Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

The impact of speed on your 6 o’clock news

August 2, 2013 1 comment

Making news: Slowing down saves lives

ABC7 in the Greater Washington D.C. area produced this coverage of a local public awareness demonstration to highlight the impacts of 35-mph vs. 25-mph.

This is certainly something we’ve discussed here on MyWHaT


I can only hope that the regional MDOT office includes speed, as a safety concern for pedestrians, as one of their metrics for determining safety along Division St.– State road officials begin study on dangers of Division (UpNorthLive).

Using the intersection of Division St. and 11th, here is a visualization the impact of speed has on stopping distances.


And, a reminder from the archives from a previous post borrowed from America Walks, the Anatomy of a Pedestrian Fatality



Concept level: TCBike, a bike share program for Traverse City

June 4, 2013 1 comment



Rolling in TC

Yesterday, we introduced what bike share programs are. We also raised the idea of one in Traverse City. Today, we play with what that actually could look like given current conditions.

By design, bike share programs are to encourage the less intrepid to take a short spin, not those already riding (of course, everyone is welcome). That being the case, a bike share program put into place without convenient and comfortable infrastructure, including needed policies and political support, is setting itself up for failure. That said, and with a spirit of “Yes, how can we do it?” , an appropriate sized and modest system could actually work in Traverse City.


Spartanburg B-Cycle Station

I came around on TC’s potential for bike share when I heard about the country’s smallest bike share program, Spartanburg B-cycle, in Spartanburg, South Carolina. They started with just two stations and eight bikes (now 14) in 2011. They smartly focused in on where it would best serve the community and plan to expand from there. They have since added a third station (Groupstate).

(B-Cycle is a national company that specializes in implementing bike share programs, you can even suggest to them that Traverse City would be a fine location.)

Inspired by the go small system, I suggest the following with the admission that I have no empirical expertise in setting up a program, nor the capabilities to make it happen. This is simply an exercise in how I think a bike share in TC might be successful.


I see the following as a small, 9-20 bike system. I make assumptions that there is political acceptance and that a competent managerial team would be established, working with a bike share company like B-Cycle. Also, a major sponsor would be needed, perhaps Hagerty Insurance, Munson, or some other entity gearing up to be the lead agent in active transportation in the City. (New York’s CitiBike is sponsored by CitiBank).

The idea is that bike share needs to be focused downtown where there are plenty of amenities within a mile and half radius. This is an area and distance that is walkable, but also on the edge of what someone might walk when they have a limited break or lunch hour downtown, or if it is 95 degrees out. Downtown is also arguably the City’s most comfortable area to bike on the street.

Station locations


The five X’s mark logical primary stations where bikes would be available. Those places are the Transit Center, Post Office, Open Space, Front St. (near the Hardy Parking Deck), and near Hagerty Insurance. The secondary stations (O’s) are key destination points where someone would likely want to visit on bike, so there could be docking stations installed (Oryana, Governmental Center, library, and the Holiday Inn/Hagerty Center ).

The primary locations work because they have space, have foot traffic, and have destinations near-by. They are also spaced out, yet close enough to each other, that the system is convenient from almost every corner of downtown. The locations are also prominent. The worse thing that could happen would be to place a bike sharing system inside a parking deck or at some outer edge of activity. Spontaneous and opportunistic trips need to be designed into the program.

If it was only a three dock station system, I’d lean towards Hagerty, Front St. and the Transit Center. If only two stations, I’d lean the transit center and Front Street (or possibly Garland St.).

The system would be geared towards downtown employees and tourists. Spartanburg’s membership is 99% locale, so I’d say setting a goal of 90% locale for TC would be a good start. Again, this is set up for short, point-to-point trips that could be completed in less than 60 minutes. Annual membership would cover any ride within that time limit. Going over the limit would be allowable, but would be an additional charge. To preserve the bikes, it’d be a seasonal program and not available November to March/April.

Who would use such a system? That is the question that needs a lot more consideration than I’ve put into it or even could from my position behind a keyboard. Nonetheless, here are two scenarios:


Jane’s ride

Scenario A: Jane’s Ride

Jane lives in Long Lake and works downtown at 53rd Bank at Union and Front St. She drives to work and has 60 minutes for lunch. She’s on an organic foods kick and she needs to hit the post office to send a package before she leaves town. At lunch, she walks to the post office, sends her package, then jumps on a TCBike to go to Oryana where she eats lunch and picks up a few groceries. When she is finished, she still has about 15 minutes left, so she gets back on a TCBike and in four minutes docks it at the Front St. station because she wants to walk by the State Theatre to see the schedule before going back to work.

