Buncombe County.

Good community planning will include listening, creative problem solving, and education in advance of undertaking projects. A comprehensive plan that takes all that into account will be more of a guide to decision-making than strict adherence to proportionality.”

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?
We can and must ensure responsible growth through comprehensive planning and policies including inclusionary zoning. Tools that have been shown to reduce and slow gentrification. A lack of equity in past planning decisions and investment has left parts of our community underinvested and underserved. As we work to catch up and improve options for residents, our planning ought to be developed with a community, not for a community–and definitely not for people who are intended to displace existing residents. Active transportation improvements for existing communities would need to be designed and planned to address unmet existing needs in a manner that is a best practice and serves the existing community.

The following are often seen as the community benefits of greenways and bicycle pedestrian facilities. In your vision for Buncombe County, which of these are more valid and relevant, and which are less?

  • Recreation

  • Fitness and Health

  • Tourism Development

  • Community Redevelopment and Economic Development

  • Transportation

  • Environmental 


For quality of life, the recreation, fitness and health, and environmental benefits stand out. For improving our affordability and sustainability, the transportation and community redevelopment and economic development items are top of the list. There are many good reasons to invest in greenways and bike / ped facilities.

What is the most impactful transportation investment Buncombe County could support to advance our transportation system? How would you measure the return on this investment?
An overhaul of our woefully outdated comprehensive land use plan would include transportation planning and be the greatest advancement on responsible growth; fighting climate change; environmental protection; providing affordable housing connected to jobs, recreation, and necessities; and protecting our forests, farms, and rivers. I’d measure the return in investment in livability scores, walkability scores, and sustainability scores.


City Council Candidates

Rich Lee
Nicole Townsend
Kristen Goldsmith
Sage Turner
Kim Roney
Keith Young
Shane McCarthy

County Commissioner Candidates

Nancy Nehls Nelson
Donna Ensley
Terri Wells
Anthony Penland
Parker Sloan

No response: Larry Ray Baker (City Council); Sandra Kilgore (City Council)

Our responses are posted here in the order they were received. Thank you, candidates, for your thoughtful responses.