Complete Streets vs. Reality in Michigan
New Michigan legislation now requires future roadways to be planned and designed in a complete streets, context sensitive manner. This has brought up several topics of conversation.
The starting point on any road project now assumes that all types of transportation modes are justified on a given roadway unless you can show otherwise. So rather than adding bike lanes, bus lanes, sidewalks, etc., those are built-in unless a case can be made to not include them in the highway cross section. Each transportation corridor will be different and each will need to be considered with respect to the movement needs of all right of way users, the adjacent property uses, and visions for future corridor changes.
This approach creates a bit of friction when major new development or redevelopment project teams meet with County road commissions and local roadway agencies regarding the goals of any improvements to area roadways. This is really quite an interesting shift in thinking and clearly NOT something that our local County road commission has fully bought into as yet.
They likely will not have a choice though. All transportation improvement projects in Michigan now must consider and implement the complete streets, context sensitive solutions. So we may see that their rule regarding levels of service for all traffic movements have to be level D or better is amended. Level of service E and F are going to be okay if they last for a relatively short period of time and do not present safety hazards to all right of way users.
The new assumptions get at the same argument as the one we have seen about a sea of parking outside a shopping center. Providing parking spaces based on peak demand needed only a few times per year is dumb. So is designing streets for peak hour traffic. Why not design the roads to function properly for a multitude of users all the time? Let the peak hour traffic back up, let drivers select alternate parallel routes, or alternate modes of transportation, or alternate timing of their travels, or use designs like roundabouts that slow but maintain the flow while greatly reducing serious accidents.
To read a five-page summary of the complete streets context sensitive approach to roadway design, go here.
To order the current recommended practice “Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach” from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, please call 202.289.0222 and ask for publication # RP-036A.