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Posted on Thu, May 30, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Project officials: Vision for Washtenaw Avenue will take shape over several years

By Ryan J. Stanton


This hypothetical scenario shows what Washtenaw Avenue could look like with two vehicle travel lanes, a center turn lane, two buffered bike lanes and dedicated transit lanes. The bicyclists would be placed between buses and vehicle traffic.

SmithGroupJJR | Parsons Brinckerhoff

Sometime in the next few years, you could find yourself traveling from Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti — or vice versa — on a bus that tells red lights to turn green.

That's called "transit signal priority," and it's one of the short-term solutions for making Washtenaw Avenue a more transit-friendly corridor, said Sarah Binkowski, a transportation engineer with Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the consultants working on the ReImagine Washtenaw project.

"This is actually being looked at to happen in the next few years," Binkowski said at a community meeting Wednesday at the Washtenaw County Service Center.

"Basically if the bus is approaching a signal and it's green, and it's about ready to turn red, the bus will say to the signal, 'Hey, can you keep it green for me a little bit longer so I can get through the intersection?' Or if the bus is coming up to the signal and it's red, it can say, 'Hey, I'm coming, can you turn green for me?' So that kind of gets the bus through the intersection a little bit quicker."


The car is still king on Washtenaw Avenue, but options for adding bike lanes and dedicated transit lanes are under consideration.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Part of the vision for ReImagine Washtenaw is a future where more people shift away from personal automobiles and instead walk, ride a bike or take a bus to their destination — and the thinking is that can help with traffic congestion along the five-mile corridor.

Neal Billetdeaux, a consultant from SmithGroup JJR, presented the bulk of the information shared at Wednesday's meeting, which was attended by several local government officials and some residents.

At certain parts of Washtenaw Avenue east of US-23, he said, there's talk of a "road diet" that would take the road from five to three lanes to slow traffic and create a safer pedestrian environment.

"With current traffic volumes, a three-lane cross section is not viable," he said. "But with diversion of traffic to other roads and a mode shift from auto to transit or bike, this definitely could be viable."

Officials from the city of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti Township and the city of Ypsilanti are working with urban design and transportation consultants on ReImagine Washtenaw.

Additional partners include the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, Michigan Department of Transportation, Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study.

Project manager Nathan Voght, who works for the county, said local officials continue to discuss the idea of a corridor improvement authority to oversee improvements on Washtenaw Avenue.

He said the consensus seems to be starting with an authority that doesn't capture local tax revenue, but instead serves as a body that can accept state and federal grant dollars.

"The idea is if you become an authority, you're much more eligible for state and federal funding to do things like infrastructure upgrades, transit upgrades," he said.


An AATA bus rolls down Washtenaw Avenue on Wednesday morning.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Voght said the vision for ReImagine Washtenaw has been around for a while, and it's now getting into the implementation phase. He said the federally funded study being done right now with the help of consultants should result in a report being released later this fall with some refined ideas.

"What we're trying to do is present some alternatives to the public that we've really studied pretty hard with our consultant and just get their feedback," he said. "We're also asking people to give us feedback on things like mid-block crossings and the existing conditions on the roadway — what areas do they think we need to address?"

Billetdeaux said "queue jump lanes" for AATA buses is another idea being considered to improve the transit experience.

"Basically what this is is an opportunity for buses to get a jump on the light in front of automobiles," he said. "The bus gets the green light in its own lane separate from the automobiles."

A series of transit "super stops" for AATA buses along Washtenaw Avenue is another piece of the plan. Voght said designs for those could be finished by this fall.

"I think what you're going to see is a consolidation of some of the stops out there as we provide better sidewalk facilities for people to actually get to them," he said. "You're going to see something that's more elaborate, that's got more facilities like covered bike parking, signage, lighting, a nicer shelter, digital readouts for when the next bus is coming — modern transportation technology."

Different road configurations are being considered for how to fit dedicated transit lanes and continuous buffered bike lanes on Washtenaw Avenue.

One scenario shows bike lanes on both sides of the road separated from traffic by a two-foot painted buffer, though no physical barrier. Another scenario shows bike lanes tucked between lanes of automobile traffic and dedicate transit lanes, without a buffer between cyclists and buses.

"It's not the best solution," Voght acknowledged. "We're trying to work within the framework of a busy thoroughfare. On the other hand, all of the communities have adopted nonmotorized plans that call for bike lanes in the roadway, and so we think we can provide a reasonably safe bike facility for bicyclists to use, and it's going to become safer and safer the more people use them."


Bus stops like this along Washtenaw Avenue could be replaced in the future with so-called transit super stops with more technology, including digital readouts of when buses are arriving.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Dozens of community members attended the first two public workshops this week where the scenarios were unveiled, and two more workshops are scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Voght said he thinks most people are generally supportive, though there are some concerns.

"Some people are concerned about the vision for the corridor," he said. "And I think they see the congestion that's out there today, and they say, 'Well, how could you possibly add a bike like? Or how could you possibly do a mixed-use development on this road? It's too busy.'

"But some of the changes we envision will require fewer vehicles in the future on the roadway, but that's already the trend that's occurring if you look at vehicle volumes and transit ridership."

Ann Arbor City Council Member Jane Lumm, who attended Wednesday's meeting, said she has a lot of questions about the practicality of what's being presented.

"Dedicating lanes for buses? Taking out other lanes? How would this work?" she said, adding she hopes more residents give feedback. "This is a big deal, obviously."

Ann Arbor resident Len Harding, who also attended Wednesday's meeting, said Washtenaw Avenue is a problem and he'd love to see it solved, but he isn't seeing a good solution.

