8th St. on a diet? There are benefits

The reoccurring question of “what to do with Eighth Street?” is in the air again in Traverse City. The latest round invigorated by a visit from planner Robert Gibbs (Gibbs Group). Gibbs was brought in to provide insight into the retail and residential possibilities for the City’s most central stroad.*

Walking tour with Gibbs. 8th St. shopping district?

Walking tour with Gibbs. 8th St. shopping district?

Predictably, his walk and presentation (Expert Walks, Weighs In on Eighth Street, Ticker) brought out the elephant in the room: Is it possible to take the four lanes down to three? Or even, as Gibbs suggested, take it down to two lanes and add parking? Our local newspaper correctly opined that this is a key question (Eighth Street won’t work until key issues resolved, Record Eagle).

The short answer is that of course it is possible. Anything is possible. Road conversions like this (sometimes referred to as road diets) happen across the country every year and many of them in much more heavily trafficked streets than our own. It is part of a great reset from an era when we built highways, and highwayesque roads, through the heart of our communities with little regard to the impact.

(click for larger version)

The opposing questions I’m asking are: Is our community priority east west mobility? Or, is it accessibility to homes, businesses, and services in this area? Are we dedicated to moving traffic through the city? Or, do we want to develop economic opportunities?

Currently, Eighth St. doesn’t serve any of these questions well. My preference is to choose accessibility and economic development. If we are going to invest a million dollars or more into this street, I want to see that we will get measurable economic and social return on that investment. Eighth St. in its current form is under performing. A fresh coat of asphalt in the current form won’t change much. A re-prioritization of what we want from that street promises much more.

It’s a discussion I look forward to having in the community. If it’s something you also are looking forward to, let the City Commission know and let’s keep feeding the discussion. Soon, earlier than we may think, a decision will be made.

Send me a comment. What do you want to see along Eighth Street?

* A stroad describes a street/road built for high-speed, but with multiple access points. Stroads are inefficient for mobility and subtract from quality of life for those who live next to them. 

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