x99

Should Grand Rapids Convert to Cul-de-Sacs?

102 posts in this topic

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.

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.

I hate to tell you jas49503, but having a previous life in real estate and development, and having worked with probably over 1000 home seekers (some from here, many moving here from other places), most people want private (big) wooded lots, and streets with little to no traffic (no through streets). Most of the homes in the city are old and in much need of repair, have small closets and small bathrooms, and small kitchens. That's a big reason why their values are lower.

And just to use EGR as an illustration, yes some parts are gridded, but many parts aren't what you would call "through streets." In addition, for people who like older homes, it's a chance to get an older home in a well kept neighborhood where there is virtually "no crime." If people love cars driving by all day, then why are homes on Lake Drive the most affordable? Or on Breton?

And when were there shootings in Rockford?

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Who spiked the kool aid on this board lately?

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Who spiked the kool aid on this board lately?

Ha, you're going to have to elaborate on that one. It always seems spiked to me.

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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).

Progressive or innovative thinking, unfortunately, is not something we have done a very good job with. There is definitely a sense of "We're better than those suburbanites and have nothing to learn from them... they're all just wrong!" Ultimately, that will not serve us well as a city. I have lived in cities for nearly a decade, but there has always been one thing that makes me want to move out: Constant traffic blasting down the street trying to avoid stoplights, and being burgled. The two are not unrelated. I don't know if cul-de-sacs are the answer--they may not be--but I am quite certain that all of these through streets are an absolutely stupid relic that we are fools to continue preserving if we want to keep people here who could afford to live elsewhere.

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.

The "Logic of Life" appears to be a book by an economist containing little snippets about economic oddities. It certainly wasn't an in depth study of crime rates and street design. There is some truth to it, though, but typically in a very suburban environment where you're dealing with very long, deep cul-de-sacs with few homes on them and thoroughly shielded from view. This indeed results in a heavy seclusion that can make a B&E easier. Conversely, however, when you're dealing with an "urban" dead end or cul-de sacs that has a high density and straight, relatively short cul-de-sacs, crime does show a significant reduction in most studied instances.

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.

I used to blame it on schools, too, but then I did the math. Schools don't even begin to account for the difference if you amortize out the cost of a private education over time for your typical 2-child EGR/FH family, and factor in the property tax differential that accompanies the housing price difference. Living in the city still saves a small fortune over time, although the income tax certainly is a major negative factor (mark that up for another controversial topic for another day: capping the income tax on the first $90k of income.) So far as EGR's grid, there are actually very few "grid pattern" streets, and they are far and away some of the cheapest to buy on compared to what you get in return.

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.

True, but there are a lot more people that could also afford to live where you do, but instead choose to pay dramatically more for comparable houses in the suburbs. That signifies a lack of demand for city housing. While I love all of our discussions of light rails, urban malls, bike lanes, and what not, I think we need to address the fundamental problem: There is very low demand for houses in the city which depresses prices. Granted, street configuration is a minor issue, but it is one that has not really been addressed. Crime is another, but may be interrelated to our street configuration, at least to an extent. If we could reduce traffic while decreasing crime, I think it could be a nice "two birds with one stone" scenario, or at least worth a few test cases.

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I used to blame it on schools, too, but then I did the math. Schools don't even begin to account for the difference if you amortize out the cost of a private education over time for your typical 2-child EGR/FH family, and factor in the property tax differential that accompanies the housing price difference. Living in the city still saves a small fortune over time, although the income tax certainly is a major negative factor (mark that up for another controversial topic for another day: capping the income tax on the first $90k of income.) So far as EGR's grid, there are actually very few "grid pattern" streets, and they are far and away some of the cheapest to buy on compared to what you get in return.

When we were considering buying a house in the Ottawa Hills neighborhood, I did a fair amount of Googling on the neighborhood and came across a study comparing property values between the GR and EGR halves of the neighborhood. This neighborhood provides an excellent apples-to-apples comparison between the two cities: virtually identical housing stock, neighborhood layout, and location, split almost exactly in half between city and suburb. The study, which also included surveys of neighborhood residents, concluded that the vast majority of the difference is due a disparity of city services (i.e. education; I don't think that sidewalk snowplowing and leaf removal account for much).

http://www.gvsu.edu/cms3/assets/C6D78A67-0AEF-0264-A38619EC6FB0793A/Tiebout_Dynamics_2005Reifel.pdf

I think there are a couple of issues with your reasoning: First of all, many people won't consider private schools for various reasons. Also, you're assuming that people will take the time to do the math.

