Our February Newsletter is now online!
- 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 EGLE-ClimateSolutions@Michigan.gov.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
- Joe Louis Greenway groundbreaking planned for mid-spring 2021, Detroit to release framework plan, Model D
- Joe Louis, Southwest Greenways to start construction soon, Urbanize Detroit
- Detroit greenway projects blaze trails for recreation, tourism, Detroit News ($)
Great Lakes Way
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.
- 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!
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!
- This Detroit Running Group is Transforming Lives in the Community, Two Miles at a Time, Runner’s World
- High Gear: A preference for American-made products and simpler lifestyles has shifted Detroit Bikes’ fortunes to another level, dBusiness
- Great parks don’t just have rec space. They create jobs, Fast Company
Support the Detroit Greenways Coalition by making a donation today