The East Lansing Transportation Commission met in person on Monday — marking the start of the return to regular in-person City meetings this month after a long hiatus due to the pandemic. The commission discussed a bevy of topics, including abandoned bikes, how to solicit community feedback and input about the commission’s work, and a number of specific transportation issues.
The commission got an update on current and future construction from Deputy Director of Public Works (DPW) Nicole McPherson.
McPherson is currently running the DPW while Director Scott House is away on a stateside deployment in the U.S. Army National Guard.
The biggest update from McPherson is that the construction on Abbot Road — between West Saginaw Street and Lake Lansing Road — is slated to be completed by Aug. 13.
Additionally, on Monday, Division Street was repaved from Grand River Avenue to Albert Street. McPherson said that by the end of Thursday, Charles Street between Grand River and Albert will also be repaved and will be completed prior to the Art Festival this weekend as part of a 2021 street resurfacing project.
McPherson also advised the commission that there will soon be water valve replacement work along Burcham Drive from Abbot Road to Hagadorn Road. That project will get going this fall and run into 2022, McPherson said, and will at times cut travel to one lane total along Burcham.
You can see the City’s list of construction projects here.
Prior to McPherson’s update on construction, the commission dealt with three business items.
First, what to do about abandoned bikes on private property?
This discussion was spurred by a request from Diana Twede, an East Lansing representative of the Tri-County Bicycle Association Advocacy Committee, to consider modifying the City’s Code of Ordinances to require landlords and businesses to take on the responsibility of dealing with abandoned bikes on their properties.
The request from Twede included photos, taken by local biking advocate Tim Potter, of bike racks outside The Lofts. Over the course of four years, he documented one particular red bike decaying into ruin with that bike “increasingly joined by more rusty flat-tired wrecks,” Twede wrote.
Twede requested that since the City requires a certain number of parking spots for bikes at certain buildings, it should do more to ensure they’re available for people to use.
The commission ultimately decided to take no action on the issue, namely because Commissioner Joel Lichty had informed the group that his wife, who is a member of MSU Bikes, went and looked at the specific bike rack in question and saw the abandoned bicycles had been removed. McPherson then told the commission that the City had contacted the property owners and asked them to address the issue, which they did. Some photos of the cleaned up bike racks were included.
While the commissioners could have recommended an ordinance change to City Council on this issue, the general sense was that the ordinance in question — encoded in Sec. 50-820 — is about how many bike parking spots need to be onsite, not necessarily readily available. And, in the case of the bikes outside of The Lofts, the problem finally got dealt with because someone from the City asked them to deal with it.
Second, how should the Transportation Commission seek to solicit community input and feedback, and from whom should they seek it?
“Discussion of invitees and topics for 2021 meetings,” turned into broader talks about how to get information from various stakeholders about what issues they face.
Representatives of Meridian Township’s Transportation Commission will attend the next meeting on Oct. 4, to discuss the Lake Lansing Road-Towar Avenue intersection rebuild and other issues commissioners want to bring up. The Nov. 1 meeting of the commission will feature the MSU Transportation Committee and a presentation from Ellie Bennett of ASMSU on protected bike lanes.
No December invitees had been listed, and deciding the invitees for December led to Monday’s broader discussion.
Commission Chair Scott McCormick was particularly outspoken in his desire to expand the reach and scope of from whom the commission hears.
“We’re kind of inbred in this group,” he said, explaining that there isn’t seemingly a lot of information or many issues being brought to the table outside of the commissioners.
McCormick’s first idea was to compile a list of the stakeholders from various groups that might have some transportation issue or matter in the City and invite them to a roundtable meeting. Commissioner Julie Rojewski suggested that each member of the commission could go off on their own and reach out to people they know who would be stakeholders and bring back what they learn.
The commission agreed to compile a list of the various people or groups from whom they’d like to solicit input, and McPherson will reach out to them in addition to various City and local entities like the East Lansing Fire Department.
From the written feedback, the commission will then determine who to invite in to meet with the commission.
Commissioners also indicated they’d be reaching out to individuals around the City and in their neighborhoods just to raise awareness that the Transportation Commission is there and wants them to come and raise their concerns.
And third, commissioners had the opportunity to raise their own issues.
This part of the conversation largely focused on students returning to school in person.
Commissioner John Boyse raised concerns about drivers turning right at red lights legally but in ways that were putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk.
“They’re looking left and turning right,” Boyse said before going on to recount an instance where a car almost hit him turning right on red. He also said that CATA buses shouldn’t be turning right on red, and noted that Flint has made it so their buses do not turn right on red.
After some more discussion, the commission ultimately asked McPherson and City staff for information about the 10 worst intersections in the City for these types of incidents so they can learn more before delving into the issue.
Rojewski raised another concern, about teenagers having to navigate the construction on Burcham drive near the high school. McPherson suggested the City could get in touch with the school to provide some information to students.
If you’d like to get in contact with the Transportation Commission about these issues or other ones, you can email Nicole McPherson at email@example.com or Council Member Lisa Babcock, who is the City Council liaison to the Commission, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next Transportation Commission meeting will be on Monday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.