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Should Grand Rapids Convert to Cul-de-Sacs?

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Posted

This is strictly a fantasy idea, but it might be a good one. Thinking about bikes, pedestrians, transit, cars, and relating things, I had an idea (and as it turns out, more than a few other people have had this idea, too). What if we ditched the grid pattern in GR's residential neighborhoods and put in tons of dead ends and cul-de-sacs? Could we significantly improve the city and property values, while increasing 'walkability' and 'bikeability' all in one fell swoop? I think so.

The typical objection to Cul-de-Sacs is that they force long car trips, and are not friendly to pedestrians or to bikes. But what if you convert an existing grid pattern to a cul-de-sac pattern and preserve bicycle and pedestrian throughways? Doesn't this fix what ails many cities such as Grand Rapids? Couldn't this help increase property values drastically in areas that are already desirable (such as Heritage Hill, Eastown, Cherry Hill, etc)? If it works there, could we expand it to draw even more people back into the city? Here's my argument:

When the grid pattern was originally adopted, people and their vehicles moved along at a leisurely pace not often exceeding ten miles per hour. We built beautiful homes with visual interest designed to be enjoyed at this pace. When the cars came, they brought 3000 pound chunks of glass and steel barreling down them at speeds lethal to pedestrians and bicyclists. We stripped the houses of anything that couldn't be appreciated at half a mile a minute. While there were "main" trunk streets, there was nothing to enforce this pattern. Grid patterns, in short, were never designed for cars, and city planners never did much to fix the problem. In response, the suburb developers came up with an answer: cul-de-sacs. In the process, however, we built cities that were entirely dependant on the automobile. None of the cul-de-sacs were connected, and the lots ballooned in size. One could not walk to a neighbors house two blocks away without traveling 20 blocks. Neighborhoods had more road, lawn, and garage than houses and people. This is what drives many of us nuts--this is poor planning, and builds bad communities.

But, what if we did what some cities have done, and put up bollards (those big, concrete poles) in strategic locations, or removed vehicular access, while leaving walking access and bicycle access in place? A partial solution could even include a "No Entering Vehicles" or "No Through Traffic" sign off of the trunk streets (which I suspect, if placed in enough locations to make it enough of it a maze, would result in the cars finally giving up). Adopting some combination of these solutions to modify the grid could have two positive effects: 1) It is now shorter (and thus more desirable) to walk or to bike; and 2) the automobile traffic control, quiet, and safety of a cul-de-sac street is achieved.

Sure, traffic on trunk streets increases marginally, but these streets are already doomed to a sea of cars. Why not save the rest? Do we really need dozens and dozens of streets dumping onto Wealthy, Lake Drive, Cherry, Fuller, Franklin, etc? Do we really need cars using side streets as throughways? Speed bumps have been tried, and all they do is chew up snowplows and result in engines racing and brakes screeching. I think this could be a better solution.

Here's a good article that I came across with some additional arguments in support of this: http://www.uctc.net

/access/24/Access%2024%20-%2006%20-%20Reconsidering%20the%20Cul-de-sac.pdf

Thoughts? I think this pays for itself in a matter of a few years from the increased property values alone, not to mention added peace and quiet, walkability--you name it.

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Posted

I think it's an interesting idea. I've seen it done in gridded areas of Berkley and Royal Oak near Detroit. And those streets are pretty desirable for fams with kids.

There are many areas in gr now where theyve added big speed humps and traffic islands.

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Posted

The City of Wyoming cul de sac'd a few streets between 28th, 32nd Clyde park and 131 in the late 70's early 80's? so there are no longer is any thru routes. If you do not know where you are going, you cannot just drive thru.

It can be done in urban develpments. You can see examples on the approach to Detroit metro airport on a clear day. Multple entries off the main drags into the sub divisons, but no thru "dragways". The difference between here and there is the developers develop very large parcels. Over here, the subdivisons are much smaller and although the municipality can try to encourage the following of an overall "plan", it is difficult to accomplish.

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Posted (edited)

The City of Wyoming cul de sac'd a few streets between 28th, 32nd Clyde park and 131 in the late 70's early 80's? so there are no longer is any thru routes. If you do not know where you are going, you cannot just drive thru.

It can be done in urban develpments. You can see examples on the approach to Detroit metro airport on a clear day. Multple entries off the main drags into the sub divisons, but no thru "dragways". The difference between here and there is the developers develop very large parcels. Over here, the subdivisons are much smaller and although the municipality can try to encourage the following of an overall "plan", it is difficult to accomplish.

I'm not so much concerned about new construction. I'm talking about taking existing streets and cutting them into bits and pieces, basically destroying your ability to use them as a "cut through" with a car, while preserving that ability with a bike or on foot. Just using gates or barricades could allow for this pretty cheaply. I'm aware of some of the 28th street gates that were done, but why did it stop? Why not slice up everything and get rid of through traffic?