"I think what they're proposing is to move traffic along the corridor, but they're also proposing to have economic development along the corridor," he said. "And that economic development is not going to be supported by the people who live along the corridor — there's simply not enough money there, particularly as you get east of Carpenter. Those are not affluent neighborhoods."

Larry Krieg, a member of the Ypsilanti Township Planning Commission, has been involved in the committee-level discussions and he's embracing the vision.


Local officials hope to see more developments like Arbor Hills along Washtenaw Avenue with buildings coming closer to the sidewalk, instead of strip malls with vast seas of surface parking out front.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"I see my role here primarily as trying to do something that will make this community a place where my grandkids can stay and prosper," he said.

Ann Arbor resident Vivienne Armentrout said at Wednesday's meeting she has concerns about the plans showing 11-foot-wide traffic lanes. Project officials said that was the width they determined would work best to fit other desired elements on the roadway.

"I know when I'm traveling in my little car and a great big hefty truck goes past me in the next lane, it makes me feel insecure," Armentrout said.

Kari Martin, MDOT’s University Region planner, said 11 feet is MDOT's minimum standard. She said MDOT, which controls the roadway, will be looking at the widths to make sure they're appropriate.

"MDOT is participating as kind of an advisor to this group," she said. "There's a lot more process that would need to take place to vet some of these concepts."

Billetdeaux described Washtenaw Avenue as a "service-oriented corridor" — with 53 percent being primarily commercial land use, and 24 percent having some kind of residential use.

"There's lots of active, successful commercial uses out there and there's more underway, but there's also a lot of room for improvement," he said. "There's over 100 acres of redevelopment opportunities on vacant land and underutilized buildings."

Part of the vision, Billetdeaux said, is to strengthen commerce and improve the "user experience," and also create a welcoming residential atmosphere with improved curb appeal.

The average daily traffic count ranges between 26,000 to 46,000 in both directions at different points along the corridor, according to figures presented Wednesday. Currently there are no bike lanes, but improvements have been made for pedestrians in recent years.

"Up to the year 2000, almost half of the frontage had no sidewalks along Washtenaw Avenue," Billetdeaux said. "Fortunately that's been improved now — it's just about 21 percent today. But much work remains to improve the pedestrian level of service."

Billetdeaux stressed what's being proposed is not anything that's going to be implemented overnight — it's a 20- to 30-year vision.

"In the fiscal reality of today, the implementation is likely to be incremental as funds become available," agreed Eli Cooper, the city of Ann Arbor's transportation program manager.

Cooper said he's excited about the concepts.

"There's both streetscape improvements as well as transportation improvements that will take this suburban arterial roadway and convert it into a complete street with higher emphasis on transit and nonmotorized travel — really also serving as a spine to connect the communities," he said.


This hypothetical scenario shows how a large median in the middle of Washtenaw Avenue could accommodate a future advanced transit system of some kind. It's one of multiple scenarios being considered.

SmithGroupJJR | Parsons Brinckerhoff

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Vivienne Armentrout

Fri, May 31, 2013 : 11:10 p.m.

Referencing @tano in long reply chain to first comment, there definitely was an element of social engineering in the presentation I heard (attended the same one as Ryan Stanton). This raises the question of the role of the planner: to present a vision and try to implement it, or to satisfy the will of elected officials and the public - acting as a neutral party? This article argues against neutrality. It raises this question of the role of the planner and urges them to move past the majority will. I heard one of the presenters say very clearly that she acknowledged that the traffic was too heavy at present for the changes envisioned, but that they would try to change people's behavior so it would be feasible. The part I thought was especially unrealistic and infeasible was building mixed-use communities along the corridor so people wouldn't have to travel - they'd have home-work-shopping all right there. Doesn't fit with the way most people function today, anyway. It does raise some interesting philosophical questions.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

A divided roadway, such as Jackson Rd., west of Ann Arbor, makes more sense than a 5 lane roadway if they can reconfigure the corridor to accomplish it. Given existing and projected auto traffic volumes and any realistic projections of bus ridership, reducing auto lanes to make dedicated bus lanes is an insane idea. Build bike paths along with sidewalks for the entire stretch to encourage both, but nobody can reasonably expect large volumes of users of either one. Keep the bikes off the streets. There is no good solution for intermingling bike and car lanes on high volume roads! Giving buses the ability to change traffic lights seems questionable at best. To the extent it helps buses travel on Washtenaw, if traffic is not already backed up, and helps cars and trucks traveling around them, it disrupts the flow from side streets. Without a very elaborate and comprehensive bus system people are not going to convert to bus ridership in large enough numbers to justify this priority status for buses. Traffic control signals should be engineered to coordinate and maximize all traffic flowing through the areas. How will giving buses a priority really accomplish this? I am sure something can be done to improve the situation regarding traffic signals, I am not sure that this is it. If you want "pie in the sky" solutions, why not put in heliports for individual shoppers and commuters and give a tax subsidy for building and purchasing mini helicopters? That way you do not need roads as much. If your goal is simply to maximize the situation for people walking, biking or riding the bus without regard for the impact on cars and trucks, then we should ban all cars and trucks from Washtenaw. Improving the systems is needed and planning is how to get better systems for moving people to where they want to go. Be realistic is setting goals for a total system and on what will accomplish them given the world we live in rather than an idealized world or unbalanced pla


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 4:07 a.m.

