City staff is still searching for a balance to its Neighborhood Traffic Calming Policy (PlanforTC). We’ve written about it before and there hasn’t been that many changes to the draft since last time. That said, it is no longer written in a negative voice. It seems that advice to create a proactive policy was accepted. I still think it is overly cautious and narrowly focused, but if the new master plan is written to make traffic calming a basic product of all reconstruction projects, this citizen initiated policy might be a nice complement.
However, it remains cautious, if not restrictive, and unnecessarily creates a divide for city streets between neighborhood vs. non-neighborhood streets (Framework vs. non-framework). Who is going to champion the great divides in town that are part of our neighborhoods, but that sit in between “associations?” 14th, 8th, Garfield, W. Front are all mixed use corridors where residents deserve healthy, vibrant streets.
It also gives too much authority to adjacent property owners. This last point is critical because it extends the ideology that the ROW in front of our homes is “personal” space that is shared with the masses vs. the idea that it is the commons and we all have a right to say what investments we desire city-wide. The policy also fails to recognize that renters are citizens who are valuable assets to our community. Why does an absentee landlord have more authority than someone living in a neighborhood? I think a petition of 50% of residents and/or property owners needs to be adopted.
Mayor Chris Bzdok’s latest post at Plan for TC sums up the process, objectives and financing well, and he is rightly asking for the city commission to make some changes before adopting it. As he argues, “If the city is serious about traffic calming, we need a policy designed to generate projects, not generate barriers to doing projects.” He has two specific concerns: the number of signatures required to initiate a project (a majority vs. a super majority) and the percentage of the project that the neighborhood requesting the project would be assessed. The plan now says 50-50, but the Mayor would like that changed to 25-75, where the City would pay for 75% of the project.
I support those two changes, as well as including residents, whether owners or renters, into the petitioning process. I also think definitions of what constitute a neighborhood need addressing so that we can better address what the plan calls the “framework” streets.
I have a disagreement in the language of the policy and with the Mayor’s assessment that traffic calming is used primarily to “reduce cut-through” traffic. Although traffic reduction may occur with a good traffic calming plan, the goals of traffic calming are primarily to create behavior that is more conducive to shared streets. I would rather have 2000-vpd pass by my house going 20-mph and traveling smoothly, than 600-vpd with many of them reaching 45-mph and revving up after each stop sign. This argument may need to wait for another day though and may be more properly addressed in the master plan and future complete streets ordinance. I just think traffic reduction is a much broader investment.
Tonight’s meeting is an opportunity to provide comment, but comments in support of the Mayor’s changes, and other suggestions, can and need to be sent into the City this week to make the final draft that the City commission will vote to adopt at their March 20th meeting. Tonight • 7pm • Governmental Center.
Ideas matter. This country was founded on an idea about individual liberty and popular self-government. Ideas, creativity, and adaptation are genetically encoded in the American psyche. But something else too; an idea is only as good as the other people with whom it is shared. Very seldom does one individual ever see all the pieces of the puzzle in one bright explosion of realization. We need and depend upon others to refine, reframe, and at times reinvigorate our ideas.
~ James Brooks, from Ideas Require A Team To Carry Them Forward
I like this passage, written in the context of two different forms of governance. One, top down and effective to a degree, and another based on collaboration and the building of a community committed to a shared vision. The latter has proven again and again to be more resilient, inclusive and embraced.
Ideas live to be part of the commons; they beg to be shared. This is part of the work of this blog and the community engagement attached to it are where perspectives are shared and discussions follow. Sometimes those exchanges occur only here; other times they make their way into the greater community and even occasionally into the minds of the ultimate decision makers. This isn’t enough though; more of these exchanges need to turn into positive outcomes.
One of the goals has been to unite people around the embrace of our public spaces, including our streets as critical extensions of our communities, if not our homes. I didn’t realize it, but in effect we’ve built a coalition committed to this idea. What we need now is for this coalition to expand, strengthen and begin to move ideas into achievable tasks. As Brooks writes, “Of course, cities won’t grow or thrive on ideas alone. What’s required is the collaborative team of diverse talents that brings ideas to tangible and achievable actions.“
This is where we need to go…
Three items to mention, with specifics
hopefully to follow soon, that may interest those of you wanting to work towards “tangible and achievable actions.”:
- TC•DIY: This spring, there will be opportunities for all of us to have a hands on, direct impact on our community. In Traverse City, one way for this to occur will be by joining a crew of YIMBYs* hitting our public spaces with ideas, tools and energy to improve the commons with small, harmless actions that improve the quality of life in a neighborhood. Comment with or send me your ideas and willingness to take part.
- Complete Streets: If enhancing community connections is something you’re interested in working on, stay tuned for an opportunity in April. The first task will be centered around learning about and building upon the concept and mechanism of Complete Streets. This event will certainly be written about here, but if you want to make sure that you are kept abreast of the opportunities to participate, please send a message saying “I support complete streets” and you’ll be added to an email list. And/or, you could join the TART Trails Complete Streets Group for the latest local Complete Street announcements.
- Fill Seats: It’s time to consider sitting on an official committee or running for office. We have a choice who represents us: why shouldn’t you represent? This November’s city commission election has four seats that will be contested. There is only so much DIY we can do, ultimately, we need decision makers who honor people and place as priorities. I’ll soon post about the specifics of the election and in the meantime you can easily submit a request to be considered for appointment to a non-elected City board or commission today. Once you submit a request, you’ll be on file for at least a year or two for any position you’ve flagged. You might also consider becoming engaged with the neighborhood associations. Don’t feel obligated to just go to your own ‘hood’s association; the entire community is your neighborhood.
* YIMBY = Yes In My Back Yard.