If we're looking for solutions to make GR a more desirable place to live, we've got to start thinking "outside the box" a bit more. Bike lanes, buses, and the like are all fine and dandy, but they aren't going to fix the neighborhoods with booming stereos, excessive crime rates, and speeding traffic. Many "urban advocates" expressly dislike suburbs because they are filled with "roads to nowhere"--something I used to think myself--but that isn't true: This roads do go somewhere--to people's houses. The problem with suburbs is that while they have the roads right, they only designed for cars. In cities, we designed for horses and buggies and pedestrians and people, but never did much about cars other than bumps in the road. Why have we almost entirely neglected to reshape neighborhoods to deal with cars? Fear? Lack of initiative? A failure even to come up with and consider the idea?

Another good read on the subject is "Defensible Space" which I stumbled across while researching this. The concept is basically that when you have lots of people--strangers--passing through a neighborhood, there is no real shared sense of responsibility, and no way to identify those who should not be there. Apparently, where the concept has been tried, there have been some good reductions in crime. Since we've got major budget shortfalls and policing cutbacks, why not try reducing the need for police?

After thinking about it, I'm hard pressed to come up with any ideas why all of the city streets need to be "cut through" streets other than for my own personal convenience avoiding more congested main arteries. This is a pretty poor justification for my driving at 30-35mph through someone's neighborhood, isn't it?

Edited by x99

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Posted (edited)

We have a street grid for a reason. They are to facilitate traffic, move good and services, and to diffuse traffic it when it backs up due to car wrecks or construction. They are not there as a playground for kids or as a place to ride bike on for 5 months of the year.

Those streets are paid for with the collective taxes of the whole city. They do not belong to any neighborhood, and there is nothing wrong with "cutting through". My car is in front of someone's precious home for 1 second. If it is that much of a bother then they can move out of the city.

And if you have to use Wyoming as an example, then you already know why you shouldn't muck up the street grid to placate auto-NIMBYISM

Edited by GR_Urbanist
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Posted

We have a street grid for a reason. They are to facilitate traffic, move good and services, and to diffuse traffic it when it backs up due to car wrecks or construction. They are not there as a playground for kids or as a place to ride bike on for 5 months of the year.

Those streets are paid for with the collective taxes of the whole city. They do not belong to any neighborhood, and there is nothing wrong with "cutting through". My car is in front of someone's precious home for 1 second. If it is that much of a bother then they can move out of the city.

Perhaps they are paid for with taxes of the whole city, but why does that mean that they should be arranged in a grid? When grid pattern streets were initially conceived, the world as we know it today did not exist. Shouldn't the grid be updated to deal with the world we have today?

I expected some opposing comments, but I wasn't really anticipating "move out if you don't like my car blasting down your street." As for facilitating the movement of goods, services, and acting a traffic backup, if a gated system were used, this would not be impeded for select users at select times, nor would your ability to walk or bike through--ever. Your ability to blast through doing 35 to shave off 30 seconds, however, would be.

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Posted

We have a street grid for a reason. They are to facilitate traffic, move good and services, and to diffuse traffic it when it backs up due to car wrecks or construction. They are not there as a playground for kids or as a place to ride bike on for 5 months of the year.

Those streets are paid for with the collective taxes of the whole city. They do not belong to any neighborhood, and there is nothing wrong with "cutting through". My car is in front of someone's precious home for 1 second. If it is that much of a bother then they can move out of the city.

And if you have to use Wyoming as an example, then you already know why you shouldn't muck up the street grid to placate auto-NIMBYISM

The grid was thought of back before there were even automobiles. They probably even date back to Europe or Asia, or maybe even biblical times, when everyone walked. . And to say that city streets are only for cars? That pretty much flies in the face of "complete streets" that the city is pushing for.

By the way, people ARE moving out of the city, by the thousands. How's that working out?

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Posted

The grid was thought of back before there were even automobiles. They probably even date back to Europe or Asia, or maybe even biblical times, when everyone walked. . And to say that city streets are only for cars? That pretty much flies in the face of "complete streets" that the city is pushing for.

By the way, people ARE moving out of the city, by the thousands. How's that working out?

They certainly aren't for cars only, however this is not 400 years ago, and the streets we have in GR were designed for wheeled vehicles that share the same dimensions of most of today's autos. In some cases those vehicles were larger than some compact cars are now.

No one went to this effort to created paved places to play in front of houses, and pedestrians have paved paths called sidewalks. Bikes already have use of the road along with rules they have to follow just like any car.

We will gain nothing by wrecking the street grid just to spare a minuscule number of people the agony of a car going by their door, in fact it will turn the central part of GR into a glorified subdivision complete with super-blocks, pods, and income-segregated streets.

Just Imagine if you leave your house and forget your phone, only to now have to go blocks out of your way just because all of the connecting streets have been blocked off to prevent cutting through? What if you have to drive a piece of furniture to the house on the next street over that is only a few yards away, but because the street is block on that end you have to drive it all the way to the end of the road, go around, and then drive all the back up? What a mess!

There are already plenty of places that cater to that lifestyle called Wyoming, Kentwood, and Grandville.