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I hate to tell you jas49503, but having a previous life in real estate and development, and having worked with probably over 1000 home seekers (some from here, many moving here from other places), most people want private (big) wooded lots, and streets with little to no traffic (no through streets). Most of the homes in the city are old and in much need of repair, have small closets and small bathrooms, and small kitchens. That's a big reason why their values are lower.

And just to use EGR as an illustration, yes some parts are gridded, but many parts aren't what you would call "through streets." In addition, for people who like older homes, it's a chance to get an older home in a well kept neighborhood where there is virtually "no crime." If people love cars driving by all day, then why are homes on Lake Drive the most affordable? Or on Breton?

And when were there shootings in Rockford?

the shootings in rockford were several weeks ago. it was a single incident, more of a drive by shooting with multiple shots. I don't think that there were any injuries which is why it was never reported. the police came out and took a statement but I don't know what ever happened after that. this was all witnessed by my coworker.

you are right regarding people wanting big lots and shiny new houses (at least until their shoddy construction shows it's true colors) I have several associates that when looking for a home never even considered GR. this was partly due to their realtors not showing them homes in GR (lower commissions?) but also due to may peoples misunderstanding of what it takes to own an old home. fear of deferred maintenance is a primary concern. the other overriding concern is the schools. I would wager that busy streets is not a primary concern. people don't like living on streets with a lot of traffic and I never claimed that they did. The point that I am trying to make is that, outside of some through streets (lake drive, lafayette, etc) traffic is not that busy. plymouth or cambridge in EGR is a lot busier than a street like logan or morris in heritage hill. they certainly don't seem to be suffering due to traffic.

with regards to home condition, it sort of like the chicken and egg dilemma. it doesn't make sense to invest a lot of money in a house that won't be worth much but the homes won't be worth much unless there is a significant investment in them. additionally, you need to have someone living in the home who can afford to do the needed renovations.

Edited by jas49503

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primary concern. the other overriding concern is the schools. I would wager that busy streets is not a primary concern. people don't like living on streets with a lot of traffic and I never claimed that they did. The point that I am trying to make is that, outside of some through streets (lake drive, lafayette, etc) traffic is not that busy. plymouth or cambridge in EGR is a lot busier than a street like logan or morrison in heritage hill. they certainly don't seem to be suffering due to traffic.

As GRDad noted, the prices on Plymouth and other major through streets do suffer. I reviewed the recent sales data, and concur with this conclusion. Cambridge isn't all that busy, and the lots are 100x200+ with the houses set far back from the road and with copious yards. By my observation, due to the proximity of Lake Drive to most of the streets in the grid-pattern areas of EGR, "cut through" traffic is relatively minimal. There is virtually no reason to cut through.

The schools are another significant concern--and arguably the primariy factor of a price differential--but that isn't the entire answer. Assuming a current tuition rate of $7,000 per year, starting 6 years from now (time to move in to kids in school), growing at 3.00% per year for 12 years, and using a 6% discount rate (for this any every other calculation), the present value of the schooling is $117,818.00 for two kids, assuming 12 years of private school. We'll round it to $140k to keep things easy. That, however, isn't the whole equation. Let's use organsnyder's example of Ottawa Hills. The study he cited is a nice starting point. They postited only three factors for an observed price difference, and ascribed to house prices in Ottawa Hills because other variables were controlled for. But, does that hold true in the rest of the city?

All else being equal, we could simply "decapitalize" that schooling cost from the price of the GR house. That decapitalization, however, carries with it a set of a tax consequences. Assuming we can just whack it out of the price (which is not entirely accurate for lower-priced housing areas, but will simplify things), it results in a hypothetical property tax reduction for GR of $2,100.00 per year (note: all figures are rounded). Over a 40 year term of residence, the present value of this (assuming a 3 percent house price increase) is $50,000.00. City income tax, however, adds a negative $13,000.00 (assuming $85k income). BUT, EGR also has higher property tax rates. Assuming the EGR residence costs $400k and carries 9 mills higher Property taxes, long term, this adds an additional $1,900/yr that work out to a present value of about $45,000.00. Add all of this up, and the residence in the city ought to cost only $40,000.00 less. Generally, this isn't true. Add a third child and we're at $100k. Double the family income to $170k, and we're at $112,000.00. Even then, on the "high end" houses, the anticipated value differential still doesn't touch reality--at least not on the high end, where we would clearly be when using this figures.

