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Shrink or super size? The Detroit debate continues.

Rolling Stone's Mark Binelli bucks local conventional wisdom to suggest that successful cities figure out how to grow, not shrink. He's not alone in his thinking.

Excerpt:

"Super-sizing Detroit could also translate to better policy. When Indianapolis enacted a similar "Unigov" city-suburbs merger in the late Sixties (under Republican mayor Dick Lugar), the region experienced economic growth (and the benefits of economy of scale), AAA municipal bond-ratings and a broader, more stable tax base. The same could happen in metropolitan Detroit, which sorely needs to attract young people and entrepreneurs in order to fill the void left by the region's dwindling manufacturing base. Elastic cities are less segregated and have fewer of the problems associated with concentrated areas of poverty. And though sprawl wouldn't necessarily be reigned in, the region could finally adopt a sensible transportation policy to unite its businesses and residential areas. At the moment, suburban Detroit maintains its own bus system, separate from the city's, and a planned $150 million light rail project, slated to run from downtown Detroit up the main thoroughfare of Woodward Avenue, would nonsensically stop at 8 Mile Road, the suburban border. That's a formula to limit, not maximize, growth."
 

Read the rest of the story here.

Metro Detroit attorney's thoughts on talent-repelling sprawl go viral

Andrew Basile Jr. is no stranger to the pages of Metromode. A few months ago he penned a pointed letter of frustration about Metro Detroit's lack of leadership when it comes to issues of suburban sprawl. It seems to have struck a nerve. Bloggers around the net are rerunning his impassioned and opinionated missive.

Excerpt:

"The fundamental problem, it seems to me, is that our region has gone berserk on suburbia to the expense of having any type of nearby open space or viable urban communities, which are the two primary spatial assets that attract and retain the best human capital. For example, I noted sadly the other day that the entire Oakland Country government complex was built in a field five miles outside of downtown Pontiac. I find that decision shocking. What a wasted opportunity for maintaining a viable downtown Pontiac, not to mention the open space now consumed by the existing complex. What possibly could have been going through their minds? Happily, most of the men who made those foolish decisions 30 or 40 years ago are no longer in policy-making roles.

A younger generation needs to recognize the immense folly that they perpetrated and begin the costly, decades long task of cleaning up the wreckage. These are problems, sure, but they could be easily overcome, especially in Oakland County, which is widely recognized as one of the best-run large counties in the country. But despite our talents and resources, the region's problem of place may be intractable for one simple, sorry reason: Our political and business leadership does not view poor quality of place as a problem and certainly lacks motivation to address the issue."

Read the rest of the letter/story here. Or here. Or here.

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.

Plymouth Road park-and-ride is another route for Ann Arbor commuters

It'd be great to see a commuter line from Ann Arbor to Detroit. But, unfortunately, those plans were shifted to the back burner. However, in the meantime, for those in Plymouth who want to go to Ann Arbor, you can now take the park-and-ride.

Excerpt:

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority officials held a ceremonial ribbon cutting today, officially marking the grand opening of the agency's fifth commuter park-and-ride lot.

Existing AATA park-and-ride facilities already take nearly 1,000 vehicles off the road each year. And with the opening of the new lot on Plymouth Road at US-23, another 260 spaces are available for commuters using the heavily traveled M-14 and US-23 corridor.

"Tens of thousands of people come to work in our city every day people who don't live in Ann Arbor," said Mayor John Hieftje, who appoints AATA's governing board. "We are exploring and working on a number of ways to bring them into the city. We provide places for them to park their cars, lots for them to park and take the bus, they can ride their bike, and now we're working on rail options to bring more and more people into our city without their automobiles. And this is just another step in that direction."

Read the entire article here.



The next big step for transit

This Detroit Free Press editorial says regional transit faces hurdles, like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's opposition, but it could get a big win if a bill is passed later this month to establish a Regional Transit Authority for southeast Michigan.

