Gainful steps

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published August 15, 2004

Seeking to retain more college graduates
in the state of Michigan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm began the Cool
Cities Initiative, which allocated funds to be used in efforts to
attract young graduates toward “cooler” cities.
Recently, Ypsilanti has committed its Cool Cities money into making
its downtown area more pedestrian-friendly by developing an
efficient sidewalk system. Through improving Ypsilanti’s
transit system, the city presents a more hospitable living
environment that will be attractive for students graduating from
the many neighboring colleges and universities.

Janna Hutz

Through the reconstruction of sidewalks and aesthetic additions
such as benches and flowers, the downtown area of Ypsilanti will
become much more friendly and enticing to pedestrians. Currently,
Ypsilanti residents find their sidewalks to be too narrow and
limited, constricting their movement and making certain areas
appear to be unwelcoming. Consequently, more walkways will be
designed and constructed to be especially wide in efforts to
accommodate a host of walkers and make the downtown area easier to
commute. These minor differences pay great dividends, as
accessibility is vital to ensuring an area’s vitality and
“coolness.”

In addition to enhancing the city’s transit system,
improving Ypsilanti’s walkability also contributes to a
fertile environment for social interaction and business
opportunities. Instead of driving to and from destinations in
relative isolation, people in walkable areas are able to easily
commute on foot, surrounded by fellow members of the community.
This increased interaction undoubtedly fosters a more integrated,
socially connected community. Furthermore, increased foot traffic
will improve business for downtown merchants and restaurants,
drawing additional business into the area. Here in Ann Arbor,
walkability has undoubtedly contributed to a thriving downtown
economy as well as a bustling social scene.

By increasing walkability, Ypsilanti is making a valiant effort
to address the “brain drain,” an accelerating flight of
college graduates from the state of Michigan and city of Detroit
into the flourishing metropolitan areas of cities such as Boston,
Austin and Chicago. Through advanced public transit systems, many
large urban cities are able to sustain flourishing business and
industrial sectors, creating appealing job markets and attracting
job-seeking graduates. Realizing the importance of efficient and
convenient residential as well as commercial districts,
Ypsilanti’s walkability project is a commendable stride
toward enticing a younger population to live in Michigan by
promoting commutability and business hospitality. While sidewalks
alone will not be enough to convince graduates to stay in Michigan,
Ypsilanti’s use of Cool Cities funds to undertake
fundamentally important projects is an encouraging sign about the
Initiative’s viability.