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Old Posted Sep 26, 2008, 5:34 AM
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Detroit: GO-Town Transportation Lowdown

Thinks are really starting to take off...



Regional bus, rail proposal unveiled

Tanveer Ali / The Detroit News

September 25, 2008

DEARBORN -- An ambitious plan to develop a mass transit system for the nation's automotive capital -- featuring both light rail and a high-tech bus system -- was unveiled to the public Wednesday.

Commissioned by Detroit and Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties, Detroit Regional Mass Transit is proposing hundreds of miles of infrastructure, dedicating lanes to hybrid buses, light rail lines and commuter trains along Metro Detroit's major streets over the next few decades.

The grand plan is yet to have a price tag. John Hertel, chief executive for the transit group, said the network would be built in phases, with changes based on the public's needs.

Initially, hybrid bus routes would be established along the major roads, including connecting downtown Detroit with Detroit Metropolitan Airport via Michigan Avenue, with M-59 via Gratiot, and with Pontiac via Woodward. The plan also proposes to immediately increase the frequency among existing bus lines and improve the roadway.

The transit plan would then connect proposals already in the works, including the $371 million, 8-mile-long Woodward Avenue Light Rail Transit already approved by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, with an estimated construction date of 2011.

A separate privately funded-plan along a 3.4-mile stretch of Woodward in downtown Detroit is making headway under Hertel's leadership, with likely backing from major business leaders such as Mike Ilitch and Peter Karmanos. A commuter line over track used by Amtrak would connect Ann Arbor with Detroit's New Center, with a potential trial run beginning in 2010.


"With anything about mass transit in the Detroit area, given over 50 years of failure, we don't know how successful we are going to be," Hertel said. "We build on the basis of reality of the ridership's needs."

Leaders say mass transit is critical to boosting the region -- especially Detroit, where an estimated one in three Detroiters is in poverty, according to Census Bureau figures released last month. Many residents can't afford cars and auto insurance, making it difficult to get to jobs outside the immediate area.

Detroit, which eliminated street cars in favor of buses in 1956, is the only major U.S. city without a rapid transit system, according to Transportation Riders United, a local grassroots group.

The proposal drew largely positive responses at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where the public was invited to attended the first of four open houses to detail the plans and gauge feedback.

By 2015, the group hopes to extend the Woodward LRT to southern Oakland County and develop a Bus Rapid Transit, bus routes with dedicated lanes to emulate rail travel, route along Gratiot and M-59.

Future development would be based on rider input, potentially expanding onto other streets and adding more buses or light rail routes.

"It's a great plan, providing both a balance of the bus improvements that are needed to be made right away while bringing in rapid transit," said Megan Owens, director of the Transportation Riders United. "The funding details will definitely need to be developed."

Estimated costs will likely be available once a final report is submitted to the heads of the four governments for approval by year-end.

Capital funding for any network would come through federal funding matched at the local level, potentially with an additional tax.

However, there is no guarantee federal funding would be approved and no plan is in place for matching local contributions required to pay for the system.

Nathan Phenicie, 23, of Clawson, attended Wednesday's open house and said whatever costs the plan would bring to the area would be offset by economic benefits.

"I do a lot of driving in the area. I know where the traffic is," Phenicie said "I've been building in my mind the idea of streetcars in Detroit since I was a kid."

You can reach Tanveer Ali at (734) 462-2094.
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Old Posted Nov 28, 2008, 7:23 AM
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This relates to the commuter line (purple on the map). Things are starting to really pikc up steam.

Rail station chosen for Detroit Metro Airport

by John Mulcahy | The Ann Arbor News

Wednesday November 26, 2008, 8:32 PM

Planners working on a commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit have chosen a location in Westland for a station to serve Detroit Metro Airport.

The decision on the airport station is the latest step toward a proposed beginning of service in October 2010.

The station would go on Wayne County-owned property at US-12 and Henry Ruff Road, said Carmine Palombo, director of transportation programs for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

Washtenaw County Commissioner Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, who has been a strong proponent of the commuter rail service, said the decade-plus effort appears finally to be setting and making realistic deadlines.

"Picking the site for (the airport) station is critical because 30 million people a year come into the airport," Irwin said.

The site is about four miles north of Metro Airport. A building on the site is used as a library for the blind and may be shared as a station, or the commuter rail project may build a different shelter for passengers, Palombo said.

Service from the station to the airport would be by bus, Palombo said. That could be provided by a public agency such as the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or by a private service, he said.

The newly chosen site "meets our criteria of, first of all, trying to provide the best access to the airport, and it utilizes existing infrastructure," Palombo said.

