Grand Rapids

City Comm Agenda

Resolution Adopting the Vital Streets Plan


Department:Design, Development, and Community EngagementSponsors:
Category:Agenda Action RequestFunctions:City Commission, Committee of the Whole

Content A

On December 6, 2016, the City Commission held a public hearing to receive comment on the Vital Streets Plan, a proposed transportation master plan, and several supportive comments were received from stakeholders.  December 13, 2016, has been established as the date to consider adoption of the Plan.  This memorandum provides background on the development, intent, and contents of the Vital Streets Plan. 


The Vital Streets Oversight Commission (VSOC), appointed by the City Commission, was established after a May 2014 public vote to extend an income tax request in support of improving city streets and sidewalks. The role of the VSOC is to guarantee that the community’s vision of Vital Streets is being implemented; including that appropriate activities are undertaken to accomplish the vision, monitor progress, report on achievements and outcomes, and approve the Capital Improvement Plan.


In executing their charge, VSOC members found that Grand Rapids lacked a transportation master plan which would not only establish an integrated multimodal network, but would also set supporting policy and metrics for performance. The Vital Streets Plan is intended to insure the wise investment of public resources that advances the Vital Streets Vision:


“The network of city streets and rights-of-way will be accessible, attractive, multimodal and safe; serving all people of our community, contributing to the livability of our neighborhoods and business districts, protecting the quality of our river, and increasing economic opportunity to individuals, businesses, and new development.


Infrastructure assets will be maintained and well-managed, using a multi-faceted funding and educational strategy, and innovative approaches to preserve our investment.”


Grand Rapids has developed policies and plans over the years for many different transportation modes and demands including pedestrians, transit, bicycles, freight movement, major vehicle corridors, and curbside uses such as parking and loading. However, it was found that many of these plans do not fit well with one another. For example, there are inconsistencies in bicycle network plans between the Master Plan, the draft Bicycle Plan, and Green Grand Rapids Plan. The VSOC felt that this issue was apparent in their discussions about the need for a connected bike network.


Green Grand Rapids, the Michigan Street Corridor Plan, GR Forward Plan, the work of the Sustainable Streets Task Force (SSTF) and now the Vital Streets Oversight Commission (VSOC), with extensive community involvement over the past five years, have clearly demonstrated the desire and need for a comprehensive transportation strategy that involves “Complete Streets” – streets that provide for all modes and all users – and “Green Streets” to include green infrastructure. The terminology used to describe this is known as “Vital Streets”. This Vital Streets Plan connects all of the themes and ideas of the community’s work into one document. For the past year, the Vital Streets Oversight Commission, Stormwater Oversight Commission, and additional community stakeholders worked to develop this plan.


Street design decision-making becomes piece-meal if parts of a street are designed without a full understanding of the needs of the city-wide network. Knowing that safe and viable movement of all modes is essential to a strong and vital city, a new approach was recommended by the VSOC and strongly supported by city staff’s Design Team.  This has become the Vital Streets Master Plan and Guidelines.


The Vital Streets Plan has been approved by the Planning Commission and is recommended for adoption by the City Commission.  An accompanying set of “working” documents are also being developed and consist of: Design Guidance, Implementation and Oversight, a Map Atlas, a Bicycle Master Plan and a web-based resource guide.  The Design Guidance and Implementation documents will be adopted as an Administrative Policy by the City Manager. The Plan, when combined with the administrative policies, will serve as the foundation for decision-making by the city’s Design Team to insure that the purpose and intent of the Vital Streets Plan is executed consistently over time. The Bicycle Master Plan component of the plan is a required element for submission of an application to advance the city’s Bicycle Friendly Community designation. Finally, it should be noted that performance measures, project tracking, and prioritization guidance are part of this work to insure accountability as well as advance continuous learning and innovation so that Grand Rapids will continue to be on the cutting-edge of right-of-way design within the State of Michigan.


Content C



1.     The Vital Streets Oversight Commission (VSOC) was appointed for the purposes of guiding investment within public rights-of-way and to insure that the vision for Vital Streets is implemented; and


2.     The VSOC determined it necessary to commission a plan that would guide design and construction of public streets for all modes and all users, with green infrastructure; and


3.     Consultant interviews were held on June 24, 2015 by a selection committee and approval was supported by the VSOC, which made a recommendation on June 20, 2015 to select Nelson/Nygaard as the preferred consulting firm. City Commission authorization for the effort and approval of the consultant was granted on September 8, 2015; and


4.     Community input from previous planning efforts including, but not limited to: Green Grand Rapids, Bike Map, Sustainable Streets Task Force, neighborhood area-specific plans, and GR Forward; stakeholder workgroup involvement with VSOC members; and community outreach meetings served as the basis for the creation of this network-wide plan; and


5.     The Vital Streets Plan is intended to provide a transparent, predictable, and coordinated strategy to realize the Vision for Vital Streets that reflects the values and principles of our community, and includes measures of success to insure accountability and encourage innovative design solutions;


6.     That the Vital Streets Plan is intended to replace the Street Classification Policy of 1996, therefore;


RESOLVED that the Vital Streets Plan is hereby adopted by the City Commission as the City’s transportation master plan.