Tuesday, November 13, 2007

ann arbor cranksgiving

We threw out the idea of a Cranksgiving ride a while back. The vision is now realized in what looks to be a fun alleycat race Sunday, November 18. You can read all about it at the Cranksgiving Ann Arbor blog.

Monday, May 21, 2007

no bus service on memorial day

From the AATA:

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority will not operate
regular fixed-route bus service, A-Ride paratransit, or Good As Gold senior
taxi services on Monday, May 28, 2007 in observance of the Memorial Day
holiday. Regular bus, paratransit and senior taxi services will resume on
Tuesday, May 29.

Passengers may take advantage of AATA's Holiday Ride shared-ride taxi
service on Monday for just $5 a person. Seniors and persons with
disabilities with an AATA identification card may ride for $2.50.

The Holiday Ride taxi service operates only within the city limits of Ann
Arbor. To schedule a Holiday Ride trip, call 734.528.5432.

AATA will close its offices at 2700 South Industrial Highway and the Blake
and Ypsilanti Transit Centers on Monday, May 28, in observance of Memorial

The three facilities will re-open for business on Tuesday, May 29.
Expect continued erratic postings while the housekeeping staff settles into their new home. We'd love to hear from anyone interested in conributing posts to cfa2 as well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

howell - ann arbor rail line plans expand

According to Metromode, the Coalition for Mass Transit is optomistic about the million dollar Federal grant that they applied for. They are also considering adding stops in Hamburg and Saline.

Other juicy details include:

A three-car passenger train would make six trips during the morning rush hour and another six trips in the afternoon/evening rush hour. Each stainless steel bi-level car could carry between 500 to 600 people per trip. A train would take about 20 minutes one way, saving commuters about 45 minutes in transport time, officials say.

It is estimated the cost to passengers could be kept in line with what they pay for gas. The city also has an enthusiastic partner in Great Lakes Central Railroad, which is willing to set up the service and provide the trains.

Friday, May 04, 2007

curb your car month already started

The housekeeping staff as been consumed with preparations for a return to Michigan from the Far East. As a result, we forgot to remind everyone that May is Curb your Car Month.

The getDowntown program has a great list of events over the next 25 days, like urban cycling skills workshop, lunchtime river walks, class on building your own bike light... too many great things to mention. Check out the calendar for details.

Also, it's not too late to get your company signed up for the Commuter Challenge. Over 60 groups are already signed up! It's a great way to get co-workers to try a carfree commute and a great way for our community to quantify the possibilities of a non-SOV commute.

making shoes less hurty

Metafilter, the 21st century's fountain of common knowledge and folk wisdom, has a thread full of good tips on getting new shoes to be comfortable. The advice focuses on leather shoes with a lot of DIY and purchase-alternative ideas. It seems that just about any household item, from soap to vodka, will soften shoe leather. However, there isn't much info on the damage that these "softeners" might do to your nice shoes. Highly recommended for anyone who walks in shoes!

Friday, April 20, 2007

huron river drive carfree for 3 hours

From GetDowntown, among others announcing this unique opportunity:

Have you ever wondered what it be like if Huron River Drive were closed
to cars? Well, tomorrow is your chance to check it out and voice your
comments to the City. The City of Ann Arbor is closing Huron River
Drive from Bird Rd. to Main to motorized traffic from 9-12 on Saturday,
April 21st.
Whether or not the road should be closed permanently to motorized traffic, we should definitely take the opportunity for a bike ride or walk along the river when the opportunity presents itself. The road is closed while the city removes low-hanging branches, not specifically for bikes and pedestrians.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

speed traps on sidewalks?

A link from Ed's blog pointed us to a list of speed traps in Ann Arbor.

The interesting point, from a carfree perspective, is that some of the traps include police vehicles parked on the sidewalk and in bus loading zones.

Huron Parkway Ravine. They sit on the sidewalk along the concrete tieback walls.
Fuller near Mitchell Field. They do it Cali style and sit in the bus loading zone.

While cycling on the multi-use path on the north side of Fuller, our path has occasionally been blocked by a police car sitting in the driveway of the community pool.

Has anyone else run into a situation like this? Is it necessary for police to block NMT facilities in order to enforce speed limits?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

aadts and the tommorow that never comes

You're never going to believe this, but the Ann Arbor to Detroit rail project opening has been put off until at least 2008. Yes, over the last ten years you've been let-down repeatedly over the possibility of a decent mass transit connection to the airport and the city. Yes, it seemed like something might have come of it this time. No, it probably won't ever be completed if this uninspired group of foot-dragging bureaucrats continues to hold the reins.

"Amtrak officials are seeking meetings with officials of three freight railroads"
"A lot will depend on what the freight companies are willing to allow and how much it will cost to use their tracks"
"SEMCOG is trying to find out if some federal money for studying transit between Ann Arbor and Detroit can be used to help pay for the proposed contract service"
The AADTS website hasn't been updated since December 06. Until somebody at SEMCOG grows a real set of ovaries and starts MAKING this happen, we can look forward to sitting on the edge of our seats and biting our nails while waiting for the next announcement of delay on this project.
"We've identified a model that we would like to see," Palombo said. "Now we have to see what the reality is."
Never a truer word spoken.

Please contribute more optomistic perspectives in the comments.

what to do with huron river drive?

It appears that the miserable condition of Huron River Drive has reached some invisible but verifiable level of crapitude. For years the only thing cyclists and motorists using this stretch of road could agree on was the miserable state of the too-narrow road surface. The city has now deemed the bumpy patch-jobs, potholes, and cracks on HRD worthy of repair. However, knowing they will have to deal with the huggable bunch of community-minded citizens that is Ann Arbor, they are setting up a bitchfest public workshop first.

The workshop will be held Wednesday, April 4, though the News article fails to mention time or location.

The options are:
-repave as is
-widen the road for bike lanes or at least a paved shoulder
-close the section from Main to Bird Rd. to automotive traffic

While the carfree option obviously has some allure with us, we are not quick to jump on the bandwagon here. No doubt that HRD makes for a scenic bike ride. But it is not a major connection for getting around town. Also, access to this section of road is not great from downtown. North Main would need some work to provide a bike and pedestrian friendly connection. Closing off this section of road without other major improvements would result in a giant sidewalk (bike lane, multiuse path, whatever) to nowhere.

If we build it and they don't come, due to poor planning and integration with existing facilities, we'll be dealing with the collective memory of how much money was wasted providing a highway for cyclists that don't exist. This could turn the general population away from future bike/ped projects.

Closing the Drive to cars (not "vehicles", AANews. Bikes ARE vehicles) should be part of a larger plan for improved access to the river and connecting a carfree-friendly downtown with the river and Dexter. If not, the money may be better spent on realizing the "carfree-friendly" downtown.

Monday, April 02, 2007

blue bus etiquette

Laura sent us a link to some advice on being a good rider at the Ann Arbor Crier.

Above all else, follow two simple rules: Do not be in the way, and pretend everyone on the bus is your grandma. Use these as your rubric for courtesy and you’ll notice fewer Death Stares in your direction.
Students are one of the more neglected carfree groups (along with disasbled folks, homeless people, and the elderly population) on our site. While we are trying to correct this oversight, it is nice to see others picking up our slack, helping to define a local bus culture.

The list of tips focuses on being a polite rider. Among the 13 suggestions, this is our favorite:
When it’s 4:30 and the older University employees are leaving their jobs, laden with briefcases and coats, give them your seat. They need it more than you do. The same goes, of course, for pregnant women, kids and the elderly. Relevant stops: the entire medical campus.
Good manners start on the bus.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

carfree queries: diy traffic light changer

[One of our guilty pleasures in keeping house at cfa2 is browsing the site statistics. The idea is that by reviewing referrers and search terms, we can reach our target audience more effectively while, at the same time, expand that audience. That hasn't really panned out so far, but we still enjoy the harmless voyuerisn of finding out where visitors come from and what kinds of search terms bring them here. You'd be surprised how many posts come from following a Google lead recent keyword activity. We're trying out this new, semi-regular "column" to share the inspiration, confusion, and belly laughs that some of these referring search terms bring us.

A curious Googler inquires: "diy traffic light changer"

Our post on triggering traffic signals on a bike must have led you here. We haven't yet received any success stories based on our advice, but the info may be helpful if you're on a bike and getting impatient in the left turn lane.

If you are a cager looking to beat the system and shave 15 seconds off of your commute, we discovered that there is a whole industry providing infra-red signal that will turn a red light green. But don't get your hopes up. These devices are intended only for authorized vehicles; whether on foot, a bike, or a car, using a traffic signal preemption transmitter breaks Federal and State laws.

