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Chicago Sun-Times is on board with Michigan's high-speed rail

Metro Detroit recently received $161 million in federal funds to improve high-speed rail service on Amtrak's Wolverine line between Pontiac and Kalamazoo. The Chicago Sun-Times takes a good look at the potential of this investment and how it breaks down.

Excerpt:

About $150 million of the money awarded to Michigan will be for the section of track between Kalamazoo and Detroit. This is owned by Norfolk Southern, which wants to sell it, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

Michigan may buy it with a portion of the high-speed rail money. Discussions are ongoing about how much of the funds would be for the track and how much for track improvement, Magliari said.

Track improvements would increase speeds from 79 mph to 110 mph, which would bring it in line with the track Amtrak owns from Kalamazoo to the state line.

At greater speeds, Amtrak could double the number of round trips from Chicago to Detroit from three to six, Magliari said. Ridership on this route already has increased 8 percent in the past year.

The rest of the high-speed funding would be used to improve the connection from Pontiac to the state line.

Read the rest of the story here.

Ann Arbor nationally recognized for Green Fleets program

Gas!? Who needs it? Well, OK, we do... at least for the time being. But Ann Arbor doesn't need so much of it these days. The city was nationally recognized recently for its cut backs in car juice.

Excerpt:

Those hybrid vehicles cruising around town are getting noticed.

The city of Ann Arbor's success in using alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles to keep its fleet green is the focus of a new report today.

Government-Fleet.com reports the city's Green Fleets program is the focus of this week's MotorWeek Clean Cities Success Story. It says the city, which set a goal in 2004 of reducing its fleet's petroleum usage by 10 percent by 2012, has a new goal of 30 percent by the end of 2010.

Read the entire article here.

The New Economy Initiative pumps cash into local programs

The new economy just got a nice little boost here in Southeast Michigan. The New Economy Initiative -- which is fairly self explanatory -- just pumped in nearly three-quarts of a million clams into the local programs promoting these new economy companies.

Excerpt:

The New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan has approved another round of grants totaling more than $716,000.

The largest grant of $356,250 was made to the Detroit-based Michigan Opportunities and Resources for Entrepreneurs Program to index resources for entrepreneurs and design a Web service to allow the information to be easily accessed.

The New Economy Initiative also has made two grants to expand opportunities in the defense and homeland security industries. The largest grant of $300,000 is to the Royal Oak-based Michigan Security Network and follows a $153,000 grant the initiative made last year to the Detroit Regional Chamber to support the network.

With the previous grant, the network already has made significant inroads towards establishing Michigan as a national leader in cyber security technology and training, the New Economy Initiative said in a release.

Read the entire article here.

Trails in Southeast Michigan getting bigger, bolder

While some developments and construction are jumping in the back seat because of the economic slowdown, the Metro Detroit non-motorized trail system is pushing forward.

Excerpt:

Most local and state funding has dried up for trails, but the federal government and private foundations still fund new trails in southeast Michigan, said Detroit Greenways coordinator Todd Scott with the nonprofit Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

"The feds realize they shouldn't just be funding people in cars. We need a transportation system," Scott said Wednesday.

He wants to catch up metro Detroit with towns like Seattle and Ann Arbor, where cycling and jogging paths crisscross built-up areas.

In Detroit, seven non-motorized paths are to open this summer, including 16 miles of bike lanes in Corktown and a link from riverfront trails to the Dequindre Cut path to Eastern Market, he said.

Read the entire article here.

Ann Arbor-Detroit railway is in the budget

More Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail talk here. But new funds have been budgeted for the service. It's not set in stone yet ... but, as it seems, it's another step closer. Eventually all these steps will turn into an actual service ... we hope.

Excerpt:

Traveling to the airport and downtown Detroit can be a nightmare for students without access to cars, but a newly proposed rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit could soon alleviate transportation frustrations.

Last month, the United States Senate budgeted $331 million for the state of Michigan, including $3.5 million for a proposed rail service between Ann Arbor and Detroit that would include stops in Ypsilanti, Dearborn, and the Detroit Metro Airport.

Carmine Palombo, director of Transportation Programs for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said the budget for the new service is not yet set in stone. But, he said a number of aspects of the project would be completed by October 2010.

From Ann Arbor to Detroit, the service is expected to take around 50 to 55 minutes. Palombo said exact prices have yet to be determined, but the cost for a round-trip ticket will be competitive with other comparable services and will most likely range between $6 and $7.

Read the entire article here.

Transit use boom in Detroit-Livonia-Warren

Transit ridership is up in some surprising areas. And none more surprising than in Southeast Michigan. The Detroit-Livonia-Warren ridership jumped 30 percent in the last year.

