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Archive for February, 2010

Weekly Chatter: TIGER time, let’s move, bee miles per gallon…

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Happy New Year & enjoy the Chinese Spring Festival! Last Sunday began the Year of the Tiger and it’s being celebrated more ways than one–conservationist and transportation-ist (see below) are grasping the opportunity.

In the NExpress, the Mayor is nicknamed Blunt Bzdok over the current 8th St. debate (some just don’t get it). The needed Change of order is possible, you can Support it Today by writing MDOT and representatives in Lansing. TART Trails also issued an action alert.

To the chatter…

Detroit’s Woodward Avenue Light Rail System is the closest winner for Northern Michigan (despite mostly missing out). The TIGER grants (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) were awarded on  merit based criteria for innovative transportation projects. There are some big projects, but there are many small, yet potentially high impact projects aimed at active modes of transportation that fulfill ‘community livability‘ goal. For an explanation and list of winners: US DOT’s press release (PDF).

Photo of the Week: A nice tie-in with the discussion of rails…

"TRAVELING DANGEROUSLY: A rail commuter stood on the front of a moving train in Soweto, South Africa" via WSJ Photos of the Week-always great...(Themba Hadebe/Associated Press)

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A cart-wheel for every donation? Maybe…

February 19, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s not pretty. That’s for certain. But to celebrate MyWHaT’s first Pay Pal donation a cart-wheel along 8th St. was in order–yeh!!!  The form should improve with every new donation.

The editor doing a very humble cart-wheel along 8th St. (Thanks A&J)

Thank you everyone for your support. It has been great!

A big question in the beginning was: “Would anyone read it?“.

In 2 months, MyWHaT has generated more than enough energy to keep it moving forward–mostly through the use of magic… but the over 6000 views, almost 200 comments and many new friends has been a key component.

It’s approaching a time when the scale of the BLOG will either need to scale down or generate some revenue for the combination of daily posting, researching and general mischief.  A plan is developing that should be ready by March, but in the meantime gestures of support— comments, offers of lunch and donations through Pay Pal are really appreciated.

I will continue to do to attempt cart-wheels in appreciation (just off film).

“In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin; A grass-blade’s no easier to make than an oak.” -James Russell Lowell

Pay Pal

One question I have: Do you read MyWHaT daily, occasionally, or wait for a weekly round-up?

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Celebrating ladies that rule…the trails

February 18, 2010 1 comment

Trailer for Awesome Land’s Women of Dirt

Not exactly the focus of MyWHaT, but mountain bike trails are just as good use of public space as anything. And, as these ladies show, it’s about building confidence and having fun doing it. Plus, it’s good to dream of summer.

Who is bringing films to Traverse City for Third Coast Bicycle Festival this August? This is a request…thank you.

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Memory Lane: …know when to run little green-man

February 18, 2010 1 comment

Original version via jasnjay on Youtube

Taiwan’s streets are dominated by cars and scooters. Yet, 小綠人 (xiaoluren) or the Little Green-man is everywhere to assist the walker across the road–set here to a little Colombian chill. Watch close as the animation picks up speed as time approaches.

What most ped crosswalk signals also have is an accompanying audio version for those with poor eyesight that also speeds up as time counts down–click…..click…..click…..click.click.click.

And, in Taiwan, when it says get across the road, you better bust a move…they aren’t known for their good driving skills.

Where was the last countdown signal you saw?

Anyone else want to see the Little Green-man in Northern Michigan?

NOTE: This is the first entry in the Memory Lane series that will spotlight examples from past experiences and travels. If you have yours and want to share, send me an email.

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City to meet with MDOT next week over 8th St.

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Do you have 8th St. fatigue yet? Well, FYI…sitting through a 2 and half hour city commission meeting to make public comment is not the remedy…

Still, last night’s commission meeting was mainly about the bayfront and it was instructive to sit through the long discussion. Watching passionate public input by citizens proclaiming their identity and their position is powerful (more on that discussion on another day).