This may be of interest to Ann Arbor transit geeks, since the AATA has previously considered implementing a signal preemtion system to help keep buses on schedule. The impact would probably be slight (and thus not worth the hefty price tag), but combined with express service from Park & Ride lots, it may attract a following. Hopefully that following consists of more Park & Ride bus passengers and not just automobiles that follow express buses to make the lights.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

public parking workshop

As part of the Ann Arbor Discover Downtown (A2D2) project, the City is hosting two public participation events on long-term parking strategy. Tonight (March 28), the project team will facilitate a work session to obtain input and direction on the parking study at the Ann Arbor Downtown Library 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. There will also be a public workshop on downtown access and parking issues Thursday, March 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, City Hall. More details at the A2D2 page.

So, why should you care? You either don't own a car or don't use one often. How is fixing downtown parking going to impact your life? If you aren't sure why you would attend these meetings or what you would say if you did, here are a few ways that parking affects carfree folks:

1) Community decisions are made by those who show up at the meetings. It is easy to blame the auto-centric design of cities on a Detroit conspiracy, but the fact is that decisions are being made at these meetings and the people who are most likely to show up are those who want more, better parking. If no one shows up to say, "hey, I ride my bike and take the bus. We need to include these options in this discussion," then those options won't be discussed.

2) Increased parking facilities reduce downtown density. Carfree life is always easier when parking lots are not spreading out the distance between destinations. We should be advocating for minimal increases in parking supply.

3) Parking is part of the larger transportation system. Increasing parking leads to a need for other changes to accomodate increased traffic (if more parking won't result in more traffic, why are we adding parking?). That means more competition between people and cars for public space.

4) Instead of more parking, we should be considering more convenient parking. Even when half of the spaces in town are empty, visitors end up circling the block looking for one of the few spaces on Main St. They do this because a) they want convenience, and b) they don't know about other options. We need to provide better information to drivers about where parking is available and make parking in a structure more convenient than parking on the street. Once they have parked their cars, we need to provide convenient ways to get around downtown without going back to the car. A good network of transit, sidewalks, and bike lanes, along with other facilities will help. Not coincidentally, these are the projects that the carfee community wants more of anyway. This is the perfect venue to explain that connection.

The workshop is an open house, so you won't get stuck sitting through a boring public policy lecture. Just stop in and let the leaders know that parking design is important to you and you want to know what alternatives they are considering.

Thanks to Nancy Shore for the heads-up!

Monday, March 26, 2007

transportation enhancements funding threatened & bike commute tax break considered

Every blike blogger and her brother have mentioned this recent threat to trail funding, but League of American Bicyclists has a good summary.

Basically, Congress told states to return some of their transportation budget (after checking on this, we found that "no take-backs" is not actually a constitutional right). Governors have to decide what programs will be cut in the next few weeks, and bike paths and lanes are an easy target. Follow the link above for more information on contacting the decision-makers with appropriate please and threats.

Fortunately, Ann Arbor sets aside city funds for cycling improvements. But massive cuts to State bike budgets will certainly have a regional impact.

At the same time, the Bicycle Commuter Act has been introduced in Congress. This act would allow employers to offer bike commuters commuting incentives similar to transit riders. Maintenance, bike gear and riding clothes would be not be taxed up to a monthly maximum ($105 ofr transit riders).
Dingel, Stabenaw and Levin are not currently supporting the bill, so drop them a note of encouragement via the above link.

cycm rumors: bike vs. car

That's right, as the weather gives us a Spring preview, it's time to start thinking about Curb Your Car Month. All through the month of May, the getDowntown program organizes events, lectures, parties, and give-aways to celebrate and promote the carfree lifestyle in Ann Arbor.

There is nothing that whips up the excitement for upcoming events like unsubstantiated rumors, so we'll pass on some info that a little bird whispered in our ear. It sounds like one of the events may involve a cross-town race between a bike and a car. Details are sketchy and the route is not set, but the race will involve a couple of check points in order to factor in Ann Arbor's infamous parking "problem."

We previously mentioned that Cranksgiving would be a great event to include in CYCM. According to the rumor mill, this race is not for general participation. But really, who would stop you from riding along?

We'll be posting a few more bright ideas that we'd like to see as part of Curb Your Car Month. If you have suggestions, post them in the comments or send an email. Also, remember that ideas are useless without action, so volunteer with getDowntown to help organize events!

amtrak wolverine service changes

As of April 2, Amtrak is adjusting the schedule of the Wolverine, the train that gets the good people of Ann Arbor to Chicago. The new departure times are:
Eastbound from Ann Arbor: 2:09pm 5:47pm 11:30pm
Westbound from Ann Arbor: 8:23am 12:56pm 6:51pm

According to the AANews, the Eastbound afternoon train was pushed back 40 minutes to allow Millwaukee riders to make a transfer in Chicago.
Benefits for Ann Arbor: none we can think of.

The second Eastbound train is bumped up an hour, for the benefits of Chicagoans who are already losing an hour coming to Michigan.
Benefits for Ann Arbor: get to Detroit in time for dinner before the show?

The final Westbound of the day will leave A2 about an hour later, a change with no explanation.
Benefits to Ann Arbor: more time after work to bike to the Amtrak station.

Overall, the change in departure times don't do much for Ann Arborites, unless they are returning from Milwaukee or Chicago. If Amtrak is taking requests, it sure would be nice to allow bikes on the Wolverine!

Friday, March 16, 2007

on vacation

Our apologies for the lack of posts recently. The cfa2 housekeeping staff is celebrating the arrival of a new family member, Leif Michael, and will be taking a few days off from updating the website. We should be back in a few days. In the mean time, please feel fee to add carfree announcements and tips as comments.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

ten ways to encourage a carfree commute to your downtown ann arbor business

Bicycle Colorado just posted 7 Steps to a Bicycle-Friendly Workplace. Their list of general tips on encouraging biking to work inspired us to write up a list of simple ways businesses in downtown Ann Arbor can encourage carfree commuting.

1. Sign up for the go!pass

2. Post locations and rental info on bike lockers

3. Hand out pedestrian maps, bike maps and bus schedules

4. Offer to ride (bus or bike) with other employees to get them started, or start a bike commute support group.

5. Support local biking and walking organizations and events (WBWC, AABTS, Eco-Ride, Crop Walk, Breast Cancer walk, etc.)

6. Update HR policies to encourage walking, biking and bus riding (parking policy, biking & walking incentives, Emergency Ride Home program, etc.)

7. Invite the getDowntown program to contribute to your company newsletter or talk to employees about their commuting options

8. Provide better biking facilities (covered bike parking, showers, lockers, etc.)

9. Invite a local bike shop to do a brown-bag seminar on bike maintenance.

10. Sign up for the Commuter Challenge and encourage employees to participate in other events throughout Curb Your Car Month

If you've got other ideas, add them to the list via a comment!

megabus to chicago

Ypsidixit got the scoop on the Megabus expansion to Ann Arbor. Megabus has been serving Detroit for a while now, and it has been a mystery to us how they could drive right past a town full of cheap-skate college students without picking up a few fares. They seem to have gotten wise to the potential jackpot and have added Ann Arbor to the 14 cities in their greater midwest service region.

But don't start packing your bags for Pittsburgh just yet. From our initial research, the Ann Arbor bus only goes to Chicago. Sure you can ride to Chicago and transfer from there (with potentially long lay-over), but there is no direct service from Ann Arbor to Toledo, Cleveland, or Columbus. In fact, even though the route map shows Ann Arbor as a stop on the way to Detroit, you can't book a seat from A2 to Detroit on the website!

Starting April 2, Megabus offers morning and afternoon service in both directions. The Ann Arbor stop is at the UofM Park and Ride lot on South State, so you can take a UofM commuter bus or AATA bus to the rendez-vous. The trips takes 4 hours and 40 minutes, and costs $15 O/W based on our queries, though the website says fares as low as $1 are possible for early bookings of low-demand seats.

Compared to Amtrak service, the Megabus fare is about $5 lower than even the weekly specials on the train, and the ride time is similar. But Megabus limits passengers to one bag and doesn't have power outlets seats. Compared to Greyhound service, the fare is about half and the trip takes two hours less on Megabus. Despite its unfortunate name, Megabus could offer carfree Ann Arborites a good Chicago-bound alternative to Amtrak, especially if you want to leave town in the morning.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

nancy shore on life on the aata board

Nancy already talked about carfree life of SOS consumers. Now she chats with us about her experience on the AATA board and her goals for AATA.

cfa2: what it is like to sit on the AATA board?

