|Many existing roads in the Grand Traverse region still need work.|
Many northern Michigan residents want to see more money invested in bike trails, sidewalks, and transit, even if that means less money is spent widening roads, according to new survey by Northwestern Michigan College.
Eighty-six percent of survey participants said they want to improve the streets that we have before building new and wider roads. Eighty percent were highly supportive of investing in trails and sidewalks. And 75 percent favored future investments in public transportation, even if that means roads aren’t widened.
The survey also showed a strong preference for in-town living. Eighty percent of participants responded favorably when asked if they would put up with traffic if it means that jobs, shops, schools, and parks were within walking distance to each other. And 55 percent said they would consider living in a neighborhood with smaller yards, apartments, and condominiums if they could walk or ride a bike to shops, jobs, schools, and parks.
The college conducted the random sample survey within the six-county Grand Vision region, which includes Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, and Wexford Counties.
The results, which were released late last month, come at a time when state and local lawmakers face tough decisions on how to pay to maintain Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure.
Last Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder unveiled his 2014 budget proposal, which includes about $1.2 billion in additional revenue for transportation through increases in gas taxes and registration fees.
His proposal would dedicate millions more to transit and rail over last year’s budget, far more than any previous governor. He also wants to grant counties the ability to raise their own registration fees for local street and transit projects.
The governor has said publically that he wants to see bicycle and transit get its full share of the transportation pot.
Now it’s up to the Legislature to respond to his proposal and craft their own solution for addressing the transportation challenges that Michigan’s residents, visitors, and businesses face daily.
Some ideas may encounter some resistance. Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw), for example, introduced a proposal to replace the current fuel taxes and registration fees with a 2 percent sales tax, and dedicate a portion of that tax to a new fund that can only be used for widening highways. Other proposals would remove tools that allow cities to invest in better sidewalks and bike lanes.
We’ll see plenty of ideas in the next couple months. But one thing’s clear: If lawmakers want broad support for new transportation revenue, they must propose solutions that build a complete transportation system including safe streets, transit and rail - not just roads.
You can find the survey results here.