Posts Tagged ‘SEMCOG’

Transportation key to young staying in Michigan

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

The Detroit News ran a commentary last month written by members of the Millennial Mayors Congress, which is “a partnership of city officials and rising leaders working together to address regional issues.”

Michigan’s transportation system is not getting young people where they need to go.

As citizens under 35, we know that not all of our peers can afford the $8,500 a year it takes, on average, to own a car. Some of us are looking to reduce our carbon footprints. Whatever the reasons, young people want to see a transportation system that gives everyone the freedom to get around, with or without a car. Unfortunately, failed transportation policies have been holding Michigan back.

Every year thousands of us leave for places that have functioning transit, safe biking and walking conditions, and convenient transportation between cities.

They also give support to Complete Streets.

We need to adopt a truly comprehensive “complete streets” policy, so Michiganians do not have to risk their lives to walk or bike.

It’s worth the time to read the entire opinion piece. It focuses mostly on public transit, which is expected since it was released during the recent Detroit light rail/bus rapid transit news.

Still widening highways

One minor correction? It speaks about MDOT widening highways in the past tense. MDOT is still widening highways.

Where did a majority of the transportation stimulus money go in Michigan? Widening an expressway. MDOT plans to spend well over a billion transportation dollars in Detroit over the next 20 years… to widen an expressway. Widening roads are still a funding priority for MDOT and many Metro Detroit municipalities.

Want to lose faith in Metro Detroit’s transportation decision makers? Take some time to review the road projects in SEMCOG’s transportation improvement plan (TIP).

Let’s look at the Road Commission for Oakland County’s 2012 TIP projects. They have $30.7 million in projects of which $21.8 million involves road widening.

Road agencies, SEMCOG, and others don’t like to publicize road widening projects because at the same time, they’re asking for more transportation funding.

They need the funding to continue building sprawl, but that’s not a good sales pitch — especially to millennials.

The Millennial Mayors Congress is also on Facebook.

More coverage of Complete Streets in Oakland County

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

As mentioned earlier, Oakland County Commissioners passed a Complete Streets resolution. However, the original resolution was modified before it was unanimously approved.

Here is the final version as best as we can determine with the changes highlighted:

WHEREAS Complete Street are defined as a design framework that enables safe and convenient access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and drivers of all ages and abilities; and

WHEREAS Complete Streets are achieved when transportation agencies routinely plan, design, construct, reconstruct, operate, and maintain the transportation network to improve travel conditions for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, motorists and freight in a manner consistent with, and supportive of, the surrounding community; and

WHEREAS development of pedestrian, bicycle, and transit infrastructure offers long-term cost savings and opportunities to create safe and convenient non-motorized travel; and

WHEREAS streets that support and invite multiple uses for pedestrians, bicycles, and transit are more conducive to the public life and efficient movement of people than streets designed primarily to move automobiles; and

WHEREAS increasing active transportation (e.g. walking, bicycling and using public transportation) offers the potential for improved public health, economic development, a cleaner environment, reduced transportation costs, enhanced community connections, social equity, and a more livable communities; and

WHEREAS Complete Streets principles have been and continue to be adopted nationwide at state, county, MPO, and city levels in the interest of proactive planning and adherence to federal regulations that guide transportation planning organizations to promote multi-modal transportation options and accessibility for all users; and

WHEREAS the Michigan Legislature enacted legislation that required the State Transportation Commission to:

A. Adopt a complete streets policy for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)

B. Develop a model complete streets policy or policies to be made available for use by local road agencies; and

WHEREAS this legislation established the Complete Streets Advisory Council to assist with the development of the model policy or policies and to advise the Transportation Commission and local road agencies on such policies; and

WHEREAS it is imperative that any policies and practices adopted by the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) be consistent with the model complete streets policies for local agencies being developed by the State Transportation Commission; and

WHEREAS RCOC has established its own Complete Streets Review Committee to examine the complete streets concept; and

WHEREAS this committee includes a cross section of RCOC staff and other interested parties including the City of Novi director of Public Services, the Oakland Township parks and trails planner, a representative of the Michigan Trailways and Greenways Alliance, the MDOT Metro Region planner and SEMCOG’s non-motorized transportation planner; and

WHEREAS RCOC’s committee will finalize its complete streets recommendations after it has reviewed the model policies developed by the State Transportation Commission.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners hereby declares its support for Complete Streets concept. and requests the Road Commission of Oakland County (RCOC) adopt a Complete Streets into its strategic planning process.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners hereby requests the Road Commission of Oakland County to develop a Non-motorized Transportation Plan that will include, at a minimum, accommodations for accessibility, sidewalks, curb ramps and cuts, trails and pathways, signage, bike lanes, and shall incorporate principles of Complete Streets and maximize walkable and bikeable streets within Oakland County.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners hereby requests the Road Commission for Oakland County plan for, design, and construct all transportation improvement projects, both new and retrofit activities, to provide appropriate accommodations for bicyclists, pedestrian, transit users, and persons of all ages and abilities in accordance with an Oakland County Non-motorized Transportation Plan.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners requests that two additional members are appointed to the Complete Streets Review Committee, and meet the following requirements:

1) Two (2) members of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners appointed by the Chairperson of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners requests that the RCOC’s report to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners within six months of adoption of this resolution progress of the committee.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners requests the that, once the State Transportation Commission has developed its complete streets model policy for local road agencies, and the policy has been reviewed by the RCOC Complete Streets Review Committee, RCOC will report to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners on how the Road Commission will progress in implementing an Oakland County Non-motorized plan and adoption of Complete Streets principles in overall strategic planning within six months after adoption of this resolution a complete streets policy that is consistent with the State Transportation Commission’s model policy and Complete Streets principles.