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Posted (edited)

They certainly aren't for cars only, however this is not 400 years ago, and the streets we have in GR were designed for wheeled vehicles that share the same dimensions of most of today's autos. In some cases those vehicles were larger than some compact cars are now.

We will gain nothing by wrecking the street grid just to spare a minuscule number of people the agony of a car going by their door, in fact it will turn the central part of GR into a glorified subdivision complete with super-blocks, pods, and income-segregated streets.

Those wheeled vehicles moved along at about 5-10mph and the loudest noise they made was "clompety, clompety, clomp." You're comparing apples and oranges. The "agony of a car going by their door" has nothing to do with the car going by--it is how the car goes by. Grid pattern streets were never designed for this. Originally, the grid died because of the car because the car made the grid pattern a hostile environment. Shockingly, no one has ever done much about it in Grand Rapids.

Read this brief capsule review, http://en.wikipedia....le_space_theory, which is an interesting offshoot of the "cul-de-sacing" idea, with a lot of good points. Part of Newman's thesis is that much of the problem we have in cities--crime, noise, vandalism--is directly attributable to the street pattern. Further, where it has been tried, such as in a crime-ridden area of Dayton--the "bad" has declined significantly. This doesn't specifically address noise and traffic safety, but it is another set of tangible benefits that could be obtained for a relatively low cost. Does the important of having through-traffic and being able to go back and get your keys a little easier outweigh more livable neighborhoods?

Edited by x99

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Posted

So the idea is to close off some streets and funnel more traffic onto others? Will there be more traffic lights installed or four way stops or traffic circles? With increased traffic it is going to become harder to make left turns onto these busy streets. Plus, with more wear and tear due to increased traffic loads, there's going to be an increase in those lovely orange barrels. Which means traffic will be rerouted to alternate routes even farther away from its destination and since those alternate routes are already carrying increased traffic due to all the cul-de-sacs, now traffic will be doubled and the waits at intersections will increase which means more automobiles sitting in line idling and burning gas.

In another thread, x99 argues that mass transit is a senseless waste of money and that cars are the way to go. In this thread x99 argues that many of the streets these cars use should be closed and traffic should be consolidated. I guess my takeaway is that x99 has plenty of free time on his/her hands that they enjoy spending sitting in traffic. Personally, there is no better way to keep me out of downtown then to make it more difficult to get there. I don't care how awesome the downtown attractions are, if it is an enormous pain in the rear to get there, I'll take a pass and go watch a movie in air-conditioned comfort in the suburbs where there is a nice big lot to park my car for free.

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Posted (edited)

I think it's an interesting idea too. I wouldn't think it's workable at the city-wide level, but it's certainly worthy of discussion at the neighborhood association level... Like if Baxter or SWAN or whomever wanted to make cul-de-sacs of their neighborhoods, they should pursue it. And like GRDad said, neighborhoods are already slowing down traffic with speed bumps and traffic islands.

The irony to me, is that for mass transit supporters, this is one way to engineer greater need for mass transit. I'm not advocating that stance, though.

Edited by RegalTDP

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Posted

Does water flow better when it has multiple directions to flow, or when funneled into one pipe? Generally, water flows faster if in one big over-sized pipe...until the pipe breaks or gets clogged up. In that case, the water has no place to go and can cause serious problems. One must also consider the aesthetics of the over-sized pipe. If the drain system for a 2-acre roof is re-routed through one pipe, it may require ripping out some walls to fit the pipe and shoring up the roof structure near the inlet to accommodate the weight and volume of the additional water. It may not be pretty, it may not be nearly as attractive the perspective business patrons, and it may not be as cheap as it originally was suggested, but it sure is efficient....until it clogs up. Then we are all screwed.

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Posted (edited)

Concerns about this idea's impacts on congestion are legitimate. Jippy has the right idea, though. This would reduce congestion. By reducing the number of penetrations onto the main road by side roads through streets, traffic flow may actually improve. Look at Wealthy, which is a very busy, underbuilt East/West corridor: From Division to Eastern there are 27 streets (counting both "halves" of a street) dumping onto it, for a total of 10 four way intersections, 1 offset four way, and 2 traffic circle intersections.

Oscar Newman's concept of "Defensible Space" is further detailed at http://www.huduser.o...t/defensib.html. At this point, I've basically realised I stumbled into his idea, which has been attempted and documented with great success many times. The basic concept is this: forget about what "the public" wants for a minute, and treat people as they actually are: Give them the protected neighborhoods that people move to the suburbs to get. Give them the ability to control and protect their own individual environments. In brief, stop forcing people to move to the suburbs to feel safe! His ideas, I think, are very sound, and they have worked where they have been implemented. The best part is, they are stupid cheap to try out, because they literally consist of gates and barriers (in simplest form). This could be done, on a temporary trial basis, for next to nothing.

