Safe and convenient for humans, Safe and convenient for beagles.
Over the weekend, city goers enjoyed a diversion in-replace of the ill-attempted pedestrian detour at the Midtown construction zone along Cass St. (MW) Nicely done City staff.
At a social event Friday night someone unaware of last week’s blog post on the subject started to complain about walking along Cass St. with her son during this construction. She found herself crossing the street at odd places and not feeling at all comfortable or safe. It was nice to be able to pause her for a moment, get out my phone, and show her an image of the diversion (TPic). A huge improvement to the attempted detour (TPic).
Do you miss the Weekly Chatter?
I admit it, I do miss curating a collection of news bits, studies, commentary, and curiosities related to public spaces and transportation every week. It was nice way to collect my thoughts from the week and clear the multiple browser tabs left open throughout the week. It was fun to piece together. But, the advisory council agreed that the labor hours put into the blog had to be cut somewhere, and so…
I trust the MyWHaT readers who were fans of the Weekly Chatter are following when they can on the MyWHaT Tumblr. It operates like a streamlined archive of items that catch my eye and mind; sometimes I add commentary, often I don’t.
This hierarchical traffic pyramid below is something that caught my eye recently. I’ve certainly seen similar ones, but I like the comprehensiveness to this version. Some other visuals to flag from the Tumblr: this is how to paint a street, introduce fun into the built environment, and watching citizen cyclists from above (admire the flow).
Thank you for your time and continued support (your $5, $10, $25 helps prevent further cuts).
Below is an email I sent to the City yesterday concerning the construction zone at Midtown along Cass St. I did receive a reply confirming that the situation would be addressed. Something to keep an eye on.
UPDATE 3pm: It appears that the City went for the less desirable “detour” solution (TwitPic)–underperforming on north approach, but trying to meet the standard. Moving on.
UPDATE II 3:30PM 04.27.1012: Upon further review, a diversion upgrade (TP). Thank you City!
To City Engineering and Planning,
I’m trying not to complain, so let me attempt to frame this email as simply a description of how I’d like to see my city treat people who happen to choose to move around on foot. Using, of course, a current issue as an example.
The construction at Midtown necessitates a closing of the sidewalk along Cass St. for safety purposes. I understand that. However, I fail to see where basic consideration for pedestrian traffic through this construction zone has taken place. There is a sign, at the closure, that simply says, “side-walk closed.” No detour. No alternate route. The allowance of parking along this edge compounds the problem by obscuring the view of someone attempting to navigate around.
When I attempted to walk in the street around the construction, I was almost clipped as I stepped out and around an SUV that was blocking my view. I can only imagine what it would be like if I was in a wheelchair or otherwise less agile than I am.
Is this the worst place in the world? No. Can this construction zone be improved? Most definitely.
I scribbled a simple solution that I’ve seen countless times in other cities. It attempts to maintain the original path as much as possible (which is something I’d like to see in my City) and can be made wheelchair accessible with a few sheets of plywood or other solution. The orange barriers are exactly that, orange barriers. You can charge the developer to bag the meters (4 spaces*), so there is no loss of revenue.
The result, uninterrupted walkability that encourages, rather than discourages the most basic form of transportation known to humans.
I continue to believe that as a City we can do better and the hopeful thing is that to achieve better, all we really need to do is follow the basic guidelines in the Federal and Michigan MUTCD.
Thank you for continued hard-work on behalf of the City.
* The parking meters are already bagged and are reserved for the work-crew on site.
The two standard options, neither of which were followed:
Scene from last week as crews wrap-up the first clean-up.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll miss the traffic calming impact of this year’s extra, storm-induced brush pick-up. The piles of sticks, branches, and other debris made for almost perfect chicanes (MW). Sorry to see them go, but know they must.
Thank you to the City work crews for all their hard work. They are now in the midst of a loose leaf pass of the City. The annual trash pick-up and scavenger hunt begins April 30th on the West side of the City moving East for one pass. Trash must be placed in the alley. Brush will also be picked up from the alley in another pass also beginning April 30th.
More information: Spring Clean-up Rules (PDF)
Related: Record Eagle Editorial: Scrapping TC’s spring cleanup not worth the price
New citizens, out in force
Concerned citizens listening to the City Manager present his proposed budget.
The operation of the ski program at Hickory Hills appears to be saved, for now. Each member of the City Commission expressed a strong interest in maintaining the investment for the coming fiscal year at last night’s study session.
It became clear during the discussion that the final budget to be approved by June 4th will not look exactly like the City Manager’s proposed budget (MW), but given the time-crunch for alternatives it will largely remain intact. An idea resurfaced to restructure the fire department (RE), but it isn’t clear that there is enough time this year for that to solve the gap to pass a balanced budget. Those discussions will continue over the next month.
