Home > Complete Streets, dangerous by design, Design the Details, Editorial, Safety Issues, Traffic Calming, Universal Access, Walking > Trust or bust is wrong approach to Traverse City’s Division St.

Trust or bust is wrong approach to Traverse City’s Division St.

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Division is a menace and must be fixed; all we need is a little trust.

~ Record Eagle Editorial____

Good work editorial board–let’s state the obvious and hope for the best. Let’s also dumb-down the issue that is Division St. by focusing on “backups and gridlock” and solve it with a wider roadway.

Reading the RE’s editorial, it appears there is a considerable hurdle before Traverse City in regards to an informed discussion. Here’s a reminder of the issues expressed through a diverse set of interests back in 2010.

Any final outcome needs to address all four of the main issues of safety, context, access, and quality for all users, as well as the impact on the adjacent homes.

One key objective should be to ensure that property owners don’t feel compelled to build 15-foot high concrete walls to barricade themselves against an aggressive street. It should be noted, that quality of the roadway was partly addressed with the re-paving of the surface. This has improved ambient noise from vibration of trucks running through town. Little else has been achieved since then and the perceived safety has only worsened as speeds remain higher than desired by people who live near or frequently use Division St.

To build trust, the City Commission needs to step up the pace in asking staff to implement improvements recommended by the Division St. Steering Committee. That document attached below and includes items like street trees planted in the tree lawn, sidewalk completion (both at the north end and in places along the corridor), change lighting from highway lighting to pedestrian scaled lighting, and by provide feedback and education to drivers through a safe driving campaign, more visible enforcement, and  by installing instant feedback radar signs to alert people of their speeds. These are the most doable and delaying for some unknown start date of a reconstruction project reveals a lack of resolve.

Perhaps a citizen group needs to simply go out without approval from the City and do some of these ideas and more on their own.

I’m not sure where I fall on the ballot initiative; it’s too early. There remain questions to be asked and answers or non-answers to be sorted out.  Is this the only chance to address Division St.? If it means simply reducing friction for automobiles through the corridor by focusing on left turning lanes, then I’m not really interested. If we can ameliorate some of those issues while also creating a street scaled for the mixed-use neighborhood it is, then I’m interested.

What are your questions? 

Reminder: Please read the comments policy if you haven’t done so already. If you feel you need to rant against the world and every tangential issue while personally attacking individuals or organizations, consider creating your own blog and tracking back to MyWHaT. If it is of value, you will attract readers. Or, send me a message. Otherwise, healthy, friendly debate is fully encouraged. 

The objectives from the Division Street Steering Committee remain valuable:  

To change the character of Division Street to create a City Street that is:

  1. safer for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians to share, travel along, and to cross
  2. better fits the context of the city and its neighborhoods
  3. unites the east and west sides of the street, and
  4. creates the environment and driver behavior to insure that traffic speeds will be reduced to 30-mph. This must be a demonstrable requirement.

More documents and articles on Division St. are available through the Connected Communities: Complete Streets coalition resource

  1. July 18, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Traverse City masterfully re-built Woodmere Street into the closest thing to a perfect street in Northern Michigan. It’s safe, works for all concerned and allows everyone to access the right-of-way….why reinvent the wheel? I realize US-31 carries a bit more traffic, but nowhere in the City Charter have I read that the purpose of Traverse City is to expressively move motor vehicles through it’s limits.
    Quality of life comes first. That’s WHY we live here. Simply copy the brilliant, attractive Woodmere design, and build in on Division. Imagine if, further up the road on US-31 in Bay View, the residents simply put in a wide, fast highway…..It’s 2 & 3 lanes and US-31 survives…..no, its NOT I-75….but, no one would live there then. Why do we have to reinvent the wheel? We live here, MDOT does not. MDOT has no funds to change the road anyway (their ENTIRE 2012 construction budget for NW Michigan is for just .6 of one mile of US-31 south of Beulah…and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. (should we just start painting crime scene body outlines on Division…..will that get unskilled motorists attention?)

  2. Me
    July 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Just don’t copy the median landscaping from Woodmere! I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to put tall grasses there, but it’s not! It blocks the sight of oncoming traffic.

  3. Greg
    July 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    One nugget left out of the cute chart above is COST. Traverse City, The State of Michigan and the Federal Gov. is running out of money or already in debt. I for one believe it will get tighter before it gets better. Maybe the best way to look at the so called problem is save some money (we could eliminate the DDA, Planning Commission and Parks & Rec Commission) see how much is in the kitty and then make a CHOICE on the priorities. The one area most people forget is $$$$$$$.

