Road Trip: Mode Shift to Cover Transportation Odyssey 2014

Who doesn't love a good road trip? Mode Shift sure does, on two wheels when possible. So, with that in mind, we're delighted to announce we'll be taking to the road this week to report on a special event called the Michigan Transportation Odyssey. The annual excursion is sponsored by the statewide Transportation for Michigan (Trans4M) coalition, which uses the trip to raise awareness about the state's transportation system. My name is David Sands. I’ve been a frequent contributor to Mode Shift over the last year-and-a-half, and I’ll be your guide to the journey.

This year marks odyssey number three for Trans4M. The first two featured trips between Detroit and Traverse City relied solely on public transportation options and helped illustrate the realities of traveling across the state without a personal motor vehicle. In a change of stride, 2014's two-day odyssey will take the form of a bus trip from Ferndale in Southeast Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie in the state’s Upper Peninsula. Riders will also be hopping off the bus periodically during the trip to check out transportation-related projects and presentations at several stops along the way.

Laurel Burchfield, Trans4M's coordinator, tells Mode Shift her group changed the trek’s rules this year, because they wanted to tell a different story this time. For this trip, they’ll be focusing on how street design and transportation policy affect the quality of Michigan communities. "We want to continue to highlight our successes when it comes to things like incorporating complete street elements into cities' master plans and maintaining trails, streets, and sidewalks to make them more accessible for all users," she says. "But we also wanted to show that transportation projects are not short term things; they require constant planning, funding, and creativity to stay relevant and usable. Even these communities that are leading the way in their efforts face challenges and need additional resources."

Participating in the 340-mile odyssey will be a team of folks assembled from coalition’s member groups like the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, the Rails to Trails Conservancy and Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council as well as members of the media.

The week kicked off Monday night with several odyssey-goers planning to ride along with Slow Roll, Detroit's most popular weekly community bike ride. The trip itself takes place Tuesday and Wednesday with stops in Ferndale, Brighton, East Lansing, Midland and Sault Ste. Marie.

Here’s a sneak peek at the itinerary:

* In Ferndale we’ll be taking a walking tour and looking at how the city is using buffered and green bike lanes and taking a complete streets approach to road design.

* Our time in Brighton will be spent exploring their use of lighted crosswalks, roundabouts and other enhancements to increase walkability and boost pedestrian traffic in their business district.

* For East Lansing, we’ll be looking at the role of public engagement in bringing new road design to the region and learn about planning for the CATA (Capital Area Transportation Area) Bus Rapid Transit project.

* During our stay in Midland, we’ll traverse the Pere Marquette trail and get a glimpse at how non-motorized plans can offer commuting and recreation alternatives.

* Finally, in the U.P. community of Sault Ste. Marie, we’ll be driving around the Mackinac Trail and the city’s business spur and will investigate how the city is using street design connectivity to help bring together a diverse population that includes students and tribal members.

Hayley Roberts of the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, who will be coming along for the ride, tells Mode Shift she's really excited the event is going off the beaten path this year to places like Brighton, Midland and the Upper Peninsula. She believes this year's trip will help illustrate how transportation policy impacts every community not just large metropolitan cities. "The Suburbs Alliance recognizes and celebrates the interdependence between communities, especially in terms of transportation, she says. "We see that for decades, policy and funding decisions have been made in service of cars rather than humans, and the Odyssey is a great way to demonstrate the possibilities of thinking differently."

For those of you who've been wondering when Mode Shift would be shifting into high gear again, we'll be starting things off this week with a series of social media tweets and posts with longer articles focusing on different stops in the Odyssey released over the next few months. So set your twitter accounts to @wearemodeshift and get ready to follow along as Mode Shift makes our way through the state's highways and main streets on this epic transportation adventure. Bon Voyage!

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