Concept drawing:

post-22351-0-99817100-1341076690_thumb.j

I took an area of the city consisting of about a square mile and applied the concept to it in the attachment. Thank you Microsoft Paint. Everything from Division to Eastern, and from Fulton to Franklin has been sliced into distinct neighborhoods (with some limits). Red outlines are the rough boundaries (the SW side of the map was tough because of all the demolition--I have no idea what is still there/occupied because the aerial maps are no longer accurate). The dark grey dots are the "gates" that create a cul-de-sac street. The blue dots are the entry points. The defensible space concept, to be "pure" requires one way in, and one way out. I violated this a bit to preserve some neighborhood continguity and resident accessibility, but in no circumstances are there more than two ways in and out of a neighborhood to a main street, and there are no direct routes from one main street to another main street. The 10 four ways intersections on Wealthy are reduced to ZERO. The offset intersection is eliminated. Through ways on Franklin are likewise eliminated. North-South traffic will have to re-route to Division and Eastern, where it clearly belongs anyway. East-West traffic still has Wealthy and Cherry. The only remaining North/South cut-through is Lafayette. Madison and College were tough to do, but in the long run, they really aren't needed. Madison dead ends into Cherry to the north, and college dead ends after not too long south past Franklin.

This also shows some challenges that can come up: The streets between Cherry and Wealthy are very long through streets. There is no way to cut them off from Cherry and create a contiguous neighborhood other than to just cul-de-sac individual streets. I elected to dump them onto Wealthy in order to separate them from Cherry, where there are huge crime-magnet apartment/condos/commercial that had to be isolated. A fence maty need to go up to really attack crime issues. In a perfect world, pedestrian through access would also be restricted from a crime/safety perspective. Orchard Hill off of Lake Drive is very similar to this, so it can work just fine. Never heard of Orchard Hill? Never driven down it? Exactly. Houses there are some of the most expensive and nicest in the City. Cherry Hill emerges largely intact, dumping out onto Union. Heritage Hill south of Wealthy is tough, too. I kept the whole thing intact, and integrated it with South Hill. From a contiguity perspective, this makes sense. From a neighborhood perspective, it might be too big. The little pocket neighborhoods north of Cherry worked perfectly. 4-5 gates apiece. No reason not to do this tomorrow with orange signs and barrels (other than fear). The neighborhood in the SE corner is again possibly too big. But I don't think they would mind being cut off from Eastern, and having Henry sliced off as a through street. Looking at this again, though, I can see that the school would need to be dealt with differently.

In any event, this is just an idea, but I cannot imagine how trying something like this would not be worth at least trying. The potential improvement to these neighborhoods, increases in property values and safety. and improvements in traffic flow could be huge. Yes, it would be more of a pain in the neck to navigate the residential streets for those who do not live on them, but this is precisely the point. It takes a car all of 2 minutes to go a mile. I think they'll survive a little extra driving.

EDIT: I have no idea how to get the diagram to show at proper size in line with the text. Anyone know?

So the idea is to close off some streets and funnel more traffic onto others? Will there be more traffic lights installed or four way stops or traffic circles? With increased traffic it is going to become harder to make left turns onto these busy streets. Plus, with more wear and tear due to increased traffic loads, there's going to be an increase in those lovely orange barrels.

[...] Personally, there is no better way to keep me out of downtown then to make it more difficult to get there.

Does water flow better when it has multiple directions to flow, or when funneled into one pipe? Generally, water flows faster if in one big over-sized pipe...until the pipe breaks or gets clogged up. In that case, the water has no place to go and can cause serious problems.

Edited by x99

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Posted

Isn't this going about it the wrong way? Aren't the natural neighborhoods to cul-de-sac the first ring suburban neighborhoods, say like Alger Heights? There, the model would work, since these are fundamentally the neighborhoods in competition with suburban settings. Another natural place to begin would be in the Marywood neighborhood. There are already some cul-de-sacs, so this would be a natural extension. Thinking in terms of Heritage Hill only invites the accusations of racism, as well as diminishing the ability of public safety services to respond.

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Posted (edited)

Isn't this going about it the wrong way? Aren't the natural neighborhoods to cul-de-sac the first ring suburban neighborhoods, say like Alger Heights? There, the model would work, since these are fundamentally the neighborhoods in competition with suburban settings. Another natural place to begin would be in the Marywood neighborhood. There are already some cul-de-sacs, so this would be a natural extension. Thinking in terms of Heritage Hill only invites the accusations of racism, as well as diminishing the ability of public safety services to respond.

A far as public safety goes, some of the neighborhoods that have done this, actually build a raised curb with a fence and gate, open on the side for pedestrians to pass through as normal. That way in an emergency situation, the responding department can use their key to open the gate and get through.

I have also read Defensible Spaces, and I get the concept, but it is mostly intended to help neighborhoods that are suffering from a high rate of crime caused by outside forces (for instance drug dealers coming in to conduct business in abandoned buildings). Closing off the neighborhood allows the people there to reclaim it as "theirs" because it has definite boundaries. Crime reportedly decreases because there is now only one way out, and it is therefore harder to evade police. Plus the drivers cutting through at unsafe speeds also stops.

That said, I don't think Grand rapids has any neighborhoods that are in anyway this desperate.

