Archive for the ‘Detroit’ Category

The $1 billion Bloody Run Creek Greenway project

Monday, February 18th, 2013

BloodyRunIt’s been talked about for decades, but these conceptual plans makes the Bloody Run Greenway seem slightly more possible.

And yes, it does have a $1 billion total price tag. However, breaking the project into smaller phases makes it a bit more palatable.

Besides, how amazing would it be to have a creek running next to the Dequindre Cut?

Or a waterfall next to the shipping container hotel proposed for the Cut?

Are the recent demolitions east of Eastern Market related? We’re not sure, but both the demolitions and the Bloody Run project have Kresge Foundation funding.

Dequindre Cut Extension

While we don’t have any recent updates on the Dequindre Cut extension, the project must be out to bid by July of this year. We have seen the construction drawings and it looks phenomenal.

Keep in mind that this project will:

  • Extend the Cut under Gratiot and on to Mack Avenue
  • Add bike lanes from end of the Cut to Hamtramck
  • Add an Eastern Market connector trail just north of Wilkins
  • Add bike lanes and sidewalks from Eastern Market to Midtown
  • Add bike parking in Eastern Market

If Hamtramck receives grant funding this spring, they could build their bike network by next summer.

Current the Dequindre Cut is mostly undeveloped except for a rail car spur. That has been captured in this movie by Michelle Andonian entitled “The Cut.” That’s a living project that will evolve as the trail does.

Is Governor Snyder’s Belle Isle to Wisconsin Trail for bikes?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Last November, Governor Rick Snyder lauded Michigan trails during a speech called “Ensuring our Future: Energy and the Environment.”
Belle Isle to Wisconsin Trail

Michigan has more total trail miles than just about any other state. Much of the credit goes to volunteers who have shoveled, raked, trimmed and groomed these trails on their own time and often at their own expense. This shows the real appetite Michiganders have for quality trails, and points to the opportunity we have to be the number one trail state.

We can reach that goal much faster together. I am directing the DNR, Michigan Snowmobile and Trail Advisory Committee, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the MEDC, the MDARD and the MDOT to align and prioritize their efforts to support and create trail connections. All these entities will reach out to local communities as partners, helping them to maximize the economic return from trail use. We can and will seek to make Michigan the Trail State.

He then committed to a new long distance trail.

As the Trail State, we will need a showcase trail that celebrates these efforts and pulls together private and public trails into a signature Pure Michigan experience. With the addition of approximately 200 miles of additional trails in the Lower Peninsula and the UP, we could hike or bike from Belle Isle to the Wisconsin border. Today, I am directing DNR to focus on connecting those trails, through cooperation with private and non-profit partners and the use of their own resources.

The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) helped with the trail routing — primarily bike lanes and sidewalks — through the city of Detroit and further north.

What’s odd is that the Midland to Mackinaw Trail is not fully open to bicycles. The same is true for some parts of the North Country National Scenic Trail which is used across the Upper Peninsula. The parts of that trail along Pictured Rocks and in the Ottawa National Forest are not open to bikes.

Reading the Governor’s text, it appears the trail should be open bikes.

What’s interesting is the latest State Trails Plan calls this trail a hiking trail. Certainly not all hiking trails are hiking-only trails, but it does make one wonder if the intended trail usages have changed since the original announcement.

We’ll trying to find an answer.

Continue the trail to Canada

The Governor has been a vocal champion of the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

To us, it makes perfect sense that his proposed trail get extended to the new bridge and connect with Canada. This is another reason why we need bike and pedestrian access on this bridge.

In an informal conversation with the Governor, he seemed supportive of having this access on the bridge. In a followup email, he recognized that the approved plans do support bikes and pedestrians, but they also say it is up to U.S. and Canadian border security to approve it.

MTGA contacted Senator Carl Levin for assistance in working with Homeland Security. The Senator wrote Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security in support of bike and pedestrian access on the bridge.

“There are many benefits of a year-round cycling connection between Detroit and Windsor, including by bolstering the cycle tourism in the region.”

This support is already helping to legitimize the importance of this issue on both sides of the border — and we look forward to more positive news in the coming months.

TAP grants fund local bicycle and trail projects

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The current Federal Transportation bill made many changes to how we fund non-motorized projects. One major change was the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) functionally replaced the old Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. The bill also required MDOT to share that TAP funding to groups like SEMCOG that would make grants within their seven county region.

At the national level, this sharing was considered a “win”. In Michigan, MDOT did a fair job with TE funding, so this may be a negative since it adds complexity and requires advocates to monitor two separate granting programs.

