Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Appreciating Juglandaceae

There are black walnut trees all over downtown Traverse City neighborhoods. This tree does not appear to be native according to the US Forest Service: Juglans nigra L.

-Native range of black walnut

but it sure has naturalized itself wonderfully.

I've often thought about collecting these walnuts but was never sure about how they compared to the English variety you get in the store.

Supposedly they are wonderful as Hank from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook discusses at TheAtlantic: Black Gold: The Pleasures of a Hard-to-Crack Nut

Looks like I have a foraging project for next Fall!

Monday, December 27, 2010


In his Mars Trilogy, Kim Stanley Robinson wrote about a company named Dumpmines which was bought by "Praxis". This company made money by mining old landfills to recover valuable materials.

Sounds like a great idea.

American Waste will soon be doing something like this. They are building a Material Recovery Facility (Facebook link) which will be able to mechanically separate recyclable materials from the incoming trash stream. What this means is even if you forget to sort your recyclables from your trash then ostensibly some of those missed items will still get sorted.

So if Traverse City is going to move ahead with a single waste hauler (though I am not sure this is something that needs to be done) then this ability alone would make American Waste my preferred choice. But add the option to opt-out and to have curbside yard waste pickup and they become the top choice in my opinion. And I have to admit that by allowing niche operators like Bay Area Recycling for Charities to conitnue to operate my ire about this program has been dramatically reduced.

The three proposals only vary by $7.20 per year; but in terms of the time each person needs to dedicate to thinking about and dealing with trash and recycling then this does not seem to be unreasonable as I believe dealing with American Waste will save me over an hour per year (in other words, I'll trade more than one hour of labor at home for paying an extra $7.20 per year to a waste hauler).

Kelly at RecycleChicken has put together a comparison table of the three proposals. Note that the only advertiser at the RecycleChicken web site is American Waste so this may not be a totally unbiased recommendation on their part but this is a good starting point.

The City has more information on the Single Hauler program at their site.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

What is Hinge Line?

For a long time this was a quasi-anonymous site, shared with only a couple people. The only intention I had was to provide a place where I could share interesting things that related to northern Michigan.

But recently things have changed so I feel as though I should explain things.

What is Hinge Line?

A hinge line is the axis where on one side of the line the land is rising, and on the other side sinking, due to post-glacial isostatic rebound. It is slow change, but after the glacier retreats and that weight is gone the land rises back up.

In other words, remove an overburden and you can rise again.

There are multiple geological hinge lines in Michigan. (find the book 'Geology of Michigan' for more on the topic)

I chose the name Hinge Line because I see Traverse City and northern Michigan slowly rising again. Hinge line as metaphor for the rise from the weight that was lifted after the early 1990's when houses in Central Neighborhood were falling into disrepair and the State Hospital stood vacant. By the end of the 1990's it was clear Traverse City was developing a new persona, a new way of viewing itself as a community. That trend has continued and what I want to do here is spread those ideas that work. Be pragmatic. Be philosophical. Be reasonable.

I do have an agenda. It is to provide information and ideas that work. Because I want this place to keep rising. I want northern Michigan to achieve its full potential and rise as high as it can and lift us all with it.

Someday I'll move this site to its own domain. But for now this is not my job, just an interest, and I have no time to police what people say and respond to questions so no comments yet. But I welcome the change and will attempt to keep this going.

Andy Olds

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This Place Is Nice

Talking about Traverse City and northern Michigan.

It is good to take the time to appreciate what is here. Where else is there a city with a downtown lake that hosts loons, buffleheads, red fox, and bobcats? Where else is there a downtown where can you fish for so many different fish species? Where else can you start on a downtown trail and hike to the North Country Trail? Or bike for hours? Where else is there such a density of craft fermenters and high-quality restaurants?

And this list is just a start. I love this place. It is why I am here.

A few more things that I have recently come across:
-the previously mentioned wine scene.

-Gary Fisher came to the Iceman Cometh race which is an indication of how this race is seen nationally.

-Local writer Keith Schneider writes about The Commons in the NYT: From Ex-Mental Hospital to a New Mixed-Use Life

-and statewide, here is a remarkable statistic via MLive: Michigan leads nation in rail-to-trail conversions

Thanks to everyone who makes this place so special.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

News For Bicyclists

Here are a couple of recent items that may be of interest to bicyclists:

PhysOrg: Preliminary study suggests frequent cycling could affect male fertility
A study of men attending fertility clinics has found bicycling for five or more hours a week was associated with low sperm count and poor sperm motility

TH: Bike Glow. If You're on The Go, Let Cars Know

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thoughts On The Proposed Boardman Lake Avenue

[this is the email I sent to Traverse City officials]

Dear City Officials,

I live in Old Town, on Ninth St between Lake Ave and Cass St, and I strongly oppose building Boardman Lake Avenue.

My opposition is based on the fact that the proposed street will only create the problem it is seeking to solve. As a daily pedestrian I see a traffic speed problem, especially on Lake Ave, but not a traffic volume problem. Building a new road will only exacerbate the speed problem and cause traffic congestion.

Because building more roads will always lead to more traffic by definition - this is why traffic gets modeled as a gas - it expands to fill the space given to it.
Does the city want to build roads or fix the traffic issues? - you can't do both.

The neighbors I talk to want to fix traffic issues, not build more roads.

I understand things have been said to long-time residents of Old Town about the traffic in our neighborhood. But that was before Tom Vanderbilt wrote 'Traffic' in 2008. Before the Braess paradox (i.e., "in a network in which all the moving entities rationally seek the most efficient route, adding extra capacity can actually reduce the network’s overall efficiency") was understood to apply to traffic models. And in the last 10 years many communities tried to build their way out of traffic congestion only to fail; while communities that have closed streets have improved the flow of traffic.

Why would Traverse City try the failed road building solutions of the past?

Here are my questions for everyone to consider before Boardman Lake Avenue is built:

- Has a traffic study ever been done to indicate that this new road would work as intended? Or does the preponderance of traffic use Cass St as a north-south corridor into and out of downtown. How much traffic is related to St. Francis school pick-ups and drop-offs?

- Is there an example anywhere, of any town, ever successfully decreasing in-town traffic by building a new road? The answer I have found is No, more roads always create more traffic within five years. The lesson other cities have learned is you cannot build your way out of traffic problems and more streets always lead to more traffic.

- Does Traverse City want to spend so much money on a new road without trying much less expensive traffic calming measures first?

- What would be the environmental impact on Boardman Lake from more road salt and sediment?

- How will pedestrians safely access the Boardman Lake trail? I heard a person say at an Old Town neighborhood meeting that the Boardman Trail bridge was built so pedestrians could avoid walking next to busy Eighth St. But now we might put a new high-volume street between the neighborhood and Boardman Lake? So instead of having to walk next to a busy street we'll have to cross one?!

- Wouldn't this road simply move the traffic problem elsewhere such as...

- Would Boardman Lake Ave cause dangerous backups on Eighth St as vehicles attempted to turn south?

- Would Tenth St become a favored east-west route?

- How much more traffic would all of Old Town see?

Finally, as conditions exist now it is almost like being caught in a perceptual three-sided box. What I mean by that is that there are three boundaries that are perceptually hard to cross as a pedestrian- 14th Street, 8th Street, and Division Ave. Let's not complete the box with a high speed cut through that will not solve anyone's problems.