Nancy: Well, it’s really interesting. The Board definitely doesn’t speak with one voice, and we often have divergent opinions about the system. I really like sitting on the Board because I feel like I really get a sense of what is going on with the bus system in the community and also how that bus system fits with other types of transportation, including walking and possibly rail. We also talk a lot about financial matters (budget cuts, etc.) and how they are going to impact our service and it really gives me a perspective on the complexity of running a bus system, especially in a state that is not doing so well financially and is not putting mass transit and other forms of transportation in it’s funding priorities. I am still relatively new to the Board, but I do feel like it’s a really good group of people who would like to see the AATA grow and change to fit the needs of this community.

cfa2 What kinds of issues are being discussed right now?

Nancy: The kinds of issues that are being discussed are financial issues related to service. This includes how to deal with Ypsilanti (they are not going to be able to pay for service this fall, so what do we do about that?), as well as how to go about purchasing more hybrid busses. Other issues being discussed are if we should go countywide with bus service and what will that look like. We are also talking more and more about how the bus system fits with other forms of alternative transportation.

cfa2: So, the county-wide service sort of fell through, according to the News. I bitched about it a little on the website. What's do you think?

Nancy: I knew that article was going to case some misperceptions. Basically the issue is that if we put the county issue on the ballot tomorrow, the pollsters believe that we don't have enough "yesses" to win. But that in no way means we are not going to do a millage. I think right now the Board defintely sees a need for us to expand service, but is still not sure what that might look like. We might do a millage or we might try to expand service in another way. I would love for people to give us their thoughts and ideas on how we can expand service to a larger area.

cfa2: What are your personal goals are for AATA?

Nancy: In terms of my personal goals on the AATA, well for one I would definitely like to speak on behalf of those who depend on the bus service to get around. I also take the bus quite frequently and see it as a public good—something that everyone should use for many reasons including environmental impacts and the fact that the bus is a community space where you might interact with people you might never see in another setting. I would like to advocate for improving bus service and for thinking about how the bus system fits in with walking and biking to get people around in the best way possible. In the end, I don’t think driving cars is the best way to get people around and I think the AATA is a great system that could get even better. I want to be a part of that.

cfa2: As far as advocating for improved service, is this one of those issues that all board members don't agree on? I would think everyone associated with AATA would want improved service.

Nancy: I think all Board members would agree on improving service, so I guess you got me there. I guess I am not sure we all have the same idea of how to improve that service. Does it mean more park and ride lots or does it mean longer bus hours? Does it mean trying to make the buses run more efficiently, or put more buses on the road? I think the improvements I would most like to see would be expanding the amount of time high use buses are out there (meaning expanded evening and weekend hours), improving service to Ypsilanti, and created some express routes.

cfa2: Can you give me any specific examples of making transit fit better with biking and walking?

Nancy: I sure can. I usually take the #4 bus from the Blake Transit Center to the Ypsi Transit Center. The route is primarily on Washtenaw. Let's say I wanted to get off the bus early on my way home from work (and I do sometimes) and bike the rest of the way. If I decided to get off on any of the many stops across from the County Rec Building or Medford and Manchester I would face a: no sidewalk to bike on and b: a real challenge in feeling safe biking on Washtenaw. If I wanted to walk, it would be even worse. I have had to cross Washtenaw from the stop across from Medford and Mancester before and it is really dangerous. There is no cross walk until you get over by the Bearclaw Coffee place.
I have had the same problem taking the #4 in Ypsi township to Tuptim Restaurant. The day I walked from the bus stop to meet my friend at Tuptim it was raining so the ground was totally muddy and again their were no sidewalks so it was quite unpleasant.
Since most bus trips start as bike or walking trips, it makes sense to see how they interact with on another. I think if there is a bus stop somewhere, there should be an effort to make it easy for a person walking from that bus stop to get around safely. And I think if that person has a bike, there also needs to be some consideration of that fact.
I think Ann Arbor does a really good job with bike lanes and sidewalks, but it can do much better. The same is true for the bus service. I am hoping during my time on the AATA Board I can help the cause.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

capital improvements plan; alternative transportation projects

In preparation for the city's budgeting process, the draft version of the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) is posted on the city website. Here is a list of the "Alternative" Transportation projects in the report:

Bandemer Park Pedestrian Tunnel
Bicycle Facilities Development*
Geddes Ave. Non-Motorized Path (Gallup Park to Huron Pkwy)
Huron River Multipurpose Trail*
Northeast Area Non-Motorized Trail
Platt Road Sidewalk (Huron Parkway to Washtenaw)
Plymouth Road Rail Station
Sidewalk Gaps
South Main Street Non-motorized Path (AA-Saline to East Stadium)*
Washtenaw Avenue Non-Motorized Path*

* item carried over from previous CIP

The Bandemer Park Pedestrian Tunnel is interesting in that it appears to have replaced the Gallup Park/Arboretum Railroad Tunnel from the 2005 CIP. Both projects were designed to get cyclists across the tracks. The Gallup/Arb tunnel must have been cut, despite its "Important" priority, since it construction was scheduled to start in Spring of 05. That doesn't bode well for the Bendemer tunnel, which has a lower, "Derirable" priority.

The South Main Street Non-motorized Path is recently controversial because of potential putting infringement. We were surprised to see that this project was also in the previous CIP. Since then it has been re-prioritized from "Desirable" to "Urgent", increased from $650k to $1 million, and moved up from a planned construction start in 2011 to 2008. Momentum is building on this one, but so is golfing resistance.

The Plymouth Road Rail Station is, of course, the terminal station for the North-South rail line. We griped about this location before, and the description from the CIP, "Passenger platform, covered pedestrian walkway with ADA compatability," isn't exactly inspiring, but it looks like the Mayor is serious about getting this train rolling. The design stage is scheduled to start in July of '09.

The CIP draft is scant on project descriptions, but it is worth looking over to get some familiarity with up-and-coming carfree projects.

DIY bottle cap helmet mirror

We've never understood the need for a rear-view mirror while cycling. The occasional glance over the shoulder has always been sufficient. But the style points earned from sporting a wearable mirror made from an attractive bottle cap and a bike spoke may just change our tune. Instructables demonstrates how to Do It Yourself.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Nancy Shore on carfreedom and homelessness

In an effort to branch out in terms of content (read as: "we're running out of tips!"), we decided to contact people related to local carfree issues to ask a few questions. You're not going to find the well-balanced queries and teetering style available in interviews elsewhere, but we were inspired by the content that came out of our first effort.

Nancy Shore is the Community Relations Coordinator at SOS Community Services. She is also the most recent addition to the board of the AATA, so she has a a unique perspective on carfree life. Today, she's talking about the carfree experience of SOS consumers. Coming up soon, we'll ask her about life as an AATA board member. You can read more about her on the totter.

cfa2: We'd like to get a better idea of what carfree life is like for SOS consumers. Also, how does SOS assist and advise on transportation concerns of their clients (clients, customers, or consumers)?

Nancy: First of all, we do call the people we serve consumers. Many, many, many of them, including the families in our shelter and transitional housing program don’t have cars. And this is not a choice on their part to be environmentally friendly, etc. They just simply cannot afford to have a car.
For the families in our family shelter and in our transitional housing (which are apartment units in both Ypsi and Ann Arbor) getting around is a constant issue. We actually provide our own vans to shuttle the children to day care and the families to various programs. In addition to that, many of the families rely on the buses to get around. This can become a real issue in Ypsilanti where buses run less frequently and where there are fewer routes. It’s also a challenge because unlike Ann Arbor, Ypsi has even fewer basic amenities downtown, so it might take quite a while to take a bus to get to the grocery store and get back. I think one of the biggest challenges for many of our carfree families is that they have to go to so many places and it’s really hard to get to all of them by bus in a timely manner. They might have to go to a job and in addition might have to drop off their kids somewhere else to go to daycare and then repeat the whole thing again in the evening.
It is definitely easier for our families to be carfree in Ann Arbor because the buses run more frequently and are often close to where they live. But I know it’s not easy, and I know if many of the families could have a car, they would. But SOS does offer van transportation, which makes it more convenient for the families. And the bus system is certainly important to the families we serve.
For the families who are not homeless, but very poor (those who come in and receive food and other items from us), I know transportation is also an issue. Especially in Ypsi, it’s just harder to get around without a car. Some families have parents that are working full time and going to school, or have families where the parent is working two jobs. Relying on walking or busing to meet all these needs can be very challenging.
I think what a lot of it bowls down to is that when people do not have cars, they find other ways to get around including walking and busing. But it is not so much of a choice as something they have to do.

cfa2: carfree ann arbor is based on the idea that it is possible and not completely miserable to live without a car. Of course we usually assume that you do have a home to get back to. Certainly, being without a home makes transportation tough. Are there some specific things that make carfree transportation more difficult for SOS consumers?

