This afternoon at the League's Capital Convention, representatives of the cities of Ferndale, Midland and Mount Pleasant shared experiences from the front lines of efforts to complete their communities' streets. The three cities are in different stages of implementation, showing the diversity of approaches available to Michigan communities under Michigan's Complete Streets legislation.
Ferndale Councilwoman Melanie Piana shared her perspective as an elected official who spearheaded the successful efforts to adopt a Complete Streets ordinance. She stressed the importance of building a support team, educating stakeholder groups and strengthening partnerships. She encouraged local government staff and officials to bike their communities to see first-hand the strengths and weaknesses of the network. Complete Streets policy discussions can be a catalyst to coalesce disparate resolutions, policies and processes already in existence within the local government. Ferndale adopted an ordinance but has not yet created a non-motorized transportation plan.
Keith Baker, Midland's Planning Director, shared a different story about the challenges creating political will for a Complete Streets ordinance. He advocated working incrementally if necessary, starting with a local task force and then building a non-motorized plan. Midland recently adopted a non-binding resolution that is advisory in nature but requires review of all new construction projects.
Jeff Gray and Rich Morrison from Mount Pleasant's Planning and Economic Development departments showcased examples of innovative projects completed in their city to reduce traffic speeds and increase pedestrian safety without a formal Complete Streets policy in place. They also provided recommendations for dealing with the challenges of redeveloping a state trunkline running through a downtown.
The League's Complete Streets page provides example resolutions, policies and other background information.
Luke Forrest is Project Coordinator with the Center for 21st Century Communities. Contact him at 734-669-6323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Michigan Department of Transportation's Bicycle and Pedestrian Program will be visiting select communities this summer and fall to perform walkability audits and/or bike facility development trainings. These trainings will help community leaders, residents and staff understand specific ways to improve local streets, sidewalks and trails to make them more accessible for bikers and walkers. Encouraging non-motorized transportation is a key tenet of the Complete Streets movement and an economic asset identified by the League's Center for 21st Century Communities. If you want your community to host one of these trainings, fill out a brief application by March 26. Extensions may be available if this deadline is impractical. To request an extension or ask questions about the program, contact Cynthia Krupp.
Luke Forrest is Project Coordinator for the Center for 21st Century Communities. Contact him at 734-669-6323 or email@example.com.
Walkability took another big step forward in Ann Arbor this week, with the formal dedication of the city’s first HAWK (Highintensity Activated crosswalk) signal. It’s the first of its kind to be installed on a state trunkline in Michigan.
Officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the city of Ann Arbor held a street corner gathering to celebrate the innovative new pedestrian signal at the corner of I-94 Business Loop (Huron Drive) and Third/Chapin Street on the west side of downtown Ann Arbor. Celebrants in reflective orange vests emblazoned with the words “Hawk Walk 2010” inaugurated the signal with mass crossings in both directions.
A HAWK signal provides a protected pedestrian crossing as a way to increase safety. A person wishing to cross the street pushes a button to activate the signal, which then goes through a series of yellow and red sequences, requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians. When the HAWK signal goes dark, motorists can continue through the intersection until it is activated again. It also has a blinking red light that allows motorists to drive through a lane if the pedestrian has already crossed it on their way to the other side.
Before the ceremony, senior citizens who reside in a housing facility just north of the intersection were already lined up and waiting for their first opportunity to cross the busy thoroughfare near the YMCA at 400 W. Washington Street.
Improving pedestrian safety through good physical design is a key element in promoting walkability.
A new study by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) reports on the "Economic and Community Benefits of Local Bus Transit Service (Phase Two)." The statewide analysis concludes that public transit "saves money for riders," "alleviates traffic congestion," "expands mobility," "stimulates the economy," and "protects the environment," according to the report. Leaders of ongoing public transit improvement initiatives throughout Michigan can use the study's findings to advocate for their projects and argue the "economic and community benefits" of public transit systems - a good point that Grand Rapids Press writer Kyla King brings up in her recent article, entitled "Study shows every 10 public transit jobs creates six more jobs in Michigan economy."
King takes a look at what this equation means for Grand Rapids. "That translates to 523 people directly employed by The Rapid and 206 spin-off jobs. The study shows The Rapid creates $43 million in "social benefits" - the money saved by riders that they then spent on other things - in addition to the $31 million spent to operate the system," she reports. She also concludes that MDOT's study "could be key as The Rapid system looks to fulfill a 20-year improvement plan that will bring streetcars, speedy high-tech buses and routes that run more often until midnight and on Sundays," King writes.
Beyond creating jobs, the also study reports; "It is estimated that transit operations sustained more than 9,200 jobs and contributed about $1.08 billion in economic output in Michigan in 2008. Moreover, the re-spending of a portion of out-of-pocket cost savings by transit riders added $264.4 million to the Michigan economy."
Jennifer Eberbach is a professional journalist and writer. Find contact information on her website www.jenthewriter.info