Either way, the first round of SEMCOG TAP grant funding has been announced — a total of $6.3 million in grants:

  • City of New Baltimore, Connection to the County Line Rd. Path, $183,016
  • City of Monroe, North Dixie Highway Median, $80,000
  • City of Auburn Hills, Opdyke Pathway Gaps, $267,475
  • City of Auburn Hills, Downtown Riverwalk Squirrel Ct Improvements, $194,589
  • City of Ferndale, Livernois Complete Street, $118,094.40
  • City of Ferndale, West Nine Mile Streetscape Improvement (Livernois to Pinecrest) Phase IV, $590,134
  • City of Novi, Metro Connector Trail, $741,200
  • City of Rochester, Safety Crossing, $99,970
  • St. Clair County Road Commission, Bridge to Bay Trail on Desmond Landing, $211,339
  • City of Port Huron, Bridge to Bay trail – 10th Street to Military Street, $250,614
  • Ypsilanti Twp (Road Commission for Washtenaw County), Grove Road trail reconstruction, $763,000
  • City of Allen Park, Ecorse Road Streetscape, $626,883
  • City of Dearborn, Proposed Rouge River Greenway Extension Project- UM Dearborn Connection, $242,830
  • City of Dearborn, Rouge River Gateway Trail Extension Phase I, $302,000
  • City of Detroit, West Vernor / Woodmere to Clark Streetscape, $1,000,000
  • City of Detroit, Congress Streetscape, $636,310

Our favorite? bike shop morphett vale will provide bike lanes and more to improve the cycling connection between Ferndale (at 9 Mile) and Detroit. The city of Detroit is also looking at improvements to Livernois south of Eight Mile. When completed, this will provide a nice route between the University District/Sherwood Forest neighborhoods and downtown Ferndale.

We also like Dearborn’s extension of the Rouge Gateway Trail from Andiamo’s Restaurant and westward. Ending in a restaurant parking lot on a busy Michigan Avenue is far from ideal. Continuing the trail to the nearby neighborhood and park is a great idea.

Many of the other projects are wide sidewalks and sidepaths along roads. With the exception of Novi’s project (which connects two MDOT trails), it’s disappointing to see these projects funded from a limited source. We think the cities should pay for sidewalks and sidepaths, especially since in so many cases they less safe and more costly than other options.

Detroit public bike share study seeks feedback

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Toronto bike shareThe Detroit Public Bike Share study is well underway. Data gathering is underway, and as part of that, the consultants are asking where you might want to see bike share stations within the Greater Downtown Detroit area. Please visit their web site, www.DetroitBicycleShare.com and provide your feedback.

If you prefer, you may give your input at the following locations:

  • D:Hive Welcome Center (1253 Woodward)
  • Detroit Public Library – Main Branch lobby (5201 Woodward)
  • Detroit Public Library – Elmwood Branch (550 Chene)
  • Detroit Public Library – Bowen Branch (3648 W. Vernor)

The study has two components. First is to determine the feasibility of such a system. Will there be enough users based on the density of destinations, the bicycle infrastructure, and more. Bike shares work best in urban areas where the distances between destinations isn’t too far.

The second part of the study is to develop a business plan. That plan will estimate the costs of building and operating the system, makes suggestions as to who might run it, determine a cost structure and more. This information will be based on what other cities are successfully doing, but tweaked with the feedback we’ve given them.

For example, New York City is being paid to install their bike share system. That’s because selling advertising on the system generated significant funding in New York, unlike most other U.S. cities including Detroit. We’ll likely have to rely on federal transportation dollars to buy the system and rely on sponsorship and membership to keep it running.

One area we’ve highlighted from the start is equity. In order to rent a bike, one needs to put a deposit on it typically with a credit or debit card. We’ve asked for options on how those without these cards or who might not be able to afford the membership fee could use the system. Some systems had partnered with local banks and social service providers to solve these issues. Or, it may make more sense to simply increase bike ownership rather than adapt the system. The bottom line is increasing bicycle transportation access for the entire community and there is no one solution.

An often asked question is won’t the bikes get stolen. That was a concern early on. One vendor noted that they’ve only had one bike stolen nationwide. Basically, these bikes aren’t racing machines. They’re very unique looking. It would be much easier for someone to steal a privately owned bike rather than one of these.

For more updates, follow @DetBikeShare on Twitter.

Will M1 RAIL become an M1 FAIL?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The opinions expressed here are those of the m-bike blog, but you already knew that right?

Bikes, walkability and good transit are keys to forming an effective urban transportation system.

The shortcomings of Detroit’s transit — built on the DDOT and SMART buses systems and People Mover — are well documented.

We wish the M1 RAIL would be complement, but from all that we know to date, it won’t be. In many ways, it will diminish the urban transportation system.

Huh?

