Archive for the ‘MDOT’ Category

Woodward Transit Community Meetings this week

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Six meeting are planned this week to discuss the initial bus rapid transit (BRT) plans for Woodward Avenue.

  • Tuesday, December 3 from 6 to 8 pm (Royal Oak and Birmingham)
    Beaumont Hospital Administration Building, 3711 W. 13 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48073
    (Free parking in South Deck Parking, enter from Coolidge Highway.)
  • Thursday, December 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm (Berkley and Huntington Woods)
    Berkley Community Center, 2400 Robina Avenue, Berkley, MI, 48070
  • Saturday, December 7 from 11am to 1pm (Pontiac, Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township)
    St. Joseph?s Hospital, Anthony M. Franco Communications Center Auditorium,?44555 Woodward Avenue, Pontiac, MI, 48341
  • Monday, December 9 from 6 to 8 pm (Detroit and Highland Park)
    Michigan State University Event Center, 3408 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201
  • Tuesday, December 10 from 6 to 8 pm (Detroit and Highland Park)
    Next Energy, 461 Burroughs Street, Detroit, MI 48202
  • Wednesday, December 11 from 6 to 8 pm (Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge)
    Coolidge Intermediate School, 2521 Bermuda Street, Ferndale, MI 48220

BRT is the preferred model for connecting Detroit and the suburbs for a lower initial cost when compared with light rail. A well-designed BRT can greatly increase bicycling as well. Bicycling is often used for the first and last miles of a transit ride.

One of the major concerns we have with this planning involves M1 Rail. As you probably know, M1 Rail will be predominantly curb-running on Woodward where cyclists now ride. Adding tracks to the roadway will make it much less safe. The mitigation proposed by MDOT is to improve Cass Avenue for cyclists, which parallels a portion of Woodward. There have been rumblings that M1 Rail may also force the BRT off Woodward as well — and on to Cass. This could make Cass much less bike friendly. Our preference is to keep BRT on Woodward where it belongs and make Cass more bike friendly. MDOT owes bicyclists a safe alternative to Woodward per their Complete Streets policy.

 

Woodward Complete Streets planning comes to Detroit & Highland Park

Monday, June 17th, 2013

A Complete Streets planning project along the entire length of Woodward — River to Pontiac — has been setting up visiting parts of M1. For the next three days it will be focusing on Woodward from Jefferson to McNichols.

You can drop in to their pop-up offices at 2990 Grand Boulevard in the New Center from now until Wednesday at 7pm.

There are also a three free special events planned for tomorrow, June 18th:

  • 9am — A walkability audit starting at 2990 Grand Boulevard. If you’ve never been on a Dan Burden walkability audit, you don’t want to miss this. It will give you a newfound common-sense perspective on what works and what doesn’t in the walking environment.
  • 4pm — A second walkability audit starts at the old Ford Admin building on Woodward just north of the Model T Plaza.
  • 6pm — A biking audit start at the Hub of Detroit, 3535 Cass. Bring a bike we’ll tour Woodward discussing how to improve it for all cyclists.

There’s more information on the Transform website.

TAP grants fund local bicycle and trail projects

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The current Federal Transportation bill made many changes to how we fund non-motorized projects. One major change was the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) functionally replaced the old Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. The bill also required MDOT to share that TAP funding to groups like SEMCOG that would make grants within their seven county region.

At the national level, this sharing was considered a “win”. In Michigan, MDOT did a fair job with TE funding, so this may be a negative since it adds complexity and requires advocates to monitor two separate granting programs.

Either way, the first round of SEMCOG TAP grant funding has been announced — a total of $6.3 million in grants:

  • City of New Baltimore, Connection to the County Line Rd. Path, $183,016
  • City of Monroe, North Dixie Highway Median, $80,000
  • City of Auburn Hills, Opdyke Pathway Gaps, $267,475
  • City of Auburn Hills, Downtown Riverwalk Squirrel Ct Improvements, $194,589
  • City of Ferndale, Livernois Complete Street, $118,094.40
  • City of Ferndale, West Nine Mile Streetscape Improvement (Livernois to Pinecrest) Phase IV, $590,134
  • City of Novi, Metro Connector Trail, $741,200
  • City of Rochester, Safety Crossing, $99,970
  • St. Clair County Road Commission, Bridge to Bay Trail on Desmond Landing, $211,339
  • City of Port Huron, Bridge to Bay trail – 10th Street to Military Street, $250,614
  • Ypsilanti Twp (Road Commission for Washtenaw County), Grove Road trail reconstruction, $763,000
  • City of Allen Park, Ecorse Road Streetscape, $626,883
  • City of Dearborn, Proposed Rouge River Greenway Extension Project- UM Dearborn Connection, $242,830
  • City of Dearborn, Rouge River Gateway Trail Extension Phase I, $302,000
  • City of Detroit, West Vernor / Woodmere to Clark Streetscape, $1,000,000
  • City of Detroit, Congress Streetscape, $636,310

Our favorite? Ferndale’s Livernois Complete Street project will provide bike lanes and more to improve the cycling connection between Ferndale (at 9 Mile) and Detroit. The city of Detroit is also looking at improvements to Livernois south of Eight Mile. When completed, this will provide a nice route between the University District/Sherwood Forest neighborhoods and downtown Ferndale.

