Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Washtenaw Avenue Talent Corridor

I have to let you know about the Washtenaw Corridor project. I mentioned it back on April 7, how Anya Dale is leading the planning effort to get transit-oriented development going on Washtenaw Avenue, between AA and Ypsi. The goal is to have an area that attracts young, college-educated people who want a vibrant, walkable neighborhood with good public transportation.

So we had a meeting today, discussed what to do next in three areas: Planning/Zoning, Transportation, and Marketing. It's time-consuming because we want ideas from all the people and groups represented. I can't tell you what was decided, because nothing was decided - we just brainstormed. Anya Dale and her team at the County have their work cut out for them, trying to get it all to make coherent sense.

You know, these things seem to go so very slowly, but really it's necessary to do it "right". In this case, "right" is with public participation. I was so pleased to see not only "the usual suspects", but people from the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice. "The usual suspects", bless them, are representatives of local governments, AATA, planning agencies, businesses, and chambers of commerce. They're the ones who make this kind of project go. But the Interfaith Council: they're on board because Michigan without transit-oriented development is an unjust place.

Yes, unjust.

In case I haven't said it often enough, communities that require automobiles to live in can become traps. "Need a job, son? Drive over and see us!" But... "Don't have a car, son? Get a job!" Trapped.

The result: we're compelled to live for our cars, and people with low-paying jobs are compelled to pay for their cars just to get to their jobs, whether or not they can afford health care, decent housing, or even food for the kids. This is the American Dream, according to some. How quickly that "dream" becomes a nightmare when you're laid off, you can't pay off your credit cards, car payments, and mortgage. That's why the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice is taking part in the project.

Slow as it seems, this is making the best progress of any transit-oriented development in the county. Thank you, team members. Thank you, Anya Dale, for managing the project. Thank you, Mandy Grewal and Dick Carlisle, for championing it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Larry, for highlighting this project. While people are becoming more aware of the economic benefit of transit oriented development, most are a bit fuzzy on the social benefit that comes directly and indirectly from investing in transportation and land use options that reduce dependence on cars. It is time for our region to reconsider the way we think about both attracting new people and investment to the area, and also how we better provide for the population we already have.

    As we move forward in the project, we want to hear from more citizens and businesses. Check out some background at this link, and feel free to contact one of us to get involved. http://annarborregionsuccess.org/action-teams/washtenaw-avenue-talent-center