Southwest Michigan survey aims to identify ways to improve non-motorized infrastructure

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Photo by Emily Newland

Photo by Emily Newland

How pleased are residents with their ability to walk, bike and roll within the greater Niles-Buchanan-Cass area?

What ways can this be improved?

The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission is asking these questions and more with the hope of identifying the public’s needs for better non-motorized infrastructure.

Currently, SWMPC is offering a survey pertaining to that question called the Niles-Buchanan-Cass Area Transportation Study (NATS) Walk and Roll Survey for 2014.

The survey aims to identify locations that need better infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists, and develop a priority list of locations for future projects. The data will be incorporated into the NATS 2013-2040 Long Range Plan in order to address the needs of all users of the transportation system.

Gautam Mani, transportation planner with SWMPC, said the organization offered a similar survey focused on northern Berrien County a few years ago.

“We want to be able to ultimately map out areas the public identifies as priority for better non-motorized infrastructure,” he said. “We want to be able to take that information back to our committee members so they can make decisions about funding that really reflect the needs of the people they represent.”

The survey is available on the SWMPC website at It can be filled out online or printed out and mailed back to the SWMPC at 376 W. Main St., Suite 130, Benton Harbor, MI 49022-3651. It can also be faxed to (269) 925-0288 or emailed to

The survey asks users to do a number of things, including identifying roads they travel regularly that are not pedestrian friendly, ways to improve non-motorized travel, the frequency in which they walk or bike and the importance of accessibility for non-motorized travel in the area.

Mani said they would be accepting surveys over the next several months.

“It’s a great way for people to have their voice heard right down to their specific concerns and areas where they’d like to see better non-motorized infrastructure,” he said. “They’d be able to have a say in some of the decisions that are made.”

The survey concerns areas in the Niles-Buchanan-Cass Area Transportation Study, encompassing nine jurisdictions in Berrien and Cass counties.

These are:

• Niles

• Buchanan

• Edwardsburg

• Bertrand Township

• Buchanan Township

• Howard Township

• Milton Township

• Niles Township

• Ontwa Township