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Should Grand Rapids Convert to Cul-de-Sacs?


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#41 Raildudes dad

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 07:00 PM

To Raildudesdad: Regarding Wyoming, they in fact did do this in more areas, now that you mention it. There are almost no residential N/S throughway connectors to 28th. North of 28th there are also a number of streets that were cut off between DeHoop and Clyde Park. It looks like Grand Rapids also did this at Brooklyn in Alger Heights. Speaking of Alger Heights, which is often regarded as one of the best "starter family" neighborhoods in GR, there are no N/S or E/W through streets between Alger on the N, Easter on the W, and 28th on the S. Around Wilcox Park N of Lake Dr, where there are also high GR property values, same story: Only one uninterrupted N/S throughway, and no E/S.


The "cut offs" north of 28th between DeHoop and Clyde Park were a result of the sucess and expansions of Rogers Dept Store. As a condition of expanding, streets got dead ended. Brooklyn is the only example of a city doing something like this and was done by GR since it was the only street thru to 28th in the area. Alger Heights street layout was / is original - post WW2. Wilcox Park area is original post WW1?. Those areas prove my point the grid system either straight streets or curvilinear can be laid out to discourage thru traffic.

Edited by Raildudes dad, 09 July 2012 - 07:04 PM.


 

#42 jas49503

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 07:59 PM

All discussion aside about whether cul-de-sacs are a good idea or not, all this generalization about people who live in suburbs is ridiculous and insulting. I rarely if ever hear this kind of elitism from suburbanites directed at urbanites.

Secondly, Grand Rapids has "some" of the best schools in the State? Yes, there are probably 10 that would make that list in all of KISD.


ridiculous and unfortunately accurate. the funny thing is that they think they are doing the right thing and don't even realize how ridiculous they look to an outsider. this is of course a generalization. I came from the suburbs and don't act that way. I am sure that I am not the only one. I hear about it every day from my coworker that lives in rockford. it seems like there is an ongoing competition about who can be the most overbearing helicopter parent in her son's 5th grade class. you don't hear any elitism directed at urbanites because people feel sorry for them. kind of like making fun of a handicapped person. that or confusion about why on earth someone would want to live in the city with all the crime and dirty homeless people.

and the schools are not just some of the best in the state, but beat the pants off any suburban school in the metropolitan area. ok that may be a bit of hyperbole, but there is no doubt that by any academic metric you can apply, city middle/high and the feeder schools equal or surpass any school from the suburbs.

What is lost in all this discussion about cul-de-sacs and eliminating the grid is that people live in areas where they want to. people chose to live in the suburbs because they like it, and they like being around people who behave and think like them. people who live in the city generally have different priorities. I think that by trying to make cities into suburbs and vice versa that you would be upsetting the balance of things and interfering with the very reasons that people choose to live where they live. It is a noble goal to try and improve city neighborhoods but what is really needed is an assessment of what people in the particular area really want from their environment. it may be that we have an excess of urban neighborhoods and that some people that live there would want a more suburban atmosphere. there certainly aren't too many suburban neighborhoods as they can just build another one when they want to. I agree with the poster earlier that said this should be a neighborhood driven initiative.

The "cut offs" north of 28th between DeHoop and Clyde Park were a result of the sucess and expansions of Rogers Dept Store. As a condition of expanding, streets got dead ended. Brooklyn is the only example of a city doing something like this and was done by GR since it was the only street thru to 28th in the area. Alger Heights street layout was / is original - post WW2. Wilcox Park area is original post WW1?. Those areas prove my point the grid system either straight streets or curvilinear can be laid out to discourage thru traffic.


the city of grand rapids has an entire department dedicated to traffic calming measures

http://grcity.us/ent...ng-Program.aspx

unfortunately is not currently funded, which might be why this idea never gets a trial run.

Edited by jas49503, 09 July 2012 - 08:18 PM.


#43 x99

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Posted 09 July 2012 - 11:01 PM

Heights street layout was / is original - post WW2. Wilcox Park area is original post WW1?. Those areas prove my point the grid system either straight streets or curvilinear can be laid out to discourage thru traffic.

Alger Heights was laid out in the 1930s-pre WW2. Wilcox Park was actually platted about 1888 and 1908. The lack of through streets there was probably more an anomaly due to the park than an intentional design--Carleton is a problem, though, and they should really cut if off at the knees. Still, even before WWII and the birth of sprawl they had the foresight to see that with the automobile, grid pattern streets were foolish. I don't disagree that quasi-grid streets can be laid out to discourage throughout traffic. Alger Heights is an example, as is Ottawa Hills, or almost anywhere else laid out after the horseless carriage took the world by storm. Precisely why I say allowing the grid to labor on in old neighborhoods is cruel punishment to the residents who are often forced to live there for lack of options. But once the houses are built, you can't really switch to curvilinear streets or reroute things, apart from making a few cul-de-sacs here and there. That's just the easier way, though, and has some apparent crime-prevention/traffic streamlining benefits. The "giant maze" route would work 90% as well.

and the schools are not just some of the best in the state, but beat the pants off any suburban school in the metropolitan area. ok that may be a bit of hyperbole, but there is no doubt that by any academic metric you can apply, city middle/high and the feeder schools equal or surpass any school from the suburbs.