Excerpt:

State House representatives are set to vote later this month on bills establishing a Regional Transit Authority for southeast Michigan -- an overdue measure for developing a mass transit system and putting metro Detroit in a position to compete for federal transportation funds. The new authority, however, must operate in a truly regional way -- by majority instead of unanimous vote -- and not allow one county or city to veto progress for southeast Michigan.

Legislators should work out remaining differences and approve these bills pronto. John Hertel, CEO of the Regional Transit Coordinating Council, will resign May 3 to become general manager of SMART, the suburban bus system. Ideally, the transit bills should reach Gov. Jennifer Granholm's desk shortly thereafter, so that the new authority can get up and running this year and maintain the momentum on transit. The new authority should also raise the profile of transit in the upcoming gubernatorial race.

Read the entire article here.

Transit plan may be the doctor's orders for Detroit

The prescription for Detroit's fever may be a cocktail of a few different things. But it's clear in PBS's latest documentary, Blueprint America, which aired this week, that a healthy dose of mass transit will be a big portion of said cocktail.

Excerpt:

This new installment of PBS's "Blueprint America" project, Monday night on most stations, is about plans to revitalize Detroit by reviving its once thriving but now nearly nonexistent public transportation system (which was, of course, destroyed by the hometown auto industry). But despite all the earnest talk of light rail getting people back downtown, what lingers are the eerily quiet images of the former Motor City.

It's one thing to know that Detroit's population is half what it was in the 1950s. It's quite another to see the scruffy green acres within the city limits, block after block of what used to be neighborhoods and now are weed patches and incipient forests, devoid of people unless they've bedded down in the tall grass where we cant see them.

As the city dissolves back into the landscape, analysts discuss the possibility of forcing the few still living in the empty zones to move into more densely populated areas so the city can cut back on utilities and police services. Others advocate large-scale urban farming.

Read the entire article here.

A clip from the documentary can be found here.

More money coming to Michigan transit

All right, all right. This may sound like a broken record, this whole thing about money coming to Michigan for transit. But, really, this time, it's true ... maybe.

Excerpt:

Chances rose today for an infusion of federal money for transit projects in Michigan after the Obama administration signaled a change in how it will fund major public transportation initiatives.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said new transit funding guidelines will place a greater emphasis on "livability issues," including whether projects provide economic development and environmental benefits. LaHood said the projects' costs and the commuting time they save will still be considered, but those two factors will no longer be the primary criteria, a restriction enacted under former President George Bush.

"I'll make sure those investments in manufacturing help our most distressed communities in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere," LaHood said in remarks prepared for a luncheon during the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

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.

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 FDRs "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?"

Time for high-speed rail and Michigan to meet

Detroit to Chicago in under three hours sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Well, that's the plan, hopefully. A bunch of Midwestern governors, including ours, put together a letter requesting a high-speed rail linking a number of our Midwestern cities... and when they say high-speed, they really mean it. They're talkin' 'bout 110 mph.

Excerpt:

Last month, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and seven other Midwestern governors signed a letter asking Washington for a share of that stimulus money to breathe life into a long-dormant dream of high-speed rail service connecting Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, St. Louis and all points between.

The states' plan is called the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. They first got together in the mid-1990s to promote and design a better way of quickly moving people around the industrial heartland.

Fast, clean, efficient and affordable transportation can help tighten the "Rust Belt" into a region knitted tightly together with high-speed rail service.

How does this grab you? Downtown Detroit to downtown Chicago in three hours and 46 minutes: Around $57, according to a 2004 Rail Initiative report. And you arrive fresh and ready for a day of doing business or a Saturday of just wandering down the Miracle Mile.

Read the entire article here.


$873 million to fund Michigan road projects

There seems to be no shortage of stimulus money these days. It's like taking the couch cushions off: "Oh look, here's $873 million for Michigan's roads!" In the next few weeks, Michigan will use its new-found funds to start road improvement projects.

Excerpt:

"We need to get that going before the busy tourism season starts," he told reporters after Granholm signed the bill in a ceremony at the Capitol.

Steudle expects to have $400 million worth of work put out for bids by the June deadline, part of the $873 million the state will have to spend over the next two years from the stimulus package. He hopes to have the rest of the projects bid out by late summer so construction can start early in 2010.

The bill Granholm signed includes $635 million for main state highways and bridges and $212 million for local road departments. Another $26 million goes to other areas, including bus transit and freight projects.

Read the entire article here.

$44 million pledge brings Detroit regional transit authority closer to reality

Transit just doesn't exist in a vacuum. And for it to work it must have guidance (and a clear train of thought) as well as cooperation. Well, finally - though it isn't set in stone yet, a regional transit authority is nearly flesh and blood. Such an authority should get things moving along, so to speak, in the regional transit department.

Excerpt:

After decades of missed chances, southeast Michigan appears closer than ever to getting what other major cities already enjoy -- a true regional transportation system.

The first link in that potential system got a major boost last week when the Kresge Foundation and Detroit's Downtown Development Authority pledged a combined $44 million to the proposed M1-RAIL light-rail line on Woodward in Detroit.

The potential is big. Beyond actually moving people from place to place, regional transit systems tend to spur nearby creation of residential, retail and other development. The regional transit plan being considered for southeast Michigan envisions 30,000 new jobs, $1.4 billion in annual payroll and almost 11,000 housing units built near the transit lines, as well as boosted retail sales and other benefits, all spurred by the year 2035 if a regional transit system is built.

Read the entire article here.

Detroit to Ann Arbor light rail slated to begin in October

After years of speculation and meetings, the Detroit to Ann Arbor light rail should begin in October. Some communities, like Dearborn, are hoping to get a jump on the process to expedite the ride.

Excerpt:

A three-year trial system of a proposed intermodal rail passenger station that would allow passengers to ride from Ann Arbor to Detroit is slated to begin next October.

Officials in the city of Dearborn are looking to get a jump on the process, as on March 2, the Dearborn City Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Jack O'Reilly to execute an amendment to renew and extend a contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) through Sept. 30 for site selection, environmental assessment and preliminary engineering and design of an intermodal station in Dearborn.

Read the entire article here.

Detroit-to-Chicago high-speed rail project could get boost from Obama's stimulus package

How many times have you heard stimulus in the last few weeks? Probably a lot, right? Well, here's one more time. Money, through the package, has been put away specifically for high-speed rail connections between cities. And that means cities like Detroit and Chicago.

Excerpt:

The Detroit-to-Chicago project is part of the Midwest High Speed Rail Initiative, which should get priority for new money. The Midwest projects use existing routes and track, making improvements less expensive and faster to do. Making the track, signal and other technology improvements needed for high-speed service for the 280 miles between Detroit and Chicago should cost less than $1 billion and could be done in two years.

"We'll be in a very good spot to go after the money," Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, told local leaders in downtown Detroit Thursday, as they met at the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments to discuss the stimulus bill.

Read the entire article here.

Washtenaw County is pushing toward a more integrated public transit system

It's something new popping up to the old question of transit. In Washtenaw County there is a push toward a fully integrated public transit system that includes buses and commuter rails. Of course it's still in discussion and all the communities and counties have to jump on board but, still, at least there is the talk.

Excerpt:

Irwin makes it clear that he prefers an integrated system that includes expanded bus service and both the proposed Ann Arbor-Detroit and Ann Arbor-Howell commuter rail lines, possibly all overseen by AATA.

"I would like to wrap all that in and have a complete, countywide transit system," Irwin said.

AATA expects to hear soon from an attorney investigating how it might change itself from an agency chartered by the city of Ann Arbor to an authority for a wider area.

Read the entire article here.

Gov. Granholm passes legislation that will advance downtown Detroit's light-rail link toward reality

Gov. Jennifer Granholm approves legislation that will advance the process to creating downtown Detroit's 3.5-mile light-rail link.

Excerpt:

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently signed legislation that aims to create non-profit entities to build and operate rail lines in the state, and provide financing mechanisms to operate the lines.