Other stops along the route will be in Ann Arbor at the existing Amtrak station; in Ypsilanti at a site yet to be determined; at an existing Amtrak station in Dearborn; and at the New Center in Detroit, Palombo said.

Dearborn and Ann Arbor officials have talked of possibly developing different station locations rather than using existing Amtrak stations, Palombo said. In Ann Arbor, that has included discussion about a possible station near where the rail line passes the University of Michigan Medical Center, he said.

Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has completed a study of how to share its tracks, used by its freight trains, with the new service and existing Amtrak service, Palombo said.

The company has provided a list of infrastructure improvements that would allow four, eight or 15 round trips a day by commuter train, and the project staff is studying those proposals, Palombo said.

Project organizers are still negotiating with Canadian National Railway, which owns a portion of the tracks, to run at least four round-trip commuter trains a day, Palombo said.
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Old Posted Dec 5, 2008, 8:52 AM
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Detroit rail line moves forward

Senate passes key components of plan for project along Woodward

Gary Heinlein and Tanveer Ali / The Detroit News

December 5, 2008

LANSING -- Key components of a plan to build a light rail line along Woodward Avenue in Detroit were approved without opposition by the state Senate on Thursday, and lawmakers said they plan to complete the multibill package when they resume session next week.

The proposal, pushed by billionaires Dan Gilbert and Roger Penske, would use $103 million in private money to build the street-level rail line looping between Hart Plaza and Grand Boulevard in the New Center area. Its 12 stops would include major businesses, theaters, ballparks, museums and hospitals.

"It has the potential to be a model for creating mass transit in Michigan," said Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Light rail in the heart of Detroit, which eventually could link to hoped-for train systems running north to the suburbs and west past Detroit Metropolitan Airport to Ann Arbor, is endorsed by House and Senate leaders, as well as Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The Senate passed four of eight bills already adopted by the House, and Gilbert said he expects the Senate to pass the rest of them Wednesday.

The one possible obstacle to passage is a controversy that emerged Thursday regarding an upcoming executive order from Granholm that will make cuts in the current state budget because of a predicted $500 million revenue shortfall. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, sent Granholm a letter on Thursday threatening to suspend any further Senate voting until the order has been issued.

As proposed, the rail line would be run by a nonprofit corporation whose directors would include public officials and private business executives. The state would provide an annual subsidy for operating costs not covered by the fares collected from passengers.

The Detroit Department of Transportation is in talks to meld its proposed $371-million rail line from downtown to the Oakland County border with the train tracks envisioned in the legislation. There also are hopes for an Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter line in October 2010 with $100 million in federal funds.

Bills approved by the Senate on Thursday would:

• Allow the organization of a nonprofit corporation to build and operate the railway system.

• Permit the railway to obtain land, sell bonds and mortgage its property to provide security for the bonds.

• Let the railway store and use electrical power.

• Authorize the Michigan Department of Transportation to establish a transit development finance zone that would be empowered to collect incremental property tax revenue.

• Require the state transportation department to supplement the railway's fare revenues with up to $8 million annually, beginning with the 2010-11 budget year.

Megan Owens, director of Detroit-based Transportation Riders United, a mass transit advocacy group, said the Senate passage of the bills is encouraging for a region where transit solutions have been stalled for decades.

She said obstacles still remain, and she hopes state funding will be available not only for a Woodward line, but existing and future transit infrastructure.

"We're definitely very excited to see this legislation moving forward," Owens said. "This does move Detroit that much closer to having real rapid transit. Obviously the rapid transit ... on Woodward is absolutely critical, not only to get around Detroit but as an economic tool."

You can reach Gary Heinlein at (517) 371-3660 or gheinlein@detnews.com.
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Old Posted Dec 5, 2008, 5:16 PM
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Note to Michigan - Your plans at decent mass transit will not succeed until you adopt Ohio R.C. sec. 306.30 et seq in total or something very similar.
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Old Posted Dec 5, 2008, 5:23 PM
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^I looked for that, but couldn't find it. Could you post the text?

I think Michigan needs to avoid doing what Title 81 of the RCW does, which is separate regional transit from local transit with a massive firewall. That's why there are so many transit agencies around here. Snohomish County has Community Transit and Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit, Sound Transit, Jefferson Transit, King County Metro and Sound Transit buses show up at their transit center, and jeez it's just a big mess.
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Old Posted Dec 5, 2008, 5:27 PM
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Nevermind, found it.