Excerpt:

An analysis of the most recent transit use data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that transit use grew by up to 47% in major metropolitan areas in the U.S. from 2006-2008, with several metro regions in the South and West growing by more than 10%.

...

One of the main factors expected to have caused the increase in ridership in these areas was the increased price of gasoline. As gasoline prices increase, transit ridership is shown to increase in major U.S. cities. As Nate Berg reports, "Ridership increases around the country have been linked to the temporary jump in oil prices last year, when the price of oil peaked at more than $147 per barrel in July 2008."

Read the entire article here.

Rally around light rail

A light rail up Woodward would not just be for Detroit. And a commuter rail from Detroit to Ann Arbor wouldn't just be for those two cities. Mass transit, when done right, could coalesce and serve the entire region.

Excerpt:

"Gas prices hit $4 a gallon last year and will go up again," he said. "If we can make it so that commuter rail is faster and cheaper and you won't have to pay to park your car, then people will definitely ride."

The Detroit Department of Transportation predicts 20,000 daily riders on the Woodward line by 2030, with 11,100 roundtrips per day. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) estimates 5,800 daily riders for the Ann Arbor-Detroit line, with four round trips daily.

Rep. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, whose district includes part of the proposed Woodward Avenue rail route, said it's important for both projects to become a reality. "They are separate plans, but they show regional cooperation."

Businesses would move close to the rail routes and the region would be "more attractive to live, work, and play," he said.

Read the entire article here.

Smaller cars (not flying) are the future

At a conference on the future of personal mobility held in Ypsilanti, the talk was smaller cars. Due to a massive jump in urbanization, density, and an aging population, cars will undoubtedly get smaller.

So, the future is still holding off on flying cars.

Excerpt:

Currently 40% of Manhattan residents donít own a car. Many can afford one, but find the cost of ownership too high when public transportation, bicycle lanes, cabs and walking are less expensive.

Car sharing is growing in many large cities. Paris two years ago launched a bicycle-sharing program that reportedly saved about 10 million kilometers of car trips. Unfortunately, more than half the original bikes were stolen or vandalized, raising the cost to replace them and to improve security.

The other factor encouraging the popularity of smaller vehicles is the desire to contain carbon dioxide emissions, the primary source of climate change.

Read the entire article here.

Development of new lightweight battery for electric cars

Developing new lightweight batteries for electric cars in Van Buren Township.

Excerpt:

Ricardo, Inc., the US subsidiary of Ricardo plc, the leading independent provider of technology, product innovation and engineering solutions to the world's automotive, defense, transport and new energy industries, has announced that the award of $2.1 million (GBP1.3m) of funding has been made by the UK Technology Strategy Board to a consortium led by advanced battery manufacturer Axeon and including Ricardo, which will develop a new lightweight battery for use in electric small city cars, improving their performance, functionality and range. The aim of the project is to develop an innovative high energy density battery system for an emission-free electric small city car. The battery, which will use new cell chemistry that offers higher energy density, will be lighter, smaller and therefore more efficient than those currently available, and will offer faster charging and a higher range.

Read the entire article here.

Is the renaissance of train travel upon us?

There's a lot of talk these days about high-speed rail throughout the United States. Unfortunately it'll take more than talk -- like a lot of money and a lot of time -- to realize such a network. But with the support of the Obama administration, the U.S. just might be on course to a train travel renaissance.

Excerpt:

Despite the controversy, the president is on board (no pun intended). During a speech back in April, Obama praised high speed rail by saying, "Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation and ending up only blocks from your destination." That does sound idyllic, though in small cities, it might not be that easy.

Thanks to suburban sprawl, many downtowns, especially in upstate NY, don't offer much in the way of public transportation. If the lines do get built, this would be an easy problem to overcome; zipcars or bike rentals are one option. There's also the possibility that the trains would create a resurgence in downtowns, bringing small business, shops, even upscale housing back to smaller cities.

Assuming some of the states who have applied for stimulus money actually receive it and are able to build the high speed lines, it will still be years before they are ready to roll. Guess only time will tell if it will be worth the investment and if we'll, once again, be a country of train-travelers.

Read the entire article here.

High-speed hydrogen rail between Grand Rapids and Detroit and learning from the 'Simpsons'

It's a bit Jetsons-y, an elevated high-speed rail that's powered by hydrogen. But, what the heck, right? Let's get a little futuristic. The trip from Grand Rapids to Detroit is expected to take 40 minutes. If it comes to fruition, it should be a nice economic bump to the city, bringing in people from Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Ann Arbor for the games and festivals Detroit has to offer.