Thanks for your consideration.

Additional reading:

'Traffic: why we drive the way we do'

Removing Roads and Traffic Lights Speeds Urban Travel

Braess Paradox

Friday, December 3, 2010

Why Traffic Engineers Don't Get The Braess Paradox

Or traffic calming ideas.
It isn't in "the book".

See Grist:
Confessions of a recovering engineer

An engineer designing a street or road prioritizes the world in this way, no matter how they are instructed:

1. Traffic speed
2. Traffic volume
3. Safety
4. Cost

One Person's Trash

Some thoughts on trash.

There were many complaints about the rail cars parked on the private rail lines behind Boardman Lake condos. Apparently they blocked the view of the Cone Drive parking lot. I was surprised by the complaints as I find the means of industrial production to have its own beauty. Things like rail cars, bridges, skyscrapers, and freighters. What makes rail cars an eyesore yet a freighter in our beautiful bay an attraction? Why did people complain about rail cars yet seem to miss the trash scattered around Boardman Lake and the acres of invasive baby's breath next to the condos? In fact, I was saddened yesterday when the cars were no longer there.

Perhaps it is because working on a single issue (that really isn't a problem) is easier than fixing real problems.

Like Traverse City's single-hauler waste removal proposal. What problem are they trying to fix? What will this do to innovative business like BARC that want to offer comprehensive recycling and curbside compost pickup? As it is now I pay $10 per month to Waste Management based on a voluntary program Christine Maxbauer spearheaded. That's the way it should be - let neighborhoods get their own deals but don't get city government involved.

In other words, if you like having one cable company you're going to love having just one trash hauler (and told you can't use anyone else). That would be like telling everyone they have to use Charter or they can't have television and Internet.

Or it may be the city is working on a single-hauler trash program because that is easier than dealing with real issues that are hurting businesses and citizens. How about fixing a real problem like that recently highlighted by the Northern Express and craft a "BYOB" ordinance so the tiny restaurants can succeed?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Complete Education For Complete Streets

Via the StateNews: Bill could increase bike education if passed
The bill, which passed by a 74-30 margin, would amend the Driver Education Provider and Instructor Act to require more education about laws pertaining to bicycles during the classroom instruction of segment 1 driver’s education. Emphasis also would have to be placed on bicycle awareness.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Don't Go Sailing On Novemer 10th

The Storm seemed a lot like a November witch except in came in October.

Wunderground lists five storms that were true witches: Nov. 10th: A Day of Weather Infamy for the Great Lake States and the Upper Midwest
Kansas City's temperature dropped from a record high 76° at noon on Nov. 11th to a record low of 11° by midnight. Springfield, Missouri dropped from a record 80° at 3pm to 13° by midnight. Oklahoma City fell from a record 83° at 1pm to 17° by midnight. Chicago dropped from 74° at 1pm to 13° by midnight, and the Monthly Weather Review stated "one man was overcome by heat and two others frozen to death in the short space of 24 hours".

Raise The Roof

"It's like a grocery store in your backyard."

I love this. So simple and elegant and obvious.

Via Grist: Even city chickens want rooftop gardens on their coops

Photo and official site: Traci Fontyn - Kippen House

Build It And They Will Come

Surfers are known as people who will chase waves - going to where they need to be for the experience.

The recent October wind storm brought people to the Great Lakes for the surfing experience. See: High winds bring surfers to city

And a Canadian writer describes their trip to Lake Michigan for some late season surfing. See: Chill thrill: November is the best month for surfing on Lake Michigan

People are obviously willing to travel for the experience of good waves. Imagine what an always available Traverse City Whitewater park would do for tourism!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Great Wolf Lodge Is Struggling

The Wall Street Journal reports that if Great Wolf Resorts cannot modify the current loans for properties in Traverse City and Kansas City then it is considering walking away and letting the lender take over ownership.

For more details see: Wolf at Resorts' Doors

So in addition to abandoned elementary schools, one mall on its last gasps, and some noticeable vacancies downtown (like the hole next to the Record-Eagle), there could be another significant closing if that is what happens to Great Wolf Lodge. Yikes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Michigan's Food-Friendly Wines

I originally posted this at CulinarianCapital and re-posting here as it points how wonderful northern Michigan is. Good to be reminded of it once awhile.

We know northern Michigan wines are good, but wow, some incredible praise at PalatePress: Something is Going on in Michigan

Even better is to read the writer's blog entries in getting ready to write this article. They are collected at Grape Sense - Glass Half Full

First Taste of Michigan Wine Impressive
Two Lads, a Schoolhouse, and One Sharp Young Man
The Beauty of the Traverse Bay Area

Some of my favorite quotes from the blog are:
-I tasted two memorable wines there [Left Foot Charley], a very dry Pinot Blanc that has been honored time and again in numerous competitions. And a reserve Riesling that was simply the best American-made Riesling I’ve ever tasted

-Coe [Black Star Farms] has one of the most impressive destination wineries you’ll ever come across in the U.S.

-This Rose’ [from 2Lads] rivaled, if not surpassed, many I’ve enjoyed from France and Spain made from Grenache

-...they [Chateau Grand Traverse] grow Gamay – the Beaujolais grape. You can’t call it Gamay in this country so they call it Gamay Noir. They have a regular bottle ($12) and a reserve ($19). I liked the reserve a lot. It was not as earthy as the French versions but very nicely made wine with true Gamay flavor with good acidity and tannins on the finish. (Gamay Noir is my personal favorite "go-to" wine)

I guess it can all be summed with "The secret of Michigan wine, and particularly Northern Michigan, isn’t going to last long once people get a taste"

Monday, November 8, 2010

Crazy Ideas Department - Paying For Red Lights To Go Green

This does sound crazy but the prevalence of smartphones and their coming ability to pay for transactions makes this a real possibility. In-depth discussion is at 3quarksdaily: Free-Market Moloch? Paying to Make Red Lights Turn Green

Interesting concept...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Transportation Surprises

Some good news.

Grist interviews Ray LaHood: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood talks about livable communities
LaHood has proven to be much more than a roads-and-bridges secretary. He's been an outspoken and articulate proponent of high-speed rail. He's mounted an aggressive campaign against distracted driving. He's jumped up on a table to address the National Bike Summit, saying that, "I really came here just to say thank you to all of you for hanging in there with us. You all have made a big difference."

And perhaps most significantly, he has emerged as a defender of the "livable communities" concept, advocating for the construction of a transportation infrastructure that would make walking, biking, and modern public transit available -- and attractive -- options for every American.

And in Michigan, complete streets get legal backing as reported by GetOffTheCouch: Michigan AG Rules Highways Open to All Modes of Travel"
A pedestrian and bicycle pathway may be established within the right-of-way of a county road built on an easement granted for highway purposes, without first obtaining the consent of each owner of property abutting the highway."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

PigStockTC - Where Prosciutto Flies

Via R-E: Rare pig provides tasty prosciutto

Flickr: PigstockTC

Official site at blogger.

Black Star Farms will have their chefs there.

The pig making this possible is the Mangalitsa. Read about it at wikipedia.

PigstockTC shows the value of boutique agriculture, whether hops, chestnuts, or heritage turkeys; the farmer who mixes this low volume/high reward method guarantees themselves a mixed income stream. When Michigan realizes that its future is tied to agriculture I hope to see more events like this where chefs and farmers have fun with these new and unique ingredients.