Only part of the population can use bike lanes or buses. There are many categories of people who need to drive vehicles on Washtenaw and other streets. These include parents with one or more young children in car seats, people who don't ride bicycles well (this is true of adults in all age groups), older adults, people with disabilities who either drive special cars or have family members or others drive them, people who are traveling more than a few miles, and people who need to dressed in styles not suited for bicycling, who don't ride bikes and need to go to places not served by bus routes, and people who need to make multiple stops or stops at hours or on days when bus availability is sparse. In addition, most people who ride bicycles at all, don't ride outdoor bikes on many winter days. The idea of most Ann Arborites and people from surrounding areas will ride bikes or travel by bus isn't practical and transportation without private motor vehicles isn't an option for many. I work out at the gym. I run up and down stairs. I have trouble running a bicycle more than a few blocks. Partly due to allergy, I have labored breathing after riding a bicycle for more than 1/2 a mile.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 12:15 a.m.

A priority should be continuous sidewalks stretching from Ypsilanti to Carpenter/Hogback Rds and more pedestrian cross walks. Almost daily I see people walking, often with strollers, in the street. Fancy bus/traffic signal communication might be nice, but this shouldn't be a funding priority. Making the corridor walkable and pedestrian friendly increases safety and foot traffic, which will encourage businesses to invest in the area. Bike Lanes are another great idea, which promotes safety and alternative transportation.

Basic Bob

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

complete. madness.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

What's missing are dedicated lanes for the consession vehicles who will supply hot dogs and cold drinks to the folks sitting in rush hour traffic for hours.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

"Local officials hope to see more developments like Arbor Hills along Washtenaw Avenue with buildings coming closer to the sidewalk, instead of strip malls with vast seas of surface parking out front." The entirety of Wash Ave is lined with strip malls and seas of asphalt. So, are they proposing to tear up all the parking lots and rebuild the strip malls? I doubt it. This statement is just one more example with how unrealistic these drawing are. Fantasy land.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

The proposal does not call for tearing up parking lots and rebuilding strip malls. The vision is that as redevelopment occurs along the corridor, that they follow the new zoning rules enacted by all 4 communities that requires new development and redevelopment to come closer to the sidewalk. The government will not be involved in this process. It's purely on the private sector to develop the land, but the community wants to see their road LOOK better and by encouraging a particular kind of development: we'll get exactly that.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 10:38 p.m.

Let development occur over time and with private money from developers who will profit from it. I don't want taxpayer money paying to enhance the profits of developers.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 6:31 p.m.

The streetscape changes faster than you think. Look at Washtenaw from Platt to 23 and think how much has changed in the last 25 years. Whole Foods, Barnes and Noble, Arbor Hills, the SE corner of Huron Parkway etc. are all new in the last 25 years. It's not unreasonable to expect that the motley collection of buildings on the south side of Washtenaw from the Dennys to 23 might get torn down and totally rebuilt in the next 25 years. This initiative is about saying what do we want there as a community if and when that does happen.

Scott Reed

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

I like the wide median idea. Five car lanes plus two bike lanes is just way too much. The bike lanes in that situation do not look very safe - wedged between car traffic and bus traffic.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

There's another interesting slide on Page 63, showing the amount of space required to move the same number of people by car, bus and bicycle. It's worth glancing at. It's something I've contemplated myself as I've used the bus more and more in the past year and pictured the 15-20 people riding on the bus with me instead being a line of 15-20 cars.

Rod Johnson

Fri, May 31, 2013 : 10:40 a.m.

You guys talk as if (a) current problems with using the bus system are inherent and will be there forever, and (b) cars will always be a more attractive mode of transportation. But in 20 years we might be dealing with a completely different landscape. What will happen as oil starts to run out and the economic incentives start to run the other way? Planning has to look ahead like that.

An Arborigine

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

Try taking the bus home from downtown after 9pm.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

Ryan - Try taking the bus to a job in Southfield or out towards Jackson. Try taking the bus with 4 bags of groceries and the prospect of walking four more blocks when you get off the bus.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

For the history buffs out there, there's a fun slide in the presentation on Page 19. It shows a photo from the Ypsilanti Historical Society circa 1900 of men constructing the first mile of concrete road on Washtenaw. It's titled "The Circa 1900 Complete Street." Check it out.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

@Nicholas Urfe, "as an avid cyclist" I would like to make sure that you not only use a bell but encourage all other cyclists to do so as well. As an avid walker/runner I am concerned about the overwhelming majority of bicyclists who give no warning to those of us on foot....NONE whatsoever. No bells used on paths or sidewalks. "Drivers are just too hurried" may be true but the silent speed with which bicyclists approach pedestrians is mind-boggling. As a driver, I am also concerned about bicyclists who do not use hand signals as they defy every rule of traffic safety. "Put bike lanes in the middle of the road"....oh yeah......that ought to work. Meanwhile, while we're waiting for the roads we have to be fixed and free of axle-breaking potholes, let's - by all means - redesign Washtenaw for buses and bikes.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 12:23 a.m.

One revenue enhancing solution to the problem of cyclists disobeying the rules of the road: Licensing cyclists who use the roads. 1. Only allow 14 and up to ride in the road bike lanes. 2. Require every bike to have a license plate and registration. 3. Cyclists must pass both a written and road test just like drivers do. 4. Ticket cyclists who refuse to obey the rules of the road. It's great if people want to ride bikes instead of using cars. I am all for dedicated bike lanes. However, there are a lot of cyclists who act as if the traffic laws do not apply to them. I think this is due to lack of education about road safety and a lack of accountability.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

"Meanwhile, while we're waiting for the roads we have to be fixed and free of axle-breaking potholes, let's - by all means - redesign Washtenaw for buses and bikes." That can happen concurrently but why waste money rebuilding the status quo when you've already decided to build a better system? Not saying this particular system is better, it may or may not be, but clearly a problem exists that needs dealing with in a forward-looking manor.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

Found myself wondering how many here have been educated, trained in and also have on the job experience in traffic engineering. Then it struck me: likely none. Why don't we leave this to those that actually know what they're talking about.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 11:52 p.m.