I recently spoke to the case managers that deal with many of our consumers. I think the specific things that make carfree transportation tough are:
1. The fact that many of our consumers live in one city and work in another. Many of them live in Ypsilanti, but work in Ann Arbor, so they have to deal with longer bus rides (sometimes up to one hour each way) to get to where they need to go. If many of our consumers could work and live in the same community, I think it would be much easier for them to go car free.
2. Many of our consumers with children find it very hard to take them on the bus. I really need to look at some of the tips you have on carfree to see if there are some things that might make the ride more pleasurable for them. Some of our consumers have 5 kids, so it's quite daunting for them to think about taking the bus.
3. Many of our consumers don't have laundry facilities, so they have to take a bus to go to a laundromat and then get the clothing back to their apartment. This can definitely be a challenge.
4. I would say the biggest challenge is just lack of time. It takes too long for many of our consumers to take the bus everywhere. But I think that is a reflection of our need to enhance the bus system more than a reflection of them not liking to take the bus.

cfa2: Similarly, are there any carfree tips that apply especially to SOS consumers? We're fishing for tips on cfa2 that staff or consumers might be recommending. Do you ever use cfa2 as a resource at SOS?

Nancy: I think it would be really, really important for me to research this further. I think mostly staff and consumers see not having a car as a hindrance, but it doesn't have to be! I really, really want to emphasize to you that I am a strong carfree advocate. I will definitely look deeply into your website for appropriate recommendations. I could also see the possibility of a "living carfree" workshop for our consumers to see if that would help them get interested in the carfree idea.

cfa2: Do you see any particular points of connection between SOS consumers and other by-choice carfree people?

Nancy: In terms of connections between SOS consumers and other by-choice carfree people I think there are many. Some are the need to trade tips on how to deal with large loads of laundry or groceries. I think many of our families could use some tips to make their lives easier. I think another point of connection is the advocacy piece. If people who are using the system see where it can be improved, they are in a better position to make changes. I also think that anyone who is carfree no matter what the reason becomes a member of a certain community. I think if those who are carfree can do what they can to support others who are carfree, that would also be helpful. So if someone is struggling with a bunch of bags on the bus, to offer to help. Or if someone looks stranded on a bad side of the street, to try to help them get across. One of the things I have learned while working at SOS is that our consumers need to be part of a supportive community. If carfree by choice people can do their best to help carfree by need people, I think it makes this world a better place.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

no county bus service... for now

AANews announces that AATA will not be persuing a millage to expand service to the entire county.

A consultant found that 54 percent of Washtenaw County voters would support a .5 mill tax to extend AATA service countywide. Without at least 60 percent support among voters at the outset of a campaign, a strong informational effort would be needed, the study said.
We'll asume for now that it is rational to abandon the idea even though more than half of taxpayers were willing to support it without any prior marketing. Still, wouldn't part of this informational effort be made by local government and employers? If this study was based on a go-it-alone marketing campaign, then AATA needs to work on their networking skills. There is all kinds of info we'd like to see from this report, but top of the list is what township and village governments think of the idea. We are more interested in what the 21 "key opinion leaders'' said in their interviews than the 6% shortage on public opinion. If local leaders want this to happen, they can contribute to the effort to make it happen.

But AATA is going for a softer sell:
"We are not interested in putting forward a proposal that the community is not interested in supporting," Nacht said.
AATA is "not close to offering the community any specifics," he said.
...the study included that there is little awareness of AATA outside its immediate service area.
With the usual caveat of potentially pot-stirring journalism by the News, doesn't that come off as stupid? 46% of respodents don't support expansion of a service they don't know anything about but AATA is not willing to explain it to them.

At the same time, AATA is dealing with enough problems in the existing service area. It looks like Ypsi won't be able to pay their part of the bill soon and we need to keep those lines running. Maybe this isn't the best time to expand.

On the brighter side, the report finds that, "the buses are clean, safe and usually on time." Between that, Ridetrak, and the fabulous Link, our buses are rollin' pretty smooth.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

guerrilla Link schedule

We were just lamenting the drift away from useful tips towards comments on AANews articles that now make-up the bulk of our postings. Despite our best efforts to come up with new resources and suggestions for carfree life in Ann Arbor, we're running out of ideas. But in our darkest hour, Ed Vielmetti has picked up the torch, creating a simple flickr post giving estimates for a bunch of bus stops for the Link service.

The comments in his image show his best estimate of Link arrival times by the minute, as well as nearby destinations, parking options, and wireless sources. We have been researching ways to represent this kind of info with map mash-ups or other tricks. While we were pondering and tinkering, Ed made it happen. Thanks, Ed!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

bikes on buses: good marketing or excessive luxury

Paul Dorn of bikecommutetips posted this pic in his post on intermodal travel.

While Paul claims that the upright position is an efficient use of space, note that two seats are folded up to make space for the bike. As a bus rider, this looks like one passenger taking up three seats. Accomodating bikes on buses is great, but if we had to stand in the aisle while a wet bike taking up two seats dripped on our pant leg, our sympathy for all-weather cyclists would fade fast.

On the other hand, as a bike commuter, we have to admit that in-bus parking does give us a slight case of transit envy.

We love the front-mounted bike racks on AATA buses. We've never had a problem using them or seen any damage to our bikes. Besides, it would be a pain in the rear to get a bike into the bus. Does any one else see a reason to move bikes inside the bus?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

summing up a carfree year

About this time last year, Alan Durning decided to give the carfree lifestyle an honest effort. His family of five committed to not owning a car for a year, though they did carshare, carpool, bum rides, and borrow from friends. He has provided updates throughout the year, and now he has posted a summary of the experiment, listing the many ways that going carfree has changed their lives.

In the final analysis, he's not completely sold on the carfree family life, especially for his wife, who, he notes, takes the bulk of the transportation burden.

laptop housekeeping on the bus

We're always on the look-out for ways to keep occupied/entertained/educated/productive/satiated during a bus ride. For those who cary a laptop, a bus commute would be a great time to check email, catch up on the latest carfree ann arbor tips, and all the other Internetty items on your to-do list. Unfortunately, AATA buses don't offer internet service yet. Some cutting-edge bus commuters may be taking advantage of GPRS connections via PDAs and smart phones, but many will have to wait for AATA wireless bus hubs or (more likely) the Wireless Washtenaw project in order to access the Internets on the bus.

That said, there are all kinds of manual maintenance and gtd (getting things done) tasks from which Net connetions tend to distract us. A 20 minute bus ride may be the perfect Web-free time to focus on a little virtual house cleaning. commutesmarter.blogspot.com posted a list of Internet-less tasks that help keep your commute productive. They include updating itunes playlists, deleting old files for disk space, and catching up on RSS feeds. We would add calendar and task list updates, prepping email and blog posts, and sorting and labeling pictures as other mundane but necessary tasks that fit nicely into a bus ride.

Of course, there are limitations to how productive bus seat typing can be. Sunlight makes the screen hard to see, bumps and sudden stops could send a laptop flying, and the twitching elbows and wandering eyes of other passengers might make you think twice before booting up on the bus. But we would, as always, be interested to hear how you take advantage of the free time on the bus, with or without technical aids.

Monday, February 19, 2007

hooray for the link!

AATA's beloved, purple, younger sibling to regular bus service, the Link, is catching on with downtown residents and visitors. AATA announces that the Link set record-high ridership in January, as well as breaking the single-day record in December.

The freeze-bomb that dropped on the city in the middle of January certainly helped boost ridership, but the trend seems to be sticking as February shows four days of +1,900 ridership. The Link is finally getting the love it deserves. Considering that it is free, frequent, and easy to spot, one wonders how it took so long for Ann Arbor to catch on.

According to Chris White at AATA,

"The Link provided five times as many rides last month as it did in January, 2004, the first year of operation. These figures are quite impressive, since the service was fine tuned more than a year ago and now runs fewer hours, but carries many more riders."
Hopefully, a continuing increase in ridership will encourage AATA to expand Link service into the evenings.

Ypsi [heart] bikes

As mentioned "in brief" in the AANews, WBWC will host a little non-motorized get-together at the Corner Brewery in Ypsi on Thursday, Feb 22. The event includes a showing of "Still We Ride", the Critical Mass movie, as well as updates and info on upcoming NMT projects and events in Ypsi. The News is quick to point out that these projects "would be funded by grants from groups outside of Ypsilanti."

Upcoming Ypsi events include a Safe Routs to School training session on March 13 and "Get Active Ypsi", a month of fun events that encourage Ypsians to get 30 minutes of exercise every day which is very easy if you walk or bike to work). The events coincide with Ann Arbor's Curb Your Car Month.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

DIY warming pads for mittens

While scouring The Internets for more useful carfree tips, we stumbled across a local hiking blog. We're are quickly learning that the most inovative carfree tricks, tips, and hacks are not labeled as such. Hiking tips are easily converted to town & city pedestrian use, so look for more links to simplehiker in the future.