First, let’s make one clarifying point. The Detroit Woodward Light Rail project from downtown to Eight Mile was a good one, but it didn’t connect enough Detroiters to jobs nor tap into the more millage-rich surrounding counties. Governor Rick Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing, and U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood changed this project into a Bus Rapid Transit system that would connect Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties with a high-speed regional transit system. It’s a great solution and we support. This is exactly what this region needs for better transit.

But, once this project was no longer running on rails, the M1 RAIL investors restarted their 3-mile streetcar design — something that even they admit is a development project rather than a transit project. Development? Yes. studies show that permanent transit solutions like streetcars spur transit-oriented development along their routes. Guess what? So does Bus Rapid Transit.

There are some key points to keep in mind with the M1 RAIL. It starts at Larned and goes to Grand Boulevard. It runs mostly along the Woodward’s curbs except at the ends. Remember that Lego video that showed how curb running is slow and unsafe? The U.S. DOT’s Woodward Light Rail environmental review concurred as did the majority of the public comments.

Curb-running streets cars will run as slow as the slowest vehicle on the road. Streetcars can’t go around a stopped bus, a slow bicyclist, a parking car, etc. Even without anything in their way, the streetcars are expected to travel at 11 MPH — roughly equivalent to a beginning bicyclist.

This is a linear People Mover, but slower and is projected to carry fewer passengers.

Of course Detroit’s original street car system was center-running.

When asked, a M1 RAIL representative has said the curb versus center running was a “religious argument” among their investors.

If better transit was the goal, the M1 RAIL investors would have put money into level bus boarding stations and pre-sale ticket systems like NYC has. According to NYC’s transportation commissioner this was the best way to improve bus service reliability. It could have been implemented far more inexpensively. This would be a fix-it first strategy that relies on bus rapid transit to deliver transit-oriented development.

One other thought: why do you design a transit system that doesn’t directly connect with the Rosa Parks Transit Center or Cobo Hall or the Ren Cen?

Not Complete Streets

The reason for covering the transit issues first is to make clear that this is not an anti-transit article. We did not want this to read like bicyclists’ sour grapes. It’s not.

However, there’s another reason the Woodward Light Rail concluded that center-running operations was best rather than curb running. Curb running is significantly hazardous for cyclists. Bicycle wheels get caught in streetcar tracks causing serious injuries, and in some cities, lawsuits. This is why most cities don’t build curb running systems, or at least put them one side of one-way streets.

A very recent study found bicycling on streets with curb-running streetcar tracks is 300% more likely to cause a crash over a regular street like Woodward.

A center-running design would be a Complete Street. Putting the M1 RAIL at the curbs makes Woodward Avenue less Complete.

Now if you’ve following the recent Detroit Works Project unveiling, you’d have seen Complete Streets touted as a priority in Detroit.

According to the national experts, streetcar systems should design for safe bicycling from the start. MDOT and M1 RAIL did not. In fact, years ago MDOT’s Tim Hoefner said solving the bicycle safety issue was at the top of their to do list. Apparently they never got to it.

But its a public road

To date, MDOT has shown mostly indifference to this project’s negative impacts on bicycling. In exchange for a significantly less safe state-owned road they offered to put up some directional signs along a couple miles of Cass Avenue. Seriously.

MDOT has also said cyclists can use the sometimes parallel street, John R. Of course MDOT is removing the John R bridge over I-94 and in that project’s environmental review they said cyclists can use Woodward.

MDOT has been quick to deflect blame to others such as the Federal Highway Administration, but it’s a public road, they own most of it, and they have a Complete Streets policy. Why are they allowing a less-safe design based on some investors’ “religious argument?”

U.S. DOT’s role

From what we can gather in speaking with other sources is that the regular process rules are off the table. Secretary LaHood is so enamored with the investors’ commitment that he’s directed his staff to make it happen. And it’s Detroit — a laggard in the public transportation world.

That might explain why he’s giving the M1 RAIL group $25 million before the supplemental review process (which determines if it should be built) is even completed.

Other issues

And this discussion hasn’t gotten into other more significant issues like social equity. How do the investors justify building a redundant transit system when Detroiters and Detroit school children struggle to find mobility options with the current bus system? That is a far greater travety than any bicycling safety issue.

And where has the media been on this reporting? They’ve certainly covered the happy talk but so far have shown an unwillingness to look any deeper.

Now, what happens when Bus Rapid Transit comes to Woodward? At its ends, the M1 RAIL runs in the center where the Bus Rapid Transit will go. According to one transportation expert, M1 RAIL may have to get torn out.

There are many, many good people involved in the M1 RAIL and we all feel very passionate about doing the right thing for Detroit, but this project as currently designed doesn’t work. It’s a project heavy with investors and light on collaboration.

We need to do better.