@Rooster: so what you're saying is that you want Ann Arbor to create and design roads for you? And other suburbanites like you? So you wish to enact your will upon the citizens of Ann Arbor? How is that right? The road belongs to the jurisdiction that it runs through, not the people who merely use it to get to work and head home. Using that logic, you would want Ann Arbor and the State of Michigan to decimate buildings and homes along the roadway simply to expand it to facilitate huge roads that cater to the automobile only? Not only is that morally wrong, it's not in the best interest of the public whatsoever.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

The reason for this development isn't improving traffic .. it is about pushing political ideas. And this is mostly done by Ann Arborites who can afford to live a comfortable bike ride from whole foods and are annoyed by the folks who live in the cheaper areas along 23 and have to commute to work.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

@ordmad " Why don't we leave this to those that actually know what they're talking about." Because we are discussing deeper issues - whether or not to do any of these things - what kind of a city do we want to have - what are our transportation needs that we would like the experts to figure out how to satisfy/ In a democracy, these are questions for the people to decide, not the experts. The experts come later to refine the vision that the people articulate.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

I didn't actually make any factual assertions (does not seem.., CAN do.., likely reject...). If you want evidence that urban planners fail at place-making, visit any suburb of any city. Some may be nice, most are car-dependent hell holes (in my opinion). But see for yourself. Every suburb is the product of urban planning to some extent. Some places are entirely the product of urban planners, such as Columbia, MD. I've tried to get through there many times. Based on my observations- everyone is free to come to different conclusions- urban planning, as taught in the US, has been a failure IF the goal was to make nice places to live. If the goal was to make an industry out of real estate development, then that profession has been wildly successful. Same with traffic engineering. If the goal is to make nice places to live- not so successful. If the goal was to grease the wheels for the car industry- wildly successful.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

@timjdb: lots of factual assertions, not a shred of evidence.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

An education and degree in urban planning, based on widely available evidence, does not seem to impart upon one the ability to successfully mitigate problems within cities. I suspect the same problem exists in traffic engineering. What the layperson CAN do, is use the street systems and decide for themselves why one system works better than another. They may be wrong in their assessment, but might not have any worse track record than professionals. The layperson would likely reject the theoretical in favor of the practical while the professional would attempt to do the opposite. Somewhere in between is probably the answer but it's likely a delicate balance, especially if the goal is to move the maximum number of cars through a place. If that is NOT the goal, and this is where the citizenry should speak up, then the balance lies somewhere else along the continuum from practical to theoretical.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

TAXES AND OLIGARCHY Those individuals who plan to operate the Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Authority are using the public transportation and bicycling issues as a ruse to enhance the chances that the Authority will be created. The small group of developers, real estate agents, urban planners and architects that formulated the Reimagine Washtenaw concept are really interested in obtaining tax payer money so that they can provide incentives for the development of the 100 acres of undeveloped and underdeveloped properties alongside Washtenaw Avenue. There is big money to be gained by developers and their associates who control the Authority's finances. Authorities like the DDA have the privilege of levying special assessments on city tax payers and issuing bonds which city tax payers will have to service if enough revenue from usual activities is insufficient to pay debt servicing. Little money can be made from buying more and larger buses or creating curb cuts. Not much money can be made from creating bike lanes either. However, obtain hundreds-of-thousands or even millions of dollars to construct residential and commercial buildings along Washtenaw Avenue and developers and their friends can share lofty fees. The AATA will be responsible for the costs of changing transportation on Washtenaw Avenue. The Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Authority will spend our money assisting developers and likely the oligarchy that controls the Authority. Remember that those running the Authority are appointed and not elected. Please vote against creating another authority if given the chance.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

Exactly correct, Veracity.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

I think that if you can devise a place that is pleasurable to be in and move through, the development will follow THAT. That place may devise itself randomly. The best laid plans, and so on...


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

Why is there such a strong effort to choke motor vehicle traffic into Ann Arbor? "Road Diet" is planned for Jackson Ave despite a very negative response from Ann Arbor citizens and there has been talk of "Road Diet" for West Main and now Washtenaw as well. The plan proposed for West Main had a pedestrian cross walk at the entrance and exit ramps to the 65 mph M14 highway, does anybody see a problem with that? The Washtenaw plan has narrow bike lanes sandwiched between bus traffic and car traffic. I think the individuals pushing these "road diet" treatments to the primary access roads into Ann Arbor must be on some kind of "brain diet"

Rod Johnson

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.

Can you quantify the negative response? Because I've also heard positive responses, and unless there's been some polling, I have no idea how it balances out. Also, by West Main do you mean North Main? Keep in mind that was just a very tentative idea someone floated.

G. Orwell

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

@An Arborigine It is called Agenda 21. You probably know that.

An Arborigine

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

Agreed, it is all part of a grand plan to eliminate automobile traffic in the super-sparkly utopia of pedestrian and non-motorized travel. Only the wealthy will have quiet, electric hover craft to float harmlessly above the fray.

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:04 p.m.

As an avid cyclist, better solutions for bikers and pedestrians are welcome. However, this is not it. This mode of thinking - just force in a bike lane - will result in deaths. It will never work on a busy road like this. Drivers are just too hurried, oblivious and distracted. It will fail, just as it has done in other cities. Don't waste time re-inventing a wheel that has failed so many times before. A different approach must be taken - look at other cities and countries for guidance on what works. Other concepts put the bike lanes in the middle of the road so that drivers are not turning across the bike lanes to enter businesses.


