Archive for April, 2011

All-Aboard! Gas Prices, Alternatives, And Complete Street Policies Are All Increasing (WC)

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Tomorrow is the great compost giveaway in downtown Traverse City! Bring a shovel and elbow pads, it gets rough. Also, around 8am near the compost, Traverse City Parks and Recreation will be hosting a beach clean-up. Come help and we can talk about the Bayfront Plan. Then, at noon is the Earthday parade-line up at noon at Central Grade School. TART Trails also has a series of workbees.

Weekly Chatter

The power of the Complete Streets movement is that it fundamentally redefines what a street is intended to do, what goals a transportation agency is going to meet, and how the community will spend its transportation money.”

In order to encourage drivers to use public transport, several large car parks outside the centre charge low daily rates, which cover tram tickets for all passengers. More central car park charges are more expensive.”


  • RT (jimbruckb) won’t see any township residents at the #BLA meetings – it’s free infrastructure for them while city residents pay -#sprawlincentive
  • RT (BikeBikeYYC) Want a $5-6/hr raise? Get rid of your car. #yycbike
  • RT (DanielPink) “Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.” — Kurt Vonnegut
  • RT (ccoletta) Pedestrian is a first class passenger. Good transit on a bad street becomes bad transit.

To Wrap

The Landscape of Oil: the amazing photographs by Edward Burtynsk

Have a Weekend!

Gas Prices: What The Economic Pundits Don’t Talk About

April 29, 2011 2 comments

Graphic Friday




Turning Front Yards Into Backyards…?

April 28, 2011 1 comment

I just realized not everyone is on Twitter or Facebook, where this question was originally posed while I was eating lunch on the Front Porch:


How would your city be different if people used their

front yards like they do their backyards?

(Or, how would your street change?)


I wonder…

Applying Walk Score: More Than Good Real Estate Choices-Part II

April 27, 2011 2 comments


In the previous post (part I), I asked readers to guess who lived at the addresses represented by a collection of Walk Scores plotted on the map below. If you’re landing here and don’t know about Walk Score, please read part I for an explanation.

The answer: The locations ranked and plotted below are the addresses of the seven City Commissioners in Traverse City, one of which belongs to the mayor’s previous home–he recently made a move from a “Somewhat Walkable” neighborhood  into the “Very Walkable” Central Neighborhood, but I used the old address.

Is it surprising to anyone that the average Walk Score of our city commission, in a city where the average Walk Score is 70, is a measly 42 and thus, “Car-Dependent?”

Is it any wonder those of us seeking complete streets struggle when it comes to having the City fund basic urban amenities like sidewalks? At least four of the 7 commissioners live in suburbia-lite despite being within the city limits. Making the case for walking to be valued as an asset is predictably a hard sell to people who have chosen to live in cul-de-sacs, on large lots removed from neighbors and in places where a 2, 3, or 4 car garage is the norm. The lowest Walk Score amongst our City Commissioners is one of the lowest I’ve ever seen at 12–is that “Car-Dependent-plus?” *

The Windshield Perspective

Now, whether someone lives in a car-dependent location or not doesn’t in itself predict their ability to empathize with and support a more balanced approach to our city streets. Where we choose to live is a result of many factors, not all of which relate to walkability, and commissioners can be convinced by the merits of a project regardless of where they live. For example, the commissioner with the low score of “12” was convinced of the need for a controversial sidewalk (MyWHaT) on Barlow St. last spring. However, it does offer a good gage on whether they are making judgments through knowledge gained on foot or through the perspective of a windshield at 30-50 miles per hour. And, it’d be nice if sidewalks weren’t controversial items within the city grid.

Something To Consider When You Choose

I look forward to using addresses of the candidates for the four commission seats (3 commissioners, 1 mayor) this November.

Just like I wouldn’t buy a house simply on its Walk Score, I won’t be voting simply based on a Walk Score, however, it does instruct on what motivates and informs a candidate, because how we experience the City is a key element to our understanding and vision for it.

