Monday, October 7, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: Oct. 7th 2019

Gentle readers, tonight is the first spooktacular #a2council meeting of October. We've got a lot on the docket, so let's dive in.

Starting with the 22 item Consent Agenda. We've got a road closing for Oktoberfest on Oct. 18. We've also got CA 14, for a special assessment district for Fullter Ct. & Nixon/Traver sidewalk gaps. Here's a fun game: guess how many of the 22 items will be pulled from the Consent Agenda and which items are most likely to get pulled.

On to the Public Hearings! There are 6 and they all have to do with zoning/upcoming projects. PH-1/B-1 and PH-2/DB-1 are on the Glen project at 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street. PH-1 is a modification of the Zoning Ordinance which is how one modifies or creates a PUD. PH-2 is on the site plan.

PH-3/B-2 and PH-4/DB-2 are on the PUD and Site plan for 2857 Packard.

That leaves us with PH-5/B-3 and PH-6/B-4. PH-5 would amend the zoning code w/r/t cannabis businesses and consumption facilities. PH-6 sets rules for medical and non medical cannabis establishments.

There you have it gentle reader. Our spooktacular preview of the Oct. 7rd City Council Meeting. Feel free to share the items you are most intersted in in the comments, especially if it's something I forgot. Make sure you follow all the action on CTN's live stream and the #a2council hashtag on twitter.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Ignite 12 - Call for Speakers

Gentle readers, I know that you are a passionate bunch. Here's my question to you: do you want to share that passion with others? If so, you should submit a proposal to speak at Ignite 12. Ignite presentations are fast: 5 minutes, 20 slides. They offer a great opportunity for you to get up and share something that is important to you with an engaged audience. If you are looking for inspiration, check out the setlist for Ignite 8. Ignite Ann Arbor is currently hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library. I asked AADL Deputy Director, Eli Neiburger, what makes for a great Ignite presentation. Here's what he said:

A great presentation touches on the most interesting aspects of a topic for a general audience, inspiring them to want to know more about that topic. The best talks put the presenter's enthusiasm on display and make new enthusiasts out of the audience. A story of a personal journey rarely achieves this goal; the best talks are about how to do something, or how something works, or hidden histories or unheard voices.
Gentle readers, does this inspire you? If so, submit your proposal here. The application deadline is 11:59pm, Oct 2. You will be notified whether you are successful or not on Oct. 7. Presentations for Ignite 12 start at 6:30 pm on Nov. 7.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Debunking the myth of "distracted walking"

A pedestrian crossed Plymouth Road at a RRFB, photo by Erich Z. 

At the July 29th Pedestrian Safety meeting at City Hall, several people made statements that went along these lines:

Drivers bear some responsibility for pedestrian safety. Pedestrians also bear responsibility. Distracted driving and distracted walking are contributing to crashes and as a community, we need to address both these issues.
To be clear, I am paraphrasing, but there were several people who spoke who brought forth the specter of distracted walking. Intuitively, this argument didn't quite sit right with me. My general thought process was something like what follows. A fast-moving pedestrian is six times slower than a slow-moving car. If you are reading a book or looking at your phone while walking, it is easy to detect changes in your environment by glancing up and using your peripheral vision. Human reaction time is generally sufficient to deal with most scenarios we encounter while walking, even when we are distracted. On the other hand, in a car, your audio and visual perception is limited and you are traveling much more quickly. It does not seem like distracted walking would be a significant contributor to the problem of drivers striking pedestrians with their automobiles.

After that meeting though, I didn't think much of the issue of distracted walking. That is, until this weekend when I found a recent New York City Department of Transportation (NYDOT) report investigating the phenomenon of distracted walking. Here's the full report. Here is a quote from the first page: In short, despite growing concerns, DOT found little concrete evidence that device-induced distracted walking contributes significantly to pedestrian fatalities and injuries. The emphasis comes from the report, gentle readers. Here's a great table from the report that looks at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data from 2010 - 2015.

You can see that pedestrians using electronic devices are implicated in a vanishingly small fraction of crashes that result in pedestrian fatalities nationally. NYDOT also looked at data from New York City and found a similar pattern:

Records show two cases (0.2%) in which there was electronic device involvement, of 856 with available narratives. One pedestrian fatality in 2015 involved a pedestrian who was texting, and one fatality in 2014 involved a person reaching for a dropped mobile device. This lack of reported pedestrian device involvement is notable, as the crash reports rely largely on drivers’ accounts. In comparison, from 2014-2017, there were 112 pedestrian fatalities where vehicles failed to yield to pedestrians with the right of way (13%).
As for pedestrian injury, NHTSA data estimate that pedestrian use of electronic devices plays a slightly larger role in car crashes that result in pedestrian injury, than in crashes that result in pedestrian fatality. Depending on the year, somewhere between 2% and 4% of crashes that injure pedestrians implicated pedestrian use of electronic devices. This is still a very small percentage of the total number of car crashes where pedestrians are injured.

"Distracted walking" is not a thing. By that I mean it is not a phenomenon that contributes to a large number of instances where drivers strike pedestrians with their automobiles. I want to take this a step further and say that in matters of pedestrian safety, the responsibility for making sure all parties arrive to their destination needs to be apportioned proportionately to each party's ability to cause harm. A person driving a 3300 lb car 25 mph can do much more harm to a 180 lb pedestrian walking a brisk 3.5 mph, than that pedestrian can do to that driver. Distracted driving is a cause of crashes that injure and kill pedestrians. "Distracted walking" does not contribute to a meaningful proportion of pedestrian fatalities or injuries. It would be irresponsible for us to take pedestrian use of electronic devices into account in Ann Arbor's current push towards zero pedestrian fatalities. Instead we should focus on proven measures that increase pedestrian safety including slowing cars down and making sure all streets have sidewalks on both sides.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Fall River Day this Sunday in Ypsi

This Sunday is Fall River Day in Ypsilanti. From noon to 3 pm there will be tons of great activities in Riverside Park including: games, nature activities, donuts, and birds of prey! There will also be kayak rental available at Frog Island Park thanks to a partnership with Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation and Washtenaw County. This gives you the ability to experience a portion of the river that is generally not available to people without their own boats. I have it on good authority there will be more kayaks available than in years past, but I would still recommend getting to Frog Island early if you have your heart set on renting a kayak. In the past the rentals have been very popular and there has been a bit of a wait for those that did not arrive early.

As a commissioner on the Ypsilanti City Parks and Recreation Commission, I have worked at the last two Fall River Days. I am biased, but they are a great early fall activity. If you haven't been to Ypsi in a minute, you should stop by and make an afternoon of it. You can also check out the brand new barrier free play structure in Riverside Park.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: September 16, 2019

Gentle readers, it's time for the second #a2council meeting of September. Here's the agenda. Let's dive in!

On the consent agenda we have a couple of street closings. One for this Friday's Climate Strike and another for the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. There is also a contract for police body cameras, and adoption of a brownfield policy.

There are 4 public hearings on two developments. PH-1 and PH-2 are on 325 E Summit. PH-3 and PH-4 are on the Glen development.

C-1 and C-2 are ordinance readings that deal with regulations for cannabis retailers. DS-1 is the Traverwood road reconfiguration I have mentioned in previous council previews.

There you have my very incomplete preview. Gentle reader, what are you most agenda items are you most interested in? The event starts tonight at 7. Tune in to CTN or watch the YouTube stream.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: September 3, 2019

The 7.7 acre parcel at 2857 Packard is the site of a proposed PUD (Agenda item C-1).

Gentle readers, tonight is a special Tuesday edition of #a2council. Here's the agenda.

The evening kicks off with 21 item consent agenda with no road closings. CA-19 is the Lower Town Mobility Study. This will authorize the city to spend just under $600,000 to study mobility in the area of the confluence of Pontiac Trail, Broadway, Plymouth Road, Moore Street, Wall Street, and Maiden Lane.

Elsewhere on the agenda there are two public hearings. PH-1/B-1 is the second reading of the proposed ordinance change that would allow restaurants in office zoned properties. PH-2/B-2 is the second reading of an ordinance that would change some of the rules for mixed use developments.

C-1 is the first reading of an ordinance for a PUD at 2857 Packard. The 7.7 acre parcel is currently zoned R1E and is largely undeveloped. If I recall correctly a previous proposal for the site did not pass muster so it will be interesting to see what happens with the new proposal.

Finally, tonight #a2council will be revisiting two road reconfigurations. DS-2 and DS-3 are on the Traverwood and Green Road reconfigurations, respectively. We have covered road diets previously.

The event starts tonight at 7. Tune in to CTN or watch the YouTube stream.

Friday, August 23, 2019

YpsiFest this weekend in Riverside Park

YpsiFest starts tonight. This is one of our counties more eclectic events and well worth your time. There will even be sheep there from project mow.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: August 19, 2019

Gentle readers, it's #a2council Night in Ann Arbor. Here's the agenda for tonight's meeting.

This is coming pretty late, so I am going to hit the highlights. PH-2/B-1 and PH-3/DB-1 are on the proposed project for 325 E Summit, the Garnet. This looks like a cool project, but I am hearing reports that several councilmembers indicated they would vote against it at last night's caucus night.

In other development related agenda items, C-1 is the first reading of a modification of the Glen PUD. This project is located at 201, 213, 215, 217 Glen Avenue and 1025 East Ann Street.

DC-1 is a motion by CM Ackerman to reconsider the vote at last council meeting that defeated the Green Road road reconfiguration (road diet). Here's the preview for that meeting. Here's an article looking at how local road diets have been effective at reducing accidents.

Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Vote today

Gentle readers there is an election in Washtenaw County today. The question is whether the Washtenaw Intermediate School District borrow up to $53,295,000 in bonds to build a new school. To pay for the bonds, there would be a 0.37 mil property tax for 10 years. This means homeowners would pay $0.37 for every $1,000 in taxable value of their properties.

If you want my two cents. I think this is a good millage. We underfund our schools at a state level. I think it's important to do what we can at the local level to support public education.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Ann Arbor City Council Preview: August 5, 2019

Gentle reader, August's first #a2council meeting is tonight at 7pm at City Hall. Here's the agenda.

The evening kicks off with a modest 15 item consent agenda which has a conspicuous lack of street closings. CA-6 is to rent a Vactor 2100i Combination Sewer Cleaner. CA-8 is to approve a grant agreement with MiEGLE for PFAS removal.

There is one public hearing on the docket tonight. PH-1/DB-1 is an annexation of 614 Riverview from Ann Arbor Township. In the ordinance first readings, C-1 would allow restaurants, bars, and/or food service in areas zoned office provided they are no more than 10% of the total floor area or 12,000 square feet.

In new council business there are two FOIA related resolutions. DC-2 directs the City Administrator to review the city's policies on assessing fees for FOIA requests. Specifically it requests alternatives to ease public interest FOIAs. DC-3is a resolution to waive fees associated with FOIA request 2147. CM Hayner submitted FOIA 2147 on July 11 of this year and requested all emails to and from Mayor Taylor for the period between June 16 to July 8, 2019. The city clerk estimated the cost to be $217 to comply with the records request. Here's the city's list of FOIA requests.

There are three road diets on tonight's #a2council agenda: DS-1, DS-2, and DS-3 for Earhart, Traverwood, and Green, respectively. I wrote a bit more about road diets last week. All of these road reconfigurations (their proper name) came before council earlier this year, but were sent back to transportation commission. All of these roads have average daily traffic volumes between 3,500 and 7,500 vehicles per day, meaning these proposals are unlikely to have a substantial impact on traffic. Federal Highway Administration guidelines caution against road diets when traffic flow is greater than 20,000 vehicles per day. These reconfigurations are predicted to lead to a major reduction in crashes like we have seen with other road diets in Ann Arbor. These resolutions will likely be the spiciest chilis of the night.

Make sure you tune in tonight at 7 to watch CTN's live stream and follow the blow-by-blow action on #a2council hashtag on Twitter.