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Louisville comes in 29th in the 2008 list of Top Sustainable Cities compiled by SustainLane and pointed out by The Building Bloc(k). Of course, no surprise, Portland, OR ranks first followed by the likes of San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Seattle, but Louisville’s top 30 appearance seems to hold ground in our region.

Our 29th place also marks an improvement from 35th last year. No other city around us is ranked higher. Not Columbus (ranked 30), not Nashville (ranked 40), nor Indianapolis (ranked 44), nor Memphis (ranked 46). So overall, the River City is leading on the sustainability front, and it seems our prospects are looking brighter and brighter. Our first LEED Platinum building is set to open soon in the East Village (a cadre of other LEED properties are in the works as well), Humana has rolled out its Freewheelin’ bike-share program for public use for the IdeaFestival, we’re at least trying to provide some sort of bicycle infrastructure.

Many points were considered when ranking each city; here’s what SustainLane says:

The SustainLane 2008 US City Rankings of the 50 largest cities is the nation’s most complete report card on urban sustainability. The rankings explain how people’s quality of life and city economic and management preparedness are likely to fare in the face of an uncertain future.

These indicators gauge, for instance, which cities’ public transit, renewable energy, local food, and development approaches are most likely to either limit or intensify the negative economic and environmental impacts of fossil fuel dependence.

The SustainLane site breaks down each city across a number of criteria. For instance, Louisville ranks 35th in Air Quality, an improvement due to fewer violations of the Clean Air Act, but still in the “Challenged” category and 42nd in Green Building (that’s “Endangered”, but hopefully should change soon!). Louisville also ranks 2nd (in fact, we tie with Portland for 2nd) in terms of Water Quality, making us a distinct leader in that category. More than anything the rankings help us see what needs improving in our city and lays it out in an easy to understand, point by point way. Here’s an excerpt from Louisville’s breakdown:

While Louisville may not hold that coveted blue ribbon from us yet, it’s setting itself up to break away from the pack. Over 100 miles of greenways—dubbed The Louisville Loop—are in the works, as part of the “City of Parks” initiative. Cycling has also taken off in Louisville, leading Bicycling Magazine to name it among the three most improved cities in the country. Not resting on those laurels, Louisville is making the city even more bike-friendly by launching a bike commuting website, starting a “Bikes on Board” partnership with local transit, and publishing new maps of Louisville’s paths and lanes.

Of major concern for Louisville according to the results are commuting and transit ridership. This is a result of… well… not having a viable transit system when all our peer cities are well ahead and on their way to implementing such systems. Louisville ranks 49th (!) and 42nd in those respective categories.

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Branden Klayko

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