Building off of the expressed commitment by the City Commissioners to Hickory Hills, interested parties like the Grand Traverse Ski Club will continue to be very active in finding agreeable solutions long-term. There has long been a desire to form a regional authority to manage the program for the City, but in order for that to happen there needs to be a commitment by the City to support the energy, time, and investment needed to begin giving shape to the idea. Last night might have been a catalyst for that. As well, some unsure but fairly easy suggestions were made last night to better spread the cost across the regional townships–about 50% of the users are not City residents, and there is interest among some for more regional contribution.
What is needed from the current City Commissioner is a number. What is the annual investment they are willing to put towards the recreational program? If $80-$90 thousand is too high, then what about $60,000? $50,000? If the public knew what level was acceptable to this commission, realistic alternatives to assist the City would be, if not easier, at least be tangible.
There is work to be done. From the crowd last night, those that are interested are certainly engaged and mobilized. If you’d like to join them, you can contact the Preserve Hickory Hills group through Facebook or contact the Grand Traverse Ski Club. You are also encouraged to continue to contact your City Commissioners and let them know what you are willing to contribute to the maintaining Hickory Hills.
As frequent user of the hill, Enrico Schaefer, said at the podium last night:
“It’s about keeping it open. We will help you, but that has to be the mandate. Let us help you keep Hickory Hills open.”
They’ve expressed an interest in preserving it, let’s show them how.
NOTE: Tonight’s City Commission Study Session isn’t expected to reveal any results. But, the discussion around the budget will likely dominate the time. However, I’d like to point out that also on the agenda is an update on costs and recommendations for addressing Division St. Review of that later this week, but a break down is at the Complete Streets Coalition (GV) website and tonight’s packet is online here (City)
Hickory Hills on the chopping block?
If you make it to the bottom, there’s a poll.
In my prime, I was a capable athlete. With a little more focus (and perhaps more height), I might have excelled, but as it was I held my own in basketball, mountain biking, football, track, and volleyball. In the winter, I also followed my friends to the ski hills, clicked into a pair of skis, looked up the “mountain”, and then prayed all the way up the chairlift that I wouldn’t die that day.
I never quite felt comfortable on skis. At one time my eldest brother was vice-mayor of Jackson Hole. He gave up the Great Lakes for the Grand Tetons; the mountains were in his blood. He would spend his weekends acting out his own Warren Miller film down Corbet’s Couloir or some other god-awful black diamond run.
You’d think some of that would have rubbed off on me, even if I was living back here in Traverse City. It didn’t. Luckily, there was Hickory Hills.
The humble little hill overlooking Traverse City from its western perch was accessible. The black diamond is named Pete, like some friendly neighbor who dressed up on Halloween–a little scary, but the end was in sight. Hickory had toe ropes instead of swinging chairs; rough on gloves but no act of bravery was needed. More importantly, there were dozens of school mates on every visit. Most of them much more accomplished skiers than me and so always way ahead of me. I’d meet them at the lodge when it was all over and that is where the hill’s real value was on display. Despite the apparent lack of adult supervision, it was a safe place for kids to…well, be kids. (I’m now fully aware that there was adult supervision, but a good sign perhaps is that as a kid I didn’t typically notice it.)
When I was appointed to the City’s Parks and Recreation Commission 2 and half years ago, I quickly discovered that there was a faction of City leaders among City staff, City Commissioners, and other luminaries in the community who were seriously considering not only shutting down the operation of Hickory Hills, but selling off the property.
It was an idea originating out of the now aging COFAC (city) recommendations. Apparently to some, the $70-$80 thousand annual subsidy is the quintessential drain on the City’s budget–roughly $6 per resident per year to provide for inexpensive, close, and safe recreation for thousands of kids every year. Or, $6 a year per resident to help maintain a program that contributes to stabilizing, if not increasing, property values.
Tonight the City Commission begins to discuss the annual budget. As we mentioned last week, the City Manager is suggesting that the operation of Hickory Hills be eliminated. To be fair, the City may have good reason to address the subsidy of the hill’s operations. There have been discussions over the last two-three years addressing it: the City has raised ticket prices; the City has partnered with the Grand Traverse Area Ski Club to help with the snow making and grooming; the City has explored a tubing run; there have even been discussions about setting up a recreational authority or non-profit that would manage the operations for the City. There are likely other solutions. But, the City needs to set the long-term goal of keeping the ski hill in operation for those solutions to happen. I have yet seen that commitment from the City Commission or the City Manager.
Needless to say, I like almost anyone who grew up in Traverse City have a memory of Hickory Hills. It is an important aspect of being from Traverse City. Those memories serve us well. They are not the primary reason to keep the hill operating. Instead, it is for the future why we need to keep it operating. The City Commission’s decision, to be made sometime before June 4th, and how they handle that decision is a sure test of what kind of City they envision.
Between now and then, our role is to politely let them know what kind of City we envision.
My question for the City Commission, the City Manager and you is this:
Out walking, yesterday in Traverse City.
I don’t think Traverse City is quite in need of a sidewalk lane for distracted pedestrians…(NPR)
Have a weekend!
Engage and Represent
It’s budget time for the City of Traverse City. Exciting stuff! Well, sort-of. From the vantage point of an engaged citizen, it can be rather deflating watching departments fight for budgets, the City Manager try to give “just enough” information (or, perhaps signaling that he as well only has “enough” information), and City Commissioners pull their hair out to decipher the needs and actual status of the City coffers, all the while promoting their own agendas.
What often gets lost is that the budget ought to reflect the values of the community, not drive them.
In past experiences, the discussions that take place in meetings are almost impossible to follow for observers only privy to a public memo or two. As the process unfolds each new step seems to have another layer of vagueness and hamstrung-ness to it (I think I just made up a word). I suspect that even the decision makers feel a bit of that. I believe last year’s final budget meeting went well past midnight.
Still, this is where the direction for the next fiscal year happens and the least we can do as engaged citizens, is to weigh-in with the values and priorities that we wish to see represented in the City’s budget. I’ve not wrapped my head around it yet to make strong comments either-way, but this week City Manager Ben Bifoss released his recommendations for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The memo is readable and available under the “Government” drop-down heading on the City’s homepage (yes, not front page and not easily located). Or, download it here (PDF) or view it below–easy.
Key recommendations from the memo are:
- Reduction of staff beyond normal attrition in fire, police, and the streets/parks department.
- A reduction in cemetery maintenance costs by, I assume, keeping it in-house.
- Reduction in recreational costs by eliminating the operation of the ski program at Hickory Hills (this will be fun to watch)
- A status quo, if not increases, for almost every other department. (Last year, then Mayor Chris Bzdok and Cmmn Mike Gillman made budget recommendations (Plan4TC) that may be informative to this year’s discussion.)
The meetings where the budget will be discussed aren’t solid yet, but a potential April 30th meeting is the earliest followed by a definite public hearing on May 7th, likely May 21st and at the latest a June 4th meeting, where the final version needs to be adopted. The memo is just a recommendation, the decision is solely up to the elected commissioners.
Certainly, more to come.
What are your first impressions?
If you build for the car, the car, and all its shadows, is what you get.
by ITDP Mexico
Before someone says it…Yes, the numbers of people who drive are reversed in the United States (70% drive, 30% find other means, mas o minus), but that is precisely because we have committed vast sums of money to subsidize automobile use over the last 75 years. Attempts at charging a market price for its use and storage is fought at every opportunity, typically by the same people who are the most staunch free-market promoters. Those same folks tend to also be the most vocal complainers about high gas prices despite the U.S. paying the lowest prices at the pump than any other of the richest nations.
The U.S. is at a critical point. The infrastructure we have propped up in the name of one mode is in need of repair. The question remains, will we repair the public spaces to serve more than one need, a complete street approach that honors public space, or will we continue to encourage and favor the mode that has the most externalities that we all pay for one way or another–regardless of how much you drive.
Externalities* discussed in film: traffic (congestion), pollution, time-loss, stress, health issues, lack of public spaces, accidents (crashes), climate change…they might have even missed a few.
What externalities might you add?
* Externality: A consequence, that can often be quantified economically, of an activity that affects other parties without it being reflected in the cost, thus obscuring the true cost to individual and society.
Traffic is like gas…
Last month, I participated as a photographer in the Michigan Transportation Odyssey. The odyssey was a three-day tour of Michigan’s transit infrastructure from Detroit to Traverse City hosted by a consortium of organizations involved in Trans4M (Transportation for Michigan).
Beer + Transit
Something none of the above articles focus on, though some do highlight, is the growing connection between transit centers and the craft beer industry in Michigan. It is certainly a topic worthy of more exploration. As the Google Map screen grabs show, in the three transit centers I visited, I was never more than a 5-minute walk from a craft Michigan beer.
Beginning in Kalamazoo, where after meetings we had an extra hour before catching a bus to Grand Rapids, we were able to relax and wait in style at Bell’s Brewery and walk to catch the bus with plenty of time to spare. Reaching Grand Rapids, Founder’s Brewing Co. is literally across the street so to say it is a minute walk is even a stretch. You could, if you hurried, get off the bus and have a beer in your hand in 2-minutes. In Traverse City, there are two craft breweries within shouting distance.
In Grand Rapids, the delegation met Dave Engbers, a co-founder of Founders, who in a panel discussion was not shy about his desire to locate Founders near the transit station. For him, it was a choice to be part of redevelopment focused on the future needs and desires of his customers for a more vibrant, place focused community. Asked how to increase use of transit, he dead-panned, ”Make it sexy.”
Or, at least well hydrated.
- What other transit centers in Michigan have breweries nearby?
- Is there another kind of transit tour that has yet to be explored?
- The Great Michigan Brewery Tour of 2012?