Tip of my hat to you PigstockTC!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Importing Ideas

Saw two European transportation related things today that caught my attention.

1. A friend posted to Facebook this picture with the comment of "Typical Amsterdam bike rack.":

2. Originally from France, via GOOD: The Merits of the Diverging Diamond Interchange

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Storm

The October blow is winding down finally.

Jeff Masters:
Strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest smashes all-time pressure records

GOES image

There's a satellite movie too.

The system made worldwide news. The BBC covered it: Fierce storm muscles through Midwestern US

HuffPo has a few unremarkable pictures: 'Chiclone' Aftermath: Storms Leave Plenty Of Damage Throughout Midwest

The WaPo has some interesting facts at Midwest storm by the numbers such as:
24 tornado reports

282 wind damage reports

26 mb pressure fall in 24 hours in central Minnesota. This kind of extreme drop in pressure is referred to as "explosive cyclogenesis" or "bombogenesis"

77 mph wind gust in Greenfield, Indiana. Highest "official" wind gust reported.

5 states (Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and South Dakota) - where wind gusts to at least 70 mph were reported. List of selected wind gusts.

250+ flight cancellations yesterday at Chicago O'Hare

50 mph winds for 24 of the last 32 hours in Pierre, South Dakota according to the Weather Channel

8" - Snow report in Harvey, ND accompanied by sustained winds near 40 mph and gusts over 50 mph

150-180 mph winds estimated at jet stream level driven by the large temperature contrast between the eastern and western U.S. - which in turn - fueled this storm in the center of the country.

1 partially impaled teacher by tree limb outside Chicago. Teacher says she will use tree limb that entered her abdomen and came out her side as "art"

In Michigan, wave height was 20+ feet in some places:

NWS recorded a top guts of 78 mph on the bridge: Final Wind Gusts for the Historic Great Lakes Storm of October 26-27

9&10 reported that all freighters were anchored.

In Empire, a water spout was spotted.

And naturally there are many, many power lines and trees down, but it appears nothing too terrible occurred. I kept waiting for it to get really windy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Understanding Braess

And calming traffic.

Simply put - adding capacity to a network decreases overall efficiency.

See Scientific American: Removing Roads and Traffic Lights Speeds Urban Travel

Why? There's math for that (see Wikipedia). How I see it is based on the psychological experiment that asked people if they'd rather live in a neighborhood where they made $100,000 and their neighbors $50,000; or a place where they made $200,000 but surrounded by people making $400,000. People overwhelming wanted to be richer than their neighbors even when that meant passing up a doubling of their income. A study from the U.K. confirmed this experiment: Happiness Is ... Making More Money Than the Next Guy. Or as They Might Be Giants sang, "I don't want the world, I just want your half".
This is how drivers behave - why they do not make the most efficient choice. Some drivers are simply looking for a way to get to the next spot before the other guy.

You see this as drivers speed down Lake Ave past Oryana and McGoughs. They aren't going to save a lot of time by doing this but if they can get ahead of the car that they were behind a few minutes ago on Fourteenth then they are satisfied.

And as an experimental guy found out in Seattle, one bad or good driver can impact everyone else for the worse or better.

I believe this is the essence of the Braess paradox, additional network choices lead to inefficient decision because the agents look at only getting to the next hop in the network. By eliminating choice you increase efficiency since there is no competition for an alternative route.

This has been proven New York, Stuttgart, Seoul, Los Angeles. It can work in Traverse City too. Plus, it is much cheaper to close a road than to build a new one.

This is something I want Traverse City to consider as the City plans to introduce traffic calming ideas. I'm going to listen to them then will have more to say about it and about the proposed Boardman Lake Ave.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wine And Color

A couple of lists Traverse City has appeared on include:

TripAdvisor picks the top ten fall foliage destinations

[Via My-North]

and from USAToday: 10 great places for local wines
"They're very good at matching grapes with climate"

[Via the R-E]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Photograph Of Building 50 Wins Worldwide Competition

I recognized the picture before I read the text to confirm what the first blink told me - this winning image is from Traverse City.

GOOD hosted a contest and asked for the submission of images of building from reader's neighborhoods. Nataliya Chekhovskaya submission was of a tree growing from the ruins. A fitting image for the rebirth happening at The Commons.

Well, the votes are in, and the image from Traverse City won.

See: Winner Announced: Crowdsourced Picture Show About Buildings

image by Nataliya Chekhovskaya at GOOD.is

Thursday, September 30, 2010

“A bike in New York City is sort of what a convertible is in Los Angeles"

The bifurcated nature of the pro/con debate regarding trails, bikes, parking decks, roundabouts, tourists, politics, etc. in northern Michigan makes me think a bike in Traverse City is sort of what a snowmobile is in Traverse City.

Via NYT: Bicycle Chic Gains Speed

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

USBR 35 Meeting Tonight

Can't believe this isn't getting more attention.

Via Twitter/FB since nowhere else is it mentioned:
There is a public input meeting for Bike Route 35 on Tuesday, Sept 28, 6pm – 7pm in the MI Works! Conference Room, 1209 S Garfield Rd Public.

Official site: USBR

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Negating The Braess Paradox

Via PhysOrg: Scientist proves Braess paradox 'disappears' under high traffic demands

The Braess Paradox implies that new paths will result in longer times for all travelers in a network. What has been determined is that under high loads there is no change in travel times, and with low demand new routes are used but the travel time does not change.

So, my take-away of this study is that if the proposed Boardman Lake Ave is built, it will get used, but won't shorten anyone's trip and will be a very expensive exercise in futility.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"The 2011 Epicurean Classic will be held September 15-18 at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons"

Might be the best thing I read today.

See UpNorthLive: The Epicurean Classic is coming back

Welcome back.

A Smart Dog Park

If Traverse City gets a dog park here's a clever idea of what to do with all the "doggie bags" that will be generated.

See PhysOrg: Dog park lit by dog poop

image at PhysOrg

Michigan's Future Is Growing

In other words, agriculture can supplement what is left of the manufacturing workforce because Michigan is second to California in crop diversity. Therefore, commercial agriculture can play a huge role in Michigan's economy.

One example is maple syrup. As climate change destroys maple sugaring in the northeast, Michigan stands to gain.

See NWMI.SecondwaveMedia: How sweet it is: Michigan one day could be world's leading producer of maple syrup [thanks for the link K]

And it is worth mentioning that as sweeteners go, maple syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Not Whitewater?

Traverse City Whitewater has a page at Facebook now. Join it. A recent posting indicates they are just about to form a non-profit but need board members and volunteers.

I recently read an article that pointed out how something as simple as a single standing wave can make a city a destination. See MIL: Surfing In Munich

Here's a video from this park in Munich. Why not Traverse City? Look at the crowds watching these people surf. This would be a huge draw for downtown:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Reason Women Don't Bike - Men

The conventional wisdom is that more women don't ride their bikes because they don't feel safe.

But another reason appears to be that men can let their idiotic side come out when they see a woman on a bicycle. See The Guardian: Record and ridicule: Female cyclists expose sexist idiots online

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Park It

[8/25/2010 Update from MR: More parking links]

It is like 2008 all over again. Tyler Cowen writes in the NYT: Free Parking Comes at a Price and while the response should be "obviously"; Mr. Cowen is quite influential and so there has been quite a kerfuffle in the blogosphere about "free parking".