That thing would cripple a private-public system (c.f. public-private).
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Old Posted Dec 9, 2008, 6:31 AM
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Regional Mass Transit Plan Approved

WWJ Newsradio 950

Monday, 08 December 2008 5:43PM

Southeastern Michigan's Big Four - the executives for Wayne and Oakland Counties, Macomb Counties Commission Chairperson and the Mayor of Detroit - made history Monday afternoon. They unanimously approved a Regional Mass Transit Plan for Detroit - the first step in getting mass transportation in the region. Regional Transit CEO John Hertel says, "the 25-year plan covers everything from arterial rapid transit, which is the new hybrid buses, bus-rapid transit, which is almost like rail, and then the light rail and some commuter rail."

So what are the next steps? Step two involves the task of creating an authority to operate the new system. And then step three is to secure local and federal dollars to pay for it.

But Hertel is confident funding can be secured for his plan even in these economically challenging times. He says, "because of president-elect Barack Obama's attitude about this, and his concern about infrastructure, I think the chances of the federal money being there are significantly higher."
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Old Posted Dec 20, 2008, 7:28 AM
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Here it comes...

Quote:

Up all night, lawmakers then face off with snowstorm

BY BILL LAITNER • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • December 19, 2008

Friday’s snow day across the state sprung thousands of kids from their last day of school before the holiday break.

Michigan’s state lawmakers weren’t so lucky. They wrapped up the year with a marathon session that kept virtually all of them up for all of Thursday night, and then all through the wee hours of Friday until almost noon. That’s when they went outside only to be greeted with the mounds of snow that slammed Lansing and much of the state.

Exhausted, and still wearing Thursday’s clothing, they faced driving home in the storm. State Rep. Marie Donigan, D-Royal Oak, made it safely to her home and immediately fell into bed for a nap on Friday afternoon, she said Friday evening.

“We did a 26-1/2 hour session. We started at 10 a.m. yesterday (Thursday) and we got done at 11:30 this morning (Friday),” she said, in a phone interview at about 6 p.m., during which she yawned repeatedly.

...

“We got a huge bunch of bills passed that makes sure the 3.5-mile light-rail line gets built in Detroit. So far, it’s all private money to build it. That was a big deal. “I can’t say that both chambers of the legislature have ever voted, with support from people on both sides of the aisle, to pass a mass-transit bill in Michigan. Now we have to figure out next year how to pay to operate it. (The system will be run as a private, nonprofit corporation, she said.) The enabling legislation, for a rail line to be funded in part by auto dealership tycoon Roger Penske, came with a package of other bills to foster economic development along the new rail line that will go up Woodward in downtown Detroit.

...
There is still work being done in regards to how they (the private non-profit) will work into DDOT's public line, which is to go another 4 miles or so to the fairgrounds.
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Old Posted Dec 20, 2008, 3:01 PM
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Great news for Detroit on this one.
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Old Posted Dec 21, 2008, 3:36 AM
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Great news for Detroit on this one.
Hey, Congrats from your cousins in the Great White North. This is great news for Detroit (and Windsor, wouldn't it be great to connect the system to Windsor transit and create the first international transit system?)

Can you explain what is in it for the auto dealership guy who is chipping in his own money to build this thing. Is it profit or philanthropy he is after?
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Old Posted Dec 25, 2008, 9:21 AM
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I'm not quite sure what it is Penske gets, but I've heard rumors that the companies that are contributing get a crack at buying the naming rights to each station, but I don't know if there is anything truth to that.

BTW, Dearborn and the rest of the cities, have picked the location for its station on the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter line:

Concept:



Quote:

All cities on new Ann Arbor to Detroit rail line pining for new depots


By Jason Carmel Davis, Press & Guide Newspapers

December 17, 2008

DEARBORN - City of Dearborn officials have said they have a three-phase plan in place to complete the city's new high-speed rail passenger intermodal station that will be a part of an Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail line. If funding is allocated, the station would sit on the south side of Michigan Avenue just east of Brady near the Henry Ford.

But Dearborn isn't the only city looking for funding for an updated station, as each city on the line — Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Wayne/Westland and Detroit — have plans for new or updated intermodal stations, according to city of Dearborn Director of Economic & Community Development Barry Murray.

City officials presented plans on Nov. 18 for the high-speed rail passenger intermodal station that is set to be a stop on the Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail line and a new home for the city's Amtrak station.

It is also slated to house a terminal for SMART and other buses, taxis and limousines and have parking for commuters' cars and bicycles.

The new station is to be about 20,000 square feet and at Michigan and Elm, placing it within walking distance of Greenfield Village and the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus.

The station is part of a larger project to bring light-rail commuter services to the region that includes the other four cities listed above.

"The new station would be in a much better location because at the current station, there's not much for people to just get off a train and walk to," Murray said.

Plans in the works for new stations elsewhere

The new Ann Arbor station, currently located on Depot Street, would be moved closer to the University of Michigan Hospital campus, Murray said, possibly to accommodate the nearly 17,000 employees of the hospital.

The Ypsilanti station would sit near the city's "Depot Town" area, just minutes away from the campus of Eastern Michigan University, Murray said. The area has an operating station that would need to be re-opened, he added.

The Wayne/Westland location would be located near Henry Ruff and Michigan Avenue near a library, Murray said, and would serve as a hub for riders on their way to Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Riders departing the Wayne/Westland stop on the way to the airport would then flag down a taxi or catch a shuttle bus to the airport, but the possibility exist of a stop at the airport, Murray said.

The city of Detroit's stop is currently located in the New Center area near Woodward Avenue and Milwaukee, Murray said. If a new station is erected, it would sit across from the current one.

"(The city of Detroit) is still looking for financing for the project, but they do have designs for it," Murray said.


Dearborn station tobe completed in phases

The Dearborn station is to be built in three phases at a cost of $30 million, according to Murray. The first phase would be about 3,000 square feet and cost between $1 million and $5 million, depending on what work has to be done to prepare the tracks, he said.

It would be completed by October 2010, the same year the Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter line is projected to open with an initial four trains. The start date for a three-year trial run would be Oct. 25, 2010, according to Murray.

"In order for us to receive funding for the future phases of the project, we have to have a head count of 1,000 passengers a day," Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly said last month. "We'll have the capability to have four runs a day, so we're going to have to do some work to prepare some things to entice passengers, like provide incentives and things of that nature."

The second phase would be an expansion to about 15,000 square feet and allow the station to accommodate 15 trains on the commuter line.

The third phase would give the capacity for high-speed train traffic. Murray said all phases of the project could be completed between 2020 and 2025. He said officials with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), railroad companies and Amtrak are working on plans to add lines to existing tracks to accommodate the new rail cars, along with the Amtrak and freight cars.

While the scope of the project is a large one, funding for the second and third phases of the projects remains an issue, Murray said.

"Getting the funding will depend on the ridership," Murray said, adding that any federal awards the city seeks will include plans for this project.

Officials are hopeful plans for student housing between the two parking decks behind West Village Commons comes to fruition, as it is thought those students in the units, which may be 250-500, will be frequent users of the system.

Contact News Editor Jason Carmel Davis at (734) 246-2652 or jadavis@heritage.com.
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Last edited by LMich; Dec 25, 2008 at 10:04 AM.
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Old Posted Dec 30, 2008, 12:56 AM
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How much will it cost to get the commuter rail line up and running?
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Old Posted Dec 30, 2008, 7:51 AM
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The option that was chosen, a modified test line that uses the existing infrastructure to the best of its ability, was estimated to cost $95.5 million back in a study done in July of 2007.

A full-on line, that would build extra infrastructure as opposed to using existing freight lines and Amtrak service, would cost $618 million to $1.5 billion.
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Old Posted Dec 31, 2008, 12:36 AM
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Oh man, I love Depot Town! I used to live there!

Cafe Luwak is awesome.

Now nobody from Depot Town will have to be forced to trudge all the way over to the Pearl Street transit center.
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Old Posted Jan 29, 2009, 10:32 AM
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Another move forward for comprehensive regional mass transit:

Quote:

Metro transit authority plan expected by April

BY JOHN GALLAGHER • FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER • January 29, 2009

Metro Detroit transit czar John Hertel hopes to propose a regional transportation authority structure by April and win approval for it from regional leaders and state legislators soon after that.

Once approved, the regional transit authority would build and operate a transit system for metro Detroit.

But the authority's first job would be to sell tri-county voters on the need for a new transit tax to pay for the proposed 400-mile, $10.5-billion transit system.

"The sooner we can do this, the better," Hertel said Tuesday night at the annual meeting of the group Transportation Riders United.

TRU is a nonprofit citizens organization that advocates for creation of mass transit in metro Detroit.

State lawmakers recently passed legislation allowing the creation of a regional transit authority to create a new mass-transit system for metro Detroit. Now it's up to Hertel, the civic leader chosen by leaders in Detroit and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, to propose a structure for the governing authority.

One natural way to create a regional authority is to pick one board member each for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties plus Detroit.

But Hertel said he was examining regional transit authorities from other cities to see if other models offered better ways.

Speaking of the need for a new tax to help pay for the plan, Hertel stressed the long-term economic benefits of a new transit system for the city.

"If you're going to have a mass transit that serves the three counties and Detroit that is a unified system and a modern system, yeah, you're going to have to have some way to raise local funds. There's no doubt about it," he said. "Mass transit is expensive, but it's a lot more expensive not to do it."