Edited by andrew.w

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Posted

I live in heritage hill and I think that this is an awful idea. one of the things that I like is the ability to select from multiple routes to get where I need to be. it increases traffic in the neighborhoods slightly but dramatically decreases traffic on main thoroughfares. Traffic can be slowed with calming measures. If people want limited access to neighborhoods then they should move to the suburbs.

I think that cul-de-sacs are fine in limited doses. orchard hill is a nice street, so is avalon terrace. I don't think that they are any nicer than many of the other streets in heritage hill, at least the ones that have a high percentage of single family homes.

The grid was designed refined to it's current state after the introduction of the automobile. I have't seen any cities in europe which have a grid system, and the older US cities have a mixed bag of layouts. I believe that the grid was introduce because it is the most efficient way to package people into any given space. before the automobile it was not easy to commute any significant distance. therefore it payed to be close to downtown or wherever your job was. This layout remains the most efficient way to package people and I believe is a under utilized layout today. people talk about being environmentally conscious, mass transit, hybrid cars, etc. but one way to really cut down on oil consumption is to put people close to where they work. I commute no more than 8 miles a day (round trip) but often it is much less than that depending on where I am going. compare that to someone who drives in from Ada or Rockford who has to drive 30 miles a day. that is three times as much road to build and maintain.

I got a little off topic but breaking up the neighborhood works against efficient commuting. bottlenecking traffic dramatically slows car commuting even if there isn't construction. it doesn't add much at off peak hours but during peak hours it makes it much more inconvenient. there are plenty of ways to slow traffic without blocking streets.

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looking at that map, I don't understand why you would want to isolate those neighborhoods. traffic in heritage hill south of fulton is not that busy. If you could slow/decrease traffic north of Fulton, it would be much more beneficial but it's busy due to the downtown traffic trying to get to the College exit and unless you wanted to make Lafayette 4 lanes and college both ways down to fulton it would be a disaster. of course making the above changes would be a disaster as well (at least for the neighborhood).

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A far as public safety goes, some of the neighborhoods that have done this, actually build a raised curb with a fence and gate, open on the side for pedestrians to pass through as normal. That way in an emergency situation, the responding department can use their key to open the gate and get through.

I have also read Defensible Spaces, and I get the concept, but it is mostly intended to help neighborhoods that are suffering from a high rate of crime caused by outside forces (for instance drug dealers coming in to conduct business in abandoned buildings). Closing off the neighborhood allows the people there to reclaim it as "theirs" because it has definite boundaries. Crime reportedly decreases because there is now only one way out, and it is therefore harder to evade police. Plus the drivers cutting through at unsafe speeds also stops.

That said, I don't think Grand rapids has any neighborhoods that are in anyway this desperate.

Ha, yeah right. Talk to the GR police dept about that.

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I live in heritage hill and I think that this is an awful idea. one of the things that I like is the ability to select from multiple routes to get where I need to be. it increases traffic in the neighborhoods slightly but dramatically decreases traffic on main thoroughfares. Traffic can be slowed with calming measures. If people want limited access to neighborhoods then they should move to the suburbs.

I think that cul-de-sacs are fine in limited doses. orchard hill is a nice street, so is avalon terrace. I don't think that they are any nicer than many of the other streets in heritage hill, at least the ones that have a high percentage of single family homes.

The grid was designed refined to it's current state after the introduction of the automobile. I have't seen any cities in europe which have a grid system, and the older US cities have a mixed bag of layouts. I believe that the grid was introduce because it is the most efficient way to package people into any given space. before the automobile it was not easy to commute any significant distance. therefore it payed to be close to downtown or wherever your job was. This layout remains the most efficient way to package people and I believe is a under utilized layout today. people talk about being environmentally conscious, mass transit, hybrid cars, etc. but one way to really cut down on oil consumption is to put people close to where they work. I commute no more than 8 miles a day (round trip) but often it is much less than that depending on where I am going. compare that to someone who drives in from Ada or Rockford who has to drive 30 miles a day. that is three times as much road to build and maintain.

I got a little off topic but breaking up the neighborhood works against efficient commuting. bottlenecking traffic dramatically slows car commuting even if there isn't construction. it doesn't add much at off peak hours but during peak hours it makes it much more inconvenient. there are plenty of ways to slow traffic without blocking streets.

I think you should consider how individual homeowners and potential homeowners would feel about the idea, instead of just from a "central planning" perspective.

In reality, Grand Rapids needs to start being more innovative about how it appeals to multiple types of homeowners (families, singles, retirees, unmarried couples, etc.) It can't possibly be sustained by appealing to just one or two groups. No city can, for that matter. Take a look at any city in the U.S. and while growth may be happening in some areas, most census tracts in most cities are losing population. Probably those areas that traditionally appealed to families with kids.

Here's a good illustration, looking at Chicago. The blue means population growth, yellow/brown means population loss.

post-2672-0-63598300-1341243722_thumb.jp

Here's GR:

post-2672-0-77630400-1341244089_thumb.jp

You can toggle around to look at and see census data for the rest of the U.S. cities:

http://projects.nyti...census/2010/map

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I had to check my calendar to see if it was April 1st. You can not honestly be serious about this.

