Friday, February 18, 2011

Paving Paradise

I've decided to commit to a writing schedule. Henceforth, I will update this blog on Mondays and Fridays. My plan is to write general interest essays for Mondays and something like a local news brief for Fridays.

Since it's Friday...

8th Street (semi-residential) sludge
I had occasion to do some errands around town the past two days, which put me into contact with asphalt in various locations. When snow is melting, asphalt surfaces and their borders are depressingly ugly. A winter thaw makes visible some of the usually-ignored dirtiness that accompanies our fossil-fueled transportation system.

Residential street
On days like these, one can gauge the volume of traffic on a road by the blackness of the snow on its edge. My residential street has a narrow band of dirty snow compared to the several feet of black sludge bordering busy South Airport Road. With evidence like this, it may not be hard to persuade people that motor vehicle traffic degrades our environment, but many will still call it a "necessary evil" and insist we have no real alternatives.

And so in Traverse City, we have a movement afoot to inflict one of these motorized rivers of horror alongside our lovely urban lake. Gary Howe provides details on the proposed Boardman Lake Avenue on his blog, so I won't repeat them here. My knee-jerk reaction to any new project involving asphalt is nearly always "NO", and so it is with this one. I do have tremendous sympathy for the residents of Cass and Union streets who want to reduce traffic in their neighborhood, but I'm not persuaded this plan will do it. I think it's far more likely this road will increase overall traffic in the city than that it will appreciably reduce traffic counts in Old Town. Won't giving motorists a faster route through town encourage more trips?

Neighbors unable to attend public input session
The assumption underlying most discussion about the Old Town bypass is that motor vehicle traffic cannot be reduced, only relocated.  But throughout the automotive age, traffic relocation attempts have invariably increased overall traffic levels and rarely resulted in anything more than a temporary alleviation in the traffic counts on the roads they were intended to help. I could break my link button with studies (here's one), so I'll simply suggest that those interested in learning more do a search on "induced traffic."

Where the new road might go. Rail remnants suggest alternative transport option.
Pre-automotive age transport arterial
Two forms of traffic will be negatively impacted by this road: pedestrians and cyclists. Two years ago, TART constructed a long-awaited footbridge across the Boardman River at its northern intersection with Boardman Lake, providing non-motorized traffic a safe and scenic route from the library and eastside neighborhoods to the Old Town area. I use this trail frequently to travel to Oryana for my groceries and know that it is hugely popular, particular with families. Even today, with hazardous ice patches on the trail and a stiff wind threatening to blow us into the lake, I encountered at least a dozen other trail users on my short walk from the depot to Oryana.

River of cars
The current plans for Boardman Lake Avenue provide a "refuge island" in the middle of the road so that pedestrians and cyclists only have to sprint across one lane of traffic at a time to cross. Perhaps we should be grateful to be considered at all, but I'm personally getting weary of having to jump in front of speeding cars to cross a street. Enough already!

We're intelligent creatures. Can't we do better than this?

1 comment:

  1. Sharon, you make lots of excellent points in this post. I especially like the point made in your duck photo caption, re: that unrepresented constituency!!