A Look At Michigan Transportation Data

This is not about urban Grand Rapids, it is about the state of Michigan. But the data is too interesting to pass up. For anyone interested this data (and more than mentioned here) is available for every state at dot.gov's "State Transportation by the Numbers Profiles" page.

One statistic that really stands out is that of Michigan's 122,051 miles of public roads ... 89.1% are of acceptable quality. This in contrast to a national average of 81.3%. So Michigan roads beat the national average by 7.8%, and are only a percentage point away from having 90% of roads at acceptable quality. Where is the crisis of road quality? I hear about this crisis all the time.

With 122,051 miles of roads and 9,909,877 citizens [2014 estimate] there are roughly 80 citizens per road-mile; a number which includes children and elderly. Another correlation would be 122,051 miles of roads for a workforce of 4,747,800 workers (December 2014) - or 38 workers per road mile. Given the cost of a road-mile this is clearly an unsustainable system. Given only 38 workers to pay for every road mile the fact that our roads are 89.1% acceptable is a miraculous achievement. The simplest solution to funding improved quality of our core corridors would be reducing the overall number of road miles to a sustainable level. Or if not a net reduction in road miles a reduction in the service level of low-use and tertiary roads.

Getting Around & The Michigan St Plan

In January [2015] the Grand Rapids city council performed tentative adoption of the Michigan St Corridor Plan. Final adoption is scheduled for March 11th, 2015 following a 42 day comment period.

First some terms: "mode share" is the portion of all people taking trips using a given type of transportation [including walking]. "multi-modal" trips are trips taken using multiple modes. Everyone takes multi-modal trips. For example if you drive to the airport, fly to Dallas, and then take the DART (Dallas' light rail line) downtown to your hotel - then you've used four modes. You drove, flew, used transit, and you walked (the last few blocks to the hotel). "Mode shift" is when people change from regularly using one or a few types of transportation to using another type of transportation, or a different mix of types of transportation.

As would be expected of any plan having to do with a street there is an emphasis on transportation. And the transportation related aspects of the plan have caused the biggest stir. In response to the plan's transporation oriented objectives MLIVE published a post entitled "How you'll get to Grand Rapid's Medical Mile in the future". This story included a few data points from the plan:

  • ~90%-95% of the trips currently taken on/to "Medical Mile" are performed using single-passenger vehicles.
  • By 2035 the plan targets:
    • A single-passenger vehicle mode share of ~45%, with another ~20% for multiple-occupant vehicles.
    • ~20% of 2035 users using public transit, up from ~1% currently
    • Increase from ~3-5% mode share for pedestrians to ~12%.
    • Increase from -0.2% mode share for bicycles to ~5%.

The response to this story's coverage of the plan's objectives comes as no surprise. Internet commentators are incensed. I have been asked, in person, nearly a dozen times something equivalent to: "what are they thinking?". This question is generally accompanied by gestures indicating complete mystification, if not disgust. It was a serious flaw of the MLIVE story that it failed to convey any sense of rationale beyond the quote "the level of service for autos won't get much better" [Suzanne Schulz, city planner]. It appears there is a wide-spread sentiment that the objectives of the plan are radical, represent some type of progressive agenda, or are simply unachievable. This last notion, that these changes are practically unachievable belies an underlying belief that Grand Rapids is a nearly completely auto-dependent single-mode city, that Grand Rapids is a quintessentially car oriented American city.

Creston Plaza Reaches Half-way Point

The redevelopment of the affordable housing community at the intersection of Cedar and Clancy, across the street from the old Oliver plant, has reached a half-way point. This development is targeted to open in the fall of 2015. The official name for the development is "Creston Plaza Apartments", which is a bit odd as it seems more in Belknap than Creston.

The Morton Developers Awarded MSF Loan

The Michigan Strategic Fund has awarded a low-interest $4,325,000 loan to facilitate the ~$34M renovation of The Morton. The renovation will turn the vacant building into a mixed used facility with 111 residential units as well as several condominiums.


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