Except that admission is far from guaranteed, and City High's success is achieved through enormous amounts of cherry picking. You get into City, you win the lottery, but that's sort of a problem, in my book. It might have prevented total flight in the 70s, but it cannot possibly act as a magnet. The scores are only marginally higher than FHN or EGR.

What is lost in all this discussion about cul-de-sacs and eliminating the grid is that people live in areas where they want to. people chose to live in the suburbs because they like it, and they like being around people who behave and think like them. people who live in the city generally have different priorities.


I disagree, although I suppose you might have the occasional hippie crank eating a granola bar who says "I love my busy, trafficky through street and the random criminally looking people walking through!" ;) Most of those who still live in the City live here for the obscenely cheap quality houses in some of the more expensive $150k+ areas, proximity to work, or simply because they cannot afford to live elsewhere.

the city of grand rapids has an entire department dedicated to traffic calming measures
http://grcity.us/ent...ng-Program.aspx
unfortunately is not currently funded, which might be why this idea never gets a trial run.


Now that's just heartbreaking. Here is what this iniative at one time aspired to:

Traffic Calming Goals include:
  • increasing the quality of life;
  • incorporating the preferences and requirements of the residents;
  • creating safer and more attractive streets;
  • reducing the negative impacts of motor vehicles; and
  • promoting alternative transportation modes.
Traffic Calming Objectives include:
  • achieving slower speeds for motor vehicles in residential areas;
  • increasing safety for non-motorized users of the street system;
  • enhancing the street environment;
  • increasing access for all modes of transportation, and
  • reducing/elminating cut-through motor vehicle traffic.
That the funding was axed for this instead of the myriad other worthless crap that the City wastes its money on is a good indicator of the massive level of dysfunction in City Hall. Granted, "traffic calming" doesn't have the same beneficial side effects as altering the street system itself to eliminate through traffic, but it was at least a step in the right direction toward making neighborhoods more livable and safe.

Where housing is valued at a fraction of replacement cost, problems loom large. We cannot keep this going forever, or we risk becoming Detroit over the long haul. That frightens me, which I why I sometimes come up with these crazy ideas. In West MI we are not in a population dead zone, yet GR is becoming one. This is extremely dangerous. If that means trying to cater to the suburb dwellers with a few reversible changes if they don't work, I don't think think its the end of the day. Long run, the alternative is. Population shrinkage will ruin us, just like it has everywhere its been tried.

Edited by x99, 09 July 2012 - 11:16 PM.


#44 GRDadof3

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 08:05 AM

ridiculous and unfortunately accurate. the funny thing is that they think they are doing the right thing and don't even realize how ridiculous they look to an outsider. this is of course a generalization. I came from the suburbs and don't act that way. I am sure that I am not the only one. I hear about it every day from my coworker that lives in rockford. it seems like there is an ongoing competition about who can be the most overbearing helicopter parent in her son's 5th grade class. you don't hear any elitism directed at urbanites because people feel sorry for them. kind of like making fun of a handicapped person. that or confusion about why on earth someone would want to live in the city with all the crime and dirty homeless people.

and the schools are not just some of the best in the state, but beat the pants off any suburban school in the metropolitan area. ok that may be a bit of hyperbole, but there is no doubt that by any academic metric you can apply, city middle/high and the feeder schools equal or surpass any school from the suburbs.

What is lost in all this discussion about cul-de-sacs and eliminating the grid is that people live in areas where they want to. people chose to live in the suburbs because they like it, and they like being around people who behave and think like them. people who live in the city generally have different priorities. I think that by trying to make cities into suburbs and vice versa that you would be upsetting the balance of things and interfering with the very reasons that people choose to live where they live. It is a noble goal to try and improve city neighborhoods but what is really needed is an assessment of what people in the particular area really want from their environment. it may be that we have an excess of urban neighborhoods and that some people that live there would want a more suburban atmosphere. there certainly aren't too many suburban neighborhoods as they can just build another one when they want to. I agree with the poster earlier that said this should be a neighborhood driven initiative.




I thought kids at City High came from all over the district?

Here are the State rankings. City High and Blandford show up for GRPS near the top, the rest of the KISD ones are FH, EGR, Rockford, Caledonia.

http://www.michigan....6562---,00.html

#45 x99

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:38 AM

I thought kids at City High came from all over the district?
Here are the State rankings. City High and Blandford show up for GRPS near the top, the rest of the KISD ones are FH, EGR, Rockford, Caledonia.
http://www.michigan....6562---,00.html


You're exactly right. This is why City High doesn't really matter when it comes to GR schools:

"Admission to City is competitive. Students are accepted based on mathematics and writing tests administered by the school. Teacher recommendations are also considered. Many students come to City following enrollment in the GRPS' programs for academically gifted sixth-graders: John Ball Zoo School, the Center for Economicology at City, and the Blandford Environmental Educational Program."

