Tag Archives: environment

Lansing Area Logistics to "Go Green"

Source: gogreentrikesllc

Scheduled to launch in Greater Lansing on Earth Day, 2014 (Tuesday, April 22nd), Go Green Trikes, LLC (Facebook webpage link) is the brainchild of local green business entrepreneur, Yvonne LeFave. Utilizing heavy-duty electric-assisted cargo trikes capable of carrying loads of up to 600 pounds, Go Green Trikes will provide prompt and sustainable delivery services throughout the urban heart of Greater Lansing – essentially an area bounded by I-96 on the south and west, I-69 on the north and Van Atta Road to the east. Here’s a maplink of the service area.

These are not your childhood tricycles folks, but industrial-grade cargo trikes designed to efficiently serve businesses while avoiding the tangles associated with trucks and street traffic. They also allow for door-to-door delivery of goods without the hassle of blocking lanes and/or customers in the process.

According to Yvonne, Greater Lansing will be at the very forefront of this cutting-edge form of “last mile” delivery/logistics service. Within North America, cargo trike delivery services such as Go Green Trikes only operate currently in Portland, Oregon (B-line); Vancouver, British Columbia (Shift Urban Cargo Delivery); Boston (Metro Pedal Power); and New York City (Revolution Rickshaws). Needless to say, Greater Lansing will be in good company, while also being the smallest urban center to support such an exciting and sustainable business venture.

If early indications

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are a guide, it appears Go Green Trikes, LLC will be pedaling off to a successful start, as they already have three clients lined up to date. So, starting April 22nd, keep an eye out for Yvonne LeFave as she plies her way about area streets and bike trails. Kudos to her for setting a sustainble standard for all of us to strive for!

– Rick Brown

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, the environment, Urban Planning

Ten Lessons from Boulder, Colorado

 

View of Boulder from the Flatiron Mountains - photo by author

I had the great pleasure of visiting Boulder, Colorado for the first time over an extended weekend. As an urban planner, I was able to take away many useful lessons for Rust Belt communities from the lovely city abutting the Front Range. Granted, not every place can be set aside majestic mountains, but every community does have unique attributes.

Here are what I would quantify as the top ten. Many of these are remarkably similar to the ten lessons from European industrial cities published earlier this month.

  • Cherish, protect, enhance, and enjoy your natural surroundings, attributes, and amenities.
  • Don’t worry, be active! As one of the healthiest and most active cities in the United States, Boulder residents practice this every day.
  • Active transportation (walking, hiking, cycling, mass transit) is absolutely key to a vibrant, healthy community.
  • Design the city to be human-scaled and pedestrian friendly.
  • There is a place for cars, but not at the forefront (both in the city and on college campuses) – the University of Colorado campus is amazingly compact and is only bisected by a few streets.
  • Skyscrapers and sprawl are not necessary for a healthy community – sprawl, in particular, is the antithesis of a healthy community.
  • Create third places and amenitiesdowntown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall (a closed street) is an amazing third place filled with people and constant activity.
  • Embrace street art, performers, and vendors – they add life and vibrancy.
  • Preserve and protect your community’s architecture and cultural heritage – they’re the only ones you’ve got!
  • People will pay the necessary premiums (taxes, fees, rent, cost of living, etc.) to live, work, and play in a well-planned, diverse, eccentric, healthy, innovative, and sustainable community.

– Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Art, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Education, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Public Transportation, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning

Economic development soul-searching

The title of this post may be a bit controversial, but can also be sadly true. Far too often, it seems a blind eye is turned toward the sins of the past just to generate new economic investment. A perfect example is portrayed in the past week’s (April 17th edition) of City Pulse by an article entitled “A Tax Break Won’t Change This.” While tax breaks are being offered to GM for additional investment in Greater Lansing, a ginormous vacant parking lot blights the near south side of the city, not to mention additional deteriorated sites along Saginaw Highway on the west side of town. This case is not alone, as the Rust Belt is littered with leftovers of its industrial history – hence the nickname Rust Belt.  Is disregarding the fouled legacy of past sins what economic development is supposed to be all about? I certainly hope not.

