Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – April 2022

Our April Newsletter is now online!

Complete Streets Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter Policy Safety & Education

News from the Trail – February 2022

Mayor Mike Duggan explains streetscape design options for Rosa Parks Boulevard

Our February Newsletter is now online!


Draft MI Healthy Climate Plan

  • The state has released a draft of the MI Healthy Climate Plan
  • This draft does not call for reduced vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by investing in green travel modes such as walking, biking, and electricified transit
  • Michigan cannot reach carbon neutrality without reducing VMT
  • The public is able to comment via email or the upcoming listening sessions

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has released a draft of the MI Healthy Climate Plan.

This plan lays out a broad vision for fulfilling the governor’s fall 2020 commitment for Michigan to achieve 100% economy-wide carbon neutrality by mid Century – the global science-based benchmark for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the most devastating and costly impacts of climate change.

Liesl Eichler Clark, EGLE Director

There are three online public listening sessions scheduled:

  • Wednesday, January 26th, 10am to 12pm
  • Tuesday, February 8th, 6pm to 8pm
  • Monday, February 14th, 6pm to 8pm. Focus on Environmental Justice

You can email comments to

The deadline for submitting comments is February 14th March 14th.

Transportation and Mobility

We were on the workgroup that developed recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the state’s transportation sector — the largest GHG source. While the workgroup’s automotive stakeholders pushed electric vehicles, we partnered with others on recommendations that reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through investments in biking, walking, and public transit. (Read more)

However, the draft plan fails to include our recommendation on GHG budgeting for road agencies, an idea that Colorado recently turned into reality. This budgeting would not only shift funding to the truly green travel modes (walking, biking, electric transit), it could shape land use patterns that make those modes more viable.

From our recommendation to shift vehicle trips to walking and biking

Michigan’s VMT continues to grow, outpacing our population growth (or decline.) That’s not sustainable and will prevent Michigan from reaching carbon neutrality. The plan needs to do more.

Our Draft Plan Comments

The transportation sector’s predominant focus on electric vehicles (EVs) will not make Michigan “a global leader in addressing climate change” nor is it an equitable strategy. We suggest the following improvements to widen the transportation vision and ensure the final plan meets the goals set forth by the governor.

Explicitly call for decreasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT)

The draft plan did not include the Workgroup recommendation on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions budgeting for road agencies. We believe this was a solid tool for reducing VMT and a necessity for reaching carbon neutrality. Eliminating this recommendation and not providing any explicit strategy for reducing VMT will result in this plan not reaching neutrality. 

MDOT’s recent 2045 State Long-Range Transportation plan – in which the initial draft made no mention of carbon neutrality or the governor’s directive – also does not acknowledge the necessity of reducing VMT. In fact, the plan associates reduced VMT with a stagnant economy. 

Additionally, neither the MDOT plan nor this draft plan mention local road agencies and their role in VMT. 

Michigan’s expanding road infrastructure has fueled sprawl. This has led to rising VMT and lower dense communities where biking, walking, and public transportation are less viable options. Michigan’s climate plan must explicitly call for reduced VMT because the status quo will only continue to deliver higher carbon emissions.

Make measurable commitments to bike and walk investments

The draft plan provides no details on how to increase biking and walking, nor does it define any goals. It also doesn’t mention safety, a primary reason why more Michigan residents don’t bike or walk. 

We suggest the plan include a commitment to zero pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries through a Safe Systems Approach. We also suggest setting goals for increased travel mode shares for biking, walking, and public transportation. Both suggestions will help prioritize investments and provide measures of success.

Highlight the role of e-bikes and provide purchase incentives

E-bikes are one of the most significant travel modes for reducing carbon emissions, yet we found no mention of them in the draft plan. We believe the following points deserve to be included.

  • E-bikes produce 81% fewer carbon emissions per mile than EVs. This is due to the latter having greater manufacturing emissions as well as more emissions associated with their electricity and road infrastructure requirements.
  • E-bikes use the existing electrical infrastructure and aren’t hampered by the lack of a charging network. This is perhaps one reason why e-bikes are outselling EVs in the U.S.
  • E-bike use improves physical and mental health, which reduces health care costs.
  • E-bikes were a proven success in the City of Detroit’s Essential Workers Micromobility Pilot. The Pilot user survey found that 95% of the respondents were interested in continued use of the e-bikes. 55% wanted to use them year round. It gave Detroiters a dependable, affordable transportation choice for their work commute.

