Indian & Buttles Streets Corridor Study
In May 2018, Midland City Council approved a 3-year lane reduction study of Buttles Street. This study temporarily barricades the far right lane of Buttles Street from M-20/Jerome Street to State Street in an effort to observe how the road would function as a two-lane street. During the 3-year study phase, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will periodically monitor the study area to observe four key factors of roadway service level: traffic speeds, traffic volume, traffic accidents, and traffic delays and back-ups.
Prior to the 2018 study being approved by City Council, MDOT also conducted several multi-day test closures on portions of Buttles Street in August 2017 and November 2017 prior to suggesting a full-scale trial be implemented. Monitoring first took place after a 6-month period in 2018, then proceeds to occur annually from the May 2018 through the end of the trial period. Throughout the study period, MDOT representatives and City staff report current data findings and observations to City Council and the general public at scheduled City Council meetings.
Keep reading to learn more about the vision for this corridor, the "whys" behind the study, and updates on current study data. You can also find a helpful list of documents on the right sidebar (desktop) or bottom of the page (mobile) to find public meeting presentations, study documents, and more.
Where did this idea begin?
Beginning in 2015, MDOT commissioned a study with consulting firms MKSK Studios and DLZ to analyze the entire US 10 Business Route corridor in both directions from Washington Street to Airport Road. The final study report, presented to Midland City Council in March 2017, included observations from consultants and public input collected by MDOT as well as a list of viable alternative options for improving traffic flow and pedestrian usage through the corridor. One of these options included a lane reduction on both Indian and Buttles streets in the current road diet trial area. Click the links below to see more information related to the US 10 BR Corridor Study.
- City Council - US 10 BR Corridor Study Results (March 27 2017)
- City Council - Road Diet Trial Study Overview (December 18 2017)
- Planning Commission - Buttles Road Diet and Planning (September 11 2018)
- City Council - Road Diet Trial Objectives Resolution (October 8 2018)
- City Council - Road Diet Trial Update (October 29 2018)
- City Council - Road Diet Trial Update (May 20 2019)
- Public Info Session - August 14 2019
Case Studies & Articles
- Federal Highway Administration - Road Diet Informational Guide (PDF)
- AARP - Road Diets: A Livability Fact Sheet (PDF)
- NACTO - York Blvd: The Economics of a Road Diet (PDF)
- Catalyst Midland - Downtown Midland's Lane Reduction Test: Can less be more?
- NACTO - Market Street Protected, Buffered Bicycle Lane (San Francisco)
- Greater Greater Washington - Why Do People Oppose Road Diets?
- CityLab - Why One Florida City Reversed Its Road Diet
- Route Fifty - Why Speed Kills Cities
- CityLab - So What Exactly is a Road Diet?
What is the study trying to address?
At the highest level, the Indian & Buttles Corridor Study is just that - a study to determine if Buttles Street can function as a two-lane road. However, the study is a part of an overall vision to transform Indian and Buttles streets into an area of the community that's functional and safe for all users - vehicles and pedestrians - while encouraging economic growth and development, neighborhood connectivity, and increased non-motorized use.
Lane reductions are conducted in communities throughout the United States for a variety of reasons. The current Indian & Buttles Corridor Study seeks to address six key factors that are vital to the future success of our downtown corridor and, to a larger extent, the entire community:
- Economic Development
- Non-motorized Mobility
- Context Sensitive Design/Solutions
For more information on each of these factors, please click on the tabs below to pull up more details. (The tab you're currently viewing will be shown in green; additional tabs available to be clicked will be shown in gray.)
Since 2017, MDOT has observed the road diet trial area several times to understand how the road is performing:
- August 28 - 30, 2017
- November 6 - 13 2017
- September 25 - 28, 2018
- October 12 - 14, 2018
- March 3 - 9, 2019
- April 28 - May 4, 2019
- May 7 – 8, 2019
When conducting roadway studies, MDOT and the City are analyzing four areas: vehicle speed, traffic volume, back-ups and delays, and accident data. Metrics for the first three areas are collected on-site by MDOT, while the fourth is provided by the Midland Police Department and other local agencies. Let's take a look at the most recent data for each area.