What all of this suggests, is that something other than schools is very wrong in GR. "It's the schools, stupid" is a tempting line of argument, but the math doesn't bear it out (until you start tacking on lots and lots of kids or massive amounts of income). While most people may not actually do the math to this extent, they still tend to be fairly rational, and aren't going to pay a $200k premium for schools and other benefits worth, at most $112,000.00 on a discounted basis.

Now, my original point had nothing really to do with economics other than the side argument that it could hypothetically increase property values, but its interesting to see that the math does not disprove the theory. When Oscan Newman was doing his defensible space work, one of his complaints/observations was that it tended to be used as a "cure" in areas that were beyond hope, and willing to do anything to try to improve quality of life. My point is that we shouldn't wait so long: Reducing traffic and crime are goals that we should try to achieve NOW to increase desirability, not just avert disaster. For the cost of just moving a few concrete barricades into place, we could test out the theory on a temporary basis. There aren't a lot of things with great potential we can do in this City that cheaply.

What I'm still waiting for is some sort of objective proof or reasoned argument that this idea is full of hot air. So far, I'm not sure we've heard it (and if its out there, I'd love to hear it).

Edited by x99

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This is a ridiculously long-winded way to just say "We should do more to help GR neighborhoods than only improve the school system." Duh, no kidding. But I also agree with Jas that schools are the primary concern. Nothing in this post contradicts that in any way. And remember, I'm one of the ones defending you on this idea.

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^

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This is a ridiculously long-winded way to just say "We should do more to help GR neighborhoods than only improve the school system." Duh, no kidding. But I also agree with Jas that schools are the primary concern. Nothing in this post contradicts that in any way. And remember, I'm one of the ones defending you on this idea.

Eh. I like studies and numbers and get carried away. :) Back to the main point, what's the biggest obstacle to doing something like this on a trial basis to see if it works?

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As GRDad noted, the prices on Plymouth and other major through streets do suffer. I reviewed the recent sales data, and concur with this conclusion. Cambridge isn't all that busy, and the lots are 100x200+ with the houses set far back from the road and with copious yards. By my observation, due to the proximity of Lake Drive to most of the streets in the grid-pattern areas of EGR, "cut through" traffic is relatively minimal. There is virtually no reason to cut through.

The schools are another significant concern--and arguably the primariy factor of a price differential--but that isn't the entire answer. Assuming a current tuition rate of $7,000 per year, starting 6 years from now (time to move in to kids in school), growing at 3.00% per year for 12 years, and using a 6% discount rate (for this any every other calculation), the present value of the schooling is $117,818.00 for two kids, assuming 12 years of private school. We'll round it to $140k to keep things easy. That, however, isn't the whole equation. Let's use organsnyder's example of Ottawa Hills. The study he cited is a nice starting point. They postited only three factors for an observed price difference, and ascribed to house prices in Ottawa Hills because other variables were controlled for. But, does that hold true in the rest of the city?

All else being equal, we could simply "decapitalize" that schooling cost from the price of the GR house. That decapitalization, however, carries with it a set of a tax consequences. Assuming we can just whack it out of the price (which is not entirely accurate for lower-priced housing areas, but will simplify things), it results in a hypothetical property tax reduction for GR of $2,100.00 per year (note: all figures are rounded). Over a 40 year term of residence, the present value of this (assuming a 3 percent house price increase) is $50,000.00. City income tax, however, adds a negative $13,000.00 (assuming $85k income). BUT, EGR also has higher property tax rates. Assuming the EGR residence costs $400k and carries 9 mills higher Property taxes, long term, this adds an additional $1,900/yr that work out to a present value of about $45,000.00. Add all of this up, and the residence in the city ought to cost only $40,000.00 less. Generally, this isn't true. Add a third child and we're at $100k. Double the family income to $170k, and we're at $112,000.00. Even then, on the "high end" houses, the anticipated value differential still doesn't touch reality--at least not on the high end, where we would clearly be when using this figures.

What all of this suggests, is that something other than schools is very wrong in GR. "It's the schools, stupid" is a tempting line of argument, but the math doesn't bear it out (until you start tacking on lots and lots of kids or massive amounts of income). While most people may not actually do the math to this extent, they still tend to be fairly rational, and aren't going to pay a $200k premium for schools and other benefits worth, at most $112,000.00 on a discounted basis.