MWaT: We’re all subsidizing parking and it ain’t cheap
MY:Parking Feedback Loops

But the best comes from a true nerd - just look at this guy:

Michael E. Lewyn. 2010. "What Would Coase Do (About Parking Regulation)?"
By artificially increasing the supply of parking and thus making driving cheaper and more convenient, these regulations have redistributed wealth from society as a whole to drivers, making driving more attractive and thus increasing automobile travel and its negative externalities (such as pollution, traffic congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions). By creating the parking-dominated “strip mall” landscape of suburbia, such regulations impose discomfort and even danger upon pedestrians. And by making urban redevelopment more expensive, minimum parking regulations shift development from city to automobile-dependent suburb. So minimum parking requirements may be one of the situations foreseen by Coase, in which government regulation creates more congestion and environmental damage than it prevents.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Knoxville's Success

Knoxville, TN has a Market Square that succeeds as both a downtown car-free zone and as a plaza for a farmer's market, concerts, and other public amenities.

See SustainableCities: Knoxville’s Market Square Shows Pedestrian-Only Spaces Can Work, Too

When Will Traverse City Get A U.S. Bicycle Route 35 Meeting?

Good job EUP. This is what is so vexing about Sault Ste. Marie - they'll do something ridiculous like ban city chickens but then have a public meeting for the U.S. Bicycle Route 35. (4 p.m. on September 9 at Kinross Charter Township Hall, located at 4884 W. Curtis, Kincheloe)

Via the SooEveningNews: Public hearing set for U.S. Bicycle Route 35
The Corridor Committee is made up of representatives of the Cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Petoskey, Traverse City, Manistee, Ludington, Muskegon, Holland, South Haven and Saint Joseph. The role of the Corridor Committee is to propose a route to the Michigan Department of Transportation, which will consider the route, and if acceptable, apply for national recognition as a United States Bicycle Route.

I have an email in to see if Traverse City will host a meeting.

Why I Buy Shetler Dairy Products

A recent article at The Atlantic's Food channel reminded me of why I only will buy Shetler Dairy milk.

See: A Tale of Two Dairy Farms

The mega-dairy farms are disgusting and so is their milk. (and this includes Horizon organic milk). Yet I know local people who won't buy Shetler because it isn't certified organic. To me, this is a perfect example of why there are times when local is better than organic - and you can be "organic" without certification. I'd rather be able to visit the cows making my milk and ice cream and see their pasture than get milk from cows on factory farms getting organic feed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sleepy Bike Tours

Via Leelanau.com: Regular bike tours scheduled for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

This is a great idea and I am happy to see the NPS add it to their services.

If successful then perhaps it could lead others to start full-fledged bicycle touring businesses?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's Funny Because It's True

You didn't know U.S. Mayors signed on to an evil U.N. bicycle sharing plan did you?
Count your lucky stars that Colorado wingnut Republican has the inside info on this insidious plot to get people biking.

What say you Mayor Bzdock? Are you a car driving American or a bike riding socialist?

Via MSNBC: Colo. GOP candidate peddles U.N. bike theory

If it bends it's funny, if it breaks, it isn't. This wacko idea about bicycle sharing breaks I'm afraid though I am trying to be funny about it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Separate But Equal

The Mississippi basin and Great Lakes are equally wonderful waterways, but I too would like to see them separated. Or turn Chicago back into a swamp instead of a flowing river. After all, the original name was chicagoua which was the word for the wild leeks which grew in the swampy ground there. The Chicago river barely flowed at all. How about turning the whole thing back into a wetland?

Doubtful, but this is hopeful.

See ChiBusiness: Bill calls for study delinking Lake Michigan, Chicago River to stall Asian carp

I was on a fishing charter recently and the sentiment on the boat was overwhelmingly for blocking out Asian carp no matter the cost.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Epistemic Closure In Traverse City (And Applying Astrophysics To Roundabouts)

There's a reason it is called Division St.

The Traverse City Commission had a meeting where no one spoke against roundabouts on Division St. A local AM radio station took calls from listeners for an hour and no one spoke in favor of roundabouts.

Obviously there are two different communities in Traverse City. One is open to trying new things. The other lives in fear of change - locked in their own world of epistemic closure with the same AM talk radio station on all day and predictable TV at night.

These two communities represent a fundamental split in the people of Traverse City. There are folks who think of this place as the small town where nothing changes and everyone hunts and fishes. The others think of TC as a micropolitan that attracts the educated and creative class with its natural beauty and concentrated amenities.

My opinion on Division St and Grandview Parkway is I want easier pedestrian access across these busy streets and slower traffic. And if a series of roundabouts is the best solution then that is what I would like to see.

But I am not convinced that a series of roundabouts would succeed.

Rather I want to apply astrophysics to the transportation problem in Traverse City.

The gas giants of the outer solar system or like the townships surrounding Traverse and the hospitable inner planets of Mars, Earth, and Venus are like the neighborhoods.

Much like the gas giants protect the more hospitable planets of the inner solar system from bombardment by cosmic debris from dark space I want to see roundabouts at the city limits protecting the inner neighborhoods. For example, a roundabout at 14th St. and Division would use the gravity of the circling traffic to sling vehicles in various directions into and out of Traverse City. And just as spacecraft use gravitational deceleration before landing, the mass of the roundabout would slow down traffic coming into the city's neighborhoods.

And just as a gas giant cannot survive in an inner-solar system neither can a roundabout survive in a neighborhood.

(ref: geologists and astronomers believe the gravitational pull of Saturn and Jupiter deflect possible planet killing comets, asteroids, etc that enter the solar system and this is what gave the early Earth time to evolve life)

Roundabout proponents claim that they make pedestrian access easier because you only have to look in one direction as you cross. So I tried an experiment. I walked towards the Bay on Oak St and attempted to cross at the crosswalk where Grandview Parkway is divided by a median. I only had to look one way before crossing each half of the street, and though it was better than crossing an undivided road, it was still not as easy as using a pedestrian underpass.

Or a stop light for that matter. The punctuated equilibrium of traffic that a light provides is why I go to Seventh St when I want to walk across Division. But no one is arguing for more traffic lights even though you clearly improve pedestrian access if you stop traffic for a few minutes.

So put roundabouts outside of the neighborhoods and make Division St into a Woodmere Ave-like boulevard north towards the Bay with one or more pedestrian tunnels connecting Central Neighborhood to The Commons. My hope would be that by constructing fewer roundabouts the savings could be used to pay for a green and welcoming Division St boulevard.

With all of this hoopla over roundabouts imagine what would happen if the suggestion was to remove all the traffic signs?

IPR: Roundabouts Praised At Public Meeting

MyNorth: Should Traverse City Have Traffic Roundabouts?

PlanForTC: roundabouts on Division?

MWaT: Car advocates, beginning to rally

TCBN: Ron Jolly

R-E: Skeptics, enthusiasts debate roundabouts

Friday, July 30, 2010

There's No Pleasing Of Bicycle Advocates

No, you cannot please them.

It isn't a Travesre City thing. Or a Portland thing. Because it happens in London too.