Here is some additional media coverage:

Woodward Avenue Complete Streets Grant

C and G News also ran a story on the Complete Streets grant for Woodward.

“(Complete Streets) is sort of a concept that communities across the country are adopting that says our streets should be more than for just cars,” said Heather Carmona, executive director of the WA3, which is based in Royal Oak.

This means that bicycling groups, non-motorized transit advocates, Woodward Light Rail supporters and all other stakeholders in the roadways will come together to make sure that every mode of transportation can share Woodward fairly and that all future road designs incorporate the Complete Streets concept.

To create a cohesive strategy, there would be standards, policies and land use changes that are shared by all jurisdictions. “The ultimate outcome will be some kind of overlying Complete Streets master plan for Woodward that will look at a lot of different components,” Carmona said.

John Scott elected SEMCOG Chair

In related news, Oakland County Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford) was elected Chair of SEMCOG.

Scott initially opposed the County Complete Streets resolution by saying, “Does this mean bike paths or wheelchair lanes down Woodward (Avenue)? I’m not sure what I’m voting on here.”

Seriously? He thought Complete Streets meant wheelchair lanes on Woodward? Has he been traveling the U.S. and seeing wheelchair lanes in other Complete Street’s communities?

Now he’s chair of SEMCOG — our metropolitan planning authority that oversees much of this area’s transportation spending.

And in showing his true support for regional harmony, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson added, “He will defend Oakland County’s interests vigorously.”

It’s clear that a Complete Streets resolution is a start, but we need some more significant changes in our county government.

Detroit road obesity makes for easy cycling

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Detroit’s loss of population is well documented. No matter where the recent census counts fall, the reality is Detroit has a million fewer residents since the 1950s.

And since the 1950s, Detroit lost its streetcar network while gaining one of America’s most extensive urban expressway networks.

This has resulted in roads like Forest just east of Dequindre. Five lanes one-way with limited hours of parking.

Despite its one-way design, the road’s recent repaving and lack of traffic makes this ideal for biking.

And from 2004 to 2009, there are no reported motor vehicle crashes involving bicyclists or pedestrians on this segment of Forest from Dequindre to Gratiot.

Marked in Red

However, the MDOT and SEMCOG bicycle maps say otherwise. Both bicycle maps show this road in red, which means it’s generally unfavorable for bicycling due to the heavy traffic.


We looked at the SEMCOG traffic counts and did not find any relevant traffic counts near this section of Forest. There was one count from June 2006 taken on Forest west of Dequindre however Forest is now closed at Dequindre. Even still, that traffic count was only 6,823 vehicles during a 24-hour period. The MDOT map says over 15,000 cars a day use this section of Forest.  SEMCOG map says there are over 10,000 vehicles per day.

Unfortunately it appears Forest is not the exception on these maps. There are other super wide, one way Detroit roads with little to no traffic that are shown in red, including Rosa Parks and 14th from Warren to I-75. Second Avenue from Forest to Temple is red on SEMCOG’s map despite its lack of traffic.

This really just reinforces the idea that Detroit needs a good bike map that is designed for cyclists and provides recommended routes — like Forest.

Road Diet?

Does road dieting a road without cars make it more bike friendly? Is a road with so few cars a Complete Street? These are questions that don’t get asked in most cities but are very relevant in Detroit.

Perhaps it makes more sense to approach this with a financial perspective. Could a road diet reduce the road maintenance costs and storm water runoff? Could we convert those outside travel lanes to half bike lane, half pervious surface. The pervious surface (perhaps as bio swales) would provide some separation between the parking/vehicle travel lanes and the bike lane while also absorbing the road’s storm water runoff. Could the city maintain (e.g. sweep) a physically-separated cycle track?

Eliminating vehicle lanes on Federal aid roads (such as Forest) affects Michigan’s federal transportation funding formulas. The state would get the same amount of funding, but less would be distributed to counties and cities like Detroit. There is a financial incentive for not losing vehicle lanes on federal aid roads, but is it enough to justify the added cost?

Hopefully the answer to these questions will emerge over time from the Detroit Works Project and more analysis.

But until then, go bike on E. Forest and enjoy the wide open road.

Detroit population loss means less road funds

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

The 2010 Census numbers are in and Detroit’s reported population dropped as expected.

The new Census number is 713,777, however that may rise. After all, SEMCOG’s December 2010 population estimate — a very accurate one the data experts say — was 762,789.