We also like Dearborn’s extension of the Rouge Gateway Trail from Andiamo’s Restaurant and westward. Ending in a restaurant parking lot on a busy Michigan Avenue is far from ideal. Continuing the trail to the nearby neighborhood and park is a great idea.

Many of the other projects are wide sidewalks and sidepaths along roads. With the exception of Novi’s project (which connects two MDOT trails), it’s disappointing to see these projects funded from a limited source. We think the cities should pay for sidewalks and sidepaths, especially since in so many cases they less safe and more costly than other options.

Will M1 RAIL become an M1 FAIL?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The opinions expressed here are those of the m-bike blog, but you already knew that right?

Bikes, walkability and good transit are keys to forming an effective urban transportation system.

The shortcomings of Detroit’s transit — built on the DDOT and SMART buses systems and People Mover — are well documented.

We wish the M1 RAIL would be complement, but from all that we know to date, it won’t be. In many ways, it will diminish the urban transportation system.

Huh?

First, let’s make one clarifying point. The Detroit Woodward Light Rail project from downtown to Eight Mile was a good one, but it didn’t connect enough Detroiters to jobs nor tap into the more millage-rich surrounding counties. Governor Rick Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing, and U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood changed this project into a Bus Rapid Transit system that would connect Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties with a high-speed regional transit system. It’s a great solution and we support. This is exactly what this region needs for better transit.

But, once this project was no longer running on rails, the M1 RAIL investors restarted their 3-mile streetcar design — something that even they admit is a development project rather than a transit project. Development? Yes. studies show that permanent transit solutions like streetcars spur transit-oriented development along their routes. Guess what? So does Bus Rapid Transit.

There are some key points to keep in mind with the M1 RAIL. It starts at Larned and goes to Grand Boulevard. It runs mostly along the Woodward’s curbs except at the ends. Remember that Lego video that showed how curb running is slow and unsafe? The U.S. DOT’s Woodward Light Rail environmental review concurred as did the majority of the public comments.

Curb-running streets cars will run as slow as the slowest vehicle on the road. Streetcars can’t go around a stopped bus, a slow bicyclist, a parking car, etc. Even without anything in their way, the streetcars are expected to travel at 11 MPH — roughly equivalent to a beginning bicyclist.

This is a linear People Mover, but slower and is projected to carry fewer passengers.

Of course Detroit’s original street car system was center-running.

When asked, a M1 RAIL representative has said the curb versus center running was a “religious argument” among their investors.

If better transit was the goal, the M1 RAIL investors would have put money into level bus boarding stations and pre-sale ticket systems like NYC has. According to NYC’s transportation commissioner this was the best way to improve bus service reliability. It could have been implemented far more inexpensively. This would be a fix-it first strategy that relies on bus rapid transit to deliver transit-oriented development.

One other thought: why do you design a transit system that doesn’t directly connect with the Rosa Parks Transit Center or Cobo Hall or the Ren Cen?

Not Complete Streets

The reason for covering the transit issues first is to make clear that this is not an anti-transit article. We did not want this to read like bicyclists’ sour grapes. It’s not.

However, there’s another reason the Woodward Light Rail concluded that center-running operations was best rather than curb running. Curb running is significantly hazardous for cyclists. Bicycle wheels get caught in streetcar tracks causing serious injuries, and in some cities, lawsuits. This is why most cities don’t build curb running systems, or at least put them one side of one-way streets.

A very recent study found bicycling on streets with curb-running streetcar tracks is 300% more likely to cause a crash over a regular street like Woodward.

A center-running design would be a Complete Street. Putting the M1 RAIL at the curbs makes Woodward Avenue less Complete.

Now if you’ve following the recent Detroit Works Project unveiling, you’d have seen Complete Streets touted as a priority in Detroit.

According to the national experts, streetcar systems should design for safe bicycling from the start. MDOT and M1 RAIL did not. In fact, years ago MDOT’s Tim Hoefner said solving the bicycle safety issue was at the top of their to do list. Apparently they never got to it.

But its a public road

To date, MDOT has shown mostly indifference to this project’s negative impacts on bicycling. In exchange for a significantly less safe state-owned road they offered to put up some directional signs along a couple miles of Cass Avenue. Seriously.

MDOT has also said cyclists can use the sometimes parallel street, John R. Of course MDOT is removing the John R bridge over I-94 and in that project’s environmental review they said cyclists can use Woodward.

