Home > Complete Streets > Trend-lines continue to support fewer car trips in our cities

Trend-lines continue to support fewer car trips in our cities

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Here’s an interesting comparison of the data for the Grand Traverse County population growth (G-D) and a single Michigan Department of Transportation plot point for Average Daily Traffic counts (MDOT) on Division St. This plot point is between 12th and 9th St., or the area under consideration by voters to dispose of parkland to MDOT to provide an alternative design to the current stroad.

There is a positive trend line here with decreasing ADT counts despite population growth and what we know about the increased activity at the Commons and the hospital. Of course, it is only one plot point of a greater network–so, take it for what it is.

Still, it raises several questions. One, why during the last 3 years of public discussion about this section of Division St. are the ADT’s expressed at 27,000 or higher? They haven’t been that high since 2004 and this has real consequences as to options MDOT will consider. Two, consistently the City is told that future design changes need to be built for steady increases in the ADT counts. The trend-line  at this one plot point, as well as in other places around the City, and even nationally, is that driving has peaked and declines are to be expected (Freakonomics).

ADT counts have always been controversial  but even if we accept them as valuable tools, why build for counts that aren’t coming nor desired? What are the policy and design considerations the community can do to support this downward trend?

I’m no engineer, but I do have questions. 

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  1. Bob Atallo
    October 19, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Well, 2004 was unreasonably high and 2005 unreasonably low, and assuming population counts are from the State Data Center and are correct, the ADT data looks very suspicious. My first attempt to explain it would be to see what sample dates were used that year, or if its a simple data entry error, or whatever. I wouldn’t just take this data at face value.

    As to the larger question of what to do about Division St, could the answer be as simple as dedicated left turns with bulb-outs? If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it (or as my old boss used to say, if aint broken, break it). Maybe we should start li looking at daily and seasonal peaking issues for a solution, and I see no evidence this has been done.

  2. Greg
    October 19, 2012 at 10:23 am

    The way I see it, if auto traffic numbers are declining on division, why do anything. The so called problem of too much traffic is fixing itself.

  3. October 19, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Actually, I think a decreasing level of traffic, or more likely a plateauing as opposed to ever increasing ADTs, is precisely why now is an excellent time to invest in our public rights of way to do more than simply subsidize the privilege of driving. It opens up opportunities that simply don’t exist in a dystopian vision of the future where communities are slaves to a future of managing the negative impacts (pollution, fossil fuel dependency, health concerns, lower property values, lack of social cohesion, ect…) of the automobile.

    Again, what has been driving the need for change isn’t simply a narrow need serving transportation. I keep returning to this Venn Diagram from the Division St. process in 2010 because it is a good one. It clearly shows the balance that needs to be achieved.


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