The legislation will help advance The Regional Area Initial Link (TRAIL), a 3.5-mile light-rail line along Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. TRAIL would serve as the first corridor in a proposed 406-mile regional transit system. The line would run between Hart Plaza and the New Center.


Read the entire article here.

Detroit transit may be en route

For the first time in Detroit's history mass transit may be more than just a dream.

Excerpt:

Twenty-four times in the past half-century serious proposals for mass transit in Detroit have been brought to regional leaders. Only once have regional leaders agreed to such a proposal -- this time. "That was a complex, long-term plan that (the Big Four) agreed to," Hertel said. "It was the first time this region has ever put its unanimous support behind a transit proposal."

"In the past, this was 'auto city,'" Crouchman said. "People loved their cars. But with some of the developments we've seen over the past few years, with layoffs and gas prices all over the place -- that won't last forever."

Regional transit is literally in uncharted waters. For supporters and skeptics alike the question remains: Is mass transit for real this time, or will it unravel as so many other ventures calling for regional cooperation have in the past?

Read the entire article here.

A Detroit Free Press article found here talks about how light rail link might be just the beginning of mass transit in Detroit.

Cities along proposed commuter line look to funds depots

It's getting closer and closer and closer. And, soon, coming to a city near you, will be a depot station for it. Cities running along the Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter line are looking for funding for their rail stations.

It's another step forward, and closer to all aboard.

Excerpt:

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.

Read the entire article here.

Take a ride on the southern Oakland County trolley

It's not exactly mass transit but it's a start. On Saturday night southern Oakland County will be providing 40-seat trolley cars for people lookin' to hit the town - without the burden of driving.

Excerpt:

The trolleys are to make 10 repeated stops, from 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday, in Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak. Stops include two city community centers, restaurants and a nightclub.

"We're hoping this will be as big a hit as it was when we did it in October" -- when Pleasant Ridge rented a trolley for a night just to run to Ferndale and Royal Oak, said Pleasant Ridge City Manager Sherry Ball.

"This time, we scheduled it to see Ferndale's ice sculptures," which will be on display after Saturday's daylong Ferndale Holiday Ice Festival.

Read the entire article here.

Bicyclists asking Royal Oak for a little help

Bicyclists are organizing and asking Royal Oak to put together some non-motorized friendly goals to increase the safety of riders. Signage and bike paths along roads are key to improving  the well-being of these bicyclists.

Excerpt:

The group wants Royal Oak to create a non-motorized transportation plan that will set goals to increase safety for bikers and walkers by adding bike lanes and signage to roads that remind everyone streets are meant to be shared by cars, bicyclists and pedestrians.

"The situation is bad here. We have to plan change carefully. Cyclists are riding on the sidewalk; they are getting struck crossing driveways or at corners," said Regan, a Royal Oak resident. "We want that to change. Motorists need to know that they are legally entitled to be there."

At the meeting, commissioners appointed Regan and two other cyclists to a task force to write up some recommendations. A meeting between the task force and City Manager Tom Hoover is being planned, Regan said.

Read the entire article here.

Rail between Dearborn, airport closer as stops determined

Inch by inch that commuter rail is getting closer to realization. And, here's another inch. Rail stops have been sketched out on the commuter rail line connecting Dearborn and the airport.

Excerpt:

Six miles from the new North Terminal, a planned station on county-owned land at Michigan and Henry Ruff would connect commuters to their flights via an airport shuttle. The station would be one of five along the line that would share track with Amtrak and freight trains and include stops in Ypsilanti and at the New Center in Detroit.

Carmine Palombo, director of transportation for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said the train line is a key component of the ambitious plans for a mass transit system that could complement and add to the region's economy.

"The site gives us a lot of accessibility and with getting to and from the airport, it gives us good travel time," Palombo said.

Read the entire article here.

Car pools make a splash

It's basic math, really. Sixty bucks for a tank of gas divided by one wallet is 60 bucks. Sixty bucks for a tank of gas divided by four wallets is only 15. Car-pooling is cost effective (and easier on the environment). And it's up in and around Ann Arbor.

