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.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Road diets

A satellite photo of Jackson Ave. during its reconfiguration. If you look closely, you can see the ghostly shadows of orange barrels.  

Gentle readers. I want to write a little bit about road diets. There are three road diets on Monday's #a2council agenda: DS-1, DS-2, and DS-3. A road diet, sometimes called a road reconfiguration, is when the total number of travel lanes on a road are reduced to allow for other uses and travel modes. E.g. a 4 lane road is reduced to a 3 lane road. This frees up space to add bike lanes and to add features that make pedestrians safer. Road diets also make roads safer for drivers by reducing the number of crashes on a road segment. If you are interested in a deep dive, the Federal Highway Association has a great 72 page report on road diets.

Ann Arbor has implemented several road diets in the past few years including on Jackson Road and Maple Road. On July 16th, a memo examining recent road diets was sent to the Transportation Commission. It too, is worth a read. Looking at 5 recent road diets, total accident counts dropped between 20% and 65%. Here are charts looking at specific crash rates from the Jackson Road project and the Green Road project:

The Green Road Road diet is one of the poorest performing and I wanted to highlight it because it still shows an overall reduction in the average number of crashes.

Road diets also offer great benefits to pedestrians and cyclists. By adding more room for them, and buffering them from cars, road diets increase safety for non-motorized transit. They also tend to increase usage. You can find more in this document from the Federal Highway Administration in section 2.1.3.

One drawback for road diets is that is that they can slow down traffic during peak flow periods. A recent survey of Ann Arbor residents showed that the majority support these minor reductions in traffic flow in exchange for greater safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Here are the results: