League staff has shared information about Walk Score in previous posts. It's a simple, fun tool to measure your community's assets around the 21st Century Community principles of physical design. Now the folks at Walk Score have added some useful features. Visit http://www.walkscore.com/rankings/ to see their rankings of communities within each state and for different neighborhoods within select cities. You can also browse through "heat maps" which graphically represent Walk Scores across a region to help quickly identify walkable "hot spots" within a municipality or a region.
Luke Forrest is a Project Coordinator with the Center for 21st Century Communities. Call him at 734-669-6323 or email him.
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.
Last week, downtown Flint hosted the annual Urban Land Institute-University of Michigan Real Estate Forum. Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy provided a challenge to private and public sector leaders in his keynote address: work together regionally to plan for success and then act on those plans. In particular, Murphy highlighted the need for improvement in 21st Century Community assets such as information technology, green infrastructure, walkability and entrepreneurship. He highlighted the distinction between talk and action, asking "Do you really want to be a high-tech city or do you just like the idea?" Murphy suggested increased investment in entrepreneurship as particularly fertile ground for Michigan, noting that our state ranks high in university research spending but comparatively low in venture capital spending.
In a separate session, Murphy also presented the Urban Land Institute's 2011 "Emerging Trends in Real Estate" report. Based on surveys with real estate professionals across the country, the report identifies walkable urban development, particularly rental housing, as one bright spot in an otherwise dreary picture. Murphy highlighted the historical homeownership trends in America and predicted that the pendulum will swing back toward rentals as a greater proportion of American households.
Listen to a Michigan Now report on Mayor Murphy here.
Luke Forrest is Project Coordinator for the Center for 21st Century Communities. Contact him at 734-669-6323 or by email.
The second annual Transportation Bonanza will be held December 8 and 9 in Lansing. This two-day event will feature national speakers and in-depth workshops on how to create healthy, walkable, connected, sustainable communities based on complete streets principles.
The Bonanza is a project of the Michigan Association of Planning, in partnership with the League, Michigan Safe Routes to Schools, Michigan Department of Community Health, and Michigan Chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism.
Local elected officials as well as planners, engineers and others are encouraged to attend. The second day of the conference will focus specifically on the CNU/ITE Recommended Practice Guidebook for designing walkable communities.
Save the date, registration will be open soon.
Arnold Weinfeld is Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 or by e-mail.