Source: lansingcitypulse.com

Sadly, concerns about the past sins tend to get drowned out by the hype, hoopla, and hyperbole over new (or saved) jobs and investment. While those are important, they are NOT the only things that foster economic development and improve a community. Pleasant and safe neighborhoods, good schools, well-maintained infrastructure, quality public services, environmental stewardship, beautiful parks, inspired art, creative and new ideas, and many other community attributes also spur economic development. Vacant and blighted parking lots, abandoned industrial sites, polluted environment, underfunded schools and public services, and discarded communities are not the seeds necessary for sewing a healthy and vibrant economy. They are the seeds of our ultimate demise as a place where people want to live or work.

The economic development community needs to do some serious soul-searching and start to stand up for enhancing “community” in more ways than the perceived and spouted panacea of jobs which is so narrowly focused and aspired to. Otherwise, they/we are nothing more than a bunch of glorified used-car salespeople, and we know how well they rate in the court of public opinion.

Rick Brown

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Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Editorial, Great Lakes, Headline, Politics, Real Estate, the environment, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning

Western Michigan University installs solar-powered charging stations

Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo recently installed a bank of 15 solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in one of its parking lots at Miller Auditorium. What a great idea for making green driving greener.

Source: openpr.com

Utilizing the sun for recharging eliminates the need for electric infrastructure upgrades, uses Mother Nature as the power source instead of fossil fuels, and in theory eliminates the need for the property owner and/or the vehicle owner would have to pay a utility for the electric charge since it is derived from sunlight.

Here is a brief video about the facility at Western Michigan University.

Certainly, there will

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be some places that will still charge a fee for use of a solar-powered EV charger in order to recover their installation and maintenance costs, plus earn a profit – a privately owned parking garage comes to mind. The applications for solar-powered EV charging stations is only limited by access to sunlight and one’s imagination. Top floors of multi-deck parking garages, public parks, schools, vast wastelands of asphalt in commercial districts and around stadiums, hotels, and even single-family and multi-family residences.

Kudos to the Western Michigan Bronco’s for bucking the trend by employing this application of solar-power and for being an innovative trend-setter right here in Rust Belt.
Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, the environment, U.S. Auto Industry, Urban Planning

Michigan establishes "dark-sky coast"

In what may be a first for the nation, Michigan Governor Snyder recently signed legislation establishing a “Dark-Sky Coast” on 21,000 acres of State-owned land in Emmet County, located north of Petoskey and west of Mackinaw City.  An aerial photograph of the newly designated Dark-Sky Coast is shown below:

Dark-Sky Coast - Source: emmetcounty.org/dark-sky-coast-600/

Combined with the existing Headlands International Dark-Sky Park, it is hoped the two sites will increase tourism while also literally displaying the numerous benefits of protecting the night sky from sources of light pollution, particularly sky glow or the urban halo effect created by communities which do not require downshielded lighting and shut-off fixtures.

Congratulations to the State of Michigan, Emmet County, and the International Dark-Sky Association for educating and enlightening all of us on the negative impacts caused by light pollution. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Wastes energy
  • Harms wildlife and ecosystems
  • Causes glare and harsh shadows
  • Disrupts human sleep patterns
  • Threatens astronomical research

Let’s all do our part to preserve the magic of the night sky so future generations will be able to “Wish Upon a Star.”

– Rick Brown

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Filed under Economic Development, Good Ideas, Great Lakes, Green Jobs, Headline, the environment

"Bicycle Friendly Communities" of the Rust Belt

Source: ribike.org

At the end of this post is a list of those communities in the Rust Belt that have been designated by the League of American Bicyclists as a “Bicycle Friendly Community” on its 2012 list. A total of 210 communities have received this honor nationwide, including 47 (22.4%) here in the Rust Belt.

Nine communities that are shown in italics were added to the list in the past year.  Another 11 communities in the Rust Belt where named honorable mentions. Please note the list does not include several communities in the Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC metropolitan areas. Some feel these cities should not be considered part of the Rust Belt.

More details about criteria and how your community can be designated a “Bicycle Friend Community” and are available through this weblink to the League of American Bicyclists website.  The five categories (or E’s) which are used for judging a community’s bike friendliness are:

  • Engineering
  • Education
  • Encouragement
  • Enforcement
  • Evaluation and Planning

Separate designations are possible for states, college campuses, and businesses.  Congratulations to all those communities so designated, especially to those in the Rust Belt.

PLATINUM (0)

  • None (only three communities nationwide – Boulder, CO; Davis, CA; and Portland, OR)

GOLD (2)

  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota

SILVER (5)

  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • La Crosse, Wisconsin

BRONZE (40)

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Brunswick, Maine
  • Carmel, Indiana
  • Cedar Falls, Iowa
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Columbus, Indiana
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Eau Claire, Wisconsin
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Franklin, Pennsylvania
  • Goshen, Indiana
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Greater Mankato, Minnesota
  • Houghton, Michigan
  • Indianapolis/Marion County, Indiana
  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • Keene, New Hampshire
  • Lansing, Michigan
  • Marquette, Michigan
  • Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Naperville, Illinois
  • Newark, Delaware
  • Northampton, Massachusetts
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Portage, Michigan
  • Rochester, Minnesota
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Schaumburg, Illinois
  • Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • South Windsor, Connecticut
  • State College, Pennsylvania
  • Traverse City, Michigan
  • University Heights, Iowa
  • Urbana, Illinois

HONORABLE MENTION (11)

  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Dubuque, Iowa
  • Elmhurst, Illinois
  • Gahanna, Ohio
  • Hagerstown, Maryland
  • Huntington, West Virginia
  • Middleton, Wisconsin
  • Monroe County, Indiana
  • Portland, Maine
  • River Falls, Wisconsin
  • West Des Moines, Iowa

Rick Brown

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Green Jobs, Public Transportation, the environment, Urban Planning

Making Sustainable Attainable in Greater Lansing

Monday evening I had the honor to join approximately 100 fellow participants, planners, partners, and stakeholders from throughout Greater Lansing at a kick-off meeting for the Mid-Michigan Program for Greater Sustainability at East Lansing’s Hannah Community Center. Partners in the program include the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Lansing Area Economic Partnership, Michigan State University Land Policy Institute, Michigan Energy Options, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, and CAM-TV.

The four-hour event showcased the nine sustainability projects that will be part of the three-year effort funded through a three million dollar grant from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and $5.2 million in local matching contributions. The nine projects as described in a handout prepared by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission are:

  • “A five-year comprehensive regional fair and affordable housing plan for the tri-county region.
  • A regional affordable housing study.
  • A community reinvestment fund to build capacity in the region for traditionally underserved and marginalized populations.
  • Develop an energy audit study of build structures.
  • Build capacity for a regional urban services management area.
  • Promote a multi-faceted and prioritized green infrastructure system.
  • Develop a sustainable corridor design portfolio using the 20 mile long Michigan Avenue/Grand River Avenue Corridor from the State Capitol to Webberville.
  • Build capacity for complete streets planning and implementation.
  • Create an online portal for sharing information, evaluating, and promoting sustainability.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These nine projects will build the impetus for propelling Mid-Michigan into a thriving and sustainable metropolitan region that is inclusive and beneficial to all socio-economic and demographic populations within the Greater Lansing community. It is a very exciting prospect to consider and long-range planning project to participate in.

Other Rust Belt communities and organizations to receive sustainability grants from HUD in 2011 include the following:

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Binghamton, New York
  • Erie County, Pennsylvania
  • Freeport, Illinois
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Pennsylvania
  • Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, New York
  • Northwest Michigan Council of Governments (Traverse City), Michigan
  • Oak Park, Illinois
  • Warren, Ohio
  • Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor), Michigan

Rick Brown

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Politics, Public Transportation, regionalism, the environment, Urban Planning, Urban Poverty