Right-sizing Our Roads

Analyzing the Benefits of a “Road Diet” in Downtown Midland

BACKGROUND

As reported in The Midland Daily News the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) temporarily closed one lane on Buttles Street to vehicle traffic from Monday, August 28 to Wednesday, August 30. This three-day study provided a data set to both state and local governments that will help determine the possibility of implementing a “road diet” on both Indian and Buttles Streets. The data from this study will be presented to the public on September 13. The MDOT Road Diet open house starts at 5:00 pm and will be located at Midland City Council chambers.

Street capture of Indian Street in Downtown Midland.

OUR VIEW ON INDIAN & BUTTLES ROAD DIET
It can’t happen soon enough.

In their current state, Indian and Buttles streets (pictured above) serve as over built, wide-lane thoroughfares that bisect and disconnect the surrounding neighborhoods from downtown Midland. These roads prioritize vehicular traffic at the expense of pedestrians, bicyclists and commerce. They limit opportunities for future private investments. They lower surrounding property values. And last but not least, they invite high-speed travelers to pass-through our community as opposed to stopping for a visit.

The good news: all of the above problems can be fixed. 
How? By right-sizing our roads through better design.

A better road design on Indian and Buttles streets would have the following benefits:

  1. Improved Safety
    Fewer lanes will reduce vehicle speeds. The property and bodily harm from accidents decreases dramatically at lower speeds (Don’t just take our word for it — check out these case studies.) This is true for all types of crashes — single car and fixed object, multi car, and car and pedestrian or cyclist.
  2. Restore “Neighborhood Street Feel”
    Reducing the number of lanes dedicated to vehicle traffic would encourage cars to move at slower speeds. “Slower traffic reduces the severity of accidents, reduces noise, and generally improves the livability of neighborhood streets.” This road diet will set the foundation for creating a true “neighborhood” feel between downtown and the residential homes to the north of Indian and Buttles.
  3. Create Environment For Future Investment
    Decreasing the number of lanes dedicated to vehicular traffic leads to slower speeds and a better neighborhood environment. It also leads to greater potential for new developments. Case study examples from other communities prove that street calming road diets directly lead to economic investment. Read some of those examples here.
  4. Prioritizing Multi-modal Transportation
    MDOT is currently exploring Midland’s options for installing permanent bike lanes on Indian and/or Buttles. If implemented, these bike lanes would promote and prioritize other modes of sustainable and affordable transportation, as well as encourage future investments in bicycle infrastructure across town.

HOW SHOULD MIDLAND MEASURE THE ROAD DIET’S SUCCESS?

In the short-term, our Midland community should measure success of this road diet by the first three benefits listed above. Does the road diet increase safety? Does it restore the neighborhood street feel? Does it create an environment for future investment?
 
In the long-term, we should think critically and strategically about how to link our multi-modal transportation networks. How do we better link the bike networks on Indian and/or Buttles to the rail trail, to Discovery Square, or to the mall area?
 
 
CALL TO ACTION

If you want to #KeepTheMomentumGoing in Downtown Midland, then please consider voicing your support for the Indian and Buttles Road Diet. You can share your opinion by contacting your city council representative or attending the public open house on September 13. Your voice will make the difference.