Traffic volumes in the Buttles Street corridor have remained relatively consistent during the road diet trial as they have in previous years. Recent field counts found 13,875 vehicles per day at Jerome Street in 2018, right around the 5-year average volume, and a slight increase of about 1,100 vehicles per day at State Street. Volumes for the past 9 years as provided by MDOT are listed below:
SE of Jerome St
|SE of State St||13,520||N/A||11,892||11,247||12,624||12,541||13,123||12,341||12,605|
Buttles Street's posted speed limit through the corridor from Jerome to State Street is 35 miles per hour, increasing to 45 miles per hour at State. Prior to the lane reduction trial's implementation, vehicle speeds were frequently observed over the posted speed limit.
The red line on the above graph shows the street’s speed limit of 35 miles per hour. At the most recent traffic monitoring by MDOT in April and May 2019, traffic speed observed at Buttles and Fitzhugh stayed at or below this speed limit with no impact on the flow of traffic.
During a similar observation period by MDOT in March 2019, Traffic observed at Buttles and State Street actually consistently stayed above the posted speed limit; however, this is at the end of the road diet trial area where the speed limit increases to 45 miles per hour. Drivers may naturally begin to speed up in this area in anticipation of the increase in speed limit or because they’re leaving the two-lane area.
Traffic Delays & Back-ups
Traffic delay studies identify the number of vehicles that are left waiting at a signalized intersection through more than one light cycle. During MDOT’s delay studies in May 2019, September 2018, and November 2017, no traffic delays in the road diet trial area were found.
From May 2018 to April 2019, 37 crashes were observed in the road diet study area. This number is an increase of 11 crashes - or 42% - over the same time period from 2017-2018 (26). While this is the largest number of accidents the corridor has seen in the past decade, it's not the largest percentage increase in year-over-year crashes that the corridor area has seen.
These 37 accidents in the corridor accounted for a very small percentage of total accidents in the community:
- 1.9% (1,946) of all crashes in the City of Midland in 2018
- 1.3% (2,755) of all crashes in Midland County in 2018
See the chart below for the description of each accident type.
While it's not unusual to see an increase in vehicle accidents in an area where traffic patterns have recently changed, it's important to dive deeper into the data to determine what we're seeing. In the first year of the road diet trial, 17 (46%) of the 37 accidents recorded by the Midland Police Department were the result of a driver running a red light on either Buttles Street or a cross-street. Failure to obey a traffic control signal or device is almost exclusively attributable to driver error and would not be less likely to occur with 3 lanes of travel on Buttles Street. See below for a breakdown of ticketed driver actions based upon these accidents.
(Please note: As a motorist can be ticketed for multiple offenses in each incident, the totals for each year will not add up to the total accidents for the same time period.)
- Road Diet Trial Update to City Council - May 20, 2019 (VIDEO) Begins at 48:00
- Road Diet Trial Update to City Council - May 20, 2019 (PDF)
- Road Diet Trial Update to City Council - October 29, 2018 (VIDEO) Begins at 47:20
- Road Diet Trial Update to City Council - October 29, 2018 (PDF)
- Federal Highway Traffic Administration - Myth: Road Diets Make Traffic Worse (PDF)
For many motorists, a narrower roadway makes them feel uncomfortable while driving: believe it or not, that discomfort actually proves to make roadways safer for all users, including those both inside and outside vehicles. That's because many drivers base their travel speeds on “feeling” – and the more comfortable they feel, the faster and less cautiously they drive. Faster speeds and more careless driving leads to more accidents, more serious injuries, and more property damage.
Since driving by “feeling” is a subconscious action, simply lowering the speed limit in a corridor often doesn’t solve the problem. While adding increased traffic patrols from law enforcement is a temporary solution, it's also reactionary and unsustainable to execute over a long period of time. If the design of a roadway can naturally encourage drivers to slow their travel speeds, drive more cautiously, and limit distractions, it's proven to be safer for everyone.
According to the Federal Highway Traffic Administration, road diets actually reduce rear-end collisions and sideswipe crashes by slowing vehicle speeds by 3 to 5 miles per hour as well as decrease the frequency of drivers speeding 5 or more miles over the speed limit by 70 percent.
But isn't Buttles "too busy" to see a lane reduction? No - in fact, our one-way pairs fall into many of the categories that experts say make a road diet most likely to be successful:
- Moderate volumes (8,000-15,000 average daily traffic)
- Roads with safety issues
- Popular or essential bicycle routes
- Commercial reinvestment areas
- Entertainment districts
- Main streets
- Federal Highway Traffic Administration - Road Diet FAQ (PDF)
- AARP - Road Diets: A Livability Fact Sheet (PDF)
- Governors Highway Safety Association - A Right to the Road: Understanding & Addressing Bicyclist Safety (PDF)
- US Department of Transportation - Traffic Calming to Slow Vehicle Speeds
- Vox - Road Diets: Designing a Safer Street (VIDEO)
- Route Fifty - Why Speed Kills Cities
Our one-way pairs are over-engineered, which means that they’re designed to handle much more traffic than they actually see. This has created some concerns for the future of economic development on Indian and Buttles Street.