Is the original premise to make it better for biking and pedestrians....at the expense of all other traffic? Aren't we trying to make our streets better multi-modal infrastructure that can accomodate ALL forms of transportation? This would be a knee-jerk reaction to allegedly fix something while breaking something else.

Proposing cul-de-sacs to decrease crime rates and make defensible space? How does that work? You can't be serious that a bunch of lifeless dead end streets are going to make neighborhoods safe. You need activity on and adjacent to the street to give a place a sense of safety. And I highly doubt that most neighborhoods in this city are in such dire need of gating themselves off to make them safer. Safety is a red-herring in almost all cases in this city. It already is safe.

Creating cul-de-sacs out of our neighborhood streets is going in the wrong direction. This is a city, not the suburbs and trying to turn it into the suburbs will only compromise the whole thing. Cities are complex organisms that only work when the diversity of space, connections, places, people, and uses are intermingled into a fine-grained tapestry. Cutting off residential uses into enclaves severes this tapestry and starts a systemic break-down. We have examples of this surrounding us....all these dead suburbs, full of nothing but sterility and boredom. Life exists in them, but only in pods of nothingness.

And this whole idea that traffic would increase on trunk streets "marginally" is simply not true. All the traffic would have to route onto the arterials, so you end up with streets like East Paris, 28th Street, 44th Street, and just about any other car sewer that you can think of. We would have to make Wealthy and Cherry 6 lane arterials. Again, we would be destroying a part of the fine-grained tapestry that exists by replacing it with homogonized solutions of two or three street types.

The grid has proven itself. It is efficient, adaptable, and flexible. It makes connecting places and people easier. It de-centralizes and absorbs traffic and leads to less auto congestion.

The grid is not a detriment to property values or economic development. Manhattan, a highly structured grid, has the highest property values in the United States. Almost all great cities have a highly sophisticated grid network...and are certainly not suffering from low property values.

And this idea that people are leaving the city in droves? The city is on the rebound. People want to live and work close to downtown. The closer the better. There are waiting lists for downtown apartments....we can not satisfy demand. The homes in Heritage Hill continue to hold value and do not stay on the market for very long....they are being purchased by people relocating from Chicago or LA....professionals with kids and families - people who are fed up with long commutes and sterile "builder beige" suburbs....and life at the end of a cul-de-sac.

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I had to check my calendar to see if it was April 1st. You can not honestly be serious about this.

Is the original premise to make it better for biking and pedestrians....at the expense of all other traffic? Aren't we trying to make our streets better multi-modal infrastructure that can accomodate ALL forms of transportation? This would be a knee-jerk reaction to allegedly fix something while breaking something else.

Proposing cul-de-sacs to decrease crime rates and make defensible space? How does that work? You can't be serious that a bunch of lifeless dead end streets are going to make neighborhoods safe. You need activity on and adjacent to the street to give a place a sense of safety. And I highly doubt that most neighborhoods in this city are in such dire need of gating themselves off to make them safer. Safety is a red-herring in almost all cases in this city. It already is safe.

Creating cul-de-sacs out of our neighborhood streets is going in the wrong direction. This is a city, not the suburbs and trying to turn it into the suburbs will only compromise the whole thing. Cities are complex organisms that only work when the diversity of space, connections, places, people, and uses are intermingled into a fine-grained tapestry. Cutting off residential uses into enclaves severes this tapestry and starts a systemic break-down. We have examples of this surrounding us....all these dead suburbs, full of nothing but sterility and boredom. Life exists in them, but only in pods of nothingness.

And this whole idea that traffic would increase on trunk streets "marginally" is simply not true. All the traffic would have to route onto the arterials, so you end up with streets like East Paris, 28th Street, 44th Street, and just about any other car sewer that you can think of. We would have to make Wealthy and Cherry 6 lane arterials. Again, we would be destroying a part of the fine-grained tapestry that exists by replacing it with homogonized solutions of two or three street types.

The grid has proven itself. It is efficient, adaptable, and flexible. It makes connecting places and people easier. It de-centralizes and absorbs traffic and leads to less auto congestion.

The grid is not a detriment to property values or economic development. Manhattan, a highly structured grid, has the highest property values in the United States. Almost all great cities have a highly sophisticated grid network...and are certainly not suffering from low property values.

And this idea that people are leaving the city in droves? The city is on the rebound. People want to live and work close to downtown. The closer the better. There are waiting lists for downtown apartments....we can not satisfy demand. The homes in Heritage Hill continue to hold value and do not stay on the market for very long....they are being purchased by people relocating from Chicago or LA....professionals with kids and families - people who are fed up with long commutes and sterile "builder beige" suburbs....and life at the end of a cul-de-sac.

The problem is is that no one likes the grid anymore. It's essentially becoming a place for the people who have no other options due to income restraints. I bet I can even do an inverse correlation graph between gridded neighborhoods and household incomes. And how does having cars fly down your street at 30 mph create a pleasant livable environment?