Fri, May 31, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

Yeah. With the advent of texting and driving, I do not relish riding my bike in the street anymore. Especially during morning commute.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 5:11 p.m.

A bike lane is better than nothing. A bike lane separated by a paint buffer is better than just a bike lane. A separated cycle track is far better than both. Particularly on the stretch from Stadium to 23, I think there is room for a separated cycle track.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:12 p.m.

I'd rather see the bike lanes at the curb, both directions joined on the same side of the road, with a guardrail which has openings for bus stops. Those openings would be visual indicators for bike riders that they need to check to see if a bus is coming up from behind before proceeding across.

G. Orwell

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

We live in Michigan where our winters can be long and very severe. If the expensive bike lanes go in for the the imaginary bikers, will the bike lanes double as snowmobile routes during the winter season. That way you would not have to shovel or salt along the bike bath. Saving the city a lot of money.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

What kind of rabbit hole did I fall into this morning? "With current traffic volumes, a three-lane cross section is not viable," he said. "But with diversion of traffic to other roads and a mode shift from auto to transit or bike, this definitely could be viable." So the goal here is to change 60 years of driving patterns and consumer habits and DECREASE traffic as much as possible to make room for buses and bicycles? How many retail businesses do they think are looking for a nice quiet spot with as little traffic as possible to open their next store? What about existing retailers who are already struggling with the economics of evolving demographics towards the east end of the corridor? They are praying every day for more traffic and these consultants are designing a future devoid of consumers! I'm sure there are good intentions buried somewhere in these ideas, but we all know where that road leads. Please reconsider this "traffic diversion" concept and help bring more viable consumers to eastern end of the Washtenaw corridor!


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

Major corridor, one lane each way is a very bad idea. Cyclists are better off using the sidewalk. The 2012 north side of the street (Platt to the Stadium-Washtenaw split) had a much wider blacktop sidewalk put in last summer and that doubles as a bike lane. The same can be done on the south side of the street. Washtenaw Ave needs to remain at 5 lanes and the transit stops are now off the far right lanes which is working very well. (not at all stops)


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

@MRunner73 Less confident cyclists often pick the sidewalk, under the mistaken impression its safer. Once people get used to biking everywhere, they move into the bike lanes. However, for kids still in the "wobbly" phase, sidewalks are probably safer, because you are going so slow anyway and the risk of swerving out into traffic is higher than the risk of getting cut into by a car. I agree that well-designed, well-maintained non-motorized paths, such as the one along Washtenaw, are generally safer than bike lanes or sidewalks and as such I usually use them. However, a big problem is that non-motorized paths tend to fall apart faster than sidewalks (they are usually just a thin layer of asphalt) and not get repaired (because they are not part of the roadbed). If you ever ride on the non-motorized paths between AA-Saline and South State along Eisenhower, for instance, you'll note that it's in such rough shape as to be almost unrideable. In addition, the design (probably from the 70s) winds around every tree and goes in and out at weird angles at most driveways, making it very difficult to ride. So, for that stretch, the road is safer.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

foobar417, then why do I see so many cyclists opt to ride on the sidewalk on Packard between Stadium and State Street? I would hope all cyclists do what you suggest. As for the new blacktop section on Wastenaw either side of the Stadium split that is a new wider sidewalk, that surface is very smooth, wide and safe. If I were a cyclist, I would certainly use that portion.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Most cyclists hate using the sidewalk because it's far less safe than a bike lane or (better yet) cycle track. Why? 1) The surface conditions on sidewalks are far less smooth, making it more likely you'll lose your balance. 2) Cars in driveways constantly pull through sidewalks before coming to a stop and looking for oncoming traffic. Oftentimes they do this right in front of a bike on a sidewalk. 3) Cars in roadways constantly turn into driveways without checking the sidewalk for oncoming bikes.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:09 p.m.

Keep in mind the "road diet" conversion to 3 lanes is a term-vision and only being considered for certain points east of US-23 if conditions allow it in the future. As the story indicates, project officials acknowledge this is not feasible under current conditions and traffic volumes. There are slides showing how this would look on pages 35 and 36 of the presentation that I provided a link to download in the story.

Dog Guy

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

American liberalism including this social engineering of roads traces back to seventeenth century Boston Puritans legislating morality and forcing everyone to be good Puritans. Every liberal cause has resulted in very expensive misery for the general population because idealists have no street smarts, especially when it comes to streets. I do not foresee Michiganders riding bicycles to health, happiness, and heaven on Washtenaw Avenue. Being liberal means never saying you're sorry and always getting paid with taxes exacted from unbelievers, but no longer requires that broad-brimmed black hat.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

bike. Finally, you write: " In practical terms, let alone the feelings of freedom and autonomy, it is and will remain a car-based society." You associate using a car with feelings of freedom and autonomy. Personally, I associate being able to choose my mode of transit (car, bike, walk, public transit) with freedom and autonomy. I find my freedom *constrained* when I need to contemplate riding my bike somewhere (e.g. Quality16 or Ypsilanti) and have to say "nah, the bike infrastructure between downtown and Jackson Road west of Webers is too discontinuous" or "nah, Washtenaw is too dangerous to bike as currently configured". I'm not asking you to get out of your car. (Although by getting out of mine I'm actually making your drive easier.) I'm simply asking that we as a society recognize that freedom includes the right to get places as you chose and build complete streets that cater to everyone, creating a safe environment for all.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

