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RTA taps off-grid power; plus, in search of a coalition to reclaim Cleveland's waterfront

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/26/11 @ 12:06pm

· We blogged this week that the West Shoreway Project is starting to lose its way: Cleveland and ODOT started with $49 million to remove a highway and activate the lakeshore as a walkable, bike-able and Chicago-syle development. Where have the fresh ideas gone?

It's important to not lose sight of what other cities have done to reclaim waterfronts from highways built in the 1950s, and which have separated residents from what they crave. Congress for New Urbanism-besides a bastion for density and smart growth-also advocates for highway diets. CNU's Highways to Boulevards initiative collects stories and helps build the case for tearing down highways along waterfronts. It's a national stage (and connection to CNU's network) for efforts like removing miles of Buffalo's elevated highway which bisects downtown and their lakefront. An inspiring example for Cleveland is the People's Waterfront Coalition in Seattle, which is doing exactly what we had in mind for Cleveland's West Shoreway project.

The battle in Seattle is being joined by citizens (not too long ago, there was a group in Cleveland called the Waterfront Coalition). The Seattle waterfront group has a vision that "encourages an open waterfront that would begin to restore the shoreline and support a vibrant urban place. Opening up 335 acres of public land on Seattle's waterfront could give way to new parks, beaches, and development while saving the city years of construction delays and billions of dollars. 'If you try to build your way out of congestion,' said Moon, 'you'll ruin your city or go broke trying.'

· Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has entered the renewable energy era, in the city of Cleveland Heights. The city invested a $100,000 federal Transit Waiting Environment grant, hired Solar-Impact, renewable energy company based in Shaker Heights to design and DaNite Sign in Columbus to fabricate two solar-powered bus shelters. They were recently installed on Mayfield Road at Coventry and at Warrensville Road. The solar panels will eventually power LED light fixtures- which draw 22 Watts/per fixture-and, with a small battery back up, will produce enough power for a real-time display of the #9 Bus scheduled arrival.

Word from an RTA insider is the agency is making a play to coordinate real-time schedule displays and off-grid power. If RTA can tap more funding to build a few more solar shelters, it can claim it as part of its new sustainability initiative. It also makes sense from a cost and time-to-deliver perspective-solar power doesn't require a lengthy approval process from a city to run an electric line to shelters. Why the sudden interest in lighting shelters and supplying real time information? Actually, RTA's 2002 Transit Waiting Environments rider survey identified lights and real-time bus schedules as top needs. (One critique of the new shelter: The lights appear to be more decorative than focusing on improving safety).

· The Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) recently named Akron landscape designer, Samuel L. Salsbury, as a Fellow at its annual International Landscape Design Conference in Cleveland. Salsbury has built a national reputation combining aesthetics and sustainability into his private practice.

· Speaking of sustainable landscapes, Beyond Pesticides Ohio wants to come to your next meeting and present its "Fabulous Lawn Care Without Chemicals" PowerPoint. As part of its Safe Lawn, Landscapes and Public Spaces Project, it's a discussion of lawn chemicals' health effects on people (especially children), pets and the environment, the growing local and national movement towards eliminating toxic lawn chemicals and affordable solutions for transitioning to natural turf care.

A number of greater Cleveland schools and cities have stopped using lawn chemicals on their school grounds, playing fields and public spaces because these toxins have been associated with asthma, childhood leukemia, learning disabilities, ADHD and other health problems, says Barry Zucker, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides Ohio. Cleveland Heights, Middleburg Heights, Lakewood, and all six acres of Wade Oval at University Circle have eliminated lawn chemicals and have transitioned to more natural turf care practices. Nationally, last year New York state and Connecticut banned lawn chemicals on all school grounds and playing fields.

To schedule a presentation email bzucker@beyondpesticidesohio.org or call 216-371-3263.

· Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11) has introduced legislation aimed at combating childhood obesity. Fit for Life, H.R. 2795, awards grants to 'food desert' communities like Cleveland that don't have supermarkets to build local partnerships (such as urban growers) that sell fresh fruits and veggies. It expands the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, by amending the National School Lunch Act, to include secondary schools, child care centers, and family child care homes, while increasing access to the Summer Food Service Programs for Children.

More than 36% of Cleveland teens in the 9th through 12th grades are obese or overweight compared to nearly 29% in the U.S. for similar age groups. Read more.

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