Simplehiker points to a instructables post dead link on how to make microwavable rice heating pads.

However, the project seems pretty straight-forward: make a pouch, fill it with rice, put it in the microwave, then slide them into your mittens. We assume they can be reheated over and over. Without further guidence, we suggest testing the heat of the pad before sticking your hand in a hot mitten. This will work much better with a roomy pair of mittens than with gloves. Oh, and they are using dry rice, not cooked!

We stand by our theory that all you need to stay warm is a good pair of mittens and a Michigan beer. But this is a good DIY for those who haven't found the right mittens yet.

skis on the bus

We have unconfirmed reports from Ypsidixit that you can bring your x-countries skis with you on the bus*. Now that there is a little snow on the ground, this may actually come in handy. Note that they haven't added a ski rack or anything, but storing them under your seat appears to be acceptable.

"kudos to people who eschew snow-whining/excuses and instead embrace the beautiful snow and enjoy it."
Amen to that!

*your milage may vary, and is likely directly related to the friendliness of your greeting to the driver!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

headphone cord wrapping tips

Whether you ride the bus, walk or ride a bike, mp3 players are a great addition to a carfree journey. Unless, that is, you are spending half the trip trying to untangle a rat's nest of headphone cord. Lifehacker posted a video from instructables on how to wind headphones so they don't get all tangled. As usual, the comments have a bunch of (possibly better) additional suggestions.

Most important is not to wind the cord too tight or bend it too much. You'll end up breaking the wire eventually.

Monday, February 12, 2007

bike lanes and sidewalks slated for stadium blvd.

The AANews announces proposed construction on E. Stadium between Main and South Industrial. On-street bike lanes and a sidewalk on the south side of the street are included in the improvements. The project, slated for 2009, will make a mess of traffic, but the NMT improvements will be great. From the article:

Already there are ideas about a pedestrian connection from South State Street up to the East Stadium Boulevard overpass, as well as sidewalks along both sides of the bridges and walk-throughs below.
The city also plans to add a "path for pedestrians and bicyclists" along the west side of Main from Stadium to Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. That project would start sooner at a cost of $1.5 million. We're generally opposed to mixing bikes and pedestrians, but at least there are few driveways to cross along this stretch. We're also not exited about the prospect of a pedestrian bridge.
Engineers will consider whether a pedestrian bridge would fit the area and perhaps whether safety islands in the middle of East Stadium Boulevard would help pedestrians crossing it on football Saturdays, Nearing said.
In our walking experience, pedestrians avoid climbing stairs at all costs. We much prefer safety islands.

All in all, this is a great set of NMT improvements in an areas that is decidedly pedestrian-unfriendly, along with sorely needed bridge improvements. Despite the expected traffic delays during construction, everyone should be happy with the project- except for the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club.
Members are worried that, at worst, new sidewalks would mean realigning one or more holes on the course, which, in a domino effect, might mean changing the entire layout of the course, said Tony Werderitsch, board president of the club.
The proposed path might affect the course, as well as game day parking that the Club makes a nice wad of cash from during football season. And of course, the club is concerned about pedestrian safety:
A sidewalk along the club's periphery might encourage people to cross either Main Street or East Stadium Boulevard in the middle of the block, Werderitsch said.
Thanks for the concern, but the sidewalk not a threat to walkers, the auto traffic is. Surely there are a plethera of ways that the Club could better express their interest in pedestrian safety than opposing this project.

DDA bails on fifth & division redesign

This came out in Thursday's paper, but we held back on posting it til today in hopes that is was an error. Alas, it appears that we can't blame this on typos or poor reporting. After all the effort put into Calthorpe and design consultants, the DDA did an about face, tightened their collective sphincter, and voted against the pedestrian and bike improvements on these parrallel rivers of traffic that divide the city.

The project already has conceptual approval and funding set aside, but several DDA members balked at the potential expense of a project that will add only 110 parking spaces downtown.

Arbor Brewing Company co-owner Rene Greff, sounding annoyed, pointed out that the DDA had approved spending $5 million to pay for the addition of 140 spaces atop the garage at Fourth Avenue and William Street, which she called the "least desirable'' parking structure.

No, it's not all about parking. We lost out on multiple improvements including bike lanes, sidewalk bulb-outs, and better streetscaping. In all it was one of the best integrated, full-featured plans to come out of the DDA. As baffling as it is that such a full featured and well researched plan would be shot down, even more incomprehensible is the fact that the majority paid for the whole process only to shoot it down with bean counting arguments at the very end.

Well, maybe it is not the very end. The designer is coming back in March. We'll keep our fingers crossed...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

bike advocacy how-to

cyclicio.us has posted an interview with Dan Grunig, Executive Director of Bicycle Colorado, on how to participate in, improve, or jumpstart bike advocacy efforts locally. He doesn't offer any magic tricks or short-cuts. Mostly he hammers home the fact that "our governmental decision making process is dominated by people who show up." Well worth a read for those who want to get involved as well as those who think there is no reason to participate.

AANews round-up

Our housekeeping staff fell asleep at the wheel while the local rag covered a few items of interest to the carfree community.

We mentioned this in December and January, so the News' announcement is a bit behind the times [insert your own snarky comment on "old media" here]. However, it is nice to find that riders are actually making use of this tool and that it seems to work for them (we were skeptical about the usability of this feature when it first came out).

a serious culture change
The biker banter that we've heard has been pretty positive about this article. Sure, it overlooks the dangers of cycling on the sidewalk, but at least the News is creating a discussion on the topic of road-sharing culture, right? The point of the article, that infrastructure alone will not encourage walking and biking, is a fair criticism.
However, instead of offering examples of other aspects of change, the editorial's advice dwindles at this point. They sum up by saying that, "We'll need a serious culture change, one in which bike riders are viewed as having a legitimate place on our roads." Yet they fail to identify any implementable goals or policies that might bring about this serious cultural change By the end of the article, we were left feeling hopeless about the future of NMT in Ann Arbor instead of inspired.
We also have a gripe with the over-played caveat they tack on that, "That respect cuts both ways, though - cyclists also need to respect the rules of the road, and too often that's not the case."
We're taking the hard line here. Unlawful traffic behavior by a few cyclists should not lead to a less safe environment for all cyclists. This line of argument seems to condone the flawed and dangerous concept of some motorists that cutting off cyclists, running them off the road, not giving sufficient clearance when passing, throwing garbage at bikers as they pass by is justified because some cyclists roll through stop signs or disobey other traffic laws. The News makes the mistake of equating a culture of law with a culture of respect and decency, and they completely disregard the "might is right" attitude that dominates interaction between large, heavy, and fast-moving automobiles with bicycles.

it's cold
AANews declares the recent temperature drop to be a sort of cosmic equalizing to make up for any joy Michiganders may have gotten out of a balmy December. This weather should be taken seriously by carfree folks. Especially those with kids, who lose body heat quickly. Stay warm and keep trips short or stop along the way to warm up. Of course the bus is usually a toasty option. And dress appropriately, as the article points out:

The CDC recommends that in extreme cold, adults and children should wear a hat; a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth; sleeves that are snug at the wrist; mittens (warmer than gloves); water-resistant coat and boots; and several layers of loose-fitting clothing.

They're warm, they're stylish, and they're statriotic. As we've said before, wear mittens and drink Michigan beer!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Whitmore Lake to Ann Arbor rail service coming this spring?

AANews reports that the city is pushing to implement this line ASAP in order to help relieve construction-related congestion on US23 this summer. We love the plan to link this rail service so directly to the ever-worsening traffic on US23, and this approach is certainly worth a shot before we decide to add lanes to the highway. Of course, the schedule is a little tight. It would be possible to finish the required improvements by March. The problem is in fast-tracking the funding.

Fortunately, potential funding source, MDOT, is working hard to break out of it's image as a heartless, bureaucratic stop-all controlled by the auto industry.

Tim Hoeffner, administrator of MDOT's Intermodal Policy Division, cast doubt on whether the proposed rail service could be running so soon. He said MDOT staff are reviewing cost estimates, schedules and other aspects of the proposal.

They clearly recognize the importance of acting quickly to take advantage of the current allignment of inter-government cooperation, public-private coordination, and urgent need for alternatives to an already crowded highway during major construction. Michigan is fortunate to have a DOT that considers all these hidden costs into their calculations.
"A big question is money," Hoeffner said. "Is there going to be sufficient ridership to justify making some sort of expenditure into it?"

You may think of MDOT as an advocate of highway construction. But the Intermodal Policy Division should be excited to participate in a project like this, with so much infrastructure already in place, so much local support, and such a low initial investment compared to most rail projects.
Hoeffner said he didn't know if the proposed service could be running by this spring.
"We were not real optimistic with them (in December), and I don't know if our position has really changed,'' Hoeffner said.