Incentives for e-bikes should also be explicitly mentioned.

Subsidizing EVs only helps those who can afford to operate a vehicle. Approximately 34% of Detroiters don’t own a vehicle. According to the University of Michigan Poverty Solutions Report, The Financial Well-Being of Detroit Residents, auto insurance premiums average $5,414, or 18% of the median income in Detroit. An estimated 60% of Detroit drivers don’t have auto insurance according to the Detroit Police. Consumer Reports says, EVs “ cost more to insure than equivalent gasoline-powered cars.” 

Recent analysis of a similar state EV incentive program found it largely benefitted those in the wealthiest suburbs with over a third of the incentive funding used to purchase luxury vehicles. 

Acknowledge EV emissions increases

The Health and Quality of Life section on page 23 fails to mention the expected increases in some emissions from EVs. While EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, 90% of all road traffic particulate matter (PM) comes from unregulated, non-tailpipe sources, primarily tire wear and the suspension of road dust. One recent study found some EVs emit an estimated 3-8% more PM 2.5 than equivalent conventional vehicles due to increased curb weights and increased tire wear. 

Many Detroit communities already pay a heavy price for transportation-related emissions and that will continue if we only encourage EV adoption.

Policy Uncategorized

Take Action: Climate Recommendations

We asking Michigan residents to email the Michigan Council on Climate Solutions to make sure investments in biking, walking, and transit are a primary recommendation for reducing carbon emissions.

The draft recommendations (see below) do include these green travel modes, but they may not be included in the final plan. Hearing from us can make sure that they are included.

We’ve submitted our comments and have created an easy-to-sign (or edit) version of them. We’ve also created a Climate Change page for those wanting a deeper dive into this Council process and much more.

Reduce Michigan's carbon emissions through investments in walking, biking, and transit

Dear Michigan Council on Climate Solutions

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From the Michigan Council on Climate Solutions Transportation and Mobility Workgroup Recommendations:

Top 5 Prioritized Recommendations

  1. Michigan should establish a coordinated and comprehensive transportation electrification plan, supportive of national goals, and allocation of sufficient resources and personnel to responsible state offices to create the plan.
  2. Michigan should establish a consumer and fleet electric vehicle (EV) incentive program, including new and used EVs, to support a rapid and accelerated transition to EVs among the driving public.
  3. Michigan should adopt a clean fuels standard as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the state, and as a potential revenue source for enhancing low/no carbon mobility options to more Michiganders.
  4. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), and regional and local road agencies, should develop plans for implementing GHG budgets into their transportation planning.
  5. MDOT, metropolitan planning organizations (MPO’s), and local transit providers should develop comprehensive plans to expand access to convenient, zero emission public transit throughout the state of Michigan, with a goal of increasing the state’s investment by an amount great enough to support the mobility needs of the state’s residents.

Additional Recommendations for Consideration

  1. Michigan should develop and implement a statewide plan that takes a Safe Systems Approach to reduce Vulnerable Road User (VRU) fatalities and serious injuries to zero in order to encourage more trips by bicycling and walking.
  2. MDOT and MPOs should adopt new policies to exclusively use CMAQ (federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program) funding for projects that decrease vehicle miles traveled (VMT), improve air quality and reduce GHG emissions. Projects that will likely increase VMT and don’t serve a public safety priority should no longer be eligible for CMAQ funding.
  3. Michigan should establish an alternative, VMT-based EV fee that is more in alignment with Michigan’s climate goals and recognizes the higher efficiency of electric vehicles.
  4. Michigan’s building codes should be updated to assist with EV adoption.
  5. Michigan should establish a certification program for dealers to recognize dealers that are educated on EVs and know how to sell and maintain them.
  6. Establish new policies to allow Plug-in Electric vehicles (BEVs, PHEV’s and FCEV’s) to use Michigan’s High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes (HOV lanes) regardless of passenger occupancy.
  7. Michigan should signal its commitment to electrification by preparing to adopt a Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) and Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards in the Advanced Clean Cars Program, as well as the Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) and Heavy-Duty Omnibus (HDO) rules.
  8. The State of Michigan should establish EV procurement goals for state-owned and state-leased fleet vehicles including a broad, long-term plan as well as short-term targets to electrify a practical subset of the state fleet.
Complete Streets Greenways Newsletter Policy