I think cul-de-sacs could be created on every other street, maybe not every street. Which would not have as large of an impact on traffic. Pedestrians and bikes could still get through the dead ends, via sidewalks, etc..

If you take a street like Lake Drive, I don't really think creating cul-de-sacs along it is going to make it any more busy than it already is. All the people who live along the sidestreets have one thing in mind: "get me to Lake Drive so I can get downtown, or out to Cascade."

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The point of the concept isn't really which neighborhood it is, so let's not focus on that. I just picked something that had a heavily trafficed through street, with lots of cut-through traffic, and which I was reasonably familiar with. While cut-through traffic may moderately decrease traffic on thoroughfares, that isn't the issue. The issue is whether the thoroughfares could handle the additional traffic with the cut-through traffic diverted. And don't forget--you'd still be able to walk or bike. While you might like the ability to select from multiple routes, do families with kids that live there appreciate your "choosing" to cruise down their street doing 35? A suburban family would not tolerate this as a lifestyle. Why are they wrong?

What I'm taking away for your second post is basically an "It's not that bad, so why do anything more about it--let's just concentrate on where it's really bad." If all you do is tend to the worst, what you end up with is a city trapped in mediocrity. That's no way to get suburbanites to move back.

I live in heritage hill and I think that this is an awful idea. one of the things that I like is the ability to select from multiple routes to get where I need to be. it increases traffic in the neighborhoods slightly but dramatically decreases traffic on main thoroughfares. Traffic can be slowed with calming measures. If people want limited access to neighborhoods then they should move to the suburbs.

Edited by x99

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Proposing cul-de-sacs to decrease crime rates and make defensible space? How does that work? You can't be serious that a bunch of lifeless dead end streets are going to make neighborhoods safe. You need activity on and adjacent to the street to give a place a sense of safety. And I highly doubt that most neighborhoods in this city are in such dire need of gating themselves off to make them safer. Safety is a red-herring in almost all cases in this city. It already is safe.

This has been empirically proven repeatedly. Your argument is basically that of the New Urbanists, who have never been able to provide any empirical evidence that through streets create "life" that makes people safer. Here's an extreme example, but it illustrates how stupid politicians are because they listen to fluffy nonsense like that you're spouting instead of demanding evidence: http://www.crimesolutions.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?ID=124. In the1990s they reduced property, drug, and other crime massively in a small area in LA. It cost about $2,000.00 in parts. Then they took those parts away, for reasons unknown. Crime returned to pre-program levels. The politicians killed people and caused robbery and violence, plain and simple. Installing cul-de-sacs, on the other hands, works just about everywhere its ever been tried ... the only usual complaint is "racism" and "elitism" by the snarky New Urbanist types who think they know best.

And you think Grand Rapids is safe? Are you off your rocker? Compared to the suburbs, its a war-zone here. Even if its just a car stereo, it's a lot harder to do a smash and grab when you have to drive or run through a whole neighborhood (after first driving into it over the same route to do the crime), with no escape paths.

suburbs will only compromise the whole thing. Cities are complex organisms that only work when the diversity of space, connections, places, people, and uses are intermingled into a fine-grained tapestry. Cutting off residential uses into enclaves severes this tapestry and starts a systemic break-down. We have examples of this surrounding us....all these dead suburbs, full of nothing but sterility and boredom. Life exists in them, but only in pods of nothingness.

Well, then. I'm at a loss for words in the face of your divinely nuanced argument about tapestries and pods of nothingness.

arterials, so you end up with streets like East Paris, 28th Street, 44th Street, and just about any other car sewer that you can think of. We would have to make Wealthy and Cherry 6 lane arterials. Again, we would be destroying a part of the fine-grained tapestry that exists by replacing it with homogonized solutions of two or three street types.

And the evidence for this is what? All of that traffic traversing the side streets eventually makes its way onto an arterial anyway, because the non-arterials come to an end. Read Jippy's post above. He's dead on with that. The only reason you need the side streets are as backups and cut-throughs for people that want to speed down them to skip the arterials. And cul-de-sacs are not the only solution. That's just what happens when you have to dead-end a street. Ideally, once inside of the neighborhood, many through streets could be preserved to maintain accessibility.

closer the better. There are waiting lists for downtown apartments....we can not satisfy demand. The homes in Heritage Hill continue to hold value and do not stay on the market for very long....they are being purchased by people relocating from Chicago or LA....professionals with kids and families - people who are fed up with long commutes and sterile "builder beige" suburbs....and life at the end of a cul-de-sac.

More like they're shocked you can buy 3500 square foot houses in excellent condition for under $300k all day long. What also helped spur this idea was my tour of this year's Parade of Homes. You can't buy squat in a suburb for $300k. In the city you can buy a palace that would cost $600k minimum in the 'burbs--and that's 20 miles from work! You can buy a beautiful place in Eastown for well under $140k. Property values in GR are terrible. Just because they aren't the bombed out levels of the 1970s-1980s when there was a giant crack epidemic doesn't mean they're good. They are still so terrible that it should be glaringly evident that we need to do something to make the city more desirable.

