Friday, August 22, 2008

An Attempt To Thoughtfully Affect Your Way Of Thinking

Hey Traverse City, there are other ways to deal with traffic other than more roads.

See the WQ: The Traffic Guru [via BoingBoing]

At the town center, in a crowded four- way intersection called the Lawei plein, Monderman removed not only the traffic lights but virtually every other traffic control. Instead of a space cluttered with poles, lights, “traffic islands,” and restrictive arrows, Monderman installed a radical kind of roundabout (a “squareabout,” in his words, because it really seemed more a town square than a traditional roundabout), marked only by a raised circle of grass in the middle, several fountains, and some very discreet indicators of the direction of traffic, which were required by law.

As I watched the intricate social ballet that occurred as cars and bikes slowed to enter the circle (pedestrians were meant to cross at crosswalks placed a bit before the intersection), Monderman performed a favorite trick. He walked, backward and with eyes closed, into the Laweiplein. The traffic made its way around him. No one honked, he wasn’t struck. Instead of a binary, mechanistic process—stop, go—the movement of traffic and pedestrians in the circle felt human and organic.

A year after the change, the results of this “extreme makeover” were striking: Not only had congestion decreased in the intersection— buses spent less time waiting to get through, for ­example— but there were half as many accidents, even though total car traffic was up by a third. Students from a local engineering college who studied the intersection reported that both drivers and, unusually, cyclists were using signals— of the electronic or hand variety— more often. They also found, in surveys, that residents, despite the measurable increase in safety, perceived the place to be more dangerous. This was music to Monderman’s ears. If they had not felt less secure, he said, he “would have changed it immediately.”

The CV-9

131-foot yacht docks at Clinch Park

Motor Yacht - CV9 - Delta Marine (specs)

Motor Yacht CV-9 - Sparkman & Stephens: Charter Prices & Seasons: US$85000.00-98000.00/wk

The Best View In Lower Michigan

It is the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy's proposed 'Elberta Dunes South'.

See the RE: View from Elberta Dunes

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Flagstaff Is A Bigger Version Of Traverse City's Problem

*Disclosure* the reporter for these NPR stories is an old college friend of mine

'Amenity Migrants' Alter Life In Resort Towns
Newcomers like Stone have been flocking to Flagstaff and other picturesque resort and college towns since the 1970s. But in the past decade, their numbers have exploded.

Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute, has a name for people like the Stones: "amenity migrants."

"Like many of us, they would say, 'Boy, when I can, I would really like to live in one of these beautiful, scenic areas,'" Johnson said. "And as they get close to retirement, they can fulfill those wishes" — either in full retirement or by working a more flexible schedule...

While other small towns are struggling, these communities are booming. They're growing two to three times faster than other rural areas, even faster than many metro areas. And as the baby boomers retire, Johnson says, the migration will accelerate.

Around Resorts, Boomlet Towns Thrive, Too
Around the country, more Americans are living where they want to, not where they have to. They're making new lives for themselves by the beach, in the mountains, in college towns.

Inevitably, these new residents are changing their new hometowns, making them more expensive places to live. And it can be hard for the original residents to keep up...

"Flagstaff's beautiful," Thomas said. "It's where I wanted to raise my children, it's safe — and ever since I've been back home, it's been very difficult to find a place to live."

That's partly because Flagstaff has been discovered by wealthy second homeowners. And partly because so many of the area's jobs are in tourism and retail, which don't pay very well.

Home prices have more than doubled this decade. Now only about one out of every five families can afford the median price for a house: $350,000.

So Ruth Thomas has done something three of her four siblings did: She and her children moved back in with her parents...

All over the country, newcomers are moving to scenic communities like Flagstaff, helping to drive up housing costs. Many of the towns are trying desperately to create more affordable housing. For instance, Aspen, Colo., now requires developers to make 60 percent of new homes affordable to lower-income buyers.

But these efforts simply can't keep up with the demand. And it's not just day care workers, teachers and firefighters who are squeezed out of the housing market in Flagstaff — medical professionals and college professors can't afford it, either.