  4. July 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Agree completely with Greg. Since my original post was somehow deleted or not liked by the collective here.. I will rephrase in brief…:The city commission wants us all to trust them with something they know nothing about but are willing to hack off some parkland so we can wait and see if they do it, what ever “it” is right? That is so laughable I really did pee my pants!]
    And then they put in on the block for a vote in November! Holy cow! this is the same group that wants to dismantle the city fire department while back room maneuving with county wranglers) and trust them for what they know they are doing. LOL
    I agree, lets do away with the DDA, Planning Commission and the TART political action committee packed Parks and Rec. Save the money from those bloated groups and get building the tunnels that the USDOT and MDOT has money for.

  5. July 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Greg, no one is forgetting about money, however, it is critical to know what we want before moving forward. If we let money drive our ultimate goals we’d never do anything and the community would be the worse for it. Something you might be very comfortable with, but that many of us are not.

    You’re idea of saving money by abolishing two volunteer city boards strikes me as an odd suggestion–how exactly does eliminating them save money? I know I don’t get paid to volunteer and we’ve actually help raise revenue and improve service for the City.

    The DDA is under review and the City is exploring how best to leverage it, and the tax district formed around it, to better serve city wide interests.

  6. GregGraetz
    July 19, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    I like the design of Woodmere and see it as a potential template for Division between 14th & Grandview. We don’t seem to need two lanes in both directions on Division since traffic doesn’t move along well due to all the backups from left-turning vehicles. The Woodmere design would appear to have the design to accomodate the actual vehicular traffic flow present in that particular portion of Division, plus adds safe crossings for pedestrians as well as bike lanes on both sides. Yes, I know Woodmere doesn’t get the traffic volume that Division gets, but I don’t believe that would prevent the same Woodmere design from working on Division.

  7. mikecgrant
    July 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I think Mr. Williams makes an interesting proposal, but I wonder if Division were “Woodmerized” if it would have enough capacity to carry the traffic is carries now, let alone what I assume are the projected increases in traffic on Division out as far as the eye can see. I write the latter because I don’t know how Munson’s, for example, continuing to add capacity as well as continued downtown development, etc, could not generate more traffic on Division. So I think the larger question is what ultimately do folks in the City want Division to be and how do they want it to function. Because as long as the goal for Division (stated or un-stated) is to smoothly carry an ever-expanding number of cars I think sooner or later that goal is not going to be met. For my 2 cents, the fact that traffic is heavy on Division is not really my main concern, as far as from the perspective of a driver trying to get somewhere quickly. My concerns primarily are about the spillover of cut-through traffic on the adjoining neighborhoods, ped/bike safety and access across and through that corridor, and the effects of the high-speed/high-volume traffic on the adjoining neighborhoods. A Division that might not move as many cars as quickly as the current version may be more consistent with my goals. The same would go for the Parkway. But something tells me that MDOT is not very often in the “road diet” business. I would also add that the biggest driver for public support for building more density and for making ped/transit/bike improvements is when it gets harder for people to drive quickly to where they want to go and they start to look to alternatives.

  8. Raymond Minervini
    July 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    As I recall, traffic consultant Ian Lockwood’s professional opinion was that the _current_ Division traffic counts exceeded the capacity of a Woodmere-style road diet.

    To those who suggest tunnels: are you talking about burying the street or burying the pedestrian/bike paths? If it’s the latter, I suggest you do some research on the concepts of context sensitive design. A tunnel (or foot bridge) solution is based on the same thinking that bifurcated big city neighborhoods with freeways, placing auto movement above all other uses and the rights of the adjoining community.

    The reason Lockwood suggested a series of roundabouts on Division was because it what the best way in his professional opinion to slow and smooth out the flow of traffic, making the street safer and more usable for vehicles and non-motorized users, and less hostile to the neighborhoods. He said another result of this change in the character and flow of Division would make motorists _less_ likely to escape Division and cut through the neighborhoods. If there is another/better way to make Division vehicle traffic slower, more even, and safer for walking/biking and the adjoining neighborhoods, let’s get it into the discussion. Whatever the plan, it will take years to design and fund.

    City: in the mean time, let’s get the radar speed signs installed now!

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