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.

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