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