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Discussion on Complete Streets

This was an event hosted by the Complete Streets Coalition of the Grand Vision Transportation Network to share and talk about the complete streets concept. It was geared toward elected officials responsible for creating and directing land use and transportation policies. Particpants also viewed two new public service announcments in support of complete streets.

Presenting members included:

  • Julie Clark, excutive director TART Trails
  • Matt McCauley, Director of Regional Planning at Northwest Michigan Council of Government
  • Jim Moore, Director of the Disability Network of Northern Michigan
  • Ray Sharp of Western U.P. Health Department
  • Wally Delamater, Village Manager of Suttons bay

Around 30 representatives from area townships, municipalities, road agencies and citizens were present.

Below are some key perspectives and quotes

Introduction by Julie Clark 

(Slideshow included below)

  • "It costs millions of dollars to do projects well. Conversely, it costs millions of dollars to not do projects well." Referring to extraneous costs of not creating vibrant and accessible communities, as well as the health costs created when streets are not designed with active transportation in mind.
  • She emphasized the national and local trends that show cost of transportation increasing and wage/salaries remaining the same or decreasing.  People are now looking for communities that provide transportation choices. This requires funding. "We've spent 40 years focusing on one mode, now we have costs associated with that 40 years of neglect."
  • Complete Streets is about the entire right of way. How are people using the ROW? How could it be used to connect? Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been consistent in calling for transportation agencies to go beyond minimum standards.
  • Complete Streets is not a prescriptive design, it is a process that includes the public throughout the process and continually asks, what are we providing for? What use are we excluding?
  • Communities need to ask, what kind of community do they want to be. Does a community want to make modest considerations for complete streets or be one of the leaders. Funding in the future is likely to favor those communities making strong efforts to implement complete streets. '

Panel Discussion

Questions: Why do need complete streets? What are the road blocks? How do policies help change the approach to transportation? What role do elected officials play?

  • Matt McCauley: The fundamental role for government is public safety. For many years, we have planned for efficiency of the automobile at the expense of safety and public health.
  • Jim Moore: We need to continually apply a human condition perspective. When we do a project, we must ask: who is it excluding? Who does it include? Are we connecting people?
  • Wally Delamater: Gave an example of Suttons Bay current trail and Front St. project where they have focused on a complete mix of all uses. Referring to difficult road block of funding, he said, "You have happier communities when they have choices." A bigger roadblock than funding is, as he said, "the willingness to commit."
  • Ray Sharp: Weather is a consideration, in particular snow clearing. In Houghton they have used imperfect solutions, but did so to be sure to have a complete solution year round.
  • RS: An example of why it is important, he gave an example of a Houghton base business that chose to forgo the tax incentives in an industrial zone to keep their company downtown. It helps them attract great employees an be part of the community.
  • JM: Funding of how we construct roads is broken period, so it isn't a great excuse not to complete streets. The problem is system wide, not just on providing for people on foot, bike or bus.
  • MM: Optimistic  Complete streets legislation is actually very young (2 years) in Michigan. It will take time for local and regional levels to fully understand the implications. CS will continue to be defined as more and more communities pass policy and complete projects.
  • JM: It is key that political leaders provide vision to inform policies. What kind of community do we want? Officials have to have vision. CS improves life for everyone, not just a portion of the population.
  • RS: "My goal (as a health official) is that we don't have a generation of kids who live fewer years than the previous generation." This is related not just to our own kids, but to national/state interests related to health care costs (Currently at 20% of GDP). "Given the opportunity, kids will walk a mile to school."--have we designed for it? We can longer just tell the individual they need to change, we need a more social/ecological model. "We've done everything we can to discourage people from walking or biking." Yet, 80% of trips are less than 2 miles.
  • WD: Keep it simple! Provide examples. "It's easier to get them to move if they can see it." We need to move from plans to projects, and that means a better process. Find and encourage the champions. Also, find the collaborations. Suttons Bay has worked closely with the Watershed Center to find funding to make the street projects better for the environment. Green streets are complete streets.

Introduction: Complete Streets 101-Have you considered the costs of not completing the street? 

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