OK, so MDOT can't really be considered a supporter of the project. Obviously they have a procedure to follow and there are good reasons that that procedure is in place. We would be disappointed to see them throwing money around without some understanding of the risk. All the same, MDOT comes off like a real wet blanket in this article. It would be nice just to hear that they think the general concept is good, or that they support the effort to alleviate construction congestion. In the meantime, the city still seems optomistic. We hope that it pans out.

Yet, we can't close this issue without some constructive criticism. If we were distributing money at MDOT, we'd have to ask how many people would be willing to
-drive to a vacant industrial park in Green Oak Township
-buy a train ticket for a 20 minute ride
-disembark at Plymouth Rd. noreth of Barton Drive (aka middle of nowhere)
-board an AATA to UM Hospital, campus, or downtown
-walk the rest of the way to work
-pay $120/month to do this

That trip probably isn't going to be any faster than sitting through the construction traffic on US23. It's certainly not going to be cheaper, since you have to drive to the train station. And changing modes 3 times doesn't add to the attraction. We understand that there only so much can be done here, but some suggestions might be:
-add bike lanes on Plymouth and good facilities to encourage cycling from the train station (bikes will be permitted on trains)
-stop and start the train near some sort of amenity or service. this train goes from nowhere to nowhere..
-Put the tumbscrews to Ann Arbor Railroad to get that train into downtown, where it belongs
-DDA, UofM, Google, AANews, Toyota, other major employers need to make some commitment to this project. Discounted rail pass for employees is a great start.
-Include bus fare in the train ticket. Most riders should get a free ride through UM or go!pass

Despite the cynicism here, we really are hopeful for the project and the schedule. We'll continue to post updates and ways that people can get involved.

no amount of socks can save you from a windy city winter

Everybody with a bike blog seems to be talking about this Reuter's article today. In our continuing effort to stay abreast of the carfree topic de jour, we're posting it, too. It talks about winter bike commutes in Chicago, alternating between shocking the reader with the miserable conditions and dedicated rider of the windy city and then pointing out how easy winter bike commutes are.

For the most part, there's nothing particularly interesting or new here; it's just another "wow, people ride bikes in the winter" story. We will highlight the lead paragraph, though:

Four pairs of socks, and Jackson Potter's feet were still icy blocks.
Riding his bicycle to work one Chicago winter morning, high school teacher Potter was too cold to go on. He stopped at a laundromat and asked if the owner could spare any socks.
"He gave me about 10 pairs. I put on four pairs, and my feet were still numb when I got to school," Potter said.

Layering is an effective way to stay warm (and, eventually, cool) while cycling. But packing four pair of socks into your shoes only cuts off circulation. Especially when your feet are already cold, this will bring them to a numbing freeze in no time. Fluffiness, air pockets, and space to wiggle are the the keys to warm feet. If one pair of warm socks along with a thin liner sock is not keeping your feet warm, consider switching from shoes to insulated boots.

Also, check out the Reuters Poll/Ad to the right of the text: woman's backside from butt to knee, whith two voting options- Too Thin or Never Too Thin. WTF?

bike parking mapped online

We were tipped off by the WBWC mailing list that getDowntown is working on a sort of inventory of Ann Arbor bike racks. The map they are working from is available online and they appear to be open to contributions. The map is part of an effort to identify potential improvements to downtown bike parking. If you've been bitching about the poor quantity or quality of bike parking downtown, this is your chance to take action.

While a complete inventory is not the goal of the project, this map can also be used to locate bike parking. On our initial browsing, there are still a lot of racks, hoops, and lockers missing from the map, especially non-DDA locations (across Main from the DTE Building, In front of Casey's, and all UofM locations for example). Maybe they are only counting public racks in the DDA boundaries? All the same, even if gDt doesn't intend to include all locations in their study, we hope they will eventually turn over this map (or make a duplicate) so that cyclists can continue to fill it out.

From the email:

Each marker has comments, and you can go far enough to
add photos, links, and so on to each marker. The markers are color coded, where red indicates damaged racks, green indicates potential locations for new racks, and yellow indicates specific racks/areas that need more capacity. One problem with the map is that it is difficult to convey information about a general area as opposed to a specific point (i.e. South University or Main Street).
The obvious missing item is locations that currently provide sufficient, useful bike parking. It would seem that such information would be helpful for both gDt's project and the cycling community. Maybe that is where you can chip in.

Whether or not you'd actually use this map to find bike parking, it's good to have a full inventory of facilities. To our knowledge, this is the first attempt at building one, so thanks to gDt for taking the initiative. We can't actually imagine pulling up to our downtown destination on a bike and then checking a map to find parking. If a bike rack isn't immediately obvious, we're looking for some other fixed object to lock up on. Of course this is exactly what gDt is trying to prevent with the inventory. We sure hope it improves the options as we know we probably shouldn't be locking up to stop signs and building fixtures.

Monday, January 29, 2007

buses vs. bikes?

Over the weekend AANews ran a story about how the proposed bike lane on Fifth Ave. conflicts with bus parking for the Hands-On Museum. First the bike lane was hindering the God-given right to park on the street. Now it is threatening the safety of 40,000 innocent children.

As the Calthorpe recommendations and the newly-passed Non-Motorized Plan move from discussion points to implementation, we can expect more points of conflict to arise. It is an unwritten rule of planning that public participation is minimally effected by public meetings, hearing and workshops, but directly related to the time before breaking ground on new projects. Furthermore, the outcry is likely to lean more towards emotional appeal as the deadline approaches.

This is not to say that the safety of children visiting the museum should be overlooked. Yet, is the bike lane location the only, or safest, option? Other locations for idling buses have been considered, but have been rejected because of safety concerns in road crossings or neighbor's distain of buses parked on "their" street. As a result, museum staff is feeling boxed in.

"I'm very concerned about the safety of the school children," said Carol Knauss, director of operations for the museum. "I want to be a good citizen, but we really don't want to move."

All the same, it is clear that there are viable alternatives. From the article, it appears that the safest option for the kids was abandoned because of neighbor complaints. Maybe this issue should have been framed as kids' safety vs. neighbors' sense of street asthetic instead of buses vs. bikes. the neighborhood has been fortunate that their preference has been accomodated so far, even at the potentially reduced safety of kids visiting the museum. Now that new plans to implement stated community goals no longer make that possible, we have to reconsider the pull of a few residents vs. the community at large.

The broader question may be, "why are the streets unsafe for kids in the first place? the danger can hardly be attributed to a bike lane. More likely it is the large volume of high speed traffic running through the center of town. The DDA points out that the Fifth Ave redesign is intended to reduce that risk, making Fifth Ave. a safer and more pleasant place for pedestrians.
DDA director Susan Pollay said the redesign for Fifth Avenue will dramatically slow the traffic, and the Ann-Fifth intersection would have curb "bulb-outs,'' in which the corners jut into the intersection a little. That will make the actual street crossing distance shorter and safer, she said.

the path less traveled: the bus

In previous reports, HD described his journey by foot and by bike. In his final installment, Homeless Dave catches the bus and relates his experience to us.

Installment Three: the bus (AATA)

Route 12B--which makes a loop west on Liberty, north along Maple, then
east into downtown again along Miller--offers a stop less than a
minute from my house There's a bus scheduled to service that stop at
5:22pm, which gets me where I'm going by 5:35pm, which is a bit early
to arrive for my 6:00pm appointment. But the next bus doesn't get me
there until a scheduled time of a few minutes after 6:00. My strategy
was to take the earlier bus, hope it was running late (nope, arrived
exactly on time by my watch) and disembark a couple of stops early to
kill off the extra time.

When I climbed aboard, I joined 12 other riders. The early-twenties guy seated across from me had a vinyl record album in a plastic bag sitting on his lap. Through the plastic I could make out the words 'Blue Frog' in the title. A young mother boarded at the stop after mine. She had a little red-haired girl in tow whose job it was to carry the bus pass. On entering the bus, the girl shrieked, "I have it, I have it, I have it" and tried to escape down the aisle before it could be swiped. I was prepared to block the unruly red-head's path if necessary, but the young mom managed to catch up to her and wrestle the pass away. After swiping, the red-head was hoisted by the back of her jacket into her seat. By the time we reached Maple Village, everyone originally on the bus at my stop had gotten off.

I made the return trip was via 12B as well. Routewise, 12A would have been a better choice because I would have been delivered to within a minute of my house. Schedule-wise, I would have had to wait around 50 minutes versus the 20 minutes for the 12B. This meant that I had to disembark at Miller and 7th and walk from Miller down to Liberty on 7th.