When communities build roadways that are over-sized for their locations, a number of things happen:
- It creates less usable space for other purposes, such as sidewalks, non-motorized lanes, green space, or additional property development.
- It encourages unsafe driving conditions,like speeding and frequent lane changes, that make it difficult for pedestrian and non-motorized traffic to cross or use the road.
- Higher speeds create more noise pollution, which makes an area less enjoyable to live and shop in.
When an area becomes less accessible and less desirable to live or build in, its property values decline: not only for homes and businesses along the corridor, but just outside of the corridor as well. Lower property values make it difficult to see positive return on investment for property. Furthermore, when property values go down, property tax revenue decreases, which also impacts the services and amenities that the City is able to provide.
During the City’s Master Plan update in 2007, input from residents supported expanding what we consider the “downtown” area to include the one-way pairs. This means that the goals of downtown development - high-quality, higher-density design; buildings closer to front property lines; and accessible spaces that promote both indoor and outdoor interaction – are also the future goals for the Buttles and Indian Street corridor.
At the end of the day, private businesses ultimately decide where to locate their organizations. Our goal is to create an environment that encourages economic development with the entire community in mind. And when a business or organization chooses to invest in Midland, the entire community benefits through increased job opportunities, higher property values, and more expanded service offerings.
- City of Midland Master Plan
- Metro Magazine - Study Finds Value in Downtown, Center Cities Investment
- Smart Growth America - Complete Streets Stimulate the Local Economy (PDF)
- Federal Highway Administration - Road Diets' Economic Impact (PDF)
- National Association of City Transportation Officials - York Blvd: The Economics of a Road Diet (PDF)
Non-motorized transportation refers to all users of a corridor that aren't using an motorized vehicle: that includes pedestrians on foot, bicyclists, mobility devices (wheelchairs, power chairs, etc.), and others. In previous decades, streets were built with the primary accommodation being given to motorists; however, today's consumer trends show more pedestrians and cyclists on the streets than ever before. Some members of a community utilize non-motorized transportation because that don't have access to or own a vehicle, while others may enjoy getting exercise, limiting their carbon footprints, or experiencing their community in a different way. Regardless of the reasons why, the fact is: roads that are designed solely for automobile travel put people at risk and discourage pedestrian usage.
In 2005, MDOT created a policy to include the “context sensitive solutions” process in the planning of its projects.
Later, in August 2010, two public acts made the Complete Streets approach a requirement for all state transportation projects. Complete streets provide safe, efficient access and use for any type of legal transportation on a public roadway.
Since June 2010, Midland has had a “Complete Streets” policy that challenges our staff to consider creating roadways that are safe for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, residents with mobility devices, and automobiles. With more inter-community connectivity comes the potential for greater economic investment, increased social interaction, and a better quality of life for all of our tax-paying residents. Advances in non-motorized mobility benefit members of our community from all walks of life.
- MDOT - Complete Streets Policy FAQs (PDF)
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - Traffic Safety Facts: Bicyclists & Other Cyclists (PDF)
- Smart Growth America - Complete Streets Help Create Livable Communities (PDF)
- Smart Growth America - Complete Streets Change Travel Patterns (PDF)
- Pedestrian & Bicycle Information Center - Tools to Reduce Crossing Distances for Pedestrians
Context Sensitive Design
You may have heard the phrase “context sensitive design” in relation to the road diet trial. But what does that mean?
Context sensitive design means designing roads using standards and development practices that are flexible and sensitive to community values and encourages roadway designers to make decisions that balance economic, social and environmental objectives. That means that planners, engineers, and developers go through a process – called context sensitive solutions – that incorporates input from the community and its stakeholders to include less-tangible goals such as livability, mobility, economic sustainability, and more.
In 2005, MDOT created a policy to include the “context sensitive solutions” process in the planning of its projects. In fact, you may have participated in the context sensitive solutions process on this corridor before: MDOT conducted public input sessions at City Hall in March 2015, December 2016, and September 2017 to discuss the future use of this roadway. At these meetings, residents shared feedback with traffic engineers and viewed sample infrastructure designs proposed for the corridor. See the "Future Vision for the Corridor" section below this tab for more details.
Check out the "Non-Motorized Transport" tab for more information about how state and local policies, such as the Complete Streets initiative, incorporates many of these concepts.
- MDOT - US 10 Business Route Corridor Study Results, 2017 (PDF)
- US DOT Federal Highway Administration - Context Sensitive Design/Context Sensitive Solutions Fact Sheet (PDF)
- MDOT - Complete Streets & Context Sensitive Solutions (PDF)
- MDOT - Context Sensitive Solutions Policy, 2005 (PDF)
- MDOT - Aesthetics Policy, 2000 (PDF)
Whether to get healthy, to get outside, or to simply get to where they need to go, people are choosing to spend more time walking and biking to their destinations than ever before - and that requires us to take a deeper look at how our infrastructure network functions for that purpose. Walking, biking, and other forms of non-automotive methods of travel are all forms of transportation, too!
It’s been a longtime goal of the City's Master Plan to incorporate the areas surrounding Indian and Buttles streets into the expanded downtown area to further drive economic development and create a more connected downtown core. With more inter-community connectivity comes the potential for greater economic investment, increased social interaction, and a better quality of life for all of our tax-paying residents. As we continue to see growth and investment in core areas of our community such as Midtown and the Downtown District, it’s becoming more important to create a way for all transportation users to access these areas as safely and efficiently as possible.
Advances in non-motorized mobility benefit members of our community from all walks of life. In fact, the more connected and "included" a person feels in a community, the more likely he or she is to live there and contribute to that community in a positive way - both personally and economically.
WATCH: Public Information Session - August 14, 2019
City staff held public information sessions on Thursday, August 8 and Wednesday, August 14 to invite residents to learn more about the road diet trial, review current statistics, and take a walking tour of the corridor to experience it as a pedestrian. The evening included a presentation by Director of Planning & Community Development Grant Murschel and a discussion of residents' observations at the end.
Watch the video below to see what you missed!
Future vision for the corridor
Now that we've covered the reasons why this trial has been executed, let's address the next question: What would Indian and Buttles streets look like if they were taken down to two-lane roads? If the road diet trial were to be implemented, we’d rely on the public’s input to help shape the actual design, but MDOT provided some potential options for this corridor at its 2016 US-10 Corridor Study open house that residents were able to discuss. Find them below.
ARTICLE: Can less be more?
What are we looking to accomplish through this road diet trial? City staff sat down with Catalyst Midland to talk about our vision for the future of Buttles and Indian streets that could become a reality if the road diet trial proves successful. Click the image above to read the article.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions about the road diet trial after reviewing the information above, please look through a few of our FAQs to see if your question has been asked before!
- Who was responsible for initiating the US 10 Corridor Study in 2015?
- Who are the stakeholders that asked for this?
- Why were earlier trials conducted before the current trial was started?
- Why are there three lanes now? If they were needed before, why aren’t they needed now?
- What is the purpose of the road diet trial now taking place?
- What is the long term goal?
- How does a lane reduction better connect downtown to the surrounding community?
- Are corridor improvements only being considered to benefit the immediately surrounding properties?
- What data is being collected during the current trial period?
- What is the plan for evaluating the lane reduction?
- Why are we considering closing a lane of traffic to accommodate bicyclists?
- I don’t see pedestrians or bicyclists using the closed lane on Buttles Street. Doesn’t this show that the trial isn’t working and the lane closure is not needed?
- Wouldn’t it be better to stop the trial until all construction downtown is finished?
- It has been reported that Buttles Street has seen an increase in crashes because of the road diet. What is happening there?
- How will this impact emergency vehicles traveling through the corridor?
- Has future development, growth, and increased pedestrian usage been considered?
- What has already been decided by City Council?
- The decision on this trial has already been made. Why should I participate in any future meetings?
- How can I share my experiences in the corridor with the City?
- What happens to my comments after I submit them in writing to the City?
- Does the City compile other communications about the road diet, such as letters to the editor in the Midland Daily News or posts on social media outlets?
- How will City Council address the public feedback it receives?
- The plastic bollards in place are ugly and make the area unattractive. Can’t we do something that looks better?
- Why is the trial taking so long to complete? When will it end?
- What happens at the end of the trial period?
- Are there plans to do the same on Indian Street?
- Who will be paying for any future changes to the road and what would the timeframe be to start construction?
- How have road diets benefited other communities?