She was able to do more because the bike saved her 20 minutes of walking time.

Alternate scenario: Jane lives in Suttons Bay and commutes by BATA’s Village Connector. When she arrives at the transit station, she hops on a TCBike to go downtown. Lunch is the same.

Scenario B: The Tourists

Bill and Ethel are visiting Traverse City from New York. They have used CitiBike and found it an easy way to get around The City. They are staying at the Holiday Inn and see on the map that downtown is close, but not close enough for Bill who has a sore knee when he walks. Downtown is also too close to drive; it’d just seem silly. They notice a TCBike station and quickly register online using their smart phone. Following the map, they use two bikes to grab some street food from The Little Fleet on Front St. and take their lunch to the Open Space where they dock the bikes , closing out that ride well within the free period. They eat lunch, lose track of time, and then hop on another pair of bikes to go downtown. Close enough to walk, but remember, Bill has a sore knee. They spend an evening downtown, catching a movie, and then hop on another pair to get back to the Holiday Inn (yes, careful to go under the bridge instead of crossing E. Front St.).

I’m not sure they saved any time, but they certainly stayed our of the car and mostly avoided the hassle of finding a parking spot. Plus, they got a little exercise and, thanks to Ethel insisting, explored part of Central Neighborhood on the way from the Open Space to Downtown.


What is a scenario you could see with these locations?


Final notes

Again, I’m just throwing this out there. I’m not passionate about it, because of the limited infrastructure we have to accommodate all types of riders. However, I also know that sometimes a project like this can be used to create other changes people wish to see. In Kansas City, the bike share program (another B-Cycle system) is being planned to grow simultaneously with increased bicycle infrastructure. The system being used to argue for more bike lanes. I would be intrigued if someone came a long in TC and wanted to organize a program.

If a local reader is interested, I recommend reading the report put out by the Federal Highway Administration, Bike Sharing in the United States (PDF). It offers a sensible guide to implementation that any community, large or small, can follow when considering a bike share program. Ultimately, a firm would be hired to come to set it up, but the roll out of getting to that point requires a process something along the lines of the following graphic from the report:

Bike Sharing in the United States: State of the Practice and Guide to Implementation (PDF)



Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

(Re) Introducing bike share in Traverse City

June 3, 2013 1 comment



I suppose, now that New York City has opened a bike share program (NYTimes) that it’s time to address it in the context of Traverse City. After-all, bike share programs are popping up across the country at a steady click (StreetsBlog) and it’s already thrown around in small talk from time to time.

Montreal's Bicycle Network

Bixi in Montreal

What is bike sharing?

I like to think of bike share as an extension a public transit system. It adds another option to move people short distances, from point-to-point. Bike sharing systems are set up to be self-serving and are priced to encourage short trips from docking station to docking station. The most efficient systems, like Montreal’s Bixi system (Wiki), are used to speed up a walk or connect transit passengers to that critical “last mile”.

Hop on, hop off, do your business, and if needed, hop on another one.

Successful programs help introduce more people to utility cycling by making it super easy to make quick, short trips from home/work to businesses, transit stops, or perhaps even park-n-ride lots. Done well, they can reduce car traffic and the associated strains on the environment, community, and parking supply. They are usually set up using some sort of public/private partnership. Like other walking and biking infrastructure, ultimately they help to reduce public health costs. Capital Bikeshare in Washington D.C., the first major bike share in the United States, is using a dashboard to track the benefits (BS-Blog).

Another critical feature is that these systems make users accountable. It isn’t a miss-mash fleet of bikes placed for people to borrow for however long they want. TC has seen that attempted with the red bikes from a decade ago and even more recently a an attempt on the campus of NMC (RE).

The current bike share programs going into place require a membership and a fee for using the system. Although, the best systems offer free initial time limits, so that the first 30 to 60 minutes are free (except for the membership cost). This encourages short trips and ensures that the stations always have bikes when other users need them. It isn’t bike rental, it’s public transit.

Getting TC Rolling

Over the last two years, I’ve received several emails from people who read about or visit a city with a bike share program and wonder if Traverse City could see a program. The short answer is, “sure we could, why not?

