Michigan Land Use Institute

MLUI / Articles from 1995 to 2012 /

January 21, 2004 |

THE PROBLEM: Michigan's highway-dominated transportation policy promotes runaway sprawl and tolerates some of the nation's roughest roads, worst traffic jams, and weakest public transit systems. This wastes tax dollars, erodes communities, and stalls the economy by disconnecting many job seekers, particularly people with disabilities, from potential employers. Since 1997 Michigan has spent about one-third of its transportation budget trying to build its way out of traffic congestion with new pavement. But metropolitan Detroiters, for example, still spend 27 hours a year stalled in traffic jams, wasting 175 million gallons of gas and $2.1 billion in worker productivity. Badly deteriorated pavement batters cars and escalates repair bills. The state spends just 5 percent of its annual $3.2 billion transportation budget on bus operations, loses $100 million a year in federal transit tax revenue that it sends to Washington D.C., and strands people who cannot drive, including the young, the old, and people with disabilities.

THE SOLUTION: Today Michigan citizens reject pouring still more of the pavement that supplants farms, forests, open fields, and quality of life. For example, Petoskey citizens fought the state's $4 million campaign for a highway bypass for 15 years before they forced the state to surrender in 2002; now local jurisdictions are exploring smaller-scale solutions that do not ignore the roughly one-third of Michigan residents who are too young, old, poor, or physically unable to drive. Michigan cities must offer alternatives for walking, bicycling, and riding buses and trains. They also must design more compact neighborhoods that weave together residential, shopping, working, and recreational areas with multiple means of reaching them.


Respect community character by fixing roads before building new ones and adopting a citizen-guided, “context-sensitive design” process that promotes both safe and innovative road, transit, bicycling, and walking designs, and also complements existing master plans.

Improve public transit and other transportation alternatives by fully funding them at the legal maximum of 10 percent of Michigan Transportation Fund revenues and 25 percent of auto-related sales tax, retaining ownership of railroad rights-of-way for future trail and transit use, and encouraging walking and bicycling to school through “Safe Routes to School” programs.

Michigan Land Use Institute

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Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
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