Excerpt:

The Ann Arbor Transportation Authority van and car pooling program now has 3,588 participants, a 15 percent increase over last year, says Mary Stasiak, AATA community relations manager.

Web-based ride-sharing sites have made finding potential matches easier.

A search on Erideshare.com for car pools to a downtown Ann Arbor zip code returned 90 hits. The U-M Greenride Web portal has more than 2,500 users after its launch only a couple of months ago, said David Miller, U-M director for parking and transportation.

More than 2,500 employees have registered with the site so far, he said. Fourteen new van pools and 15 new car pools have registered with U-M to date. Overall, ride-sharing is up 8 percent among cars and 20 percent in the van-sharing program - and those are the just the ride-shares that U-M has registered.

Read the entire article here.

Peddling to Pedalers

The two-wheelers were out this summer and in noticeable numbers. Light posts all over downtowns were locked with more bikes than last year. Local bike shops have seen an increase in sales during this summer of the $4 gallon and the $50 tank.

Excerpt:

At the Ann Arbor Cyclery on Packard Street, sales are up 27 percent from this time last year, said owner Jon Kieft.

Just recently, the 2009 bicycle models became available. But before that, customers were finding it more difficult than usual to get a bike in both the exact model and color they wanted, Kieft said.

Sales, are "stronger than usual because people are trying to avoid the cost of gas," Kieft said.

Bike shops all over the country tell similar stories. New bikes designed mostly for work commuters have been the hardest to keep in stock. The high cost of gas and a general desire to save money in uncertain economic times have also brought in customers asking mechanics to tune up old cruisers that have gathered dust for years.

Read the entire article here.

Metro Detroiters are easing up on driving, SEMCOG says

There are fewer cars on the road, according to SEMCOG - two percent less, to be exact. The easing up on vehicle usage can be felt in a number of areas. There is less strain on the road, less emissions in the air, and less fuel being used. If you're part of the two percent, well, you might be noticing a little more of something... and that would be cash in your pocket due to fewer trips to the pump.

Excerpt:

Preliminary numbers from a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments study now under way show that the seven-county region overall has seen a decrease in weekday traffic volumes of 4.5% to 6.5% from 2002 to 2007. SEMCOG said the numbers are based on an analysis of traffic counts taken at 3,000 or so locations around Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston, St. Clair and Monroe counties. The agency said weekend or discretionary driving is down about 2%.

Read the entire article here.

Ypsi fair offers alternatives to the automobile

You don't always have to drive your car. Last Tuesday Yspi held a fair detailing non-auto options, like bikes, carpooling, and buses, for getting around.

Excerpt:

The fair was held Tuesday to educate people who want to ride bicycles, carpool or use the bus, said Brian Vosburg, director of the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority. With the price of gas hovering around $4 a gallon, and area schools starting next week, the DDA partnered with several organizations to hold the fair and help residents learn about alternate transportation, Vosburg said.

Read the entire article here.

As gas increases so does riding the rails

Chicago to Ann Arbor and back is increasingly turning from a road weary journey to a rail riding experience. Amtrak's trips to the 'City by the Lake' are gaining more and more ridership due to the hike in gas price.

Excerpt:

Amtrak officials say the number of people riding Pontiac-Detroit-Ann Arbor-Jackson-Chicago lines was up 5.9 percent since last October. The Port Huron-East Lansing-Chicago line has seen a 6.5 percent jump in riders, while the Grand Rapids-St. Joseph-Chicago line was up 7.2 percent, a Detroit newspaper reported.

The increases would have been greater if tickets, especially for weekend trips, were not selling out.

A Michigan Department of Transportation official says the price of gas is the strongest single reason for the increases.

Read the entire article here.

Here is another piece from the AP that showed up in the Chicago Tribune.

$4 gas turns into two-wheeled commutes

It's nearly 140 dollars a barrel for oil. Gas is up around four bucks. The environment
appears to be taking a bit of a hit. Seems like a good a time as any to pull out your ol' ten-speed and ride to work. And that's just what many people are doing right now, turning that $4 gallon of gas into a two-wheeled commute to work.