The longer answer is that I’m not confident we’re ready for one. Politically, we have a difficult time simply designing a network of streets with even minimal bicycle facilities. We have an excellent and growing trail system, but that’s not really a good fit for a bike share program. Our attitude towards streets are changing, slowly, so perhaps we are very close and downtown may certainly by close enough in terms of infrastructure.

The short and skinny of it is, a bike share program in Traverse City is not beyond the realm of possibilities, but…(many things). Tomorrow, I’ll post a quick concept of how I see an initial bike share program looking. I’m just playing with the idea, so if you have ideas, send them in.

I’m interested in readers’ experience and thoughts.

Have you ever used a bike share bike?

Could you see yourself utilizing a bike share bike in Traverse City?

What are the scenarios you could see working?


NOTE: The Traverse City Film Festival is committed to rolling out some sort of bike share program for this year’s festival. Event based bike share programs are good beta testers, but also not quite the same as an everyday or seasonal scheme.

Background info: According to, there are around 40 systems in the United States (map). New York City was by far not the first one (Next City), they just happen to attract a lot of attention, ahem (NYTimes). Around the world, in some form they’ve been around for years and are now just increasing in popularity. The largest is in Hangzhou, China with 50,000 bikes (Good).

Bike Share across the Globe


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

Improving the connection to transportation choices

May 22, 2013 10 comments




According to census data, the average driver in the Grand Traverse Region drives 23,000 miles per year. According to AAA, that’s at a cost of around $16,000 per year; money right out of the ol’ paycheck. For some perspective, that’s $5,000 more a year than the U.S. average and is a large part of the equation that puts the cost of housing + transportation at one of the highest percentages of income in the nation. In some places, well over 50%.


The Michigan Land Use Institute, a MyWHaT underwriter, has long been aware of this, reporting back in 2011 on families living on the edge (PDF) due to the need to drive to affordable housing and to find jobs.

MLUI is now developing a new program dubbed Local Motion to help connect people to tools and programs that connect people to more transportation choices, particularly for their commutes. Area choices for car-pooling, transit, and active transportation continue to be desired survey after survey (MLUI).

Local Motion will be rolled out further this summer and MyWHaT readers are specifically invited to a soft-launch summit on June 4th, during TART Trail’s Smart Commute week.

The summit will discuss the Local Motion initiative and the area businesses and partners already on the ground developing the program. It will also feature two guest speakers who’ve been part of successful transportation management programs outside of Traverse City.

  • First, Mary Sell, of GetDowntown Ann Arbor (GDAA), will describe how A2 has moved people to get to work downtown via an improved transit and Complete Streets program.
  • Second, Jeffrey Tumlin, principal at Nelson/Nygaard Consulting. Tumlin is a national figure who led transit-oriented development plans for more than 60 towns across North America and the author of the book “Sustainable Transportation Planning.”

The summit is from 3-6pm on June 4th at the Traverse City Opera House.

For planning purposes, RSVP’s are requested





Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

You are what you measure

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment



Counting traffic


2-3 pm May 15 on the Fremont Bridge, Seattle Washington.

A friend likes to say, you are what you measure. She also typically attaches a warning to it, “so be careful.”

If we only measure cars, we will only get cars. Instead, what else can we measure?

The instant feedback counter (above) in Seattle went mainly unnoticed by daily commuters, but a high number of people, both people on foot and on bike (it only counts the latter) did take notice; they smiled when the count went up…then up again.

40 second clip of rush hour

I never made it down to the bridge at midnight to check the final number. My guess is it approaches 6,000.

For the record, on my ten-day trip to Seattle and Vancouver I spent a lot of time walking, a bit on bike, some critical connections made by bus, and some necessary car riding, mostly to visit a friend outside of the city, but also a taxi or two.

  • Walk: 53 miles *
  • Bike: 56 miles
  • Bus: 202 miles (Includes ride from Seattle to Vancouver)
  • Car: 81 miles
  • Train: 165 miles  (Includes ride from Vancouver to Seattle)
  • Ferry: 12 miles

* An equation needs to be developed for walking miles in major urban centers vs. more rural settings. For each mile walked in a city, there are so many offerings for the senses, interactions, opportunities, and general input that one mile in the city is easily equal to one and half miles, if not more. It’s a thought. Anyone have a better exchange rate? 




Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

Walking Garfield Ave. makes me cranky

May 1, 2013 6 comments



Whose ROW is this anyway?

