Blog › Weighing the progress: What a State of Sustainability report reveals about CLE


Weighing the progress: What a State of Sustainability report reveals about CLE

Marc Lefkowitz  |  11/01/16 @ 12:00pm

Cleveland is making progress on its mission to become a “green city on a blue lake,” said Matt Grey, Director of Cleveland’s Office of Sustainability, during the 8th annual 2016 Sustainability Summit.

Line on progress<br />Cleveland will add 16 miles of bike lanes in its Year of Sustainable Transportation, including those pictured on East 22nd Street. Cleveland Commute Mode Share<br />Cleveland still has a high drive alone rate and has not charted the progress in transit and bike use that other cities have.

The Office's State of Sustainability report just posted to the city’s website, confirming where Cleveland has made progress in sustainability. Notable strides have been made in buildings and in serving as a launch pad for socially conscious enterprises.

The Sustainability Summits have provided a launch pad for a handful of grass roots initiatives, like CiCLEvia, an open streets event that was dreamed up last year and came to fruition this summer.

2016 was tabbed as the Year of Sustainable Transportation—how is it measuring up in this category? Cleveland and biking advocacy group, Bike Cleveland, deserve credit for working together to prioritize biking as transportation. The city will add 16 miles of bike lanes in 2016. By comparison, Cleveland added zero miles of bike lanes in 2010.

But, Cleveland’s “mode split”—the percentage of people using a vehicle other than one with a motor attached to it for commuting—still lags behind other cities, said Summit keynote speaker, Gil Penalosa, of 80-8 Cities.

On important measures of equity in Cleveland’s transportation system, the city/region has seen disappointing numbers.

Clevelanders who commute alone in a car increased by 1% in the last decade to 70.6%. The city's drive-alone rate is 12.72% lower than the five-county Northeast Ohio region’s (83.32%).

Transit ridership in Cleveland also decreased 1.4% in the last decade. No doubt related to service cuts in 2010 at GCRTA which was forced to cut service again in 2016, and may face a giant funding shortfall in 2017 (stoking fears of a transit “death spiral”).

The one small bright spot: Bike commuting increased by 0.2%

The distance Northeast Ohio keeps adding between places has done little to address the auto-choked region, a legacy that has diminished access to employment and denied the opportunity to develop the type of places that are sustainable by design. Cleveland’s once-plentiful walkable neighborhoods and frequent, reliable transit system have diminished while sprawl continues.

Turning Cleveland back into a city where walking, biking and transit are preferred to solo driving will help stabilize households struggling to live there, Penalosa said.

The path to more sustainable buildings has been clearer. The Office of Sustainability has:

  • Restarted the Cleveland Energy Savers program to find inefficiencies and finance home energy improvements.
  • The Cleveland 2030 District has grown to 41 property owners reporting their energy use.
  • The city’s green building policy has put 4,717 homes through the Enterprise Green Communities “greening” program since tying it as a requirement for tax abatement.

Other notable progress on sustainability that Cleveland has made in the last decade– 

  • The city streamlined and improved its curbside recycling program.
  • It created a tree plan with the goal of “making Cleveland the Forest City again.”
  • It launched the Solarize Cleveland program, providing discounts for residential solar panels.
  • It is nearing completion on its first Complete and Green Street project, Fleet Avenue
  • It helped shepherd Project Ice Breaker, the Lake Erie wind farm, to its current pre-development state.

Perhaps lessons from the convergence of the city's green building policy with a recognition of the market demand (driven by developers eager to market their "green" properties) can be applied to Cleveland's transportation policies and projects—in particular, in the city finding a way to get extraordinary examples of complete streets like its home grown project The Midway going before the Year of Transportation is a memory.

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