To put on my suburbanite hat, "There is no attraction to a school district where the few good schools are total crapshoots, the "guaranteed" schools are cesspits filled with semi-literate nincompoops, and I've got something almost as good as the crapshoot guaranteed in my own backyard that doesn't require me to fill out a race-based application and take extra tests." The application, http://www.grpublics...application.pdf, requires you to disclose race right off the bat, which really creeps me out a little. Why in the world does a child's race matter? It also requires additional testing over and above the state standardized tests, so as a parent, you've got no idea if your kid has a good shot or not based on their past performance.

What we need, coupled with neighborhood improvements, is a set of factors that will guarantee admission to the good schools. For example, if your child, in 5th grade, scores proficient on all tests, AND scores, say, 85th percentile on either the MEAP reading or math, her ticket is punched. Move to GR, and we'll guarantee you a seat, if you want one. That's a winning system to draw people in. What we have now does nothing of the sort, but this is a topic for another day. Still, couple a program like this with a good "safer streets" initiative to clean up crime and traffic issues and I think you would see some areas become just as valuable as EGR, if not more, as schools get capitalized into housing prices. Maybe we'd even get that mall and a bullet train some day...

EDIT: In the everything old is new again category, GR was actually a traffic calming pioneer. In the late 1940s/early 1950s, the Dickinson neighborhood had some limited calming done with "diagonal diverters". Looking on a map, I found what I presume must have been the area in question: http://bit.ly/MYqzRr

EDIT 2: GVMC has a traffic count database system online that allow you make a few fairly good inferences which streets are being used as cut-throughs. http://gvmc.ms2soft....ds/tsearch.asp? They only did the "major" roads and some of the side roads, but it's fairly evident which is "unnecessary" traffic. In many instances roads with 15000 daily counts have roads with 4000 to 5000 daily counts two blocks away. I would say that's the stuff that could be substantially rerouted, along with the other side streets.

Edited by x99, 10 July 2012 - 02:04 PM.


#46 Mark Miller

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 10:02 AM

I came back to see how this discussion has evolved. Good stuff.

Love how it comes back to schools. Schools are not the issue. If you want an easy, convenient, autopilot, monoculture path, then the city and its school options are NOT for you. Stay in the burbs, where it is oh so much easier. If you actually want to put some effort into selecting a path for your children's education AND desire to embrace some diversity in social, economic and educational formats....you know, taking the path less traveled, then the city's educational options are plentiful.

I have three kids, living in the city, BY CHOICE. I would put my kids up against any in the region as far as their educational attainment to date. Has it been harder than autopilot? damn right, but they are better because of it.

As far as the earlier comment about how nobody likes the grid, come on really? I like the grid and can name many others who intuitively like the grid too. The grid isn't the issue either and it sure as hell does not need to be fixed.

And you have never seen elitism of suburbanites directed at urbanites. I see it every time I have the misfortunate of traveling to the burbs and interacting with someone who can not understand how I can raise three kids south of Wealthy. Or how I can live that close to my neighbor. Or why I would want to ever not have a car and instead make the choice to walk to work. Or why I do not want an acre of turf grass to maintain (where the hell do my kids play?) Or how I deal with all those dangerous folks of different skin color.

There may be elitism shown suburbanites by urbanites, but it definately goes both ways. Don't kid yourself.

What is the biggest obstacle stopping the conversion of our streets to cul-de-sacs? Common sense, concerned citizens, people who get it, dwindling city budgets......

All this is is yet another attempt to suburbanize the city. We have been doing it for years, starting with urban renewal and then followed up by the adoption of suburban zoning ordinances that promote large setbacks, obligatory green space, buffers, parking minimums, single-use mandates, and dispersion of density. Fortunately we are now making inroads to stop much of that nonsense.

We do not need to suburbanize the city. We do not need to make it like the suburbs. It will never compete with the suburbs (as a suburban form) and trying to make it like them, dillutes the entire region. The city can, and will, stand on its own, as an urban form.

#47 x99

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 11:06 AM

We actually agree on a lot. All of zoning nonsense you cite is a huge problem, not to mention the total paranoia of allowing any duplex or multifamily conversions, which also reduces density and increases housing costs.

The reality, though, is that claiming the grid is great because "common sense" and "people who get it" say it is still isn't saying much. Frankly, I just don't understand why you love the idea of automobiles cruising down your street at 30mph in order to shave 45 seconds off of their commute. Here's an area, for example, where the City of Wyoming, apparently in all of its "suburban" foolery, engaged in a massive traffic control effort: bit.ly/Mi3aGk For one half mile south of 28th, they eliminated all through traffic from Buchanan to Division. Are these neighborhoods worse off for it? I doubt it. How would doing this ruin your neighborhood?