@Tano Dog Guy claimed (paraphrasing) that wanting to re-engineer roads to also support bikes and pedestrians is social engineering. I was pointing out the factually true statement that designing roads for cars only is also social engineering. (Maybe I should have put "Irony Alert" in blinking text.) In fact, we have the historical record that auto manufacturers literally did buy up streetcar companies and tear up the tracks to make their product (automobiles) more attractive, which adds to the irony of the original statement. As for your statement "To rely on pedal power for anything other than recreation is simply not something that most people find interesting" ... "Most" is an imprecise term meaning more than 50% but less than 100%. However, in our democracy we don't only cater to the 51%+ on any issue. We accomodate minorities and majorities wherever possible. Experience has shown in Ann Arbor and elsewhere that as you increase the amount of cycling infrastructure, more people cycle, particularly once you cross the threshold from scattered bits to an actual comprehensive, connected infrastructure. Moreover, experience has shown that cities that thrive are those that cater to young professionals and young professionals are drawn to cities that support cycling and walking. You write: "There is literally no place, and no time of day that one can get anywhere in this city quicker by bike or bus than by driving." First of all, that's not true. For example, I can get home (3 miles) faster on my bike than in my car from South State to the west side on a bike than in my car due to the inbound traffic backups on South State every evening. Second, what's your point? Not every travel mode decision is made based on speed or ability to haul a large quantity of stuff. If there's sufficient public transportation and cycling infrastructure, people can easily make a cost-based decision to forgo owning a car, get a Zipcar membership, and ride their


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 4:40 p.m.

@Foobar Maybe from your unique personal perspective you somehow fail to realize this, but the truth of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of people LOVE their cars. There neither was, nor is today any need to postulate grand conspiracies by evil capitalists to explain why people love their cars. The freedom to go almost anywhere you want, on your own schedule, and effortlessly haul many pounds of cargo, is priceless. To rely on pedal power for anything other than recreation is simply not something that most people find interesting, despite the fact that some minority of people passionately love it. To rely on public transportation that necessarily is limited to very few roads, on relatively infrequent schedules for anything other than straight-line regular commutes, makes no sense at all. I used to live without a car - in midtown Manhattan. It wasn't an ideological stance, it was practical. I could literally walk to supermarkets, bookstores, restaurants quicker than I could drive there, even if I could have parked right outside my apartment (I couldn't). For longer trips downtown or to the outer boroughs, the subway was faster than driving. And for those trips that really did require the flexibility and timing of a car, one could hail any of the thousands of cabs roaming the streets. Ann Arbor is not New York and never will be. There is literally no place, and no time of day that one can get anywhere in this city quicker by bike or bus than by driving. In practical terms, let alone the feelings of freedom and autonomy, it is and will remain a car-based society.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Yeah, because the capitalists who tore up the streetcar tracks and shut down the streetcars so we'd have to buy cars certainly weren't doing any "social engineering" for their personal profit.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

I think this is a very unwise comment. By characterizing these proposals as liberal, and by then insulting liberalism and liberals, in a town where most people are liberal, you are probably managing to build support for the proposals if anything. People will reflexively defend ideas that are attacked in an inaccurate, rude and insulting manner by people who make it clear that they stand outside the reigning political consensus. That would be a shame. I am a proud liberal who finds these proposals seriously misguided. If you are actually interested in helping us all find better policies, rather than just ranting, maybe you could try to build alliances.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

Why should buses get any special priority at all? I especially like the potential combination of queue-jump and road diets. That way the bus gets in front of all the traffic at each intersection so that it can then repeatedly bring all the traffic to a halt every time it stops on the road-diet-disadvantaged road. Perfect.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

As it is now, with 5 lanes, it has taken me almost 30 minutes to go one mile to reach US23, This "road diet"is a recipe for disaster. As it is proposed, any bikes would be sandwiched between buses and regular traffic. Turning in any direction can become deadly when you consider the blind spots this would create. Also, if traffic is congested now, how would removing 2 lanes increase traffic flow and efficiency? It sounds like the sole purpose of this proposal is to force tax paying residents off the road! Well, people won't stop driving, but their commutes to/from US 23 will be harder and in town attractions and businesses will lose revenue because people will tend to avoid business along that corridor. I mean, why would you go shopping at Arborland if it takes you twice as long to maneuver through traffic to get there as it does to get to Briarwood? All I can see happening is that Packard Rd will become more congested with those avoiding Washtenaw. AATA does not make enough to pay for itself and is subsidized and bicyclist do not pay towards the road maintenance, so all these so-called "improvements" will be paid for by those that will suffer due to more congestion - those who drive.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

As far as I can see the road diet would mostly apply between US23 and Ypsilanti and would not affect your travel time from Ann Arbor to US23. It seems that most readers think Washtenaw only runs from between Ann Arbor and 23.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

@a2cents - because this one of only a handful of roads that leads to the highway, which many of us must take.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

A person who climbs in a car to spend 30 minutes to go a mile might consider alternatives. Failing that, perhaps a toll or charge would motivate behavioral change.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Every person who rides AATA is one less car in your way. Every person who rides a bike is one less car in your way. Almost everyone who rides a bus or rides a bike is also paying towards the roads. For example, I also own 2 cars, but sometimes prefer my bike.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

This road diet fad is becoming infuriating.

Rod Johnson

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

Why? Where have you seen problems with it?

A A Resident

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 11:15 a.m.