On the bus, there was a woman holding a box with a new 13-inch combo TV-VCR unit. I suspect she might have been coming from Big George's.

Along the walking segment of the trip home, at the intersection of
7th and Huron, the street was littered with a strange collection of
stuff. Motorists were just driving around the debris. After snapping
the picture I cleared the street and arranged the items neatly on the

meeting round-up

For all of you who can't get enough NMT policy discussion, these gatherings are taking place this week.

Walking for transportation and health: contributions from urban design and planning
Friday, Feb 2 12:30 noon - 1:45 pm
University of Michigan Art & Architecture Bldg
Sandwiches provided
Anne Vernez Moudon (Visiting Professor, TCAUP Winter 2006; and Professor of
Urban Design and Planning, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, University
of Washington, Seattle)

Traffic Calming
Tue Jan 30 6pm -7:30pm
100 N. Fifth Ave.,Ann Arbor, MI (City Council Chambers,2nd Floor, Guy C. Larcom, Jr.
Municipal Building)
The City of Ann Arbor will hold an informational meeting to discuss the City’s Traffic
Calming Program. There has been wide reaching interest expressed, both by neighborhood groups and individuals, about this program. Some neighborhoods are currently petitioning for this process. There will be plenty of time for discussion to answer any questions. It should prove to be an informative and enjoyable evening! We hope you can join us.

WBWC Monthly Meeting
Thu Feb 1 7pm - Thu Feb 1 9pm
Ecology Center, 117 N. Division St. Ann Arbor
The monthly meeting of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Sat Feb 3 2pm - Sat Feb 3 3pm
Bicycles In Town bike shop, 116 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti
Don't put your bicycle away for the winter! Learn how to dress for cold weather riding, what precautions to take, what equipment your bicycle should have and what special maintenance procedures are needed. Also, indoor cycling using your own bicycle on a wind trainer will be discussed.

WBWC has all of these meetings, as well as other events, listed on their google calendar. It is worth checking frequently.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

footprints on our lives

The MinusCar Project posted reflections on an inspirational carfree moment. carfree ann arbor has connected with a growing number of carfree (carless, carlite, minuscar, whatever) blogs across the country. Many of the are based on personal reflections of a carfree life which we enjoy, but don't usually link to. To be honest, this one is just an excuse to post the picture.

If you are curious about other sites on carfree life, commuter cycling, and general "alternative" transportation issues, check out our del.icio.us links. The most recent additions are listed about halfway down the left-hand collumn of this blog. del.icio.us users can contribute to the list by including a "cfa2" tag to their posts.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Federal committee approval of sharrows

bikecommutetips points out that sharrows have gained Federal acceptance:

At its just completed winter meeting held January 17-19 in Arlington, Virginia, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices voted 35-0-3 to endorse the shared lane marking ("sharrow")...

We know that you've probably been on the edge of your seat, biting your nails over this vote as you check in, with great anticipation, on the meeting notes of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD). But don't roll out the barrels just yet. Approval was granted by the Bicycle Technical Committee (BCT), but it still needs to be reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) before being included in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). A list of acronyms like that suggests that we're still in for quite a bureaucratic ride.

WTF is a sharrow?

Why should you care? Well, Ann Arbor is one of the few cities to use these shared-use arrows. You can find them on State, Liberty and other downtown streets already. And while the freshly approved non-motorized plan focuses more on bike lanes, it does call for the expansion of sharrows to more streets that are too narrow for exclusive bike lanes.

Getting the sharrows in place was difficult because they aren't included in AASHTO standards. If the sharrow gets the thunbs up from the FHA, the officially approved status will make them easier to implement. In Ann Arbor, that means we won't get the run-around from engineers who are sticklers for AASHTO guidelines. It also means that sharrows might be used in other communities, increasing visitors' awareness of what the symbol means when they visit our fair city.

We like sharrows because they are generally cheap and easy to implement with a proven impact on road position and behavior for cyclists and motorists. Others don't take to the new symbol because they feel it is cheap way out of providing bike lanes or just another road symbol to confuse road users, or both. We can see the argument, but prefer policies and designs that encourage cars and bikes to work together on the road. Encouraging the "seperate but equal" bike lanes tends to support motorists' perceived right to bully cyclists who are not riding, in the motorists mind, appropriately.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

the path less traveled: cycling

Continuing his exploration of carfree options (previous pedestrian post) in the real world, Homeless Dave reports on his cycling adventure. His route includes the Y where Huron splits to Jackson and Dexter-Ann-Arbor roads.

Installment Two: Cycling

Because of the time of year and the time of day for this trip, I first had to plan far enough ahead to make sure my headlamp was charged. I was thinking ahead mainly to my visibility to motorists from the front when I made my first major cycling maneuver on this trip.

The left turn from 7th onto Huron is one I'm very familiar with for daytime cycling. Even in broad daylight, it requires extra vigilance to stay safe. You have to claim your space in the left-turn lane, and as the attached image shows, 7th St. jogs a full street width west. What the attached image does not show is that the approach from the north for cars is up a hill, which partially obscures visibility in both directions. Not to mention,
going 'straight' feels like a left-hand turn to a motorist approaching from the north. In general, motorists tend to be a little discombobulated by this intersection if they're not completely familiar with it. If they're familiar with it, they tend to just assume everyone else is, too. That accounts for the guy in the 'straight' lane honking his horn impatiently behind a driver who
didn't want to 'turn left' and was stuck in the middle of the intersection.

In any case, I negotiated the intersection without incident. It occurred to me that I should consult the owner's manual for my headlamp to learn how to make it strobe. I'm pretty sure I remember that it has that functionality. I wonder what motorists think of that sort of flashing. I wonder if the Bike Light Building 101 on 14
January or the Light Building Workshop on 28 January (details here) teaches you how to built a light with a strobing function.

On the return trip, making the left from Maple onto Dexter-Ann-Arbor Rd. I couldn't get the traffic signal to give me a turn arrow. Having read about sensors on cfa2.blogspot.com, I looked for pavement cuts and whatnot, but didn't see any. I messed about in the road a bit, before giving up. I missed one cycle of light changes before a car came up behind me and that triggered the sensor for the next cycle.

Not long after making that left turn, the sound of jingling keys hitting the asphalt alerted me that I had not adequately zipped the pocket of my jacket. I wasn't too worried about finding a set of keys in the middle of the road, even in the dark. I had 15W of power to bring to bear on the situation. Even when a vehicle approached before I could retrieve my keys, I wasn't worried. What's the chance the
tires will actually roll over the keys? The photo shows that my optimism was not well-placed. I figure I should just embrace the irony that it was the key to my bicycle lock that was damaged. Anybody have a suggestion
for a DYI to fix the housing? [The spare is long since lost, so it's not as easy as swapping it out for the one in the kitchen drawer.] I'm thinking of some sort of big wad of marine epoxy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

UM student shuttle to basketball games

"Parking down there is such a pain," Liner said. "This time I parked my car outside of East Quad and then waited at the closest bus stop. It seems like a good system."

It's a little surprising to find that students actually drive to Chrysler Arena, but it is nice to see another example of UM promoting carfree alternatives for short driving trips. LSA Student Government will be providing bus transport from select dorm locations for at least a couple more games. Hopefully they will continue the program throughout the season. It's unclear whether non-UM folks are allowed on the bus, but we doubt anyone is checking.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

UM staff may get a free ride

The Mayor continues to build momentum on his goal for commuter rail service between Howell and Ann Arbor. Hieftje announced that UM has offered to pay for its employees to use the service. Note that while the Mayor pins the promise on Hank Baier, associate vice president for UM facilities and operations, there are no official promises from the university just yet. Also still missing is the rail service that they would ride. UofM backing is a great boost for this project, and hopefully this is a step closer to realizing some inter-city transit options. But for now, chickens should remian uncounted.

It's not clear whether it is the AANews or the Mayor who is implying a link between the commuter rail and more parking structures downtown. The article drifts towards foreboding vagueries about how more downtown parking is inevitable but at the same time, no one is advocating it. If they are trying to say that free train rides for UM staff will reduce downtown parking demand, we don't buy it. Any mode swith would be from people currently parking in UM blue lots. But that doesn't mean we don't need to invest in some additional infrastructure, both for transit and parking. Hopefully the DDA's coomprehensive parking study will give us more info on what the parking needs will be. We wonder how that same info might be used to support the North-South commuter rail as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

AATA's RideTrak goes mobile

A while back we got the tip on AATA's new RideTrak internet service. Choose a route at the AATA website, and it gives you the current location and status (early, on-time or late by X minutes) of the bus. While we were excited about finally getting access to the info, we mostly grumbled about how the service could be better. We, and many others, contacted AATA through their comment form to throw a bunch of well-intended, if demanding and uninformed, suggestions at them. High on that list was mobile access to the updates.