Now, my original point had nothing really to do with economics other than the side argument that it could hypothetically increase property values, but its interesting to see that the math does not disprove the theory. When Oscan Newman was doing his defensible space work, one of his complaints/observations was that it tended to be used as a "cure" in areas that were beyond hope, and willing to do anything to try to improve quality of life. My point is that we shouldn't wait so long: Reducing traffic and crime are goals that we should try to achieve NOW to increase desirability, not just avert disaster. For the cost of just moving a few concrete barricades into place, we could test out the theory on a temporary basis. There aren't a lot of things with great potential we can do in this City that cheaply.

What I'm still waiting for is some sort of objective proof or reasoned argument that this idea is full of hot air. So far, I'm not sure we've heard it (and if its out there, I'd love to hear it).

I don't think that prices on plymouth are depressed relative to other locations. in fact they are usually higher. this is partly due to the fact that they are much larger than many of the other sections of EGR. Most of EGR is comprised of streets that could be cut through. the argument that you give about cambridge and others being in close proximity to lake dr. and therefore having less traffic could be made for any number of streets in GR, in fact pretty much all of them as traffic counts seem very low (at least from my observation) for all but some select trough streets (lake, cherry, wealthy, etc.).

I personally don't want to a have to meander through a bunch of side streets. I live in the very neighborhood that you are proposing to alter. there are numerous causes for decreased property values and the grid is very far down on the list. People who want to live in cul de sacs already do. they relish the banality of suburban strip malls and the competition between helicopter parents who start planning their 5th grade graduation a year in advance. not to mention weird child predator/stalkers (this is from my co-workers suburban neighborhood - rockford.) and creepy neighbors who force them to move to ada where they can't see any neighbors (EGR). I've got some weird neighbors too, I won't deny that, but nothing that would make me want to move. they couldn't be stopped by barricades one lives behind me on another street and cuts through my yard and another lives in my alley way (on a rather rough cobble stone streets that nobody in their right mind uses to cut through). neither drive but they do keep an eye on the neighborhood.

If you want to work on improving property values you start with the schools ( or at least improving the reputation of the schools. GR has some of the best schools in the state, a fact which alway seems to amaze people when they hear it) and progress to decreasing crime ( a function of the number/concentration of low income population), increasing the ownership rate of housing, improving the condition of the housing stock ( which would improve with increased ownership rates by people with means to maintain their homes), and improving access to basic services like grocery stores. there is nothing you can do about the size of the yards or small bathrooms and funky layouts of the homes. I think that EGR proves that those factors are not exclusive of high property values. altering the street layout won't have any effect on the aforementioned factors. In fact, if you would read the Logic of Life you would find that his analysis of street activity and crime is more the just little snippets of economic oddities. It doesn't address the exact topic of streets. the case study that it presents is a park but the principles are the same.

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Eh. I like studies and numbers and get carried away. :) Back to the main point, what's the biggest obstacle to doing something like this on a trial basis to see if it works?

As I mentioned before, the City of Wyoming did implement something like this between 28th , 32nd, Clyde Park and US 131. if it had been a glowing sucess, I would have thought they would have done more areas. It takes $$$ plus there are "winners"and "losers" ,those that get a dead end and and those that doen't so it's not a unanimous "we want this"

I've been on both sides, "they" wanted to do this in my neighborhood. I was going to be on a cul-de-sac, uphill in the winter and had to go way around the block for every trip. I was opposed. I had bought my house knowing it was on a "cut thru" so the traffic didn't bother me - 2000 cars a day in a subdivision. A week or so after the meeting, the cops ran radar in front of my house. 2nd ticket written was for 45 in a 25 and went to the guy most vocal about "all the speeder"s at the meeting. The biggest impact on the cut thru traffic (cut it in more than half) was when the city widened the 4 lane road to 5 lanes and the 2 lane road with gravel shoulders to 4 lane curb and gutter. Drivers no longer cut thru to avoid the main roads.

I also got to take the heat on a proposed road improvement at a public meeting. I knew the big complaint was speeding so I did my homework. I had the necessary graphics to show that the "speeders" were their own neighbors. I let them vent for a while and then pulled out the map and showed them that the folks they were complaining about lived right in the neighborhood. (There was only 1 other way out and it was way out of the way) That ended that discussion since they couldn't argue any different with me.

