Do You Really Want Two-Way Traffic in Downtown Kalamazoo?
As if there wasn't enough for us to disagree about; a published report says the City of Kalamazoo, rich with power, is moving ahead to turn the one-way streets downtown back to two-way thoroughfares, likely in the next two to five years. It seems like this would be an appropriate place to insert the saying, "the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same."
The sarcastic wag in me is thinking "oh, that'll be a fun battle to live through." Though realistically, there won't be a battle, as this issue has already been decided by the powers that be. By the time any organized resistance pops up, the work will already be halfway done and any arguing will be futile.
Remember, these are the same geniuses that bought into one urban planner's idea that downtown walking malls were the way to go, and so the city tore up Burdick Street into a pretty park-like area that in the span of about two decades ultimately failed and was torn up in the 90's, with the compromise being a one-way (heated pavement) street. Oh, and that leads to another question: Are we really going retro and taking Burdick Street to its original two-way configuration?
If you've ever seen any of the old black and white photographs of downtown Kalamazoo, with traffic both coming and going, it does seem like quite the curiosity. But, ultimately, what are we gaining by going "back to the future"? Does some city planner have a crystal ball that can see fifty years into the future? Are downtowns making a comeback? What about malls? Not likely, but then who, in, say 1984, could've seen malls dying, left and right, as they have in the past decade.
Maybe the problem is, that nobody in power has really done a decent job of explaining why this is being done? Show us the reasoning behind it. What are the benefits (and the drawbacks, I dare you.)? Is two-way traffic going to increase business activity downtown? How? Or is this the same thinking that gave us Arcadia Creek Festival Site and then, when a new set of powerbrokers came to be, the whole focus changed to building new office buildings?
One thing we can all agree on, though: If we do go back to two-way streets downtown, it will make a great excuse for building giant roundabouts at Michigan and Westnedge, and Kalamazoo and Rose, and maybe four or five other intersections, just enough to put the fun in going downtown. But, actually, you can't do that. The purpose of roundabout and "Michigan Lefts" is to decrease accidents, and two-way traffic is just the opposite of reducing left turn into traffic.