MDOT has been quick to deflect blame to others such as the Federal Highway Administration, but it’s a public road, they own most of it, and they have a Complete Streets policy. Why are they allowing a less-safe design based on some investors’ “religious argument?”

U.S. DOT’s role

From what we can gather in speaking with other sources is that the regular process rules are off the table. Secretary LaHood is so enamored with the investors’ commitment that he’s directed his staff to make it happen. And it’s Detroit — a laggard in the public transportation world.

That might explain why he’s giving the M1 RAIL group $25 million before the supplemental review process (which determines if it should be built) is even completed.

Other issues

And this discussion hasn’t gotten into other more significant issues like social equity. How do the investors justify building a redundant transit system when Detroiters and Detroit school children struggle to find mobility options with the current bus system? That is a far greater travety than any bicycling safety issue.

And where has the media been on this reporting? They’ve certainly covered the happy talk but so far have shown an unwillingness to look any deeper.

Now, what happens when Bus Rapid Transit comes to Woodward? At its ends, the M1 RAIL runs in the center where the Bus Rapid Transit will go. According to one transportation expert, M1 RAIL may have to get torn out.

There are many, many good people involved in the M1 RAIL and we all feel very passionate about doing the right thing for Detroit, but this project as currently designed doesn’t work. It’s a project heavy with investors and light on collaboration.

We need to do better.

Incomplete Roundabouts

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

We’ve noticed two tendencies when roundabouts are discussed in the transportation world.

Not all the same

First, they’re often all treated the same. But just like roads, we can’t make gross generalizations about all roundabouts. Some roundabouts are pleasant one-lane affairs that are easy to navigate by bicycle. At the other end of the spectrum are multi-lane, multi-roundabout disasters.

It seems some road agencies building roundabouts to handle a much greater vehicle capacity. That means simple one- or two-lane roundabouts turn into bigger monsters. An example of this is at W. Maple Road and Farmington Road. Both are two lane roads that expand to 5- and 6-lane roads before entering a triple-lane roundabout. Not only is it not bicycle friendly, it’s not designed to let cyclists easily transition on the adjacent pathways to avoid it.

AASHTO‘s latest bicycle design guidelines say roundabouts should not be built like this. They should be designed for current needs and made easily expandable for future needs.

Single‐lane roundabouts are much simpler for bicyclists than multilane roundabouts, since they do not require bicyclists to change lanes, and motorists are less likely to cut off bicyclists when they exit the roundabout. Therefore, when designing and implementing roundabouts, authorities should avoid implementing multilane roundabouts before their capacity is needed. If design year traffic volumes indicate the need for a multilane roundabout, but this need isn’t likely for several years, the roundabout can be built as a single‐lane roundabout, and designed to be easily reconstructed with additional lanes in the future when and if traffic volumes increase. In 1 addition, where a roundabout is proposed at an intersection of a major multilane street and a minor street, consideration should be given to building a roundabout with two‐lane approaches on the major street and one‐lane approaches on minor streets. When compared to roundabouts with two lanes at all four legs, this design can significantly reduce complexity for all users, including bicyclists.

MDOT even made a video of an apparently overbuilt roundabout and suggests bicyclists would want to use it. Of course they fail to show bicyclists having to move to the center lane in order to exit at other intersection legs.

Ignoring Bicyclists

The other major roundabout issue is bicyclists as well as pedestrians are often ignored when they are designed and discussed.

We Are Modeshift recently wrote this fine article on this topic.

When roundabouts are placed appropriately, they increase traffic flow and provide motorists with well-documented safety benefits. However, for non-motorized users — bicyclists and pedestrians, and especially those with disabilities — roundabouts present unique challenges to safety and accessibility.

Speaking of safety, a recent survey from a Wayne State/MDOT roundabout study found that 47% of bicyclists and almost 50% of pedestrians found them “very unsafe”. Interestingly enough, 57% of all the survey respondents had purposefully avoided a roundabout.

An example roundabout design that ignores bicyclist and pedestrian safety is on the cover of MDOT’s How to Use a Roundabout brochure (see photo). How are pedestrians supposed to use this facility? There are no sidewalks, even on the bridge. The pedestrian instructions inside the brochure fail to address the roundabout design on its cover. As for bicyclists? They have to cross over a travel lane that becomes a entrance ramp to I-75. Though it’s not shown, there’s another roundabout on the other side of I-75 with the same lack of accommodation. If bicyclists want to avoid this roundabout, there are no sidewalks available.

This is not a Complete Street nor a Complete Roundabout. It’s not something we should continue to build much less highlight.

MDOT’s office of Research and Best Practices shows the same incomplete intersection under the title, “Roundabouts: How to get around a safer intersection.”

Apparently they forgot to add, “So long as you’re in a car.”