Well, ask and ye shall receive. The front page of theride.org now announces that riders can direct browsers on their PDAs and mobile phones to mobile.theride.org for mobile access to bus updates. We haven't tried out the mobile edition yet, but are impressed with what seems like a pretty fast response to rider requests by AATA. If you have tried the mobile version of RideTrak, let us know how it worked in the comments.

We're curious whether enough people use web-enabled phones and are willing to pay connection fees to make this a usefull for a significant portion of current and potential riders. If the AATA is still looking for ways to expand their reach, maybe offering a call-in automated service would be better for some.

In any case, we're impressed with the initiative that our transit service is showing in expanding access to route information. Thanks, AATA!

Monday, January 15, 2007

on ice storms and sidewalks: a Californian's perspective

Living Small posted her reflections on being introduced to the misery and wonder of Michigan winters on her walk to work. We always enjoy reading personal accounts of carfree life. This one gets extra points for the winter walking tip.

Tuck my pants into my boots? The indignity! But I was glad for this instruction when I stepped on what looked like solid ice and landed ankle-deep in dirty slush. David was puzzled about why I had stepped there -- to him, it was obviously not solid. "Give me a break," I replied, "I was raised in captivity!"

note: tucking pants into boots wil keep them dry until snow, ice, slush, or rain gets in the boot. This may work to protect nice pants on an easy walk, but keeping the pat leg out of the boot prevents the outdoor yuck from becoming in-boot sop.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

the path less traveled: walking

In response to our plea for accounts of local carfree life, Homeless Dave generously provides a description of his varying carfree experience with a fork in the road. This is part one of what looks to be developing into a three part series.

I'm starting 2007 with a regular evening appointment three times a week that was previously not on the calendar. The route I need to cover includes an east-west leg along Huron, which splits at a Y in the road, becoming Jackson Rd. to the south and Dexter-Ann-Arbor Rd. to the north. Left to my own devices, I'll be using the Dexter-Ann-Arbor Rd. fork and will then turn right onto Maple. Given the darkness, I figured I'd give a few different car-free options a try.

Installment One: Walking

Approaching Huron from the south on 7th Street, my first decision was to weigh (1) taking the south side of Huron to the Y-in-the-road, then crossing there to the south side of Dexter-Ann-Arbor Road eventually crossing to the north side of Dexter-Ann-Arbor Rd. at Maple against (2) taking the south side of Huron to the Y-in-the-road, then crossing all the way to the north side of Dexter-Ann-Arbor against (3) crossing Huron right at 7th Street, requiring no crossing at the Y-in-the-Road and no crossing of Dexter-Ann-Arbor Rd.at Maple.

I opted for (3). But here's what I encountered on the north side of Dexter-Ann-Arbor Rd. about 400 meters from the Maple intersection: No more sidewalk. It was raining, so slogging cross-country style across the front yards, planted with various bushes and whatnot, seemed like a pretty wet and nasty proposition. Not to mention a little dangerous: the first branch I took to my face caused me stumble nearly into the road with traffic approaching from behind. Crossing the street right at that point was pretty much the only reasonable choice, but required a sort of mad dash, as there was a fairly steady stream of cars in at least one of the directions.

Conclusion: use the sidewalk on the south side of Dexter-Ann-Arbor Road [i.e., use option (1)]

Total distance of a one-way trip is around two miles, probably somewhere close to the limits of my own tolerance for a regular commuting walk.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

volunteer for the worst day of the year ride

As part of continue series of winter bike events, the Worst Day of the Year Ride is coming up in a week (Jan 21). Organizers are seeking a few more volunteers to help at the registration table and valet bike parking. Contact erica@annarborchamber.org for more information.

The event includes rides of three lengths (40, 12, & 6 miles). Weather predictions suggest that while this has been a mild winter, precipitation and temperatures hovering right around freezing will help the ride live up to its moniker. To make it more fun, there will be prizes for costumes and for "The rider who can complete the ride with the largest stuffed animal tied to him/herself", because nothing is more fun than goofy looking cyclists dragging giant teddy bears through 40 miles of grimy road slush.
Seriously. We'd love to use that photo to advocate Ann Arbor as a cycling city.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

biking in a skirt

We were planning to save this for Spring, but we noticed a couple searches on the topic were sending people to cfa2. Since we are having a balmy January anyway, here are a few tips on riding like a girl.

If you're riding in a skirt, consider:
- wearing heavier, limp material that is less likely to lift in the wind
- wearing shorts or tights under your skirt
- fixing your skirt to your leg (garter, pant leg strap or tape)
- busting out your legwarmers from 1984 on cold days
- sporting those cute panties that you are dying to show off

how to dress like a girl and still ride a bike
(definitely read the comments)

how to ride in a skirt and heels

A skirtguard keeps your skirt from getting caught in the rear wheel spokes and brakes.

interview with Eli Cooper, trasportation program manager

AANews published a light-weight interview with the guy in charge of transportation in Ann Arbor. There is not a lot of content here, but it is nice to see him introduced as "the man at the city who is charge of trying to get people out of their cars". Maybe he should have been at the negotiating table when we forked over 400 free parking spaces to Google.

There are a couple quotes worth commenting on.

Many times after Ann Arbor City Council meetings, some of the council members will get in their cars and drive two blocks for a late-evening meal.
If we don't see an LtE flat out denying this, then we really need to reconsider how council is representing us.
Street cars?
Possibly within five years. "God willing,'' he says.
The idea is to have rails put in underground on a street like Liberty or Washington and then covered with pavement. When a streetcar is not in use, the cars can use the lane. He said it would cost $50-$60 million to start it up.
It's likely that some of this cash would come from grants and not city coffers. Still, we were surprised to find street cars to be a priority. Since they will have to deal with the same traffic as AATA service, it seems even a paultry $10 million to support the Link would go a lot further in addressing cross-town transit.

Cooper also recommends express buses for Park & Ride lots. He says the frequent stops make for a long journey that deters potential park&riders. Might we also suggest a coffee shop at P&R lots that sells product that can be consumed on the bus?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

ann arbor bike winter continues

With all the holiday hub-bub over the last few weeks, you may have forgotten that bike winter, sponsored by getDowntown is only half way done. With the continuing warm weather, you may, in fact, have forgotten about winter altogether.

Bike winter slipped our minds, too. We forgot to mention the Winter bike talk that took place on Saturday. However, there are plenty of events still to come. This Friday brings another bike maintenance workshop and Cycler's Social. You can see all of the remaining events, including the Worst Day of the Year Ride (pray for snow!), at the gDt events calendar.

carfree bartering in a car-centric gift economy

One of our first few posts mentions bumming rides as a simple and often over-looked carfree transportation solution. Alan Durning's article, Perils of Carless Parenting, adds a little depth to that concept. He explains that a whole lot of transactions in our lives aren't monetarily based but depend on favors, gifts and reciprocation. In his year living carless, Alan found that this gift economy, like so much of American life, is pretty auto-centric, especially when you have kids to deliver to their many scheduled events. While Alan focuses on families, the basic premise is true for any carfree person living in a carfull community; your friends and neighbors are driving everywhere and not being able to trade rides puts you in an awkward social position.

Alan suggests being creative in finding other ways to pay back neighbors, not so much in a picture-frame-made-of-popcicle-sticks-and-gumdrops way as in a matching-carfree-benefits-to-carbound-neighbors'-needs way. We thought we would take that a step further and throw out a few potential favors that you can trade for rides.

shovel snow
We said this before, but if you're already bundled up with shovel in hand, it doesn't take much extra effort to clear your neighbor's walk once you finished yours. And the effort is usually greatly appreciated. Of course the prerequisite snow must fall first...

pay for gas
For long and regularly scheduled rides, you can offer to cover fuel costs. Yes, you probably gave up your car so that you wouldn't have to be victim to rising petrol prices, but it is an appropriate trade and at least you're not paying for insurance, maintenance and car payments.

child care
If you are a parent looking for rides to little league practice, child care is a great bartering tool because it is worth more than it costs. Having a neighbor willing to watch your kids for a couple hours when emergency errands come up means you don't have to call up a sitter and work out a schedule. Also, don't rule out supervising kid delivery by transit. You might be a big hit with your neighbor kids for taking them to choir rehearsal on the bus.

downtown pick-ups
They only live a mile from downtown, but your neighbor rarely enjoys their favorite snack, chocolate cherry bread, because they can't find parking at Zingerman's. But since they offer free and convenient bike parking, it is no problem for you to grab an extra loaf on your way home. This is a very low cost/high value favor. 1 loaf chocolate cherry bread should be worth 20-30 free rides at least!

Let us know of other ways you trade for rides in the comments.