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