The mayor there had the good idea of giving cyclist a bike lane by painting a blue stripe on the streets as an indicator to people on bike and in vehicles.

But the London cyclists call it a "gimmick".

See Grist: London builds bike ‘superhighways’ with groundbreaking blue paint

Why I Shop At Oryana

Oh Oryana, Traverse City is lucky to have a food cooperative like you.

Mark Bittman on his blog recently highlighted the need for supermarkets that strive to be better.
See: About “Better” Supermarkets
We should unquestionably support good supermarkets, but we should also be pushing them to:

- carry sustainable seafood exclusively

- carry ethically raised meat and poultry whenever possible

- carry organic and/or local fruits and vegetables whenever possible

- buy from suppliers who themselves have a conscience whenever possible

- pay their own staff a living wage, with benefits

- think about their energy usage, their waste, their community service
This sounds like what our Oryana has always done. See: Purchasing Policy

And this food co-op is so much a part of the fabric of Traverse City that I couldn't imagine this town without it. Oryana is one of those organizations that makes Traverse City more livable.

Dear Oryana,
Thank you.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Curbside Composting

Bay Area Recycling for Charities received a grant to bring curbside composting to Traverse City.

And earlier this year I heard a story on NPR about how restaurants are cutting costs with curbside composting: Compost Startup Helps Restaurants Cut Costs

3P has more on this topic: Curbside Composting Programs – Why We Need Them and Where to Start

I look forward to seeing BARC start this soon. What I hear is the compost will be used at The Commons community garden.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I started this post back in December, and after seeing Gary's post: Do you know where your closest city park is? which includes a map of Traverse City parkland, I decided I should get this wrapped up.

The big news is each Traverse City bay is poised to get revamped parks. The Acme Shoreline Park has a goal of turning one mile of East Bay into a blue mile of beachfront with volleyball courts, a playground, public marina, and open space; all connected to a TART trail spur.

See the Record-Eagle: Shoreline site in Acme to become new park

For West Bay, there is much hope for a completely new bayfront to connect downtown Traverse City to the water.

The new Bayfront Park design was recently revealed. See: bayfront plans are done

The conceptualization hits many highlights for me including a natural play area, an artesian spring and stream, an improved boat launch that will be friendlier to canoes and kayaks, more vegetation, keeping the emergent wetland at the mouth of the Boardman, dark-sky compliant lighting, fish cleaning station, improved access to the park with tunnels, etc.

However, it does appear that this was a great opportunity to develop a dedicated Farmer's Market space in the area but it isn't in the final plans. Also, to make the area more inviting to visitors of all types harness the artesian well in such a way so that boaters and others could fill up their containers with potable water. Much like how travelers stop north of Petoskey on US 31 to fill up with the well by the side of the road there. And I am not sure we need so many roundabouts but that is a topic for another post. You can't have it all I suppose.

I believe a new Bayfront will be a great addition to Traverse City and could serve as a multi-modal hub for the entire region. I hope it gets done. Even better would be tying this in to re-naturalizing the Boardman as it goes through downtown and then tie that into a whitewater park between Cass and Union.

Grand Rapids is trying it. (Grand River as downtown Grand Rapids whitewater course?)

There is a Facebook group for the Traverse City Boardman River Whitewater Park effort.

For more on the Bayfront park see:
TC bayfront plans take a step forward

Bayfront overhaul work could begin in 2011

Next, Traverse City residents clearly want a dog park. Recently in the paper there was this: Dog park project may be in the works

And when Mayor Bzdok made this post: Update for the week of November 29 to December 6 there were many comments from people wanting a dog park.

Not only would an off-leash dog park be good for the dogs but dog-walkers are great to have in the neighborhood. As mentioned in Why dog owners make the best citizens

After dark, the streets fill with dog walkers. A couple per block, at least. In the winter, they're the only people on the streets. Without them, the neighborhood would be lot emptier, and the streets would feel a lot more forbidding. Placing a couple of poodles -- and my neighborhood has a lot of poodles -- on the landscape really does wonders

I have the spot - next to the trail between Oryana and the library. An area some people are calling Old Town Park. My idea is a dog park on one side and let the other side which is already being used by beavers, rabbits, red-winged blackbirds, fox, be allowed to develop naturally. Build a high wall/fence next to the apartments to mitigate noise, though I believe the benefits to those residents having a place to exercise their dog outweighs any negatives.

I like this location because:
- it is centrally located to Traverse City's neighborhoods
- getting dog walkers in this area should help with the graffiti on the Community Sailing building and loitering on the bridge
- Oryana and McGough's should see increased sales of their pet supplies if dog owners are in the area more

And the natural area is important because it will act as a buffer when rail travel returns to the area.

Map (blue line is the park, other line is the natural area):

View Traverse City Dog Park? in a larger map

Finally, parks are great, but without a trail system connecting them (I've heard it described as a "string of pearls") it will not reach its full potential. So I hope that whatever is done is planned with TART so that all of these parks can be reached by non-motorized means.

Additional reading for inspiration:
INFRA: The Best New Urban Parks

NYT: Blueprints for a Better ‘Burb

Friday, July 16, 2010

Re-Inventing The Cherry Festival

I am going to admit something that for someone in Traverse City is similar to a rural Michigander saying "maybe we don't need so many townships?" - and that is, maybe the Cherry Festival is too long and not focused on the right things?

Because in its current incarnation I don't care for the Cherry Festival. One reason is because I feel like a minority for NOT smoking cigarettes. Another reason is I prefer farmers to carnies. Plus there are the piles of trash (I will not reveal if I am referring to people or refuse) and as Gary points out over at MWaT, Traverse City gets trashed in general during the TCCF. See: The condition of the Open Space, post-Cherry Festival

What I would like to see is a shortened Cherry Festival that doesn't span two weekends, and a Cherry Festival that is re-imagined as a food festival much like the lost Epicurean Classic.

Alas, the only victory at this year's Festival was no twilight air show. I think the outcry from the downtown parents after the last time the Blue Angels flew at night precluded any future consideration for evening strafing runs.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bicycle Lockers At The Old Town Parking Deck

The new Old Town Parking Deck will include Bike Lockers. They will cost $15/month or $1/day. Apparently these have been available at the downtown Hardy Parking Deck. Yeah, I didn't know that either.

See DowntownTC: Bike Lockers In The Old Town Parking Deck


Parking updates.

The Diane Rehm show recently dedicated an hour to parking garages, and it was fascinating. See (and listen): The Parking Garage

Grist.org poses this obvious question: Tell me again why we mandate parking at bars?

And the NYT covers what current parking lots are good for: The Parking Lot as ‘Solar Grove’

I made a related post in 2008 about parking standards in an urban environment.

All this news makes me think the new Old Town parking deck is going to do a lot of things right in that it will be LEED certified, have a green roof, include solar chargers for future EV's, and it is designed with an Old Town aesthetic.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Walk Score In The Wall Street Journal

It doesn't get much more mainstream than this - walkability is covered in the WSJ's Real Estate section: A Walker's Guide to Home Buying
Still, the more emphasis on walking distance, the better, say many home-buyers. Gary Howe, a photographer and writer in Traverse City, Mich., has been working with his city's planning department to get, among other things, pedestrian-enhanced crosswalks at a busy intersection—a crossing so dangerous, he says, that many neighbors drive less than a block to a pharmacy just to avoid that street. "When I was looking for a house four years ago, lots of real-estate agents didn't even mention walkability," Mr. Howe says. "Now I see it everywhere, which is great."

One Person's Experience With A CSF

Via Goodeater: Community Supported Fisheries 2.0: A Personal Take

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Advice For The New Chicken Raiser

See Grist: Chicken expert Gail Damerow answers newbie questions

And on page two is this idealized urban chicken coop design

Friday, July 2, 2010

More In The Theme Of 'Streets Are For People'

IPR reports that Garland St in the warehouse district may be turned into a Woonerf.

Woonerf in Asheville, NC

See IPR: Warehouse District Ready To Boom

And Cairo is the latest city to ban cars in the downtown. See: CoolTownStudios: Cairo to go pedestrian-only in downtown

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

News About The People Trying To Bring Wireless Internet To Traverse City

The Leader & Kalkaskian reports that the president of Boardman River Communications has "...a record of four prison sentences over the course of 16 years."

See: In the wake of words: Local buzz on broadband grant applicant could create ripple

I made an earlier post about my questions, suspicions, and concerns about TCLP supporting broadband. And as a follow-up to that post Mitten Communications still does not have a web site but Boardman River Communications does: www.brconline.net

Monday, June 28, 2010

New Business That I Hope Succeed

Via the R-E: Two new businesses offer TC adventures

These businesses - a kayak and bike rental business downtown and culinary tourism - are ideas I have hoped someone would attempt. I wish these two enterprises the best of luck as they represent what can happen with a thriving trail system and local food movement.

The web sites for these businesses are:

-The River Traverse City
Come down to Clinch Park and rent a Kayak or a Bike! Come down and check out our base of operations in the Clinch Park along West Grand Traverse Bay. Bike downtown Traverse City and then get in a Kayak and see DownTown Traverse City like never before from the Boardman River.

-Tasty Morsel Tours
What we do:

Tasty Morsels Culinary Excursions provides food and drink-related tours of Traverse City and surrounding areas. Our tours are designed to give you a memorable and fun excursion complete with palate pleasing moments, knowledgeable guides and unique experiences. Whether you have a great interest in the culinary world or just an appreciation for the food you experience, you will find something in these tours to intrigue you. The tours aren’t just about eating and drinking (though, that is the highlight) – they’re about showing you ways in which food is grown, how it’s processed, how it’s transformed into the masterpieces that finally make it to your table. It’s our hope that at the end of the tour, you will have found many new favorites … and at least one thing you can no longer live without.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Traverse City Beaches

AOL calls Traverse City the "Malibu of Michigan" (no thanks) and the #8 Beach Town in America (it is funny how much TC dominates the comments section of this article).

And the TCCVB made a list of the best beaches for different pursuits: Suddenly, it’s Summer! A Beachcomber’s Guide to Traverse City

Since they didn't have a map of the selected beaches I made my own Google Map of Traverse City Beaches.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The City Commissioners may not listen but BATA apparently does.

BATA had a survey recently, the results indicated people wanted fixed routes, and BATA responded.

IPR: BATA Adds New Routes

MyNorth: Riding the BATA Bus In Traverse City Just Got Easier

GV: Bold Visions: Public Transportation in Northwest Michigan

The point I made in the comments section of the BATA survey was that young adults who leave for college or move back with budding families are usually exposed to busing systems on college campuses and these tend to be well-marked, easy to understand fixed routes. And if BATA wanted more riders then it needed something like color-coded fixed routes.

BATA has a PDF of their routes available for download: Cherriot / Traverse Express System Map

This is great news and I commend BATA for these changes. Being able to get to the airport from downtown is the best news of all.

In the future I would like to see BATA consider a fixed route between downtown Traverse City and Interlochen Arts Academy. This route could be used by Traverse City residents who work at IAA or want to attend a cultural event there; students at IAA could get into town on a regular business and spend their money there; and families with students at IAA would have another option for transport to and from school.

And it is worth mentioning that my second city of Steamboat Springs has a color-coded transit system that is free to the user.

Speaking of Steamboat, they're installing some great looking bus shelters.

See the SB Pilot:New bus shelters planned for downtown Steamboat

Affordable Housing

Back in 2007 when the Traverse City Commission voted against the unanimous recommendation of the planning commission for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) they did so at the bidding of a few sour curmudgeons.

At the time a big part of the discussion was affordable housing.

Based on this topic showing up in a couple of recent articles in the Record-Eagle and an email from a business owner to school parents asking if anyone knew of an apartment or efficiency for rent downtown, it seems the issue of affordable housing is being discussed again in Traverse City:

County looks at housing trust: Funds could be used to build affordable housing in GT
A 2009 housing needs assessment from the Northwest Michigan Council of governments predicts Grand Traverse County will need up to 575 affordable rental units...

The Land Bank Authority often pulls one or two buildable lots close to Traverse City from foreclosure sales for use as Habitat for Humanity affordable home projects.

Those close-to-town lots are "truly a blessing," said Nancy Kiogima, family services manager for Habitat for Humanity Grand Traverse Region.

'Depot property' eyed for affordable housing
"We've been trying to do something with that property for a while, it would be nice to get it on the tax rolls,"

My reading of these indicate there is a shortage of housing options in downtown and the city is looking to get more tax revenue from new properties.

Had the City Commissioners allowed ADU's in 2007 they would now have:
- a diverse array of downtown rental options at various price points (and without the city having to develop, lease, or sell anything)
- increased tax revenues for the city via higher property values and ADU related fees that the City could have imposed
- fewer homes in foreclosure and for sale due to the owners having the option of additional income streams
- less traffic into and out of town

And all of the other reasons you'll find under the ADU tag.

This actually reminds me the chicken issue. The Record-Eagle originally editorialized in a belittling manner the idea, then it was found that the City had to allow them in order to comply with state law, and this month the first Coop Loop was an incredibly popular success with over 200 people on the tour.

I believe the ADU issue will evolve in the same way - sometime people will see the value they can add to this city.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Vancouver They Are Called Laneway Houses

Seattle calls them 'backyard cottages'.

And as I mentioned in that post, in Traverse City we refer to them as ADU's.

Vancouver now allows 'laneway houses' and they look amazing.

See the Globe and Mail: Living small in Vancouver
The city’s first laneway house to be installed on a permanent site attracted a crowd of more than 1,000 to a two-day open house over the weekend.

If it’s an indication of demand for the 500- to 750-square-foot homes, then business may soon be booming for developers in the business of building these prefab constructions.
Via TH: Vancouver's EcoDensity Program Produces an Explosion of Small Green Modern Design

When I saw these designs I immediately thought of the business opportunity this could be for Traverse City's own Cottage In A Day to provide a local pre-fab solution if this type of design were ever permitted.

It has to be simply a matter of time until a critical mass of homeowners in Traverse City realize that allowing detached dwellings makes a lot of sense in many ways.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Seattle Is Allowing Backyard Cottages In Order To Preserve The Rural Countryside

Via SCC: Using backyard cottages to absorb density while maintaining neighborhood character
...architect John Stoeck, who is building a backyard cottage, told Keen, "I want to preserve rural areas around Seattle, and I don't want the suburbs continuing to march on without any limits. One way to do that is to add more density to these inner-city neighborhoods."

Via USAToday: Seattle's backyard cottages make a dent in housing need

Seattle tried a pilot program first and in the post-survery discovered most homeowners had no idea their neighbors had added a backyard cottage. Seattle is allowing these stand-alone ADU's because they:
  • provide additional housing options to renters
  • give families the option to be close to an elderly parent or adult child
  • reduce traffic congestion
  • reduce pollution
  • provide additional income for struggling home owners
  • increase urban density rather than suburban sprawl

NYT has a profile of one example: Converting a Garage Outside Seattle Into a Tiny Home

Perhaps Traverse City's "articulate young people" should change their language and ask for backyard cottages rather than accessory dwelling units.

It is disappointing that The Grand Vision makes no mention of accessory dwelling units as one tool to fight sprawl.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shut Down Lake Ave

I maintain that if Traverse City is serious about traffic calming then the first step is to put up barriers to close the interesection of Lake Ave and Eighth St and then let the Braess paradox go to work.

View Larger Map

The latest example again comes from New York when a congested thoroughfare was closed and congestion improved.

See the NYT: What if They Closed 42d Street and Nobody Noticed?

I've mentioned this concept before: Understanding Traffic With Braess' Paradox And The Nash Equilibrium

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

MyNorth Interviews The Founder Of Rent-A-Chicken

Unfortunately our neighbors in the Soo have illegally banned city chickens, but the movement is thriving in Traverse City.

I love this idea of renting the chickens then returning them to the farm in the fall. Plus, since you're renting if you accidentally get a rooster instead of a hen you should be able to make the exchange to the more city-friendly gender.

See: Rent-a-Chicken in Traverse City Makes Urban Farming Child’s Play

And a reminder that the first Coop Loop is June 12th.

Density And Economy

It has been known for many years that dense urbanism creates more economic prosperity and wealth. The thinking was more people -> more ideas -> more businesses -> more employees -> more shoppers -> more people -> etc.

A recent study in London demonstrates concretely that a mode diverse social network correlates to greater wealth for an area. See SciAm: Diverse Personal Networks Linked to Strong Local Economy

What this tells me is that if a city wants to innovate, prosper, and thrive then it needs to encourage in-fill development and dense downtowns.

Carmel, IN is doing this. A suburb. Instead of building an industrial park or designating a "green zone"; it built trails, multi-use buildings and condominiums in the core, and replaced traffic lights with roundabouts.

If a suburb in Indiana can make these changes then surely Traverse City can.

See Urbanophile: Next American Suburb: Carmel, Indiana

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tent Caterpillars

Everyone in Traverse City seems to be talking about the tent caterpillar-alypse.

"And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords".

See the R-E: Crawlers creep in; Expert advises patience

Wikipedia: Tent caterpillar

What I find interesting is that the dominant deciduous forest trees are the last to leaf out and it makes me wonder if this is not only an adaptation to late-season freeze damage but to also let the fast growing trees sacrifice themselves to the caterpillars? So when the white oaks, walnuts, and ash tree finally complete their leaf out the insects have already gorged themselves on maples.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"If Disney World had a Foodland, it might look a little like Traverse City"

Thank you Midwest Living, I think. Is that a compliment?

See: Best Midwest Food Towns: #2 Traverse City: an established food reputation

However, the population of Traverse City is around 14,000 - the region has 142,000 people. And Radish closed because no one wants to buy salad by the pound.

The article mentions that Traverse City is missing culinary diversity, and that is true, there are a preponderance of brew pubs, but with eateries such as Zakey and the Soul Hole opening I have hope that there will be a trend to more diverse cuisine.

How Seattle Adds Bike Lanes

See BikingBis: Arterial street in Seattle to become more bicycle friendly

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Biking Safety

"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live." -Mark Twain

When people (women predominantly) are asked why they don't bike more they respond that it is because it is not safe. See Infrastructurist: Why More Women Don’t Ride Bikes (And What We Can Do About It)

In NYC one person decided to try something novel on their bicycle in the interest of safety - obeying traffic laws: Braking Away
But in the last few years, bicycling has become an accepted and much safer way to get around the city. Bike lanes abound, putting cars, trucks and vans at least a couple of feet farther from me. On the many paths along the rivers I can find breezy quiet and truly fresh air.

Perhaps looking for a new challenge, I’ve been attempting something unexpected in New York City bike-riding behavior: I stop for red lights.

And Vancouver has found that by protecting bicyclists it leads to more people on bikes. See: Protected Bike Lanes Increase Cycling by 30% on Vancouver's Burrard Bridge (Video)

What this means to Traverse City is that the bicycle advocates are right. For a safe and healthy community we need bike lanes wherever we can get them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

US Bike Route 35

The Adventure Cycling Association has proposed a network of bicycle routes across the United States. USBR 35 is a north-south bicycle corridor that will eventually go from Sault Ste Marie to Mississippi. In Michigan the proposed route will parallel Lake Michigan then cut through Traverse City.

For more on the Michigan section see: Meet Paul VandenBosch: Developing USBR 35 Along Lake Michigan

Friday, April 23, 2010

Urban Aquaponics

- I have been hoping for someone in northern Michigan to start a Community Supported Fishery.

- Chef Eric Patterson of the Cooks' House recently wrote about his efforts with the Grand Traverse Band to source local fish.

- Many organizations are hoping to reap the benefits of small scale Urban Farming like in Detroit (See: Urban farming can succeed in Detroit, panelists say)

- U.S. farmed fish are considered safe and sustainable.

So here's an idea for Traverse City, combine all of these ideas and launch an Urban Fish Farming program. Chicago is considering the idea. See the ChiTrib: Urban fish farming: Will it catch on in Chicago?

If you want to try aquaponics in your backyard Home Depot sells this slick kit: Earth Solutions Little Tokyo Aquaponics Container Gardening without a Tank

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why Traverse City Needs Infill Development

(including ADU's)

Because getting people to live close together is a much easier than "draining the Bay" to increase wages.

See the NYT Economix Blog: Why Humanity Loves, and Needs, Cities
...wages and productivity rise with density...

The Benefits Of Narrow Tree Lined Streets

Via TriplePundit: Tree-Lined Streets Reduce Car Accidents

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cities, Driving, and Housing Costs

Or like the myth that Apple computers cost more than Windows based computers, the myth that the suburbs are cheaper than the cities is busted.

There has been a recent uptick in articles I have seen about how cities - specifically urban density - is a good thing and sustainable. Because if your city can support a higher density then the residents don't have to drive as much, which reduces traffic and transportation costs, and makes for a generally happier population. Duh...


3P: Study Finds Transportation Costs Make Most of America “Unaffordable”

FastCompany: The Hidden Cost of Living in the Suburbs: Transportation

TH: Each New Highway Built Drains a City's Population by 18%

HowWeDrive: Live Dense or Die

Articles Of Interest For People Who Care About Michigan's Future

MLive is hosting a series of essays under the name Rebooting Michigan and it is an exploration of ideas for balancing Michigan's rich natural features and resources with job creation and sustainability.

I consider it must reading.

And I am not endorsing anyone for governor but in reading these articles I was reminded of candidate Rick Snyder's 10 Point Plan for reinventing Michigan.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bicyclist Have A Posse

[I'm reposting this from another site of mine]

It is the Federal Department of Transportation.

See FC: Transportation Secretary Announces "Sea-Change" for American Transport: Bikes!
LaHood's announcement... is backed by a set of eight guidelines, which will be sent to state DOT's and communities:

* Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
* Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
* Go beyond minimum design standards.
* Collect data on walking and biking trips.
* Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
* Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, snow removal)
* Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.

Which frankly all sounds rather dull, but here's the important thing: LaHood, as Transportation Secretary, is essentially saying, "If you want federal DOT dollars, you better think more seriously about adding bike paths to the projects you propose."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Chicken

Spring time, when people's thoughts turn to gardening and chickens. At my daughter's school they just had their baby chicks hatch. For Traverse City, Spring means the first ever Tour de Coup. The meeting is Saturday March 20th over at The Commons: TC's 1st Tour de Coup Meeting

Other chicken links to get your Spring going:
Grit: Keeping Chickens Healthy: What You Need to Know

Re-Nest: How To Build a Backyard Chicken Coop

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Biomass Follow-Up

"The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed" -William Gibson

[this is a follow-up to my first TCLP biomass post]

I am one of those people who six months ago thought a biomass power plant was a great idea and a way to generate sustainable energy. But after studying the situation I have come to believe that the best solution is a natural gas power plant for the base load, using behavioral economics to encourage conservation, and pursue more wind power.

And that is the point of my opening quote. There was a lot that I thought I knew as a science and tech geek (I studied biogeochemistry in grad school and in my job now make the Internet work) but as I read about biomass I discovered new information that just has not been distributed yet. How are the board members of TCLP expected to know these things? They're volunteers with busy lives. So I hope the information I distribute here is helpful.

Here's what I now believe would be the best approach for Traverse City Light and Power.

1. Build a natural gas power plant as a transition to the 30 by 20 plan.

Because natural gas is clean, efficient, available, can be replaced by biogas, and has half the carbon dioxide emission of coal.

WaPo editorial: A natural choice
But existing gas-fired plants are running at only about 25 percent capacity, in part because many are switched on only when demand spikes. The Congressional Research Service reports that doubling the use of existing plants could replace about a third of coal-fired power, getting America a third of the way to its goal for 2020. For reasons of infrastructure, that might be too optimistic a scenario. But BP -- which has a stake in natural gas -- estimates that retiring the 80 dirtiest coal plants and replacing them with gas-fired power would get America 10 percent of the way to its 2020 emissions target and increase domestic gas consumption by only 5 percent.

Voices: Natural gas can lead the way
Burning coal for electricity accounts for more than 40 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Natural gas emits only about half as much carbon dioxide as coal for a given amount of electricity generation. Thus, for the electrical power sector, offsetting 40 percent of coal-fired electrical generation with the existing excess capacity for electrical generation from natural gas-fired plants would meet the stated goal of the Obama administration (and Congress) of at least a 17 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020...

...Using gas to generate electricity would also reduce other types of pollution: It produces only a tiny fraction of the sulfur oxides, particulates and formaldehyde, and none of the mercury that comes from burning coal. Substituting natural gas for coal also eliminates the many environmental problems associated with the disposal of both coal mine wastes and the 130 million tons of fly ash produced each year in the United States alone, as well as the health impacts and healthcare costs related to mining and burning coal.

2. Plant biomass feedstocks (poplar, switchgrass, etc.) now as carbon offsets to the natural gas plant. Then as technology improves this purpose-planted biomass can be harvested and used without impacting the forests over the next 30+ years.

3. When putting out the RFP for the natural gas power plant, include engineering work for biomass pyrolysis and/or anaerobic digestion to produce biogas (methane) on-site.

The advantages of pyrolysis are that the byproducts are biochar which can be sold to farmers as a soil amendment, bio-oil which can be further refined, and bio-gas which can be burned for energy in the gas fired power plant. And this bio-gas burns without the ash and other byproducts that green biomass does.

See: Scientists see biochar as promising fuel source

4. Continue to develop and pursue wind power capacity as reported in the Northern Express: The rush to Biomass

Also consider novel hydropower options as I detailed in my first post about biomass.

5. Offer credits to rate payers for conservation, efficiency, and distributed power generation.

TCLP could cut demand by 5% by changing the billing statement. TED 2010: David Cameron Shows How All Electric Bills Should Be
Utilities Finding Peer Pressure a Powerful Motivator
Using Peer Pressure as a Tool to Promote Greener Choices
in one study, researchers asked each of four groups of utility customers to cut energy consumption for a different reason — the good of the planet, the well-being of future generations, the financial savings, or because their neighbors were doing it. By comparing electric meter readings, the researchers determined that only the last message had any effect, eliciting a 10 percent drop in consumption. A subsequent study found that when electric bills compared a customer’s energy consumption against the neighborhood average, profligate customers scaled back. In fact, the social norm was so powerful that thrifty customers also responded, by splurging. The weirdly effective fix was to add a smiley face to the thrifty bills — like a gold star from teacher.

Another 5-10% of demand could be eliminating per household by killing "vampire" power with devices that completely turn off electricity.

There are 11,000 households. A Smart Strip cost $30. Meaning TCLP could buy two Smart Strips for every house for about $600,000 and achieve up to 10% reduction in electricity consumption.

What I like about this plan of mine is that if natural gas becomes too expensive TCLP could pyrolisize more biomass. If biomass becomes too scarce TCLP could purchase more natural gas.

Arguments that have been made against natural gas is the expense and the fact that it is a fossil fuel. However, if and when the cost of carbon pollution is accounted for, as seems likely, coal will become cost prohibitive versus natural gas. And in terms of being a fossil fuel and therefore a carbon source, carbon offsets can be planted to account for the carbon emissions of a natural gas plant and the power plant can be transition to a carbon neutral biogas plant.

A good argument against biomass is the engineering studies apparently only consider the client's power plant. Not five others too. Or competing with biomass to make diesel fuel (Engineered E. Coli Bacteria Produces Road-Ready Diesel)

The Record-Eagle had an editorial about questions that need to be answered before the biomass plant is constructed: Questions on biomass

These are good points.

And I read the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) done by R.W. Beck. I know this report tells TCLP that biomass is affordable and available. However, I read the full IRP. The price of natural gas forecast does not include the recent discovery in Appalachia. Regardless, the forecast shows the price only eclipsing the current price for natural gas in 2020. And the biomass price forecast only includes the currently operating biomass plants and what DTE and Consumers Energy are expected to use.

But other things were left out and a consultant needs to be asked these questions:

- What will be the price of biomass if there are more than five biomass plants in northern Michigan and two or more cellulosic alcohol factories?

- Is there enough biomass to support multiple energy and alcohol fuel users?

- The first time Michigan's forests were cleared it was with horse and sledge and done in the winter. What impact will road building, trucking, and heavy machinery have to the forest soil structure? What will be the impact to nutrient cycling in the forests if the litter is removed? Will the forests regrow or will they be like ski resorts that have found their slopes cannot support the former flora? (See: Ski resorts rethink bulldozing for trails)

Once these questions are answered, the benefits of natural gas are examined, and the possibilities of biogas from the pyrolysis of biomass is considered, I believe the answer as to what to do next will be clear.

Other links that may be of interest:

IPR: TC Mayor Weighs In On Biomass

Converting Coal Plants to Biomass