Excerpt:

The project was proposed by the privately owned Interstate Traveler Company, located just north of Ann Arbor. Company officials are asking the state to provide free use of the right-of-way along Michigan's interstate freeway system.

The railway's cars would levitate on top of an elevated hydrogen-based track and be propelled by energy from magnets. Cars holding people, freight and vehicles would cycle at high speeds, stopping in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Local business leaders say the concept has the potential to create a new manufacturing base in Michigan and spur economic development.

"Clearly this would bring a competitive advantage to our state if we could move people and freight and cars and vehicles from Grand Rapid to Detroit, and eventually to other Midwestern states," said Jared Rodriguez, a lobbyist with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Read the entire article here.

Additional piece from the Grand Rapids Press that links this high-rail plan to The Simpsons. Complete with hilarious clips. Check it out here.

Detroit's rail projects are working together to maximize funds

It's usually a good sign when you see organizations -- both private and public -- or regions working together. And it's a good sign when you see both the privately backed rail line and the public rail line project working together to maximize their funding.

Excerpt:

"We're in full commitment. We're working together," White said. He's the city's lead on the Detroit Department of Transportation's Detroit Options for Growth Study, a $371 million plan to run light rail from downtown to the state fairgrounds at Eight Mile Road.

The M1 plan is a 3.4-mile, 12-stop curbside line, with 12-18 months of construction starting by year-end. It will operate as a nonprofit and eventually be turned over to a regional system.

Backers include Penske Corp. founder Roger Penske, chairman of the project; Peter Karmanos Jr., founder of Detroit-based software maker Compuware Corp.; Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings and co-founder of Little Caesar Enterprises Inc.; and Quicken Loans/Rock Financial founder Dan Gilbert, the project's co-chairman.

DDOT's study calls for a center-of-street rail service from downtown to the state fairgrounds at Eight Mile Road. The project now calls for the M1 Rail plan to replace a portion of its route, and needs money spent on M1 Rail to act as the required local match for federal funding.

Read the entire article here.

Could Detroit be the man-on-the-moon for the nation's high speed rail?

There's going to be a lot of talk about high-speed rail now that Biden and Obama are talking stimulus for really fast trains. So, The Atlantic asks, why not start this project here in Michigan?

Except:

Instead of scattering nickels and dimes across dozens of states, a better idea would be to increase the train fund at least tenfold so America can have at least one legitimate high-speed rail line like Spain's Madrid-to-Seville train, which runs at 186 mph (Amtrak averages only 79 nationwide). And let this man-on-the-moon project start in Detroit.

Yes, Detroit. The city that was once part of FDRís "Arsenal of Democracy," for its part in retooling auto plants to make World War II tanks and bombers, has easily a dozen empty auto plants that could be making train engines and train cars.

In Flint, Michigan, United Auto Workers Local 651 President Art Reyes says Plant Six at the Delphi Flint East site, which once made air filters and has been idle since September 2008, offers 500,000 square feet, 45-foot ceilings, 26-inch-thick concrete floors, fiber-optic wiring, and, conveniently, a rail line.

"I have a workforce of 900 that's been downsized from 9,000," says Reyes, "but every one of them is computer-literate and ready for cutting-edge, green-technology stuff, whether it's wind turbines, next-generation auto batteries, or rail. We're hungry for work."

Read the entire article here.

Read a piece here by Michigan Public Radio about the future of Michigan train travel that asks "Is the future of train travel in Michigan?"

Michigan's hybrid economy: Public transportation

Not to belabor the point but our transit system here in the metro area is a bit lacking - and that may be an understatement. There is room, so much room, for improvement. And now, finally, people are realizing not only the public benefit of public transportation, but also the economic benefit.

Excerpt:

Read and listen to the entire piece here.

Israel company helping Michigan to patch leaky pipes, create jobs

We got some leaky pipes here in Michigan and leaky pipes, unless patched, can really mess up your daily commute, or keep your kids out of school, or just plain destroy the infrastructure. So an Israel-based company is working alongside our state to help fix the problem.

Excerpt:

Representatives from Israel-based Miya will work side by side with experts in Michigan to help identify faulty pipes, and leaks, and will together develop ways to go about fixing problems.

Project organizers say they plan to expand the program to the entire Michigan region to help stimulate jobs in water engineering, maintenance, installation and manufacturing.

"As these projects expand, we will train more Michigan workers and develop expertise that we can export nationally and globally as well," said Lt. Gov. John Cherry at the official opening of Green Jobs for Blue Waters.

The initiative will not only create new jobs, but will in the long term save taxpayers money, as water savings translates to energy savings.

Read the entire article here.
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