Excerpt:

Cyclists are vying for spots in once-ignored workplace bike racks. Some workplaces are just starting to buy and install them.

Scooter and motorcycle sales are up. Bike and motorcycle shops are advertising their wares as the way out of the gas price crisis.

State government, Oakland County, small businesses and Oakland University are just some employers offering four-day workweeks.

High gas prices have justified my buying a new bike, said Steve Roach, a lawyer who commutes from Grosse Pointe Park to the downtown Detroit offices of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone.

Ive ridden 40 times so far to work, Roach said of his commutes this year. I know Im not the only one. Our building just put in a bike rack. There are three or four bikes on it every day.

Read the entire article here.

Ann Arbor-Detroit rail line by 2010, potentially

After all that talk of a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter line, it's on its way... potentially. SEMCOG is just waiting on estimates of cost before they progress. The line could get held up again but Carmine Palombo, director of transportation programs for SEMCOG, says it should be a go.

Excerpt:

SEMCOG has looked into the feasibility of a commuter rail between the two major cities for more than a year now. The concept would be to rely on existing infrastructure as much as possible as a system was developed to shuttle people between Detroit, Ann Arbor and Metro Airport.

Palombo said the question of where the stop that will service Detroit Metropolitan Airport will sit. So far, stations are already planned for Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, a Detroit Metro Airport stop, a stop at the Henry Ford in Dearborn and near the New Center Area in downtown Detroit.

Read the entire article here.

Dearborn Dem Dingell pushing for public transit

Gas, fuel, oil, and diesel are quickly becoming bad words. Gas prices are up, though "up" is a conservative word for it, so the bikes are coming out and the bus seats are filling up (quite unlike your tank). But, there is talk that there needs to be more options to the transit question. And it's a hot topic for this summer's hot weather. So, Dearborn Dem John Dingell went down to Washington to push the issue.

Excerpt:

Specifically, the Dearborn Democrat, who has served longer in the House than any other current member, joined a bill authorizing an additional $1.7 billion for public transit agencies so that they can reduce fares and expand services and increase the federal match for alternative fuel transit and bus facilities.

If enacted, Dingell says, the bill would provide Michigan with more than $35 million this year and next.

We all have to do our part in this effort to protect our environment, and keeping the car in the garage for a few trips a week is one way Americans can help this cause, Dingell said in a prepared statement.

Read the entire article here.

"Dump the pump!" on June 21

Thursday, June 21 is the second annual "Dump the Pump" day that calls for the parking of cars and the riding of public transit as a way of calling attention to the environmental and economic benefits of using public transit.

A transit fact:

From 1995 through 2006, public transportation ridership increased by 30 percent, a growth rate higher than the 12 percent increase in US population and higher than the 24 percent growth in use of the nation's highways over the same period.

Find out more here.



"Moving Michigan: Advancing Transportation Through Technology" at NextEnergy on May 15

NextEnergy will host "Moving Michigan: Advancing Transportation Through Technology" on May 15 to mark National Transportation Week.

Excerpt:

This breakfast will spur conversation about the state of the transportation industry and the exciting changes we can expect to see in the near and distant future.  A panel of leading transportation experts and local officials will discuss how technological advancements are reshaping all sectors of the transportation industry (air, water, roads and rail) as we know it.  The panel also will detail how Michigan can capitalize on these advancements to improve safety and efficiency, as well as help create job opportunities and improve our economy.

Read more and register here.

MIT professor to speak on the future of transportation at UM

MIT professor Dr. Joseph Sussman will speak on the future of transportation based on his new methodology for regional strategic transportation planning.

Sussman's ground-breaking new research methodology is currently being employed in Mexico City, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Portugal.

RSVP to rholden@umich.edu.



Ann Arbor to host transportation public workshop Apr. 23

Ann Arbor will host two workshops on the future of its transportation system on April 23 -- one at 4 p.m. and one at 7:30, both at Huron High School.