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I think the good point that Raildudes dad just brought up is that we are really going about this backwards. Basically some of us are saying "We like cul-de-sac'd streets; where is some place in Grand Rapids that we can implement them to solve some perceived problems?" The better methodology is to identify a neighborhood with a problem, such as the Wyoming example, then study the specifics of the problem carefully before coming up with a solution. Even Oscar Newman, who created the Defensible Spaces approach (way back in 1972) lamented that many communities have attempted to implement his ideas either without following through or by applying them to the wrong situations.

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What I'm finding very interesting is that responses to this on even a trial basis to see if it will work seem to be along the lines of "don't bother, because it won't work, and people won't like it." I think that rather misses the point of a trial. Two guys with a pickup and a flatbed full or orange and wide road barrier signs could set it up in a day, and if it doesn't work, rip it back down.

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.

To andrew.w: Newman's usual critique was that the cities always wanted to compromise his concept by leaving too many ways in and out, or making neighborhoods too large, or leaving too much unassigned common space (in the context of housing projects). Thus, they got some of the benefits, but not all.

I get the attachment to the grid--I really do--but if we want to make central city areas safer and more desirable, we're going to have to use new methods in the area we've already got. "Cul-de-sacs creation" obviously wouldn't be the way to sell it--that's just my way to generate some controversy and interest :) Cul-de-sacs are, technically, an undesired byproduct of the real goal of making residential neighborhoods less friendly to cars and crooks so that they are more friendly to people.

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Sorry if I was too curt before :thumbsup:

I agree with Raildudes that residents are typically the worst speeders in their own neighborhoods. I grew up in a curvy-street, cul-de-sac-heavy area in Kentwood, and the ones who had to wind their way from the depths of the neighborhood to the main road drove the most recklessly during rush hour, since they were in a hurry. 30 MPH is nothing. We lived on a straightaway section of our street, and morning commuters would accelerate past our house like they were trying to activate a flux capacitor and travel through time.

To get this started, I'd think you would have to find a single neighborhood association or even sub-neighborhood where the residents can support this. One neighborhood would have to be the guinea pig regardless. If the city started doing plopping down barriers, residents would be up in arms. The neighborhood should feel empowered to initiate this plan. That's more in the spirit of defensible space anyway.

I also agree with Raildudes that the households who happen to find themselves next to barriers will not be happy.

Wasn't the Auburn Hills neighborhood designed this way? It's a very small area, so I don't know if it could be considered "defended" or not... I don't know if the residents could even tell the difference. But I wonder how the quality of the neighborhood compares to the others around it.

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I don't think that prices on plymouth are depressed relative to other locations. in fact they are usually higher. this is partly due to the fact that they are much larger than many of the other sections of EGR. Most of EGR is comprised of streets that could be cut through. the argument that you give about cambridge and others being in close proximity to lake dr. and therefore having less traffic could be made for any number of streets in GR, in fact pretty much all of them as traffic counts seem very low (at least from my observation) for all but some select trough streets (lake, cherry, wealthy, etc.).

I personally don't want to a have to meander through a bunch of side streets. I live in the very neighborhood that you are proposing to alter. there are numerous causes for decreased property values and the grid is very far down on the list. People who want to live in cul de sacs already do. they relish the banality of suburban strip malls and the competition between helicopter parents who start planning their 5th grade graduation a year in advance. not to mention weird child predator/stalkers (this is from my co-workers suburban neighborhood - rockford.) and creepy neighbors who force them to move to ada where they can't see any neighbors (EGR). I've got some weird neighbors too, I won't deny that, but nothing that would make me want to move. they couldn't be stopped by barricades one lives behind me on another street and cuts through my yard and another lives in my alley way (on a rather rough cobble stone streets that nobody in their right mind uses to cut through). neither drive but they do keep an eye on the neighborhood.

If you want to work on improving property values you start with the schools ( or at least improving the reputation of the schools. GR has some of the best schools in the state, a fact which alway seems to amaze people when they hear it) and progress to decreasing crime ( a function of the number/concentration of low income population), increasing the ownership rate of housing, improving the condition of the housing stock ( which would improve with increased ownership rates by people with means to maintain their homes), and improving access to basic services like grocery stores. there is nothing you can do about the size of the yards or small bathrooms and funky layouts of the homes. I think that EGR proves that those factors are not exclusive of high property values. altering the street layout won't have any effect on the aforementioned factors. In fact, if you would read the Logic of Life you would find that his analysis of street activity and crime is more the just little snippets of economic oddities. It doesn't address the exact topic of streets. the case study that it presents is a park but the principles are the same.

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.com/tcds/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

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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.

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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.

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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
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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
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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.

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