The Good News

The 8th Street 2010 Redesign is still on the table. Traverse City has secured a meeting with MDOT head Kirk Steudle on February 25th. Mayor Chris Bzdok and city manager Ben Bifoss will join Senator Jason Allen and Representative Wayne Schmidt in representing the city’s argument. The main argument will be that we need to begin implementing the Master Plan, the Grand Vision and 30 years of citizen input today, not in the distant future.

Letters of support and encouragement from the neighborhoods will help the city in the negotiations. Let’s keep it positive, brief and focused on some basics to ensure we’re effective–Read: focus on the $$$$$

An approach to 8th St. in 2010 that focuses on livability and all modes of transportation, is important because:

  • It’s the economic development strategy of the future.
  • It’s a neighborhood street in dire need of street calming to encourage mixed-use developments–focusing on small, locally owned neighborhood businesses.
  • 8th St cannot compete with S. Airport for traffic-based customers.
  • It’s been identified as a corridor of significance by the Grand Vision for all modes of transportation.
  • Traverse City needs to continue to do all it can to increase home values and tax revenues in all the neighborhoods. Walkable communities are a significant means to this end.
  • Local businesses along 8th Street are likely not to accept another road construction project in the coming years to satisfy a retrofit. We have the money now, the city wants to do it right the first time.
  • Traverse City remains a model of success in the state. Let’s keep the success going.

The crux of the matter as far as the state is concerned, is that in the current state of the economy, we can’t risk to lose limited capital improvement funds and we can’t risk the opportunity to invest in infrastructure that will improve the economy of the future.

Mayor Bzdok is signing his emails as “Eternally optimistic and grateful“, so let’s support him and keep the positivity flowing.

Send Emails to: MDOT executive director Kirk Steudle, MDOT Regional manager Rise Rasch, Senator Jason Allen, Representative Wayne Schmidt, city manager Ben Bifoss, and Mayor Chris Bzdok.

steudlek@michigan.gov, raschr@michigan.gov, wayneschmidt@house.mi.gov, senjallen@senate.michigan.gov, bbifoss@traversecitymi.gov, chris@envlaw.com

And if you know any of these people, take them out for a beer.
Please consider sharing your letters here under comments.

NOTE: The offer of direct and individual support for the commissioners was publicly reinforced last night. They aren’t used to receiving positive offers of support (people only contact them when a negative arises) so let’s keep offering our assistance. We are a talented community–let’s put it to work.

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Turning the swoosh into power

February 17, 2010 2 comments

A way to harness the wind from passing traffic? It’s out there. Conceptually.

The Oregonian is reporting on these two designs that are being pitched to transportation offices. The concepts look to harness the wasted energy of passing traffic. The first concept, by TAK Studio, actually looks a lot like Grandview Parkway in Traverse City. It wouldn’t just be the breeze from traffic pushing those turbines (Attention TCLP…)

This second design is a bit more traditional, and seems to be more realistic by embedding the turbines inside of a traditional looking New Jersey Barrier.

A good use of otherwise wasted space?

Other places where this concept could be used?

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If I hear this question one more time…

February 16, 2010 2 comments

Why bike on 8th St.? To get somewhere. And, with the right people--it's fun.

Some form of the following question keeps resurfacing. Presented this way on Facebook: “Gary, when I advocate for the 8th St. bike route, I am asked why can’t the bikers not just use the TART Trail which is nearby. Can you provide a concise, persuasive answer to this question?

That was Ron Jolly’s point last week and it is a common thread on Plan for TC and the Up North Live discussion developing.

There are 1001 reasons to make 8th Street a complete street. I can’t think of one, even as a car driver, why we wouldn’t.

Bike lanes are one important step to calming traffic and adding value to the city. This question is an attempt to simplify the discussion and feed into an “us vs. them” argument.

It’s a bigger issue than bike lanes (did I say that yet?). However, a question was asked…Here is an attempt at being concise and persuasive on why bicycle commuters use 8th Street:

  • Direct route: The same reason cars use 8th St. as an uninhibited east-west corridor.
  • Access: 8th Street is mixed-use. Bicyclist need safe infrastructure to access the homes & businesses located there. The residents and business owners want their visitors to arrive safely, conveniently and in a good mood. (This might be the main reason...people ride to get to places ON 8th Street!)
  • Safety: As a vulnerable users it’s important to be visible and present across the city (made more safe with a bike lane).
  • TART Trail is a recreational trail: Great for a casual ride, not so great to get somewhere. The bicycle is a transportation choice.
  • TART is a multi-use trail: Bikes on TART have to navigate walkers, joggers, kids, pets and stop signs at every street crossing.
  • Tourists $$$: The high number of tourists in town are increasingly coming here to be active. Our network of trails is not intuitive or direct. Making all of our streets safe and encouraging bicycle use will help keep tourist dollars in the city.
  • Legal right: Cyclists have a legal right to the road. Motorist are granted a privilege.
  • Winter Riding: TART, alleys and side streets are the last to be plowed. And TART not very well. The bicycle is a year-round option.
  • Easy to do: Why not do it? It’s not a highway. It should be a given that a 25mph neighborhood street include improved Infrastructure for all modes of transportation.
  • Money well spent: The return on investment for bike lanes (and pedestrian improvements) increases home values & thus tax revenue.
  • Choices=encouragement: The model walkable/bikable cities use bike infrastructure that prioritize multiple types of users and intentions. Provide choices to the entire tax base, not just the car-centric. 8th St. is key to connectivity.
  • Coffee Deliveries: Musical version “Do it for Dan”.
  • ????

That’s the short list. This BLOG is the longer, ever-growing list. Use the reasons that best serve your needs. The real question is what is the purpose of the city and how do we improve the experience for everyone. According to 30 years of citizen input, as stated in our master plan, traffic calming and providing for pedestrians and bicyclists is a priority all over town. Including 8th Street.

The city has answered the above question, now they need to implement.

Has anyone gotten the answer down to three words?

What is the Twitter feed that sums it up?

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Tonight’s city commission meeting & tomorrow’s planning

February 16, 2010 1 comment

After last week’s study session, tonight’s city commission’s agenda seems fairly–ho-hum. A list of purchasing orders, ‘routine’ approvals and a clearing of the way for TCLP to use its dark fiber for the wireless internet program.

8th Street is not the agenda. But will be discussed (at least by me).

The city is waiting on a meeting with the MDOT executive director to present the case that a ‘change of order’ is mostly paint and won’t delay the project. MDOT needs to sign-off on this late change. The regional office already declined.

Still, other than the Plan for TC web site, run by Mayor Chris Bzdok, there has been little sign from the city commission & staff that the 2010 8th Street construction and the lack of effective process in fulfilling its master plan, are of major concern. Perhaps tonight they will respond.

Plan on attending to use public comment as a reminder that anything other than making 8th Street a complete street in 2010 is a failure.


Agenda and Packet

TC Planning Commission Study Session

Tomorrow night’s planning commission meeting is a chance to address some of the process. The meeting is a joint meeting with the DDA to discuss 2010-2016 Capital Improvement plans. Not the sexiest of meetings, but it is one way to get ahead of upcoming projects before they are designed. The difficult part is determining what staff is actually talking about and what items are actively being implemented…it will be educational…  Agenda and Packet

Drop a comment if you plan to attend or have something you’d like said in your absence…

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Tuesday cartoon: Mr. Wheeler, psychopath motorist

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment

1950 Walt Disney release of  ‘Motor Mania‘. It can happen to all of us, so be careful out there…and is yet another, in a long line of reasons, for better infrastructure.

(At the 4:14 mark, let’s call this friendly chap Mr. Lively…)

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Monday’s Quote: streets and health

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

In a recent Newsweek article titled Crimes of the Heart which explores the disconnect between our public policies and health, Livable street guru Dan Burden of Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, zeroes  in on one of the conundrums:

When roads slim down, so do people. — Dan Burden.

Walk to School programs are part of Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. Photo: Massdistraction

Health concerns are what is leading the Complete Streets resolution being considered in Lansing. A “resolution to express support for active transportation infrastructure options that promote walking and bicycle usage and reduce childhood obesity.

Michigan Complete Streets‘ action page has information for supporters to use in letters to your state representative.

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