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


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