Direct link to the Carsey Institute report: Demographic Trends in National Forest Counties (PDF)

Traverse City Make Some More 'Best Places' Lists

See the RE: Traverse City makes list of 'Adventure Towns'

These are the latest lists:
National Geographic's 50 Best Places to Live: The Next Great Adventure Towns
So this year we selected 50 innovative towns that aren’t just prime relocation spots right now, but smart choices for the future. Not only do they have the action. They’ve got a plan. Now we’re giving you a plan too. Inside, you’ll find hometown picks that range from adventure 24/7 hubs loaded with outdoor options to urban players that offer a variety of jobs and cultural activities without sacrificing green space.

Mother Earth News' 9 Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of, 2008 Edition
[this is the first list I've ever seen where I agree with all the cities listed, based on my limited experience]
A great town or city is like a bowl of savory minestrone soup, served at a fine, family-owned restaurant. Though it may be difficult to identify the exact ingredients, the bottom line is flavor: Remarkable communities combine classic elements such as climate, architecture, natural assets and civic energy in a way that makes places healthy, safe and lively. By investing in the local economy, communities build self-reliance to handle sudden challenges such as surging energy prices or natural disasters.

The under-the-radar towns on the third Mother Earth News Great Places list blend qualities like these into rich, energetic cultures. We invite you to get to know these great places with us, and apply some of their innovative approaches and lessons-learned in your own towns and cities.

* Ames, Iowa
* Bethel, Maine
* Bisbee, Arizona
* Berea, Kentucky
* Viroqua, Wisconsin
* Moscow, Idaho
* Greenbelt, Maryland
* San Luis Obispo, California
* Traverse City, Michigan

Progress At The Barns

Via the Record-Eagle: Groups collaborate on GT Commons barns

In April, 2007 I submitted these comments to the 'Brainstorming The Barns' group:

Any solution should have the following goals:

- limit any increase in traffic to keep the area pedestrian friendly.
For example, even though there is not an official use for the Barns area
at this time the road around the property can be dangerous for joggers
and dog walkers.
- do not increase the amount of impenetrable surfaces Use the grassy
areas for parking)
- do not fragment the Farmer's Market
- respect the passed ballot language

As a near-term solution I would like to see the Barns and surrounding land ("The Barns") used as a Park on a fee based as-is basis for organizations looking to rent space. Also grandfather in the current community garden plots. This park would be available for rent ($35/hr; 5 hr minimum) by any group that met certain guidelines (e.g., company picnics, wedding receptions, class reunions, etc).

I once worked for a metro park district that had a large barn which was made available to parties for rent. It was generally used for wedding receptions and family reunions and was rented out almost every weekend. It was a very popular spot in the summer and to get it ready all I had to do was unlock a padlock in the morning.

And I visited Itahca, NY once and saw structures similar to "The Barns". While I was in Ithaca these were used for a wedding reception, a small bluegrass show, and a Scottish Heritage festival. I could easily see similar events at the Traverse City Barns.

Making the barns available for group rental will enhance Traverse City's reputation as a tourist destination as there will three unique venues for groups small to large to use: The Open Space by the Bay (maybe this will change though); The City Opera House; and The Barns area.

The advantage of this proposal is because of its minimal impact it can be implemented immediately without precluding any future long term solution.

Regarding The Barns as a Botanical garden

It appears to me that there is an organized effort underway to lobby for a Botanical Garden at The Barns property by the Botanical Garden Society of Northwest Michigan. I am very excited about the possibility of a Botanical Garden in Traverse City but I do not think The Barns is the best location for it. First of all, constructing a garden will mean something currently on the site will have to go - is that the meadow, wetlands, woods, food plots, or buildings? And would that violate the ballot language? Is there enough space, even with construction, to make a garden as good and large as Traverse City deserves? Secondly, the site is in close proximity woods, meadows, and wetlands and these habitats support many different plants.

Can a botanical garden improve upon nature?

The Barns will be a terrific site for the Botanical society to offer guided walks and point out the native plants to groups.

However, there are more appropriate sites for a botanical garden. I would encourage the Botanical Garden Society of Northwest Michigan to undergo an effort similar to "Brainstorming The Barns" to get community input for where a Botanical Garden should be built.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Car Free Streets

Traverse City does a great job with street events in the summer (e.g., Friday Night Live, Cherry Festival parades, and summer street fairs), but there are large cities that are doing even more.

See this CS Monitor story: Traffic Stoppers

Imagine if Traverse City turned Lake Ave between Seventh and Eight Streets into a pedestrian only path? I think that could be a real winner.