ANN ARBOR, MI — Ann Arbor has a new ambitious plan to make city streets safer, and city officials hope to do that by slowing cars down, getting more people out of cars and making it easier to walk and cycle around town.
City Council voted unanimously this week to adopt the “Ann Arbor: Moving Together Towards Vision Zero” comprehensive transportation master plan.
It reaffirms the city’s Vision Zero goal to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2025 and A2Zero carbon-neutrality goal to have a transportation system that contributes zero emissions to climate change by 2030.
“I want to live in the Ann Arbor that this plan envisions,” Molly Kleinman, the city’s Transportation Commission chair, told council members before the vote.
“The Ann Arbor in this plan is designed for people, not cars. It considers the needs of everyone who uses our streets, including disabled and elderly people, families with young children, people who can’t or don’t want to drive cars, people who choose to get around by bike or on foot, and many others.”
It recognizes the ability to move around safely and easily is fundamental to creating a livable city, Kleinman said, noting the plan was created with community input.
City officials hear time and time again that people want to be able to get around safely without a car, whether as a cyclist or pedestrian, Mayor Christopher Taylor said.
“It plays such an important role in our quality of life,” he said. “It does and will play such an important role in our achieving our carbon-neutrality A2Zero goals.”
Council Member Kathy Griswold, D-2nd Ward, expressed a mix of excitement and concern about the plan.
“This is really an exciting evening given that we’ve been talking about Vision Zero for many years,” she said, calling it a data-driven plan that’s exactly what the city needs.
“I feel that some of the detail in the actual plan that’s very colorful and cutesy and has all kinds of little people and characters is somewhat aspirational, and I’m a bit concerned about that, but I’m willing to approve it tonight.”
Griswold encouraged her colleagues to remember streets are not playgrounds and they’re extremely dangerous.
“The fatality rate is up and we can all pretend that that’s not the case, and I just get the impression from this plan that we’re not taking it as seriously as we should,” she said.
Council Member Jeff Hayner, D-1st Ward, said by his calculation the plan calls for about $750 million in spending on infrastructure over the next decade.
“That’s a big commitment,” he said, though he argued it’s likely to never happen.
Some parts of the plan are excellent and some parts will be shocking to people, Hayner said, arguing many aspects of the plan aren’t necessarily practical.
“Like additional fees for driving in certain areas of the city,” he said. “I don’t think people are going to know what to make of that and I don’t know how we would ever really consider implementing that.”
The plan calls for exploring how “road user pricing” could reduce traffic congestion and emissions on certain roads.
“Road user pricing can come in many different forms but involves charging users a price to drive on a road, use a specific lane, or drive into a certain area,” it states.
“Establishing a price for driving — especially when based on demand so that the more congested a road becomes, the higher the price to use it — can encourage people to shift driving trips to less-busy times of day, combine trips, carpool or use alternative modes of transportation. Road user pricing strategies can be tailored so that certain types of vehicles or segments of the population pay lower fees or are exempt.”
Council Member Erica Briggs, D-5th Ward, said she’s excited about the plan and agrees with Griswold the city’s streets in many ways are dangerous.
That’s what the plan aims to improve, Briggs said.
“The reality is that we have built streets that have speeds that are too high and often too wide and encourage behavior that we don’t want to see,” she said.
It’s up to council to take it seriously, Briggs said, adding she thinks council made a strong commitment with additional resources allocated in the 2021-22 city budget.
“I hope to see that happen year after year,” she said, adding she doesn’t know if Hayner’s calculations are correct in terms of what it will cost over the next decade.
The city’s Capital Improvements Plan for the next six years shows over $386 million worth of transportation projects.
“I think that CIP may shift as we move forward and we start putting in additional elements that are incorporated into this plan,” Briggs said, calling it a commitment to best practices and what the community wants.
Cost estimates for various aspects of the transportation plan are itemized on pages 167-172 of the document.
It estimates, for example, it could cost about $3.3 million per year to make focused improvements in crash-prone areas, $500,000 per year to address dangerous driving behavior with design solutions, policy changes and education, $900,000 per year to address critical gaps in the sidewalk network, $75,000 per year for quick-build safety improvements, $1.2 million per year to enhance mid-block crosswalks, $1.125 million per year to build out a network of low-stress bicycle routes, $600,000 per year to make intersections safer for cyclists, $900,000 per year for increased transit services and $100,000 per year for bus stop improvements, plus many other costs.
The plan calls for creating an “all ages and abilities” network of 102 miles of bicycle routes throughout the city by 2035. About 26 miles are already in place, 28 miles of existing bicycle routes need to be enhanced (such as adding a barrier between the bikeway and cars or adding traffic-calming elements), and 48 miles of new bicycle routes are needed, the plan states.
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