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Detroit introduces "strategic" plan for safer, easier transportation

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Detroit has a new four-year plan to deal with the city’s transportation challenges from end-to-end, city officials announced Friday.

“For the first time in many years, the city of Detroit has a strategic transportation plan,” Mayor Mike Duggan said.

The planhas 82 specific benchmarks that cover the whole transportation spectrum, from revamping roadways and intersections to creating more bike lanes and upgrading bus service.

Some of the measures are already in place or underway. Others, like a mobile app to pay for bus fare, will roll out later this year, Duggan said.

Other portions of the plan will take longer, but Duggan’s deputy chief of staff Dave Massaron promised it has “real deliverables” for residents.

“Unlike many planning efforts that government undergoes, it doesn’t just end up on a shelf,” Massaron said. “It has real deliverable value for residents. You can look and see all of the things we’ve committed to do, and you can hold us accountable to do them.”

Janette Sadik-Khan helped redesign New York City’s streets as its commissioner of transportation. Now, she works with Bloomberg Associates and helped write Detroit’s plan.

Sadik-Khan says the idea is to make Detroit a city where people can move around safely and easily, and don’t need to own a car to do that.

“It’s not anti-car to say, let’s provide more choices,” she said. “It’s really about providing options for how people need to get around.”

Sadik-Khan says that means seeing streets in a new way.

“Our neighborhood streets should not be short cuts and speedways for getting people where they need to go faster,” she said. “Our streets are our public spaces. Looking at them and valuing them as the public spaces that they really are is really a strategy that’s a kind of down payment on a better city.”

The plan calls for revamping streetscapes to create more bike lanes and safer pedestrian crossings, among other things. It also promises to upgrade the transit system with more bus routes and more frequent service, and pilot a partnership with Lyft to supplement transit with ride-sharing services. And it will centralize traffic light timing to control traffic flows and ease congestion.

Improving safety is a key priority. Detroit has a problem with traffic injuries and fatalities, including the nation’s highest pedestrian fatality rate.On Friday, Duggan supervised a pilot project that’s part of the strategic plans—putting in speed bumps meant to slow traffic alongside Peterson Park on the city’s northwest side.

Neighborhood resident Georgia Cambell says speeders are a menace to people who use the park, especially children and seniors. She remembers last spring, when a speeding car killed two people and injured two others sitting in a parked car there.

“I really applaud the mayor on moving toward doing something,” Cambell said. “Sometimes I think it’s a little bit too late, but it’s always better than never, I would say.”

Cambell hopes the city will consider putting speed bumps and making other traffic changes on the other side of the park as well. Duggan says the city will hold public listening sessions and incorporate resident input as the plan moves forward.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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