Edited by x99

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And this idea that people are leaving the city in droves? The city is on the rebound. People want to live and work close to downtown. The closer the better. There are waiting lists for downtown apartments....we can not satisfy demand. The homes in Heritage Hill continue to hold value and do not stay on the market for very long....they are being purchased by people relocating from Chicago or LA....professionals with kids and families - people who are fed up with long commutes and sterile "builder beige" suburbs....and life at the end of a cul-de-sac.

I'd be careful with that theory Mark. While some parts of the city are on the rebound, only two census tracts showed any real growth in the city of GR in the last census 2000 - 2010. Both were downtown or very near downtown (and gained about 1000 people total). 1000 people for downtown was part of the overall growth strategy for the DDA, catapulted by Brownfield Tax Credits, Ren Zones and other low income housing tax credits. The rest of GR shrank by about 10000 since 2000. Even areas that people might think of as "fast growing" in the city shrank, like Midtown and East Hills (East Hills shrank by 16% in those 10 years). The city's income tax was raised back in 2010 to make up for this, from 1.3% to 1.5%.

Yes, there's a waiting list for several of the apartment complexes downtown, but that's being driven by the fact that people (mostly young college grads) are hesitant to buy in the area.

There are also a slew of people moving to the suburban Grand Rapids area from big cities like LA and Chicago, who are just sick of the commute times (not cul-de-sacs). In fact, they all want cul-de-sacs and big wooded lots, which is not what they could afford in LA or chicago.

In order to call Grand Rapids "progressive" I think the city really needs to think progressively. At a very minimum it should be retaining residents and businesses, which it's not doing very well (outside of downtown).

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This has been empirically proven repeatedly. Your argument is basically that of the New Urbanists, who have never been able to provide any empirical evidence that through streets create "life" that makes people safer. Here's an extreme example, but it illustrates how stupid politicians are because they listen to fluffy nonsense like that you're spouting instead of demanding evidence: http://www.crimesolutions.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?ID=124. In the1990s they reduced property, drug, and other crime massively in a small area in LA. It cost about $2,000.00 in parts. Then they took those parts away, for reasons unknown. Crime returned to pre-program levels. The politicians killed people and caused robbery and violence, plain and simple. Installing cul-de-sacs, on the other hands, works just about everywhere its ever been tried ... the only usual complaint is "racism" and "elitism" by the snarky New Urbanist types who think they know best.

And you think Grand Rapids is safe? Are you off your rocker? Compared to the suburbs, its a war-zone here. Even if its just a car stereo, it's a lot harder to do a smash and grab when you have to drive or run through a whole neighborhood (after first driving into it over the same route to do the crime), with no escape paths.

Well, then. I'm at a loss for words in the face of your divinely nuanced argument about tapestries and pods of nothingness.

And the evidence for this is what? All of that traffic traversing the side streets eventually makes its way onto an arterial anyway, because the non-arterials come to an end. Read Jippy's post above. He's dead on with that. The only reason you need the side streets are as backups and cut-throughs for people that want to speed down them to skip the arterials. And cul-de-sacs are not the only solution. That's just what happens when you have to dead-end a street. Ideally, once inside of the neighborhood, many through streets could be preserved to maintain accessibility.

More like they're shocked you can buy 3500 square foot houses in excellent condition for under $300k all day long. What also helped spur this idea was my tour of this year's Parade of Homes. You can't buy squat in a suburb for $300k. In the city you can buy a palace that would cost $600k minimum in the 'burbs--and that's 20 miles from work! You can buy a beautiful place in Eastown for well under $140k. Property values in GR are terrible. Just because they aren't the bombed out levels of the 1970s-1980s when there was a giant crack epidemic doesn't mean they're good. They are still so terrible that it should be glaringly evident that we need to do something to make the city more desirable.

Dead ends and Cul-de-sacs do increase crime and decrease desirability. this was covered in tim harfords "the Logic of Life" increased activity actually decreases crime.

I would argue that grand rapids is safe. I live in Grand rapids and I have had less shootings in my neighborhood than an associate that lives in rockford. we haven't had any trouble with crime at all. statistically speaking there is about a one third of the violent crime that Rochester, NY has, where I used to live.

GRdad, from the perspective of a person with a family I would disagree that cul-de-sacs are preferable. I live in a grid and I prefer it that way. if your complaint is traffic speed there are plenty of ways to slow down traffic without resorting to blocking off streets.

I would say that the differential in housing values between GR and EGR or Forest hills is almost exclusively due to schools. there is a tax difference between forest hills and GR but that disappears with EGR due to the high property taxes. EGR is the perfect example of a city with largely grid layout where there doesn't seem to be a problem with crime or high traffic. EGR has arguably the highest property values in the area.

The problem is is that no one likes the grid anymore. It's essentially becoming a place for the people who have no other options due to income restraints. I bet I can even do an inverse correlation graph between gridded neighborhoods and household incomes. And how does having cars fly down your street at 30 mph create a pleasant livable environment?

I like the grid and can afford to live pretty much anywhere. I'm not the only one on my street who feels that way either.

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