Mayor Bing posted on Facebook, “I am confident our count will be revised. We must confront the reality that Detroit is losing population and commit to operating differently.”

How does this affect bicycling in Detroit?

If there is a positive, this population count reconfirms what we’ve been saying about the city’s urban biking. Detroit’s roads are some of the most bike friendly in America because more motorists are leaving them. The Detroit Census count has not been this low since 1910. And though we have greater car ownership in 2010, we also have many more road miles, not to mention expressways.

That said, there are many downsides to a dropping population.

For one, Detroit stands to lose road funding, which means less opportunity for building Complete Streets.

State road funding is divided up in an overly complex formula based on decades of legislative tweaks. Still, each city and village receives a portion of road funding based in part on their population relative to the others. When a city’s population drops more than the other citys and villages, they get less road funding. We’re not sure how much Detroit will lose, but we know it won’t be welcomed.

And, Federal Surface Transportation Program Urban (STP-U) funding is distributed by SEMCOG based on population. Detroit stands to lose road (and ADA ramp) money here as well.

Fortunately, Census population counts do not affect Transportation Enhancements funding which helps pay a lion’s share of the Detroit bike lanes and greenway projects.

Still, the next Federal Transportation Bill may scale back all transportation funding to match gas tax revenues starting in 2012. If that happens everyone across the board will see cuts.

These are certainly challenging times.

Planned Detroit RiverWalk improvements

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

SEMCOG has been asked to add 60 projects to the 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

Among those additions, MDOT has submitted 3 non-motorized pathway construction projects for the Detroit RiverWalk.

  • 2011: $15.5 million for pathways at various locations between Cobo Hall and the Belle Isle Bridge, perhaps including the unfinished section in front of the new Port Authority.
  • 2012: $5.4 million for pathways from Chene (Park) to Jos Campau.
  • 2013: $11 million for pathways from Meldrum (Mt. Elliot Park) to the Belle Isle Bridge. This is the Uniroyal site.

Yes, the details are vague, but it’s enough information to get excited. If this goes as planned, the RiverWalk will connect with Belle Isle by 2013.

Milliken State Park expansion?

The DNRE is also looking at expanding their state park located on the RiverWalk.

This is an excerpt from  a presentation given at the August 18th Natural Resources Trust Fund meeting, which has provided funding to the RiverWalk and state park. The presentation was by Vicki Anthes from the DNRE and Faye Alexander-Nelson from the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

Ms. Anthes outlined two parcels that are critical for additional development of the state park. The first parcel is the Atwater Loft building, which has sat vacant for some time. The Detroit Economic Development Corporation is willing to discuss acquisition of the property. This property would have a huge impact on how the remainder of the park is developed. The other property, north of Atwater Street, is the Globe Building and some vacant land just north of it. She discussed additional parcels of interest to future development of the park — Watermark parcel, existing City of Detroit owned Chene Park and Holsom property. None of these properties have been developed. The DNRE would like the City of Detroit to consider these properties for acquisition to the Milliken State Park to expand recreational opportunities. Another parcel for consideration is located on the the west riverfront area and is approximately 40 acres. The City of Detroit owns this property as well. If all parcels were acquired, the state park would go from 31 acres to approximately 78 acres.

The Atwater Loft building mentioned above is that vacant land just east of the Rivard Plaza parking lot. The minutes imply that Chene Park is undeveloped, which is obviously not correct. The DEGC does have plans to expand Hart Plaza so that it replaces Chene Park. This is a really needed if there’s any hope of increasing residential living opportunities in the area around Chene. Living next to an amphitheater brings noise and parking issues.

What this really shows is the market for condos directly on the river isn’t what the DEGC thought, at least not in this current market. The DNRE can apply for Trust Fund grants to acquire and develop park land, so they’re really the only game in town right now.

The presentation included  more information on the Globe Buiding.

Ms. Anthes further outlined the vision of development at the Globe Building property. A portion of the interior space could provide opportunities for an adventure and discovery center. There would be hands-on activities for visitors to experience outdoor recreation and natural resources, such as climbing a giant White Pine tree, simulated kayaking trip or an indoor archery center.

Interesting ideas. It’s great to see the DNRE is expanding their role in Detroit — as they should. This state park is more readily accessible than any other in Michigan. It’s highly visible and a huge asset to the community.

Dequindre Cut Expansion

At this same Trust Fund meeting, Tom Woiwode from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan discussed the planned northward extension of the Cut to Mack Avenue.

From the minutes:

The original plan was to connect the trail into Eastern Market. In the first phase of the project, the trail got users as far as Gratiot. North of Gratiot the property was privately owned. The railroad company owns this property. Just last month the railroad company has agreed to sell the property.

The Community Foundation is prepared to provide the match required for the acquisition. With this property, the Dequindre Cut will actually directly connect with Eastern Market. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) provided a $393,000 grant towards the Dequindre Cut south trail construction. They have expressed interest in continuing the project north and have some construction funds available.

There you go, D-Cut fans. The wheels of trail expansion are turning…