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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.
Categories
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.)

Categories
Friends of the Joe Louis Greenway Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – April 2021

Happy Earth Day!

Updates from around the Joe

The pandemic has halted many things, but not the construction of new trails, especially those that are part of the Joe Louis Greenway.

Phase 1 construction hasn’t officially broken ground, but the City of Detroit has been busy clearing the land in preparation for it. The City has also been transferring land parcels from the Detroit Land Bank Authority to the project to help create neighborhood connections and more.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is continuing to make progress on the Southwest Greenway (formerly called the May Creek Greenway.) According to their Spring 2021 newsletter, “With the final easements in place and the design stage nearing completion, the Conservancy will break ground this summer.”

Source: Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority

The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority has selected a design for the greenspace between the U.S. Port of Entry plaza and West Jefferson near Historic Fort Wayne. This segment will include a shared-use path. They also have this video that describes the project’s design in more detail.

Much discussion has been happening at the city and federal level about additional funding for these projects. There’s talk of a federal infrastructure bill, a renewal of the federal transportation bill, and more. Detroit Is It published this article about the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act that we’ve been supporting. We’re optimistic these discussions will eventually result in dollars.

There’s also been a number of news article about these projects:


Great Lakes Way

Another project we’re involved in is the Great Lakes Way. This new greenway and blueway project was recently announced in Great Lakes Now.

If the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has its way, southeast Michigan will soon have a regional trail of national significance called the Great Lakes Way…

The Community Foundation together with regional partners developed a vision map for the Great Lakes Way – an interconnected set of 156 miles of blueways or water trails and 160 miles of greenways stretching from southern Lake Huron through western Lake Erie. The vision is that all residents and visitors of southeast Michigan are connected to and benefit from world-class freshwater, wildlife, recreation, and heritage right in our backyard through the Great Lakes Way.

An emphasis will be placed on ensuring that all residents and visitors – people of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and interests – feel welcomed and share in its benefits. This Great Lakes Way will improve close-to-home outdoor recreation, enhance regional competitive advantage, help attract and retain employees for businesses, and celebrate, protect and capitalize on our region’s defining natural resources.

SEMCOG has also created an interactive project map with additional details. 

From our perspective, this is another tool for encouraging communities to build Complete Streets that don’t have a history of doing so. We also asked that the Great Lakes Way infrastructure works for people of all ages and abilities. We don’t want to see a community install some sharrows and think the job is done.

Source: Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

Other Updates

  • Sign up now for the free Detroit Bike Challenge. We are helping the City of Detroit with this program that encourages more people to ride bikes in the city, but especially to work. The Challenge runs from May through October. You record your rides, earn points, and get the chance to win prizes. There are also monthly mini-challenges as well. Detroit riders will also be competing with other cities across the country. There is no cost to you, so register now and start earning points.
  • Detroit Bike to Work Day is May 21st. We’ll have more information available soon.
  • Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the MI Healthy Climate Plan to make the state carbon-neutral by 2050. We’re on the Transportation and Mobility Working Group and supporting policies that promote more trips by walking and biking  — two great carbon neutral transportation options. There are two public listening sessions planned: April 22nd at 10:30am and May 5th at 6pm. Please consider joining one of those two sessions.
  • House Bill 4014 that allows cities to post safer speed limits has now passed the House and is in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. We worked with Council member Scott Benson who got a City Council resolution in support of the bill. 
  • Have you seen the work the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is doing on the new RiverWalk section between Mt. Elliott Park and Gabriel Richard Park? From their newsletter: “Crews are currently on site at the Uniroyal property clearing land and placing rip rap along the water’s edge. This stone barrier will help to prevent erosion, and will serve as a base for the Riverwalk and a habitat for fish species.” 
  • Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge are making progress on a long-sought Woodward Avenue road diet. This project would add bike lanes, shorten pedestrian crosswalks, and improve safety on this segment of Woodward. While not in Detroit, we’ve been very supportive since the project touches the border at Eight Mile. Those bike lanes could eventually be extended into Detroit.
  • Lastly, we’re taking over Model D’s social media for the week of April 26th. Watch out!
Seawall preparation work at the UniRoyal site, April 2021

People making moves

There has been a large number of moves and retirements announced recently of people involved in greenways. We want to recognize them and offer our appreciation for their continued commitment to making Detroit a better, greener place to walk, roll, bike, and paddle. 

