Blog: Eli Cooper

Used to be that all roads led to private autos but now with the Ann Arbor City Council's commitment to a Complete Streets program, roadblocks to alternative transport are buckling. Eli Cooper, Ann Arbor's transportation program manager, writes on how Washtenaw's county's working of more lanes for moto, bike, bus, rail, and foot travel means a road map redesign by 2041.

Post 5: Transportation Map for 2041

Wow, this blogging gig is an interesting exercise.  I hope you have enjoyed following along over the past few posts.  Perhaps I have encouraged you to see some transportation issues from a slightly different angle.  I will now attempt to address one of the ideas framed by the hypothetical questions posed on the Moving You Forward website: In 30 years, how will Washtenaw County residents get around?

First and foremost, by 2041 thousands more people will live and work in Ann Arbor and throughout the county using many of the existing buildings and roads in-place today.  We will still have a strong central urban area; one extending along Washtenaw and Michigan Avenues including Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, and parts of the townships in between.  It will not be one homogeneous urban form, but one that evolved with parks,  green spaces, and natural resources serving to provide a respite from the growing urban area.  We will continue to celebrate the progressive planning that began in the 1980s and gently guided our growth and economic development.  We will have folks walking and bicycling in interesting mixed-use urban villages or hot spots, where people can satisfy most, if not all, of their needs within one area.  Home, work, shopping, recreation and learning will all be within a short comfortable walk or bike ride.  These urban activity centers can and will be linked by exciting forms of public transportation.  Systems of advanced transit vehicles, traveling separately from our congested roadways, will provide the connection between urban places.  They will be high speed, comfortable, and convenient.   

Efforts underway – including the Ann Arbor Connector Feasibility Study – give us reason to believe that in a few decades new transport systems including bus rapid transit, light rail and maybe even elevated guideway systems may be in use in Ann Arbor.    Of course we will still have thousands of cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, and the likes using our roadways.  These vehicles will be operating on much more complete streets, with enhanced bus stops and comprehensive systems of bike lanes and sidewalks.  Off-road trails, including the completed Border to Border (B2B) Trail and Allen Creek Greenway, will provide worry-free environments linking busy places through active transportation corridors.   

Additional Washtenaw County communities – including Chelsea, Dexter, and Manchester – will be linked to the central urban region with roads and public transportation services provided by a countywide service provider under a regional transit umbrella. This work began in earnest in the early part of the 21st Century under the AATA Moving You Forward program.  Embracing a smart growth model, by 2041 we will have moved far beyond the separations in land use and transportation systems and entered  into an environment where all forms of mobility are properly funded and the systems needed to link people, places and activities are in place and well used.   Buses of various sizes along with trains and other vehicles – will link the county together as a complement to the roadways system.  The current information and transportation options already make the world smaller. This reality will be even more so in 2041.     
By 2041 the volatility in gasoline prices is in the rear view mirror.   Major advances in technology have brought a variety of fuel sources into the mix.   Alcohol-based fuels, electric vehicles, wind and solar powered systems, and the like serve to move us.  Various mixes of synthetic gasoline remain available to serve the remaining classic cars still around.  Personal jet packs, flying cars and transporter beams are probably not in the mix yet, but a wide array of technologies using sun, wind, water, hydrogen, and other sources will emerge to move people, products, and vehicles in the year 2041.

You can see that the future is shaped by today's realities.  The reality of pressure on our urban systems will help us consider how to expand our communities and the transportation systems that serve us.    In 2041, our feet and minds will enable us to continue to remain a healthy, vibrant community with a prosperous economy.  Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are indeed special places, and through our combined efforts we will be able to move forward to 2041 and beyond, continuing to enjoy recognition as a leading, place to walk, bicycle, live, work, and learn.