Here's the facts about these streets: Division carries 12-14k cars per day, and Buchanan 6k to 10k. Are these neighborhoods somehow less "urban" or worse because the City of Wyoming undertook efforts to eliminate cut throughs? I don't think so. If not, then why would it somehow make Grand Rapids' neighborhoods less desirable to do the same thing around Wealthy or Franklin or Fuller or Eastern, which are carrying similar traffic volumes? These aren't suburban cul-de-sacs servings no purpose in the middle of a corn field. These are legitmate traffic control devices to try to keep cars where they belong.

#48 GR_Urbanist

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 03:51 PM

The reality, though, is that claiming the grid is great because "common sense" and "people who get it" say it is still isn't saying much. Frankly, I just don't understand why you love the idea of automobiles cruising down your street at 30mph in order to shave 45 seconds off of their commute. Here's an area, for example, where the City of Wyoming, apparently in all of its "suburban" foolery, engaged in a massive traffic control effort: bit.ly/Mi3aGk For one half mile south of 28th, they eliminated all through traffic from Buchanan to Division. Are these neighborhoods worse off for it? I doubt it. How would doing this ruin your neighborhood?



Answer to question 1: Because autos have the right to utilize streets that were created for their use. The streets are not extensions of ones yard. Each street is paid for by the taxes of all the people in GR. They are not places for kids to play in, for people to walk in the middle of. They are also not privately owned by people on the street.

A car going by is not bothering anyone that isnt wasting their time with their face pressed against a window being a busy body. So what if they take a side street? It's not my car. It's not my life. Why are they bad people for doing so?

It isn't like there isn't anyone here that has not taken a side street before for whatever reason.


How will this affect neighborhoods? The biggest problem will be emergency response times. Forcing a fire truck to detour all the way around main roads just so it can get to a house that was close to where they were, but blocked by some cul-de-sac is inexcusable. Adding to travel time, making it a nightmare to plow, funneling cars onto a few roads, giving drivers no means of finding alternative routs and thus taking pressure off the streets ( which may I remind people are also lined with homes) are other issues.

What if you are trying to find a certain house? You go down this long street only to find that it's actually across the next perpendicular road. The one you cant get to because it is blocked off. Wasted gas, wasted time, and now that car has to double-back over the same street!

If a block feels so entitled to this, then the city should make a deal that all people on the street will be assessed the direct cost of plowing, and repair of their blocked off road. If it costs 40,000.00 to repair a busted sewer line on the blocked road, then all the people on the block will have to pay. If people want a private road, then have fun paying for it.


This is a total non-issue, that I hope the city never entertains.

Edited by GR_Urbanist, 11 July 2012 - 05:29 PM.

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#49 Jippy

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Posted 11 July 2012 - 04:44 PM

Great urban planning theory discussion, but x99 I think you have misunderstood my storm pipe analogy. Moving your side road's traffic becomes my side or main road's problem. The street grid works brilliantly because it allows multiple routes to make the same destination. In your above hypothetical, you mention 15,000 trips per day with 4,000 trips on the parallel side street (this is based off memory). Once closing the parallel side street you now require all traffic to go on the primary arterial for all trips. This now may require a 2 lane road to become a 4 lane road, which then will inevitably eat into sidewalk widths. Further it will worsen traffic anytime there is the smallest of problems - from crashes, to Granny scared of turning left, to a simple flat tire because the cul-de-sacs have reduced the street network to a few set of usable streets. In a network the traffic can adapt to the issue and equally be distributed within the system.

The main streets also become less desirable because there is now more traffic and our budding neighborhood commercial districts become diminished. Now that there are fewer places to connect to the arterial road, it also means more cars will be forced to other secondary streets -- thus increasing traffic back-ups and likely requiring additional turn lanes on those streets to accommodate the rush hour back-ups connecting the arterial. Finally, it increases operational costs for City crews for emergency response, garbage pick-up and snow removal.

This is not to say that cul-de-sacs are bad in all situations, but it would make for bad urban policy. In fact, the entire state of Virginia no longer permits the construction of cul-de-sacs. Virginia is not exactly some liberal hippy state. These decisions were primarily based on economic and operational merits.

Brooklyn St is a great example. Prior to its closure, Brooklyn was forced to accommodate an entire neighborhood's worth of travel. While the closure betters the homeowner's situation adjacent the 28th St interchange, it exasperates everyone else's travel length. If a greater street grid was intact, then Brooklyn would not have experienced the volume of cut-through traffic that it did.

Edited by Jippy, 12 July 2012 - 07:34 AM.

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#50 jas49503

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 05:54 AM

I thought kids at City High came from all over the district?