A few questions to consider:

  • Is a candidate that lives in a “Somewhat Walkable” location and is fired up about making it better also likely to share similar values on other issues as myself?
  • Is someone who lives in a “Walker’s Paradise” (7th and Union gets a 94!) and already understands the value of that, ready to help other parts of the city thrive?
  • Is someone who lives in the relative boonies of the city, drives everywhere without question and is hard pressed to see the value of the burgeoning front porch culture in Traverse City ready to see how supporting more urban parts of the city connect is in the City’s financial interest (Big City)?

I’m excited to find out who is running this fall, and, among other things, to see where they live.

What about you? Is there value in using Walk Score to assess candidates? How so? 

Have you used Walk Score in the past for something else? 


* How does one address receive a “12” when nearby addresses receive scores 20 points higher? This particular score is due to the home being at the end of a cul-de-sac that is at the end of a very long and disconnected street. There is only one way in and out, and so by default there is a lack of options and thus, a lack of walkability in an already remote place. 

Related Articles

Applying Walk Score: More Than Good Real Estate Choices-Part I

April 27, 2011 4 comments

What’s Your Walk Score?

As many of you have done before, when you plug an address into the Walk Score website, the generated score is a number between 0-100 and that represents the walkability and transportation options of that location. The score is based on the walking distances to universally appreciated amenities like grocery stores, libraries, banks, restaurants, parks and so forth. In addition, destinations more commonly associated with walking trips are given more weight and the algorithm takes into account the infrastructure available–sure, that pharmacy might be across the street, but is the street-crossing at a 5-lane intersection and thus, not comfortable for many people.

The break down of Walk Score’s rankings look like this:

Applying It Locally

What’s Your Walk Score? Mine is 66, or “Somewhat Walkable. A year ago it was 77 -“Very Walkable” (MyWHaT), but since then (WSJ) the algorithm tinkering has improved after more input of improved local data. Traverse City’s average is 70-the low-end of “Very Walkable” with the center of the city (9th and Cass St. intersection) receiving an 88, or the high-end of “Very Walkable.”

The City is doing good, as expected for a small tourist town of 14,000. It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog, I believe we could do better-why aren’t we a Walker’s Paradise? Some of our corner edges are likely to remain “Car-Dependent”, but there is no reason we shouldn’t see the scores in neighborhoods within the grid improve. And, as studies continue to suggest (Big City), investing in the walkability of a neighborhood through simple measures like sidewalks on both sides of the street, improved greenways with trees and other plants, and human scaled lighting can add $30,000 to $50,000 in value to those properties.

Throw your address into the website, how do you score?

On the map below, I’ve plotted a selection of Walk Scores associated with special addresses within the city limits. Can you guess who lives at these addresses?

Your two hints: there are seven of them and four of them could be replaced this November. The answer will be in Part II later this morning.

Who Lives Here?

NOTE: Since Walk Score launched in 2007, it has continued to improve its system of ranking the walkability of any given address. It has also started to attract more media attention and is increasingly being used by real estate agents to market the walkability of properties. If you are a Michigan based real estate agent using or interested in using Walk Score I’d be interested in hearing from you (send me message).


2011 Division St. Construction & The On Going Long-term Initiative

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Division Street Open House

From 4-7 pm, tomorrow, Wednesday April 27th, MDOT will be presenting the plans for the 2011 construction along Traverse City’s Division St. from Grandview parkway to Griffin St. just north of 14th St., details below.

The aim of the open house is to:

  • Layout the schedule of the construction, which will reduce the usability of Division St. for portions of the summer and fall.
  • Describe and highlight on the map, where the repairs are located.

The scope of the 2011 project is primarily a mill and fill to improve the surface. Also included, joint repairs (which reduce shaking on adjacent homes when trucks go by), crosswalk upgrades and additions in places, as well as some sidewalk improvements. It is not a complete re-imagining of the street, however, there is work happening on longer term fixes.