The scenario pictured at the top has bikes sandwiched between a car lane and a bus lane. A car turning left would need to cross these three lanes of traffic. A car turning right would need to cross two lanes of traffic. Looks like a recipe for disaster. And condensing four lanes of auto traffic into two results in a more continuous stream of traffic with fewer breaks for merging with traffic, or turning across it. Where Stadium has been reduced from four lanes to two, one now waits much longer for a break in traffic to be able to turn onto Stadium from a side street. These sections have basically turned into bottlenecks. Since the goal seems to be to make things worse and more confusing, I wonder if they could put a few traffic circles along that stretch as well?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 11:05 a.m.

I support the idea of giving busses transit signal priority thoughout the AATA service area. The more convenient busses are, the more people will use them, reducing traffic problems for everyone. This would require installing modern traffic signal synchronization technology along all major traffic arteries, and that would be an excellent investment because it would improve the quality of life for everyone moving through the city by vehicle. This technology is already funded and being installed along the Washtenaw Avenue corridor but it needs to be installed throughout the region. But let's think bigger than that. With this technology the traffic lights could also change when it senses cars waiting and no cars coming from the other direction. All too often now, you wait at lights for the timer to run out and no other vehicles are coming. It wastes time, energy and money. With this technology traffic lights in a series would all be synched to allow traffic to move freely across multiple lights and city workers won't have to manually adjust light signal timers. The increase in efficiency and the return on investment for the citizens would be excellent.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Veracity, You might think it's time to start riding the bus... or following one.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

Tano- You are correct. An example would be the Carpenter Road and Washtenaw Avenue intersection. At this time if I just miss a green light going north on Carpenter Road at Washtenaw Avenue, I must wait 3 minutes before I receive another green light. However, if a bus is approaching FROM EITHER DIRECTION just as I am to get a green light then I will be forced to wait 15 to 30 seconds longer before I can continue my drive. But that is only if another bus does not approach from the opposite direction preventing my receiving a green light once more. So now I have waited 4 minutes before I can drive instead of the 3 minutes for the usual traffic light timing. And if the usual traffic light timing is not readjusted for the effects of buses altering the lights then I just might finding myself at the beginning of another light cycle and end up waiting 7 minutes before I can proceed! And it can get worse if another bus approaches after my 7 miinute wait and again prevents me from getting a green light. The worse case scenario is that I spend hours stopped at the intersection because of the combination of the traffic light timing and the effect of buses which alter the schedule to allow their unimpeded passage down Washtenaw Avenue.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

How do you imagine that one can have both an efficient system of synchronization of lights and the ability of a single bus to override the timing of a particular traffic light that it approaches? Wouldn't the latter capacity totally screw up the timing pattern?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

P.S. Much of the downtown core in Ann Arbor has synchronized lights, but not many other places in the county other than the system already halfway installed in the Washtenaw Avenue corridor. However, it is my understanding that even the technology in downtown Ann Arbor is a generation or two behind state of the art.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 10:52 a.m.

"The average daily traffic count ranges between 26,000 to 46,000 in both directions at different points along the corridor, according to figures presented Wednesday." "At certain parts of Washtenaw Avenue east of US-23, [Neal Billetdeaux] said, there's talk of a "road diet" that would take the road from five to three lanes to slow traffic and create a safer pedestrian environment." MDOT does not recommend road diets for roads with more than 10,000 cars per day. What's next, a road diet on I-94? M-14? U.S. 23? The gridlock and traffic jams this road diet plan would create would be among the worst you've ever experienced anywhere. What is the goal, to make Washtenaw Avenue a parking lot?


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 8:19 p.m.

@foobar In your final paragraph, you boil down my argument to an absurd mischaracterization of what I wrote. Then you note that your characterization is contrary to democracy. What do you think you have accomplished with this? I have stated explicitly, several times, that I support making allowances for minority lifestyles. I think a dedicated bike lane, buffered not by white paint, but by curbs and grass and space, would be a fine thing to add - like the wide sidewalks adjoining County Farm Park. There seems to be enough room for that, plus an additional sidewalk for pedestrians, along most of the length of Washtenaw. I think cut-outs for bus stops would be good thing to, and more frequent buses. But I do not support the ideas the attempt to purposely slow or impede vehicular traffic in an attempt to influence people to abandon their cars. Or leaving 40% of the street empty for great majority of the time so that buses could move slightly quicker, once again, done for the purpose of making driving more miserable. I have no problem with plans that seek to design streets so that all current users can move more safely and efficiently. But you are being less than honest when you claim that no one who backs these current plans has any interest in shaping the future behavior of people. I do not know why you are denying this, it is often quite explicit. You define social engineering as the creation of conditions likely to encourage or discourage a change in the culture. By your own definition, those who make proposals that would encourage the greater use of mass transit are engaging in social engineering. That is the explicit rationale for the bus lanes, the driving-lane elimination, and the traffic-light-priority to buses proposal.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

"I think you are missing the key factor that distinguishes plans that can be called "social engineering" and those that cannot. That factor is what the people actually want. And by "people" I mean the majority of people, obviously not all of the people." That's nonsense. Social engineering is when you create conditions likely to encourage a change or discourage a change in the current culture. "But to design things today with the hope and intention of guiding society to match your own vision of how people should live is an unwarranted imposition. We elect public servants to do our bidding, to work for us, not to redesign us, to make us better people according to their values." You are reading your own interpretation into why communities and traffic engineers are doing this. Complete streets is about designing the transportation infrastructure to safely allow choice of transit mode, which in turn increases freedom of choice and autonomy for everyone. It's not about a value judgement about your use of a car. It's not about forcing / cajoling / guilting you into getting on a bike. I am just as strong an advocate for designing safe infrastructure for cars as I am for bikes and pedestrians and I would be even if I didn't own a car. Your argument boils down to: "Most people are fat and happy in their cars, so screw those who would prefer to walk or take a bike but currently find it too risky until they can outvote us." To me, that is completely contrary to the goal of a functioning democracy that protects the rights of minorities.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