Here are the State rankings. City High and Blandford show up for GRPS near the top, the rest of the KISD ones are FH, EGR, Rockford, Caledonia.

http://www.michigan....6562---,00.html


maybe through school of choice but it a GRPS school and draws primarily from GRPS 6th grade "feeder" schools. I don't think that you can deny that there are some excellent suburban school districts. I was only commenting on the fact that GRPS has excellent schools as well.

I think that the fact that city high has a great showing by cherry picking it's students is irrelevant. In GRPS there is great stratification between the schools due how intentional the parents are. this is no different than a parent picking suburban school district though. unlike suburban school districts, GRPS does require parent involvement; your child can get a good education if you chose the school. if your kid can't get into city high, he isn't getting into harvard either and there are plenty of other good options to prepare him/her for community college. and if all else fails, Creston or Union can prepare your kid to be a janitor just as well as EGR or FHC.

#51 Mark Miller

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 02:17 PM

We actually agree on a lot. All of zoning nonsense you cite is a huge problem, not to mention the total paranoia of allowing any duplex or multifamily conversions, which also reduces density and increases housing costs.

The reality, though, is that claiming the grid is great because "common sense" and "people who get it" say it is still isn't saying much. Frankly, I just don't understand why you love the idea of automobiles cruising down your street at 30mph in order to shave 45 seconds off of their commute. Here's an area, for example, where the City of Wyoming, apparently in all of its "suburban" foolery, engaged in a massive traffic control effort: bit.ly/Mi3aGk For one half mile south of 28th, they eliminated all through traffic from Buchanan to Division. Are these neighborhoods worse off for it? I doubt it. How would doing this ruin your neighborhood?

Here's the facts about these streets: Division carries 12-14k cars per day, and Buchanan 6k to 10k. Are these neighborhoods somehow less "urban" or worse because the City of Wyoming undertook efforts to eliminate cut throughs? I don't think so. If not, then why would it somehow make Grand Rapids' neighborhoods less desirable to do the same thing around Wealthy or Franklin or Fuller or Eastern, which are carrying similar traffic volumes? These aren't suburban cul-de-sacs servings no purpose in the middle of a corn field. These are legitmate traffic control devices to try to keep cars where they belong.


So if you agree with what I am saying about the zoning nonsense and urban renewal, then look at the root of why those things happened. They were all silver bullet solutions to fix a perceived problem, that only ended up creating more problems or dilluting the city's fabric and/or livability.

I think, similar to the cul-de-sac solution.

I will say however, that certainly a cul-de-sac as an exception, rather than a rule provides some unique little spaces. The instance of Orchard Hill St. just off Lake Drive is an instance that comes to mind. But these need to be very carefully placed in small quantities at select locations and should NEVER be the urban pattern of a city.

Why is the grid great? From the NY Times, January 2012 about an exhibit at the Museum of the City New York entitled The Grid at 200: Manhattan

From the article……
The grid promotes sociability (Jane Jacobs) and allows density (Rem Koolhaas)
The grid makes a complex place instantly navigable.
The grid gives form to the democratic melting pot idea.

Interesting article, even though the exhibit is gone.

http://www.nytimes.c...?pagewanted=all


#52 GRDadof3

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 04:24 PM

I came back to see how this discussion has evolved. Good stuff.

Love how it comes back to schools. Schools are not the issue. If you want an easy, convenient, autopilot, monoculture path, then the city and its school options are NOT for you. Stay in the burbs, where it is oh so much easier. If you actually want to put some effort into selecting a path for your children's education AND desire to embrace some diversity in social, economic and educational formats....you know, taking the path less traveled, then the city's educational options are plentiful.

I have three kids, living in the city, BY CHOICE. I would put my kids up against any in the region as far as their educational attainment to date. Has it been harder than autopilot? damn right, but they are better because of it.

As far as the earlier comment about how nobody likes the grid, come on really? I like the grid and can name many others who intuitively like the grid too. The grid isn't the issue either and it sure as hell does not need to be fixed.

And you have never seen elitism of suburbanites directed at urbanites. I see it every time I have the misfortunate of traveling to the burbs and interacting with someone who can not understand how I can raise three kids south of Wealthy. Or how I can live that close to my neighbor. Or why I would want to ever not have a car and instead make the choice to walk to work. Or why I do not want an acre of turf grass to maintain (where the hell do my kids play?) Or how I deal with all those dangerous folks of different skin color.

There may be elitism shown suburbanites by urbanites, but it definately goes both ways. Don't kid yourself.

What is the biggest obstacle stopping the conversion of our streets to cul-de-sacs? Common sense, concerned citizens, people who get it, dwindling city budgets......

All this is is yet another attempt to suburbanize the city. We have been doing it for years, starting with urban renewal and then followed up by the adoption of suburban zoning ordinances that promote large setbacks, obligatory green space, buffers, parking minimums, single-use mandates, and dispersion of density. Fortunately we are now making inroads to stop much of that nonsense.

We do not need to suburbanize the city. We do not need to make it like the suburbs. It will never compete with the suburbs (as a suburban form) and trying to make it like them, dillutes the entire region. The city can, and will, stand on its own, as an urban form.


I'm sorry Mark, but I think that saying people in the suburbs put their kids in school on "auto-pilot" again is elitist and insulting, and downright inaccurate. In fact, I can pull out a whole stack of studies that show that suburban parents are far more involved with their kids' school than most urban school kids (who are more likely to be from a single-parent household living in poverty). Call them helicopter parents (someone did), but I'd take parental involvement in school over parents not giving a crap.

Elitism on either side is bad. And it stems mainly from prejudice and misunderstanding. Most suburbanites don't spend one minute thinking about people who live in the city, frankly. But I hear an awful lot of urbanites dissing suburbanites with gross generalizations.

But you're right, this doesn't much have to do with schools. Someone else brought up schools.

And I agree with x99, why anyone would want cars on their street driving by at whatever speeds is beyond me, kids or no kids. I thought UrbanPlaneteers hated cars??

#53 x99

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 04:25 PM

So if you agree with what I am saying about the zoning nonsense and urban renewal, then look at the root of why those things happened. They were all silver bullet solutions to fix a perceived problem, that only ended up creating more problems or dilluting the

From the article……
The grid promotes sociability (Jane Jacobs) and allows density (Rem Koolhaas)
The grid makes a complex place instantly navigable.
The grid gives form to the democratic melting pot idea.


Agreed re: the suburbs often having ridiculous lot size requirements, and GR unfortunately copying this and many other suburban rules that are not conducive to an urban environment. Under current zoning rules, the City technically calls for the demolition of much of its existing built environment (or, rather, "not encouraging continued non-conforming structures" or something to that effect). That doesn't speak to roads, per se, but it certainly speaks to a failure of leadership to nurture, expand and improve the existing built environment.

More on Jane Jacobs and grids--to snip from commentary about that article: Jane Jacobs, whose name exhibition curator Hilary Ballon invokes as a supporter of the grid, in fact was also critical, writing in “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” that she understood why European visitors often remark that “the ugliness of our cities is owing to our gridiron street systems.” She added that “if such a street goes on and on into the distance . . . dribbling into endless amorphous repetitions of itself and finally petering into the utter anonymity of distances, we are also getting a visual announcement that clearly says endlessness.” That, to me, isn't a ringing endorsement. Few deep urban thinkers have ever had an unconditional love affair with the grid.

Although grid systems are mindless, the wonderful thing about them is that they are easily modified, and the modifications easily undone. Aggressively restructuring it to serve the residents as needs and demands change does not have to bring any of the suburban negatives typically associated with the cul-de-sac 'burbs. The Wyoming link I provided is a good example. http://bit.ly/Mi3aGk By reducing auto counts, the neighborhood, I would think, became safer and more sociable than it was. As for navigability, well ... it's still perfectly navigable on foot or on a bike. Density is not affected. When we talk about a "walkable" city, this better meets the definition (to my view) than the neighborhood just above it in GR which is full of through streets to Division: http://bit.ly/NoXNHP.

#54 GR_Urbanist

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 07:08 PM

And I agree with x99, why anyone would want cars on their street driving by at whatever speeds is beyond me, kids or no kids. I thought UrbanPlaneteers hated cars??


We dont necessarily hate cars (parking lots are another thing totally). Automobiles on there own are important parts of our urban civilization and contribute to the freedom of movement and standard of living of lots of people in GR.

It's about recognizing that they exist, serve a purpose, and not going to the extreme of making cities unnavigable in some Don Quixote quest to force them from cities with the theory that we are going to become more sociable if we block off streets and break up the street grid. That's all wonderful if you think GR has summer for 12 months a year and continuous tram and subway service, but the reality is far different.

I mean seriously, where is this even an issue? What side street residents are actually raising a fuss over the occasional car that drives by? I live on one of the ultimate side streets and it isnt even on anyone's mind that a person comes down the road just to get somewhere.

And again, we dont own the streets in front of our homes as private property, and people are free to utilize them as I may utilize the roads in front of theirs.

#55 jas49503

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 08:13 PM

I'm sorry Mark, but I think that saying people in the suburbs put their kids in school on "auto-pilot" again is elitist and insulting, and downright inaccurate. In fact, I can pull out a whole stack of studies that show that suburban parents are far more involved with their kids' school than most urban school kids (who are more likely to be from a single-parent household living in poverty). Call them helicopter parents (someone did), but I'd take parental involvement in school over parents not giving a crap.

Elitism on either side is bad. And it stems mainly from prejudice and misunderstanding. Most suburbanites don't spend one minute thinking about people who live in the city, frankly. But I hear an awful lot of urbanites dissing suburbanites with gross generalizations.