To respond to a lot of comments I hear around town, the concept of modern roundabouts on Division St. is not dead; there has been progress, but it isn’t and was never intended to happen in 2011. –>

The Long-term Division Street Initiative

Last year the City did undertake a more comprehensive process for Division St. to get a recommendation on how to ameliorate a litany of community needs and issues with the road. Out of that process, as many of you know, a proposal for a series of 5 modern roundabouts was recommended. As mentioned above, that process is continuing. There is a citizen-led committee that is working towards recommendations to the City.

There are two fronts to that process:

  1. Recommendations for improvements that could happen in the short-term with a little investment and creativity. Things like sidewalks, human scaled street-lighting and planting of trees to influence speeds. Many of these could happen anytime we find the mojo to do so.
  2. Long-term recommendations that address the key concerns of motorized traffic behavior and providing improved access through the corridor for people on foot or on wheels.  Likely to come out of this process, is a first choice intersection for the City to focus on and a recommendation on how to handle the use of adjacent parkland.
If you’d like to be kept informed of future meetings pertaining to Division St. you may request to be added to the Division St. email list via email at

Tomorrow’s Division St. Open House

Introducing MDOT’s Ride-Share Wally

April 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Video Tuesday

The Michigan Department of Transportation launched its alternative transportation promotion recently with this ride-sharing PSA video of Wally–the aggravated with congestion and time-spent driving commuter.

What do you think?  

There is a resource of ride-share information for the state on .Gov’s website. NW Lower Michigan isn’t served by an MDOT Ride-share office, although a few park and ride lots (map below) are available for those interested in starting a slugging movement (casual carpooling) and there is a MichiVan Program in the north. With heavy construction on Traverse City’s Division St. this summer, it is a great opportunity to try using these lots.

Also, if you’re a resident of TC and have friends who commute solo into the city everyday, introduce them to a friend, or two or three that they can can carpool with–reduce traffic into the city!

Park and Ride lots around Traverse City


BLA: Back To The Commission

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

West Boardman Lake Development/Avenue Meetings

(a.k.a. Old Town By-Pass or as some call it, BLAh)

  • Monday, April 25th, TONIGHT City Commission study session • 7pm Government Center: commissioners will hear the report back from the consultants, discuss and take public comment on the matter. There will not be a vote, but it’s an excellent time to reinforce previous comments, or if you missed the meetings, learn more and have your perspectives placed on record.
  • Tuesday, May 3rd, Planning Commission • 7pm Government Center: The planning commission will hear the same report from the consultant. Their task is to measure it against the current master plan, zoning and impact on the city.
  • Monday, May 9th, City Commission • 7pm Government Center: There isn’t expected to be too much discussion on the topic at this meeting, however, a vote on whether or not to purchase Copy Central on 8th St. is expected. The recommendation from the consultant is to not make the purchase.

BLA Summary Report

The City will soon vote on option to buy Copy Central on 8th St.

Below is the summary report gleaned from the two input sessions and engineering design studies undertaking over the last 3 months. The consultant highlights some of the main issues raised at the input sessions, while still focusing on the base-level scope of the project: whether or not Copy Central needs to be purchased. It’s an accessible read that captures the key concerns.

A vote on the Copy Central purchase is not likely to pass at this time, but that doesn’t mean the avenue won’t be pursued. The City is likely to keep the BLA/Old Town Bypass alive (Plan for TC) for the immediate and long-term future. The assumption remains, by many, that it would “solve” the perceived traffic issues on Cass St.


For my part, as someone who has yet to see a significant reason and value for the City to build this specific road, I think that is fine. It is their prerogative to pursue a project and I’m not opposed to an extension of the city grid with another “street” and targeted development, however, I remain a skeptic of an “urban bypass.” None of the designs so far presented, in themselves, seem promising in this regard.

A looming disconnect remains; with so much effort going into improving our current great divides (Division St., Grandview Parkway, 8th St…) why would we build another one? The community could still come together and address these issues if the desire for the road/street/avenue remains, but a much different process needs to be established; a process that includes a wider perspective than solving a problem in Old Town.

There are better investments that we can make that will reduce the negative impacts of motorized traffic in ALL of our neighborhoods. Those are items like traffic calming, street-scaping,  bike lanes, and a complete and comfortable side-walk network. There are also greater investments, both financially, but also politically, that will ultimately limit the increase in vehicle miles driven per day within and through the City. Some of those investments are in public transit, market valued parking, park and rides, increased density and more mixed-use throughout the city.

We won’t solve our motorized traffic problems by myopically trying to plan and build for motorized traffic. Our driving habits are like the consumption of jellybeans over Easter weekend; the experience registers in the reptilian part of our brains and self-control is easily over-run by the desire for more and as long as the bowl continues to be filled, most of us will blindly eat. Lowering the perceived “cost” of driving by facilitating its use in and through our community is like continually filling the candy bowl. You might not feel it right away, but eventually it does more than ruin your dinner.

Humans Are Crazy, Thank You

April 25, 2011 1 comment

Well Put

You are progressing on something, and that’s, [what it's] all about. You want to keep moving…having a progress in your life.

~ Ueli Steck, Swiss Climber

A break from the norm today: a little Monday morning inspiration watching Ueli Steck “run” up the 13,025 foot tall Eiger. Take the 4 minutes and watch Steck climb to the top of this Swiss mountain in just under 3 hours.

Have fun at work today; break the status quo.


via TheDish

One Action Item, The Power Of Green, Calling For Tweed…(The Weekly Chatter)

April 22, 2011 2 comments

ACTION ALERT (via Partner Mi Complete Streets): We need a strong showing to impact this current attempt to weaken state-wide progress on transit and complete streets. Contact your State Rep. (Michigan) and ask them to do everything within their power to pass a transportation budget that reflects your values and needs.

James Bruckbauer, transportation specialist at MLUI, has an excellent recap of the latest events that are being championed by a west Michigan representative intent on de-funding public transit and active transportation. James argues that this latest attack is the last thing we need in a struggling economy. James writes:

Instead of recognizing transit agencies around the state for their improved coordination, increased ridership, and overall better service, the proposals would actually punish those agencies. And, with gasoline now hovering at $4 per gallon, it would also punish many vulnerable families by reducing their access to flexible and affordable transportation options at a time when they need it more than ever to get to work, school, doctors appointments, and more.”

Please take a moment to send a short message.

The Weekly Chatter

Can you help me rename the weekly chatter? The name is tired.


Get out the paint! Photo by neighborhoods    —>   —>


What would the American economy have looked like without a massive government investment in highways?…absent a highway boom something would have been built and markets would have optimised to that something.” –like, vibrant, walkable cities.

The best thing we can do for the safety of our children is to get them out of the car by building mixed-use, walkable neighborhoodsEven with car seats, auto accidents are the leading cause of death amongst children over two years old.


  • RT (@YuriArtibise) More urban pedestrians are killed while legally crossing in crosswalks than while jaywalking.
  • RT (@YuriArtibise) Why do we expect better design from our phones than our #cities?
  • RT (@walkonomics) Riding in a car is much more dangerous than walking… And of course the most dangerous thing about walking is cars.
  • RT (Maddz4planning) For people who can be car free by choice, power to you. But for low-income families, having a car provides a lot of opportunities.
  • RT (jamesschwartz) Can’t say I really feel any sympathy for any of the 4,437 comments from Americans complaining about gas prices

To Wrap

A Tweed Ride comes to Traverse City! When? 4pm, May 21st. What is a Tweed Ride? A fun, leisurely group ride of people dressed in their best looking tweed. They are not required, but classic vintage bicycles really help the show. Typically, libations follow the parade. Follow Tweed Ride TC at its Tumblr page, on Facebook and Twitter.

Rochester, NY’s first annual tweed ride by JPhilipson
Have a weekend! 

If you enjoy and find value in the information and discussion that occurs on this blog, your contribution to the initiative ($5, $25, $50 or more) will generate smiles and confirmation that this work is on the right track. Thank you.

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