  • Mariam Noland, the longtime leader of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan announced her upcoming retirement. The Community Foundation has been the major catalyst for greenways in Detroit and across Southeast Michigan. It’s doubtful there would be a Dequindre Cut without the Foundation and Mariam’s leadership.
  • Paul Yauk, the State Trails Coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has retired. We worked with Paul for many years and he developed a great enthusiasm for what was happening in Detroit. We’ll never forget when major rain storm rolled in on us during our Iron Belle bike tour, a ride we would have cancelled if not for Paul’s optimism. “We can do this!”
  • Jodee Raines, our former program officer at the Erb Family Foundation is now the COO at New Detroit, Inc. We’ll be working again with Melissa Damaschke who was named Vice President of Programs. Both Jodee and Melissa are strong supporters of our work to get green stormwater infrastructure routinely incorporated into all our greenway and streetscape projects. 
  • Julie Edwards, an MDOT Metro Region planner has retired. We’ve known Julie for many years as she has helped bring a multi-modal perspective to MDOT’s role in regional transportation. We’ve promised her a bike tour after the I-375 project is finished.
  • Meagan Elliott, the City of Detroit’s Chief Parks Planner is now the Deputy Chief Financial Officer for Development & Grants. Meagan has played a major role in the Joe Louis Greenway’s planning. She’s also helped incorporate greenways into the city’s park plans. In her new role, she’ll be leading city efforts to find funding to get these projects (and others) built. Congratulations, Meagan, and we’re glad your still involved. 
  • Council member Raquel Castañeda-López just announced she will not be pursuing a third term. Raquel has been one of our biggest supporters at Council. She was part of a study tour that visited European cities and learned how they were designed for better bicycling. She also has participated in Bike to Work Day on her very cool folding bike!

Additional Reading

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Categories
Greenways Newsletter

News from the Trail – January 2021

Replacing I-375 

There’s an international movement to reevaluate the impacts and needs for urban freeways. They negatively affect walkability, bikeability, and take up a lot of valuable land for a low-density use in high-density downtowns.  For many years, I-375 has been a candidate for a partial or full conversion to an urban boulevard, especially as its bridges approach the end of their lifespan. 

Now it’s more than just a discussion. MDOT has completed a draft Environmental Assessment for what could replace I-375. 

The proposed design converts the current freeway to a boulevard with fewer lanes overall. It removes the short freeway stub south of Eastern Market while restoring some of the original street grid. Bicycle cycletracks would be added that connect the RiverWalk, stadium area, Greektown, and Eastern Market. More sidewalks are included, too. Overall there’s less impervious surface and opportunities to add green stormwater infrastructure. Nearly 32 acres of land would potentially become available for other uses.

Is it perfect? No, but it’s certainly an improvement. 

MDOT is now collecting public comment on this proposal. They will host a virtual event on January 27th and an in-person hearing on the 28th (Registration). Comments can also be emailed (MDOT-I-375Corridor@Michigan.gov) or submitted through this on-line form.

You may have read about the construction funding for this project being delayed until 2027 against the City of Detroit’s wishes. It is possible that new federal funding could fund this project and make it a reality much sooner.


Changes in Washington DC

Changes in leadership at the Whitehouse and Senate will likely result in changes to transportation policy and funding, but it’s too soon to have a full view of what those will be. 

One certain change is a renewed focus on combating climate change through investment in clean transportation.

Communities across the country are experiencing a growing need for alternative and cleaner transportation options, including transit, dedicated bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfares, and first- and last-mile connections. The Biden Administration will transform the way we fund local transportation, giving state and local governments, with input from community stakeholders, more flexibility to use any new transportation funds to build safer, cleaner, and more accessible transportation ecosystem.

Biden Plan for Clean Energy Resolution and Environmental Justice

John Kerry, an active bicyclist, is now a Climate Czar for the administration. 

Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the nominee for Transportation Secretary. He’s been saying some positive words that would support our work.

There are so many ways that people get around, and I think often we’ve had an auto-centric view that has forgotten, historically, about all of the other different modes. We want to make sure anytime we’re doing a street design that it enables cars, and bicycles, and pedestrians and any other modes — and businesses — to co-exist in a positive way, and we should be putting funding behind that.

Pete Buttigieg Senate Confirmation hearing, January 2021

Another potential change is the inclusion of infrastructure funding within an economic stimulus bill. That’s been long promised and it’s not yet clear that this time it’ll happen.


Other Updates

  • East Jefferson bike lane use. We counted bikes using E. Jefferson in Jefferson-Chalmers before the protected bike lanes were installed. We counted them again last year during the same month of September and saw 108 per day. This was a 48% increase from 2015. That’s quite good given that fewer people are commuting to work. 
  • Thanks Strava. For those that don’t know, Strava is an app primarily used to collect and track bicycling and running workouts. We now have access to Strava’s generalized riding and run data. It shows which streets are more used than others and could be a helpful tool for justifying infrastructure improvements. The caveat is that Strava users are typically recreational and are not a representative sample of all Detroit bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Cadillac Stamping and the Conner Creek Greenway.  Recent news about the redevelopment of the former Cadillac Stamping Plant didn’t include an important update for those who use the Conner Creek Greenway/Iron Belle Trail along Conner. The new development is adjacent to the greenway and had plans for its busy truck traffic to cross the greenway. We strongly felt that greenway users shouldn’t have to deal with this truck conflict, so we discussed this with Council member Scott Benson. He worked with the developer and city staff to re-route the truck access point so it doesn’t cut across the greenway. As a bonus, the developer is honoring our request to remove an unsightly, unused parking lot along the greenway.
  • Brodhead Armory Redevelopment. There are two public outreach meetings scheduled at 5:30pm on January 26th and February 16th. These meetings will review The Parade Company’s plans for Brohead Armory east of Gabriel Richard Park. The plans include a short RiverWalk extension. These meetings are focusing primarily on nearby residents.

Additional Reading