But you're right, this doesn't much have to do with schools. Someone else brought up schools.

And I agree with x99, why anyone would want cars on their street driving by at whatever speeds is beyond me, kids or no kids. I thought UrbanPlaneteers hated cars??


moving to a suburban school district takes all the risk out of getting your kid into a good school. it effectively allows a parent to to go on auto-pilot. this is not to say that they do. that's why I don't understand the fear of sending kids to GRPS. most parents who take the trouble to relocate to a suburban school district and are involved in their kids lives will end up taking the trouble to make sure that their kid goes to a decent school. there are plenty to pick from. only by default do children end up at the crappier schools in GRPS.

#56 jas49503

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 08:28 PM

We dont necessarily hate cars (parking lots are another thing totally). Automobiles on there own are important parts of our urban civilization and contribute to the freedom of movement and standard of living of lots of people in GR.

It's about recognizing that they exist, serve a purpose, and not going to the extreme of making cities unnavigable in some Don Quixote quest to force them from cities with the theory that we are going to become more sociable if we block off streets and break up the street grid. That's all wonderful if you think GR has summer for 12 months a year and continuous tram and subway service, but the reality is far different.

I mean seriously, where is this even an issue? What side street residents are actually raising a fuss over the occasional car that drives by? I live on one of the ultimate side streets and it isnt even on anyone's mind that a person comes down the road just to get somewhere.

And again, we dont own the streets in front of our homes as private property, and people are free to utilize them as I may utilize the roads in front of theirs.


I agree that the traffic issue is overblown. I also agree with Jippy that consolidating traffic is a bad idea. browsing the traffic counts on the GVMC website. the busiest streets through the heritage hill area are fulton (15k) and wealthy (13k) it drops rapidly after that and most of the side streets (that they measured; there are very few that they even looked at) are in the 1.5-3k range. this compares well with EGR side streets (again, very few were actually measured.) compare that to cascade rd. east of 96 where there is 30k per day. from personal experience, it is a nightmare trying to navigate that road during rush hour. it takes me as long to drive a half mile down east paris and turn get onto 96 as it does to get from 96 to my home in heritage hill.

#57 GRDadof3

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 09:53 PM

moving to a suburban school district takes all the risk out of getting your kid into a good school. it effectively allows a parent to to go on auto-pilot. this is not to say that they do. that's why I don't understand the fear of sending kids to GRPS. most parents who take the trouble to relocate to a suburban school district and are involved in their kids lives will end up taking the trouble to make sure that their kid goes to a decent school. there are plenty to pick from. only by default do children end up at the crappier schools in GRPS.


People choose to take their business to a provider who does a better job, right? Seriously, you take your car to a mechanic and he does a shitty job and is a jerk, you probably wouldn't go back. For good reason. Right? So why would you think that people should send their kids to a bad school district? Because it builds character? Future citizens of our country and lets put them in a failing non-supportive non-challenging environment. I expect great service from Meijer, but my kids' education? Meh, who cares. I'll roll the dice and hope my kid gets into THE one good school. Go to a shitty restaurant because the guy lives locally and has a family to raise. Forget that his food tastes like shit and the service sucks. It's all for the greater good. Yeah right.

I was going to post more but I'll stop. GRPS has a lot of problems, many many problems to deal with, and they don't need me making it worse. But pretending they don't exist flies in the face of reality, and what every local community leader from the city to the local foundations is gravely concerned about.
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#58 x99

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Posted 12 July 2012 - 11:16 PM

I mean seriously, where is this even an issue? What side street residents are actually raising a fuss over the occasional car that drives by? I live on one of the ultimate side streets and it isnt even on anyone's mind that a person comes down the road just to get somewhere.


That's because you're used to it. You live here. We need to start thinking like real estate developers trying to sell something to people that they actually want instead of thinking like the grand protectors of the way things were and forever should remain. I could afford to go elsewhere, and fully understand why most people do--guaranteed good schools, safe streets for kids, quiet neighborhoods. Thought about it, keeping thinking about it. It's an attractive proposition.

Those "suburb" people aren't all crazy. I'm the "crazy" one by majority standards. We're all crazy if we think we can keep this going with bike lanes and BRT and bullet trains and subways and "sustainable" green buildings and god-knows-what-else crackpot scheme that some government grant or foundation will fund. Our city in its current form--losing population and bleeding red ink--is not sustainable. Our lifestyle is not desirable to most people, and if we fail to make ourselves desirable, we will fail. Do you think all of those suburbanites actually like driving 45 minutes a day just to live somewhere they view as desirable? Is it that crazy to think that turning city neighborhoods into something like the suburbs with good schools and quiet, safe streets but more density is so terrible?

When it comes down to it, I'll admit it. I want to plop a nice big dense suburb right next to the CBD. You find a way to make that product, and people will buy it in droves.

Edited by x99, 12 July 2012 - 11:18 PM.