News from the Trail – July 2021

Link to our July 2021 Newsletter

Complete Streets Greenways Policy

Our Work: More important than ever

  • Climate change is making flooding events more severe and more common
  • Transportation in Michigan is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change
  • Investments in infrastructure that increase biking and walking are the most efficient way of decreasing transportation emissons

The pandemic prompted the question: What priority are greenways and Complete Streets+ in light of the health needs of Detroiters? While they’re certainly not an immediate priority like health care, they do have a role in building a healthier, safer city and residents.

We saw use on the Dequindre Cut rise 55% as people sought safe outdoor activities and transportation options. We learned that walking, biking, and other exercise improved immune system response, not only to COVID but the vaccine as well.

However, one negative pandemic outcome was a drastic increase in speeding, which led to a 67% increase in Detroit road fatalities in 2020. Pedestrian fatalities rose 46% while bicycling fatalities quadrupled. The need for Complete Streets (to deter speeding) and separated bike/walk facilities is apparent from a public safety perspective.

Now Flooding

Detroit’s recent flood events have brought the discussion of infrastructure priorities to the forefront. The discussion has mostly been about addressing critical short term impacts.

While that is critically important, we also need to look to the near future and the expectation for substantially worse flooding.

“What you would call a 100-year event of 5 inches of rain, our climate models are now projecting that 5 inches by 2050 could be anywhere from 5 inches to 14 inches of rain,” said Amy O’Leary, executive director of SEMCOG.

Close to ‘crisis mode’ — Here’s how much infrastructure improvements could cost, WXYZ

“Researchers warn that unless and until greenhouse gases are controlled, expect more of the same, only worse, in the years ahead.”

Floods in metro Detroit bear hallmarks of human-caused climate change, scientists say, Detroit Free Press ($)

It seems the crisis at hand is keeping us from discussing longer term issue of climate change, where transportation is the largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. We just can’t keep building bigger sewer pipes.

Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than Governor Whitmer holding a press conference on a flooded I-94 where she said we must do “everything we can to address climate change.” Just to her east, MDOT will be adding travel lanes that add more impervious surface while inducing more vehicle travel and more carbon emissions. MDOT’s long term plan is more of the same.

We are encouraging everyone to comment on MDOT’s Michigan Mobility 2045 long range plan. The draft plan ignores the role Michigan’s transportation has in greenhouse gas emissions. They need to hear that this plan cannot ignore the significant impacts it will have on climate change. It cannot ignore the Governor’s carbon neutrality pledge.

Public meetings are being scheduled for August 3rd and 4th. Comments can also be submitted online.

Reaching Carbon Neutrality

Last September, Whitmer pledged to make Michigan carbon neutral by 2050. It’s a significant commitment that requires significant changes to our transportation system. It’s more than electrifying vehicles. It’s going to require major reductions in vehicle miles travelled (VMT).

That means the Michigan’s transportation funding should no longer be largely prioritized based on pavement surface quality. It needs to be prioritized for increased safety, reduced VMT, and additional green stormwater management. “Fix the damn roads” can’t focus on potholes. It needs to abruptly shift towards building a safe and sustainable state transportation network.

Greenways and Complete Streets encourage more biking and walking, perhaps the two most effective means for reducing VMT while adding green stormwater infrastructure. Improved clean public transportation is also a necessity.

This is why we’re on the Governor Whitmer’s Council for Climate Solutions Transportation and Mobility Workgroup. We making the ambitious push for real policy change along with Transportation Riders United (TRU) and others to ensure the carbon neutrality pledge becomes reality. (Comments can be submitted to the workgroup.)