Michigan Infrastructure Dashboard

Michigan has a performance dashboard that gives some very high level indicators which try to convey a sense of whether we’re improving or not.

The indicators are grouped into five main categories: infrastructure, Michigan, education, health and wellness, and talent.

There aren’t any indicators showing how we’re doing with respect to walking or biking, so we suggested two additions to the Mobility section of the Infrastructure dashboard.

For walking, we suggested a count of the number of Michigan cities given a “Very Walkable” rating or better from walkscore. com. Currently no Michigan cities have that rating but Hamtramck is very, very close. Given that no Michigan city is considered very walkable, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll appreciate this suggestion. We wouldn’t be overly disappointed if they lowered the bar so that some cities are counted. That would be better than nothing.

For biking, we suggesteded a count of the number of Bicycle Friendly Communities within the state. Currently that’s 7.

Why not use the number of Complete Street policies? While the Michigan Complete Streets Coalition lists a map with “Complete Street policies”, it really isn’t. It lists communities that have passed ordinances and resolutions, some of which we know have little to no intention of having a Complete Streets policy. And some are co-opting the Complete Streets definition.

Similarly, some communities have “non-motorized plans” which are merely sidewalk or trails plans. What is and what is not a proper non-motorized plan is subjective. And just having a plan doesn’t mean it’s being implemented any time soon.

For these reasons, we think using the third-party evaluations for walking and biking make much more sense.

One more benefit? These evaluations are consistent nationally. If Michigan is to compete with the rest of America, we need to measure ourselves accurately against the other 49.

We’ll let you know if we get any response from the state.

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7 Responses to “Michigan Infrastructure Dashboard”

  1. Andrew Mutch Says:

    Walkscore is a useful tool but I think they oversell their scoring system. It’s not a measure of walkability. It’s a measure of the potential for walkability. It’s based entirely on the proximity of an address to destinations. That’s useful information but it doesn’t really reflect how walkable an area actually is for pedestrians.

    As an example, my address in Novi scores a 17. But I can walk from my home to the library, city hall, nearby parks, schools in the area, even the closest retail areas all on ocal sidepaths and sidewalks. But Walkscore gives my address a low score because there’s not enough of those destinations, particularly retail, close to my home. Fair enough. But it gives a good score to other areas of the city that have a high concentration of retail but are nowhere near as walkable as the area around my home. Best example – 12 Oaks Mall has a Walkable Score of 62. But anyone from the area knows that it’s not very walkable at all. There are some sidewalks along the main roads but few are totally continuous or connected.

    I know Walkscore is working on improving their methodology for measuring the actual walkability of an area. I also realize that it’s the only nationwide measure of walkability. But I think like your comment about “Complete Streets” resolutions not necessarily translating into reality, the same caveat applies to Walkscore’s scoring system.

  2. Ian Says:

    Disclosure: I’ve got some fairly biased feelings towards new urbanism working for communities in Michigan.

    I agree with Andrew’s feelings on Walkscore. The point could simply be the Michigan cities don’t compare with those in other states and frankly, I think any approach that suggests lowering a standard is bunk.

    A new technology will replace the current Walkscore in 2-5 years, maybe less. In terms of promotion it’s great. But using a number to represent the quality of new urbanist ideal in a community seems too great a risk.


  3. Todd Scott Says:

    Great points. I think my frame of reference bias is showing being in an area with more sidewalks. I’ve spent a bit of time lately looking at the sidewalk data that’s available in Google Maps. There’s very little data in Detroit. I’m not sure if it’s better in Oakland County.

    Any thoughts on alternative measures for walkability?

  4. Todd Scott Says:

    What timing. I just received an Active Living Research email on this topic. They listed two studies: VALIDATION OF WALK SCORE FOR ESTIMATING NEIGHBORHOOD WALKABILITY: AN ANALYSIS OF FOUR US METROPOLITAN AREAS and The Street Level Built Environment and Physical Activity and Walking. I haven’t looked at either beyond the abstracts.

    I should also mention that in Detroit, lighting, public safety, and blight all affect walkability yet Walkscore doesn’t begin to use those factors in the evaluation.

  5. Andrew Mutch Says:

    From what I’ve seen, there’s not much in our area other than the major trails like the Metro trails. I’m checking with our city staff to see if that’s data that can be added to Google. The city has all the data on where our sidewalks, sidepaths, bike lanes, etc. are located. It would be great if all that data could be incorporated into Google.

  6. Todd Scott Says:

    Have you checked the road attributes in MapMaker? Is the sidewalk information in there? If not, this might be good work for an intern.

  7. Andrew Mutch Says:

    Oops…meant to add that to the other post. I have played around a little bit with that and added the sidepath along Taft Road near my house. But there’s nothing else like that in the area. I’ve asked staff to see if that’s something that can be added.

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