@foobar I think you are missing the key factor that distinguishes plans that can be called "social engineering" and those that cannot. That factor is what the people actually want. And by "people" I mean the majority of people, obviously not all of the people. If you build something to accommodate the tendencies of the majority (and of course you can and should also accommodate minority lifestyles as much as possible) then you are doing the work of democracies. If you build things to accommodate your own personal vision of what society should be like, if only people were more virtuous according to your own values, then you are imposing things on society - you are trying to design, to engineer a different society than what free people are freely choosing to pursue. I acknowledge that once you build infrastructure a certain way, to accommodate a certain need, it tends to reinforce that use. Building better highways not only serves the needs of an automotive society, but it reinforces the trend to more automobiles. So I am certainly open to providing means for minority lifestyles to flourish and to recognize that those modes might become more popular in the future. But to design things today with the hope and intention of guiding society to match your own vision of how people should live is an unwarranted imposition. We elect public servants to do our bidding, to work for us, not to redesign us, to make us better people according to their values. The great majority of people use private automobiles for most of their transportation, because they love it. It is far more convenient, given people's actual lifestyle, than bikes on mass transit. If that ever changes, then we can build different infrastructure, but I find that enormously unlikely.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

@TANO Designing roads sole to prioritize the needs of automobile drivers is "social engineering" pushing me to own and operate a car, despite the cost. Designing roads to accomodate me safely however I want to get to my destination is much more conducive to my personal liberty, whether I chose to drive, bike, walk, or some combination thereof.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

@Crono " It's time to start designing our roads and infrastructure in a way that counts every user using the road" Thats not really what they are after, is it? The talk here is about designing roads and infrastructure in a way that meets the mix and ratio of uses that the designers think should be present, rather than what actually is present. It sounds a lot like authoritarian social engineering, rather than public servants sincerely trying to meet the needs of the community.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

The I 94, M 14 and US 23 road diets were the first to go in effect because they are restricted to two lanes each way and not three, but next, bike lanes will be added. Your points are on the mark.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

Reimagine Washtenaw intends also to facilitate traffic flow which will not happen with the present plans. Remember that much of the traffic along Washtenaw Avenue during rush hours involves commuters who use the route as a conduit to I23 and then I96 and I94. None of the changes planned for public transit or cyclists will have any meaning to those traveling out of Ann Arbor to jobs elsewhere and returning. Reducing lanes, adding traffic lights (such as at Platt Road and Washtenaw Avenue) and creating more safety crosswalks will definitely impede vehicular traffic flow. There are only a few arteries that can carry vehicles from Ann Arbor neighborhoods to jobs outside Ann Arbor (Plymouth Road, State Street and Main Street being other examples). If you wish to have fewer commuters traveling these routes then you want to create new arteries with connections to either I23, I94 or M14. Commuters will not benefit from improved local public transportation and new bike lanes, and especially not from reduction in lanes.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 12:32 p.m.

MDOT is also in the process of changing to a Complete Streets policy whereby they look at things at a more case-by-case basis given the geographic location of the roadway. They will begin taking into account more than just ADT (which is the old way of doing things, and how we've ended up with the mess we have now), it will also look at pedestrian safety, bicycle safety and transit. There is absolutely no reason why the car should be the only mode of transportation considered when designing a roadway through an urban setting. Therefore, MDOT recognizes this and is slowly implementing changes at a higher level. The old way of thinking was to only build roads (and parking lots are the same way) for the worst of times (not the other 80-90% of the time). This is why we have roads that are too big (Washtenaw east of 23) and massive parking lots that are only half or a quarter of the way full. It's time to start designing our roads and infrastructure in a way that counts every user using the road and not just people who choose to own a car.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, May 30, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

@Crono: While I support the goals of pedestrian-friendly, bike able communities, please let's make our plans realistic! Ann Arbor is a high cost place to live and Ypsilanti is a low cost place to live. The jobs are being generated in Ann Arbor, so the number of commuters between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor will rise in the future not fall. You could order them to stop rising, like King Cnut the Great (a/k/a King Canute) ordered the tide to stop rising and not get his robes wet, but they will come anyway and your plans will be all wet. What is realistic though admittedly incredibly ambitious and expensive is the illustration of the 131 foot wide boulevard with four lanes of car traffic and a dedicated bus lane or light rail lane in the boulevard (as illustrated in the article). According to the WATS long range plan it will cost $200 million and we don't have the money to do it (yet) but that is what plans are for. What is not realistic is a road diet for Washtenaw Avenue. That horse left the barn decades ago.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 11:55 a.m.

Again, the goal is to make the corridor significantly more pedestrian-friendly, cycle-friendly, and transit-friendly. In order to do that, in the future, various things need to be done. The entire process will take years to implement in order for the full vision to unfold. It's not going to happen tomorrow morning when you go to work. Planners will be working with the major employers in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area to implement policies related to how their employees get to work, such as offering cash incentives for employees not to drive or even incentives to live closer to work so they are not contributing to the congestion on local roads. This can be done by giving a cash payout to employees who choose not to park at the place of business and instead take another mode. Other employers could implement policies that simply charge for parking instead of offering if for free. This incentivizes employees to again think about their mode of travel. All of this, coupled with rezoning along the corridor that encourages development to the roadway, with parking in the rear, creates an environment significantly more feasible for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit.