The Old Towne Traffic Calming District…Why Not?
Crank It Anytime
Used to be Monday’s were crank days. It’s 2011, why limit ourselves. Crank it anytime.
Today’s Crank: Old Towne, Motorized Traffic and Ineffectual Governance
“Have Tim Lodge draw a line and let us vote, and we will take the heat or not.” ~ Traverse City cmmn Mike Gillman on the proposed Boardman Lake Ave.
If commissioner Gillman isn’t careful, his comment Monday night alluding to the idea that he supports the commission building whatever road our own engineer designs for the proposed Boardman Lake Ave. and accepting the political repercussions may become reality. As citizens, no matter what neighborhood we live in, we deserve the best. An ill-conceived band-aid concept to a deep wound is not the solution. If the City keeps this in-house, and as strictly an “engineering” problem, that is what I suspect we will get.
At Monday night’s meeting, the commission chose to reconsider (in 2-weeks) a public process proposal to reevaluate the need, scope and impact of the proposed Boardman Lake Ave. Unfortunately, their wish to simplify the questions is getting them further and further away from addressing the real issues. The crux of the matter is that it’s insane to continue to ease/facilitate/make comfortable the very use and behavior that you’re trying to make corrections for. A neighborhood complains about the negative impact of vehicular traffic and the first solution they shoot for is another road built to the utmost convenience to motor vehicles? That’s like giving my chubby beagle unrestricted access to her 40 pound bag of dog food. I already spend too much on vet bills.
We, as a city, already spend too much maintaining the streets and roads that run through our city. In fact, as they like to remind us when we ask for sidewalks, bike-lanes and general traffic calming measures, we don’t have enough money to even keep-up with current maintenance needs. Well, if you can’t afford it you can’t afford it; stop going to the mall to buy new crap that only makes you temporarily feel complete. Instead, quit bitching about money and take steps to lessen degradation of our infrastructure while at the same time creating an amazing place to live, visit and interact with each other.
Refocus Is Needed
Patience is thin on this issue. For many of the advocates in Old Town, concerns about increased negative impacts of automobiles has been a 30-40 year effort to move the powers that be take traffic impacts seriously. From time to time, the City has given attention to the neighborhood, but it’s never gone anywhere. As Old Town residents point out, in 2002 the community invested heavily in the Andrew’s University Plan developed for Old Towne; like the students hired for that project, we need to take a broader view. It’s not simply about diverting motorized traffic. (I’ve not had an opportunity to look at the study, but it indeed did call for a Boardman Lake Ave. However, it needs to be pointed out their conceptual design is a far cry to what is now proposed or, perhaps, even possible considering real constraints.)
What Is Possible
Contrary to the assertion by the City Manager, there are improvements to the PLACE called Old Town that will help to address the traffic issue. His lack of leadership and foresight on the matter is the issue, not funding. There is an excellent opportunity this year to kickstart an enviable traffic calming program in Old Towne. If the right innovation, creativity and focus is applied, it could be enviable not only within Traverse City, but across Michigan.
Why is this possible? We have a widely recognized issue (impacts of motorized traffic), a Cass St. in dire need of basic repair (it’s on the capital improvement list for 2012) and a motivated citizenry citywide to address the issues (makes the top of the list in the ‘hoods). We also have more information than ever at our finger tips on how to design places, not simply streets. In fact, the city spent 10’s of thousands of dollars this past year paying a leading traffic engineer/placemaker to address even worse streets than Cass and Union. If staff and commissioners were paying attention, they would have learned that traffic calming is the first step in addressing a city’s issues with motor vehicles.
It’s not a special program. Traffic calming is the program.
Old Towne Traffic Calming District
Let’s announce it loud and clear: The Old Towne Traffic Calming District is hereby declared. First charge, let’s ask Old Towne residents to draft a mission statement declaring their interest, willingness and commitment. Then, let’s push the limits on what is possible. If our current staff is reluctant, they can be replaced.
This post isn’t about detailing suggestions. We have plenty of time to do that. I contend, we don’t have a clue of what we may achieve by re-focusing our attention on creating an enviable place as opposed to solving traffic issues. We, city-wide, need to stop worrying about providing for the least desirable of transportation modes. For a start, when we talk about traffic, replace the very word with “people”. That, ultimately, is the issue. We have a people problem. How do we solve it?
How do we build a city for people? The answer to that question doesn’t begin in an engineering department.
If they say it can’t be done, it doesn’t always work out that way.”
~ Yogi Berra
To be continued…
Comments: we welcome your comments, please don’t be shy. The more questions, perspectives and general participation we have here the better. What’s on your mind?