Asked for a prediction of whether Detroit would actually get a mass-transit system soon, Hertel said, "I now believe that the chances have passed 50-50, but I'm not telling you it's a sure thing."

Contact JOHN GALLAGHER at 313-222-5173 or gallagher@freepress.com.
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Old Posted Jan 31, 2009, 5:02 PM
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Regional Mass Transit Plan Approved

WWJ Newsradio 950

Monday, 08 December 2008 5:43PM

Southeastern Michigan's Big Four - the executives for Wayne and Oakland Counties, Macomb Counties Commission Chairperson and the Mayor of Detroit - made history Monday afternoon. They unanimously approved a Regional Mass Transit Plan for Detroit - the first step in getting mass transportation in the region. Regional Transit CEO John Hertel says, "the 25-year plan covers everything from arterial rapid transit, which is the new hybrid buses, bus-rapid transit, which is almost like rail, and then the light rail and some commuter rail."

So what are the next steps? Step two involves the task of creating an authority to operate the new system. And then step three is to secure local and federal dollars to pay for it.

But Hertel is confident funding can be secured for his plan even in these economically challenging times. He says, "because of president-elect Barack Obama's attitude about this, and his concern about infrastructure, I think the chances of the federal money being there are significantly higher."
Since you're in touch with this stuff, LMich, I have a genuine question for you: Where is this sudden push for regional mass transit coming from?

I mean I'm as much a proponent of public transit as anyone who hates driving, but I don't ever remember much of a public consensus on mass transit in MI. Where is it coming from? It's wonderful, it's fantastic, this is positive news, I'm just sort of confused

Also, because I'm a finance type and I have to ask these questions... Where is the money supposed to come from to maintain a system?

It would be freaking fabulous not to have to care if the roads are ruined by ****ing construction in November
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Old Posted Jan 31, 2009, 5:26 PM
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^ I second all of the above questions.
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Old Posted Jan 31, 2009, 11:21 PM
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It's nice to see that the heart of auto-oriented America finally embrace proper mass transit... Too bad the LRT will only be a short 8-mile one-line starter system, but I see that 5 other corridors have already been selected as future lines as well... Ideally I'd love to see a 5 or 6-line LRT network extending out 8-10 miles from the city centre. That would do wonders for reviving the old lady! Btw, I'm kind of curious to know about house prices/rental prices for downtown Detroit... If I could get a permit to work in the U.S. I'd seriously consider moving to D-town...
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Old Posted Feb 1, 2009, 3:31 AM
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Originally Posted by ginsan2 View Post
Since you're in touch with this stuff, LMich, I have a genuine question for you: Where is this sudden push for regional mass transit coming from?

I mean I'm as much a proponent of public transit as anyone who hates driving, but I don't ever remember much of a public consensus on mass transit in MI. Where is it coming from? It's wonderful, it's fantastic, this is positive news, I'm just sort of confused

Also, because I'm a finance type and I have to ask these questions... Where is the money supposed to come from to maintain a system?

It would be freaking fabulous not to have to care if the roads are ruined by ****ing construction in November
You know, I've been asking myself the same thing. To be honest, I think its that we've been brought to our lowest and we feel that we've got nothing to lose by going all in. I think people finally realize that we're so far behind everywhere else, but more importantly they realize why we're so far behind. It's almost as if it was a miraculous epiphany. If you'd told me even five years ago we'd have Republicans in our state as far away as places like Traverse City supporting regional mass transit in Detroit, I'd have told you you were crazy.

I also think that you can't leave Granholm out of this push, either. Engler would have never been so on board with this. For all of the crap she's gotten, she's chosen the right people to lead the push for this.

As for the cost, taxes, of course. What kind of taxes, though, they are still working out.
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Old Posted Feb 1, 2009, 3:59 AM
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This is awesome news! A solid first step.

Now, of course, comes the reality...

1. How on earth can this be funded (metro Detroit will NOT tax itself for transit, and Washington will NOT give an authority construction $$$ without at least equal local funding)

2. How on earth can ridership projections be sufficient? Detroit doesn't have much congestion, and it doesn't have very major activity centers or corridors.

You need either factor (preferably both) for transit to have a chance of working. Woodward doesn't have any congestion. What would incentivize someone to take transit, when there's no congestion and plenty of cheap parking downtown?

And the airport line is a headscratcher. Everyone traveling to the airport uses a car, and visitors' destinations are too dispersed. There's currently a bus between the airport and downtown, and it only runs hourly. Why would you spend hundreds of millions to do the same thing by rail?
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