#59 Jippy

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 08:41 AM

Ahh, people are buying it. Look at the townhouses behind ICCF -- nearly sold out. Look at the fact inner-ring neighborhoods are the densest part of the metro region outside of downtown, so it doesn't quite sound like people are leaving in droves. The US Census stated that in 2011, GR added population, so that argument doesn't really fly. Perhaps Michigan and the Midwest had other problems that led to its budgetary and population problems.

And "bleeding red ink"?, come on let's get real. Assessed value on properties have now been decreasing for 5 years, meaning the total amount of revenue that the city is collecting has also been decreasing (in addition to state revenue share and sales tax share and gas tax revenue). This is not a problem unique to Grand Rapids, but one that is effecting all forms of state and local governments across the country -- urban or not. Your argument is painfully disingenuous.

Slapping in a cul-de-sac is not going to solve our city's problems.

I really do not understand how the issue of schools got mingled in with the topic of street patterns, because they are two entirely different topics. Cul-de-sacs don't equal good schools, just as a tall building does not equal a downtown. Of course we want a better school system in Grand Rapids, but that the root cause of their struggles is not the urban form of Grand Rapids. Again, painful co-mingling of two entirely separate topics.

Market analysis actually demonstrate the opposite of your proposition. More people want urban walkability than the market will provide with the key caveat that it is safe, good quality and with the ammenities they need (such as good schools). This is also demonstrated by extensive academic research conducted by visual preference studies. This is why the ICCF townhouses (I cannot remember their real name) have sold so well, despite costing $200+.

I appreciate you posting the original questions, but this topic has devolved into ridiculousness.

Edited by Jippy, 13 July 2012 - 08:42 AM.


#60 GRDadof3

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 10:49 AM

Ahh, people are buying it. Look at the townhouses behind ICCF -- nearly sold out. Look at the fact inner-ring neighborhoods are the densest part of the metro region outside of downtown, so it doesn't quite sound like people are leaving in droves. The US Census stated that in 2011, GR added population, so that argument doesn't really fly. Perhaps Michigan and the Midwest had other problems that led to its budgetary and population problems.

And "bleeding red ink"?, come on let's get real. Assessed value on properties have now been decreasing for 5 years, meaning the total amount of revenue that the city is collecting has also been decreasing (in addition to state revenue share and sales tax share and gas tax revenue). This is not a problem unique to Grand Rapids, but one that is effecting all forms of state and local governments across the country -- urban or not. Your argument is painfully disingenuous.

Slapping in a cul-de-sac is not going to solve our city's problems.

I really do not understand how the issue of schools got mingled in with the topic of street patterns, because they are two entirely different topics. Cul-de-sacs don't equal good schools, just as a tall building does not equal a downtown. Of course we want a better school system in Grand Rapids, but that the root cause of their struggles is not the urban form of Grand Rapids. Again, painful co-mingling of two entirely separate topics.

Market analysis actually demonstrate the opposite of your proposition. More people want urban walkability than the market will provide with the key caveat that it is safe, good quality and with the ammenities they need (such as good schools). This is also demonstrated by extensive academic research conducted by visual preference studies. This is why the ICCF townhouses (I cannot remember their real name) have sold so well, despite costing $200+.

I appreciate you posting the original questions, but this topic has devolved into ridiculousness.


The townhouses to which you are referring (Fairmount Square) sold painfully slow for the developer, way slower than they anticipated from what I hear. What was it, 6 years to sell about 30 townhouses? 5 a year? Granted, the real estate crash didn't help, but I don't know that I would hold up that one single market rate development in a city of 45 square miles as any barometer that there's heavy demand for the city.

Yes, GR is estimated to have grown by about 1000 people in 2011, after losing nearly 15,000 people since 2000. In about the same period, GRPS lost about 7500 students while districts like Rockford and FH saw their enrollment explode (FH even added an additional district, Forest Hills Eastern, to handle the growing pains). So the patient is critical but stable.

But the reason why schools jumped into this discussion was that someone other than me or x99 brought it up.

A lot of what we do on UrbanPlanet is play "Let's pretend you're in charge of the city and what would you do to improve it." If I asked someone to do this as part of their job, and they came back to me and said "Everything is fine the way it is and the city is growing," "Just add some bike lanes." I'd probably fire them. It's so far from reality, which is troubling to me as someone who is interested in seeing Grand Rapids thrive. It's like people are in denial because visually they see changes happening in small batches.

I also read a lot of articles about people wanting to live more in urban areas, but they always hold up the huge Tier 1 cities or European cities as examples (and even those are losing population outside of the core). Some come from the school of Richard Florida, who has largely been debunked. How about any mid-sized city in the U.S.?

Lastly, can we discuss these issues without denigrating people just because they live somewhere geographically?

I also find it humorous that tearing down the S-curve is plausible, but adding a few cul-de-sacs here and there is unimaginable.




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