Henry Morgenstein


For long now I’ve been haunted by a piece of information in a book called “Road to Ruin” by Dom Nozzi.

If you have a grid of 10 streets by 10 streets, and you seek to go from one corner of the 10-street grid to the other far corner, there are 184,000 possible ways to do that. You heard correctly: 184,000 ways to get from point A to point B.

Stick 50,000 cars at one corner and tell them they need to get to the other corner, the far corner, they won’t all head down the same street: it would create a humongous traffic jam.

So one car enters the 10-by-10-street-maze and goes two blocks one way, four blocks left, then … you get the picture. They disperse; they fan out. They don’t all come roaring down one particular street.

The point of all this? If you make one major road — the Old Town bypass for instance — they’ll all come roaring down that wide and welcoming way and it will soon be stinky, clogged, overcrowded, noisy, and deadly.

If you leave them to enter the grid of 10 streets by 10 streets, the situation that now exists, some will come down 10th Street, some will go down Seventh, some will take State, others Cass, others Union.

The old way is the best way. Don’t widen roads and rush them through. Keep the roads small. It is okay if they are overcrowded at some times on some days. Make cars slow down because there is no wide and welcoming way to rush through.

There are 184,000 ways to get from the corner of Division and 14th to the corner of Eighth and Rose. That’s about a 10-by-10 block square.

And what do our planners want to do? They want to funnel all cars down 14th Street to a place past Cass Street. Then, between the Oryana Co-op and Boardman Lake they will be funneled down to Eighth Street, and on Eighth, they can zoom to Garfield.

No, no, no, no. Fan out. Disperse the cars down existing roads. Build no more new roads. Make cars slow down in town. Save money by not building a big new road and use that money for bicycle lanes and beautiful and punctual public transportation.

Why will we continue down one road way past the time it makes sense to go down that road?

Accommodate cars no more — no more new car roads, no more parking lots or parking ramps. Enough! Too much has been done for cars, for car drivers.

For at least the next 20 years, let us focus all our resources on making towns navigable by foot, by car, by trolley, by bus, by train, by tram.

It is not so much that we will ban cars as that we will make the alternatives enticing, fun, inexpensive, readily available, safe and warm. Everything that cars are now.

About the author: Henry Morgenstein taught at NMC for 30 years and wrote bi-weekly columns for the Traverse City Record-Eagle (1985-1991). He splits his time between Southampton, England and Traverse City.

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