Wanted: Consultant to Help Birmingham Capture its Transportation Vision
The master plan — estimated to cost the city $75,000 — would help Birmingham figure out how to implement the city's Complete Streets policies.
To help Birmingham decide how it wants to tackle the issue of Complete Streets in the coming years, the city is looking to hire a consultant to help pen a Multi-Modal Transportation Master Plan.
But first, the Birmingham City Commission thinks a proposed request for proposal (RFP) needs a little work, ensuring that prospective consultants know Birmingham is looking for someone to help capture a vision.
"I think it's time to do planning like this," Commissioner Gordon Rinschler said. "But the part that we need is the vision first and then get to the details."
The 18-page RFP presented to the city commission at its May 7 meeting noted that "The City of Birmingham, Michigan, is seeking a consultant to develop a citywide multi-modal transportation plan ... used by the City to improve and expand opportunities for pedestrians, bicycles and transit users."
As part of the RFP, the city would hire a consultant to craft the master plan — the first major master plan since the Downtown Birmingham 2016 project, City Manager Bob Bruner noted. That consultant would then be managed by a nine- to 10-member advisory committee, who would provide guidance and recommendations throughout the planning process.
The total cost of the RFP is $75,000.
Commissioners direct staff to develop Complete Streets plan after East Maple Road feedback
The push to craft a plan focusing on multi-modal transportation is spurred by 2010 Complete Streets legislation that directs Michigan municipalities to accomodate alternative forms of transit, from pedestrians to cyclists.
In July 2011, the Birmingham City Commission voted in support of Complete Streets, directing city staff to develop policies and procedures on integrating Complete Streets practices — such as adding crosswalks and bike lanes — in Birmingham's construction projects.
Those efforts hit a roadblock in February, when commissioners sat down to decide whether to reconfigure East Maple Road. After the engineering firm Parsons Brinkerhoff/LSL planning studied the corridor in fall 2011, the firm recommended that the commission reduce the corridor from four lanes to three and install bike lanes in either direction.
However, more than 50 residents showed up to City Hall for the meeting, during which many noted a concern for safety and traffic diverting through adjacent neighborhoods, as well as a general disinclination to be the guinea pig for the city’s experiment with Complete Streets.
"Those residents let us know they're weren't interested in what the consultant said," Commissioner Rackeline Hoff said Monday.
After the city commission voted to stick with four lanes on East Maple Road — stressing that every road does not fit Complete Streets principles — the commission directed staff to create a comprehensive plan on how to implement Complete Streets in the future.
'Vision' should be bigger priority in RFP, commissioners say
Commissioners applauded the RFP presented at the Monday night meeting, but stressed that the need for vision should be more pronounced.
The first draft of the RFP noted the vision should be "To create an environment where walking, cycling or transit is as comfortable, convenient and easy as choosing to drive." Following that are three goals the city wants the consultant to focus on:
- Improve transportation choices through enhanced facilities and safety for nonmotorists.
- Promote energy conservation by providing a meaningful alternative to driving to help convert shorter local trips.
- Improve quality of life and support economic growth in the city through improved accessibility and mobility.
"Specifically, this plan is about people and about how to best transport people through and within the City of Birmingham," the plan reads. "The City's vision is to offer meaningful choices in the realm of transportation."
On a practical scale, Planning Director Jana Ecker said hiring a consultant is all about having a plan in place so the city knows ahead of time what to do when a road comes up for construction.
According to the RFP, there would be 60 city streets on which the consultant would focus that are either under construction now or will be in the next few decades.
"In the next 20 years, we'll be doing the vast majority of these 60 streets," Ecker said.
However, commissioners directed the city to take a second look at the RFP before sending it out, noting the reorganization of the vision section as well as a desire to better define the members of the advisory commitee. Currently, there are spots for a "bicyclist representative" and "pedestrian representative." Commissioners said they also wanted to make the committee more informal by taking commissioners off the list of members.