March 3, 2014 - The 2040 Regional Transportation Plan tries to develop a transportation system of roads, public transit, bikeways and walkways that, when taken as a whole, improve the quality of life in Southeast Michigan. Each piece of the system has to work with and connect to the other pieces to form a seamless system. Last week, I focused this space on the public transit system and highlighted the many things that SEMCOG and our partners are doing to improve and integrate public transit with the other transportation modes. This week, I will focus on the nonmotorized (walking and biking) system.
SEMCOG has been engaged in nonmotorized planning as part of development of the regional transportation plan. We have developed deficiency analysis and county-level bicycle travel information maps, and actively participated in county and local level nonmotorized planning efforts. In addition, as a service to our local government members, SEMCOG performs walkability/bikeability assessments as part of our road corridor assessment program, which also includes road safety audits, and access management plans.
SEMCOG advocates for nonmotorized improvements as a member of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Council (GTSAC) Bike Pedestrian Safety Action Team. This group, which is co-chaired by SEMCOG and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), works with other state agencies, advocacy organizations, and local governments to help save lives and promote bicycle and pedestrian travel.
At the regional level, SEMCOG is a member of MDOT’s Metro Region Nonmotorized Advisory Committee. This committee has strong participation from SEMCOG and its members and serves our entire seven-county region.
In order to better coordinate and prioritize needed nonmotorized improvements, SEMCOG is leading an effort with MDOT to develop a Regional Nonmotorized Plan to be completed in the next several months. The plan will identify existing and proposed regional corridors and on-road and off-road bike facilities. The project will also explore bicycle and pedestrian policies. One thing I want to point out about this process is our public survey. The survey attempts to develop a baseline of who is using the system and why. It includes demographic information, trip purpose, and the type of facilities you like to ride on. So far, over 750 people have responded. I encourage you to take it here.
Planning is one thing, implementation is quite another. Communities in Southeast Michigan have built/striped many miles of nonmotorized facilities in the past few years. A key to funding nonmotorized improvements has been the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). A SEMCOG University workshop on this topic is scheduled for March 12. Learn more details and register here.
Since the beginning of 2013, SEMCOG has awarded TAP funding to 29 projects throughout Southeast Michigan, including:
- Construction and rehabilitation of on- and off-road nonmotorized facilities,
- Implementation of complete streets (road diets, pedestrian-focused streetscape enhancements, traffic calming elements, on-street parking, and bike lanes),
- Green infrastructure elements to reduce stormwater runoff and mitigate negative environmental impacts from the roadway,
- Acquisition of over 12 linear miles of railroad corridor to be developed into nonmotorized trails, and
- Pedestrian and non-motorist safety enhancements.
In short, nonmotorized transportation is a key component of the region’s transportation system.
With proper planning and implementation, nonmotorized facilities can feed our transit system and help foster greater livability and sustainability in our downtowns and other urban centers. Residents can have greater transportation choices. Coordinated with the region’s other transportation options, a safe, convenient, and well-connected nonmotorized system has the potential to empower communities, have a positive impact on congestion and auto emissions, while also providing exercise and a fun way to see and interact with our communities.
It all adds up to that improved quality of life that we all desire.
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