Reforming transport policy in motor cities, with Kathryn Gray

Urbanism EasySpeak Interviews Trans4M Coordinator…

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Kathryn Gray is the coordinator of Transportation for Michigan, a coalition of Michigan communities working to make their surroundings more livable. Kathryn has studied social relations, policy, public affairs, and public administration. At Transportation for Michigan, Kathryn’s eyes are focused on 4 major areas – funding reform, complete streets, regional transit, and rail. You can read more about their work at Trans4m.org. With that, let’s jump into the conversation about Michigan’s transportation issues. I think you’ll find they face the same type of challenges you do, even if you don’t live in Michigan.

1% of Michigan revenues are for improving walking and biking.

It’s not an argument for more funding. At least it doesn’t need to be. It’s a statement about how Michigan, like so many other states, spends infrastructure money. Most states have a transportation policy that focuses almost exclusively on building bigger and faster roads. In recent years, more agencies are talking about how to get out of that mindset and accommodate other modes. Especially, the most fundamental modes — walking and biking. How is Michigan doing? Is Kathryn happy with how tax dollars are being spent? She talks about the legacy of motor cities.

80+ communities in Michigan have adopted a complete streets policy.

Michigan is one of the leading states in terms of complete streets adoption. Kathryn discusses the success rate and whether or not these policies are mere lip service. Are streets really improving their character?

Don’t supersize my street!

Let’s say a town or city wants to fund a road diet instead of a road fattening. Is there a way local governments are able to make those projects happen? Or are they at the mercy of the state? Kathryn talks about the importance of early citizen engagement. Get active when your metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is developing lists of long-range projects — that’s when the average citizen can have the most meaningful impact.

Sprawl, the great isolation design.

Kathryn talks about regional transit from two perspectives not usually taken: The isolation of seniors and tourism. We’ve created a culture where people can have a 45-minute commute to work. Creating transit systems on sprawled road networks is very difficult. Seniors moved into remote suburban and rural areas, but are  now in need of more medical care and can’t necessarily drive. As for tourism, Michigan is not a drive-thru state. It’s a destination. And when people arrive by plane, they’re immediately forced to rely on autos.

To listen to the full podcast from the Urbanism EasySpeaker website, click here.

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