On Monday, I took the opportunity to walk home along Garfield Ave. with camera in hand.  The images in the slide show below really explain themselves. They show that Garfield Ave. is indeed a shit-hole an underperforming corridor with ample underused property with infrastructure devoted to the hey day of the automobile, for which the bill for its second life cycle is now due.

It is also a depressing place to have to walk. The sidewalks that are present are disconnected and often run into parking lots and parked cars like below.

Walking Garfield Ave.

This scene gave me pause, because I never really put it together before that the City has allowed the public right of way to be used for a private parking lot. It is happening throughout the Garfield Ave. corridor and, apparently, in several other places around the City. Somewhere in the history of the City, permission was granted or permission was assumed that granting the use of public space for a private parking lot was more important than providing connections for people on foot.

More and more I’m becoming comfortable with stating unequivocally that I’m a public space advocate. I know this about myself because when I see a scenario like this, where a private gain so egregiously encroaches onto public space, I get offended. I’m not sure there’s anything to be done, but I’d like my disappointment noted for the record.

More images as larger files on the MyWHaT Flickr page

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The condition and design of Garfield Ave. bothers me for a number of reasons. As one of the gateways into Traverse City, it’s an aesthetic and functional embarrassment and it doesn’t serve the adjacent residents as if they matter. The strip mall land use pattern underperforms economically and is highly inefficient, so when commissioners whine that we’re broke I want to hold up a giant poster of the land use they’ve supported over the last 30 years and…

The Planning Commission, on which I serve, identified Garfield Ave. for the Corridor Improvement Plan that the City has reviewed over the last 6 months. I had high hopes that this section of Garfield Ave. could be retrofitted, but after walking it this week, my hopes are a bit diminished. No fear, that shouldn’t stop me from trying and could just be the impact of exhaust and noise I took in while standing next to a stroad of cars going 40-50-mph for an hour.

Onward. Tally-Corridor-Ho. Welcome to Tree City.


Use the comment section below or through this page to send us a message, on any subject, anytime, anyhow.  Comments will be sent to author and potentially used in future posts. Please highlight whether you’d like you’re name published with your comment. 


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

Calculating the miles…Part II: The cost of walking

April 25, 2013 1 comment



…Or, rather, the savings

Here are the trips left out of yesterday’s post

First, the big hit…The two jet plane trips this year. One, completed back in March and another coming this May. In one aspect, reducing the miles I drive locally allowed me to more readily afford a plane ride, theoretically at least. It’s also interesting to point out, that these two trips flying were really a means to get to more walking opportunities.


Made for walking

Your 20-minute walk commute?

One way I’ve been able to reduce my motorized miles is that I’m able and willing to walk pretty much anywhere within a mile and half radius. That ability was a key factor for making the choice to live where I do. This happens to also be just under the 2-mile trip length of 40% of car trips in the United States (Bike League). I’m also able and willing to bike my fair share of trips within a more expanded radius. The bike radius on average is anything within 5 miles, but can expand to 15 or 20 given the right circumstance.

The estimates below don’t take into account two-wheeled joy rides up and down the peninsulas or walks in the woods. I tried to stick strictly to average weekly miles where I’m on a task above and beyond exercise.


External costs for biking and walking are 0.9¢ and 0.2¢, respectively (Whose Roads?-PDF)

Missing from this chart is the cost of shoes and a bicycle, so to be honest let me knock off $200 from my private savings, because over a 5-year period I’m sure I spend $30 annually on transportation shoes and another $170 on new bicycle gear. Still, that’s a nice $1,000 savings for simply choosing to walk and bike around my community.

Interesting to note that my estimated $398 cost of driving that I externalize, is more than off-set by my willingness and ability to walk or bike 1,770 miles. Those miles, if driven, would cost society $513 (29¢ a mile, see yesterday’s post for explanation), so I’m willing to call it even if you are….Now, what to do to off-set my carbon footprint (GHG) for flying?…Ideas?

To close, and since I’ve used his research on the costs so heavily, a quote from Todd Litman about reducing our miles driven:

A gallon of gas saved by reducing driving is worth an order of magnitude more in terms of consumer savings, community savings…in terms of economic development than that same gallon of gasoline used to get someone to drive a more fuel-efficient car.”


Are you saving money because of reduced miles?

How are you doing it?  



Use the comment section below or through this page to send us a message, on any subject, anytime, anyhow.  Comments will be sent to author and potentially used in future posts. Please highlight whether you’d like you’re name published with your comment. 


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

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