Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you get around Asheville?
Our personal transportation choices impact our environment, our traffic congestion, and our quality of life. Throughout my 13 years in Asheville I have used a variety of forms of transportation. I have relied on a bicycle as my primary transportation. I rode a fuel-efficient motorcycle. I drove a heavy-duty biodiesel truck when I worked construction. I walked and rode the bus for a time.
Currently, raising a toddler, I drive more often than I used to. Knowing that I was going to be driving with my child, I selected an environmentally responsible car in my price range, a Toyota Prius. My family and I plan ahead so we can limit car trips, carpool, and walk whenever possible.
What do you consider to be the most significant transportation advancement in Asheville and what impact does it have on our community?
Over the last several years Asheville has increased investment in transportation choice, which increases opportunity, affordability, and sustainability. We got 9 new hybrid buses. We added miles of greenways and bike lanes. We added Sunday bus service and increased the number of buses that run on 30-minute routes.
Each improvement is very good on its own, but the combination was intentional and it is this multimodal approach that is the most significant advancement. Recognizing that our transportation options are interconnected is critical and is the basis for the complete streets concept. The reality is that some people will drive cars. Some people will ride bikes. Some people will ride the bus. Others will walk. When we expand our transportation options we create more opportunities for people who can’t drive due to their age, health, or income; we allow people to choose lower-cost alternatives for getting around; and we reduce our CO2 emissions (by reducing dependence on cars).
Please identify one way in which you’ve worked to make Asheville safer for pedestrians, transit users, and / or cyclists. What did you learn from this experience?
For 2 years I was a weekly volunteer at the Asheville Bike Recyclery, a non-profit volunteer-run bike shop committed to sustainable transportation and bicycle accessibility. The Recyclery takes in used and unwanted bicycles and salvages usable parts to give them a second life. The volunteers teach patrons, primarily but not exclusively low income or homeless people, how to work on their own bikes, saving them money and giving them greater independence. During my time there as a volunteer I helped hundreds of people build and maintain their bicycles, making them safer on the road. We also had free or very low cost lights and helmets for riders who otherwise couldn’t afford them.
Through this experience I learned how to help others learn to fix their own bicycles, even if they had very little money. I learned the value of people being able to have access to a form of transportation that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Bikes offer people the freedom to move around town quicker than walking, and are far cheaper than a car or even the bus.
What do you consider to be Asheville’s primary transportation challenge and how do you propose to fix it?
Our primary transportation challenge in Asheville is funding. The state government has been waging a war on any form of transportation that isn’t exclusively cars. Funding and support have completely dried up and they have taken money from the city by removing City revenues, such as the business licensure fees. Additionally, the federal government has less money available for cities the size of Asheville, and we have two members of Congress who do not value sustainable transportation and who do not advocate for us.
There is no easy fix to this challenge, but we must keep transit as a top priority in our budget. 85% of our bus riders do not have another form of transportation; reducing funding for our buses is not an option.
We need to seek creative solutions–more partnerships with the County, businesses, the tourism development authority, and non-profits. This is especially true and possible for greenways. We have a good greenways masterplan in place for the City and the County and we are moving as quickly as possible to implement policy that is good for transportation and good for our economy. We already see cities like Greenville and Travelers Rest, South Carolina benefiting from their investment in greenway infrastructure.The Swamp Rabbit Trail is a 20-mile greenway that has boosted safe transportation and recreation options while adding millions of dollars per year to their local economy.