Excerpt from website:

Each workshop will include information about the current state of transportation in Ann Arbor and will begin with a short presentation to help participants make informed suggestions. The presentations will be followed by the project team receiving public comments from groups formed from attendees. Those attending can express their opinions about the direction of transportation in the city and talk about their priorities with other participants.

The workshops are intended to gather information that will help the city set priorities for the rest of the transportation planning effort. Officials expect the Citys transportation planning process to take approximately one year.

Find out more here.

Detroit People Mover publishes downtown guides

Detroit Transportation corp., the owner and operator of the Detroit People Mover, has published a 20-page downtown Detroit guide entitled "Go! See! Shop! Eat!"

Excerpt:

"We wanted to show downtown visitors, workers and residents that there is a tremendous variety of businesses to discover in the central business district that we serve," said People Mover General Manager Barbara Hansen. "Downtown Detroit is growing very rapidly, and more new businesses have been started since Super Bowl XL than during the previous 10 years combined.

Read the entire article here.

Transit plans gain momentum

Mass transit initiatives gain speed, momentum as  the public and local officials get behind efforts. The Establishment of a commuter rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit and north of Ann Arbor is moving forward.

Excerpt:

From proposed commuter trains to regional bus service, the long-failed effort to establish mass transit in car-crazy Metro Detroit is building steam, officials say.

Bringing the issue to the forefront are increasingly congested roads, soaring gas prices and the fact that Democrats -- who historically have championed public transportation -- now control the state House, governor's office and Congress.

Advocates say city after city has benefited from building a transit system, creating jobs and economic development along the routes. With the possible exception of Los Angeles, Detroit is the only major U.S. city without effective mass transit, critics say.

"I think it's really important that we develop an effective and efficient public transportation system if we're going to move ahead with economic recovery in this state," State Rep. Marie Donigan told a standing-room-only crowd at a public transit meeting last week in Royal Oak.

"We think there's an urgency in our work. We know the status quo's not working."

Read the entire article here.





Michigan favors more fuel efficiency, poll finds

Released by the Civil Society Institute in Washington, the phone survey of 1,000 Michigan adults was taken Feb. 15 to Feb. 18 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Some highlights include:

• 60% cited the U.S. auto industry's biggest problem as lack of offering the best technology, including improved fuel efficiency.

• 84% agreed the U.S. auto industry is in major trouble and Michigan's economy will suffer if the situation for the Detroit automakers does not improve.

• 64% support federal incentives, such as lowering health care costs for the auto industry, in exchange for Detroit automakers investing in fuel-efficient technologies.

Read the complete article here.


Amtrak ridership increases statewide

Increased gas prices and airfare have increased the number of people in Michigan riding Amtrak trains.

Excerpt:

Amtrak's popularity in Michigan is soaring. State ridership, which hit a record last year of nearly 665,000, has jumped 47 percent since 2002 -- far outpacing the nationwide increase of 12 percent.

read the entire article here.

Transit subcommittee formed by State House

The Michigan House of Representatives has convened a subcommittee devoted to public transit.

Excerpt:

The committee is designed to address transit issues including the improvement of bus systems, funding issues, accessibility and the development of public transit systems in communities around the state.

Read the entire article here.


F. Hills OCC to host discussion on walkability

At noon on Feb. 21, The Farmington Hills campus of Oakland Community College will host a presentation and panel discussion on the area's walkability and transportation.

Excerpt:

Speaker will be Dan Burden, an authority on sustainable communities. Burden is the executive director of the nonprofit Walkable Communities Inc. and has 25 years experience developing, promoting and evaluating alternative transportation facilities, traffic "calming" processes and sustainable community design.

Read the entire article here.

Portland posied to enter streetcar market, why isn't Detroit?

With Portland and Oregon Iron Works announcement of their intention to manufacture American-made streetcars, blogger Great Lakes Guy wonders why the Big 3 are not considering like-minded concepts.

Excerpt:

But, even as they forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, lay off tens of thousands of workers, and cede their authority and stature as the world's leading transportation innovators to the competition, the American car companies seem to be oblivious to the rapidly emerging mass transit market because they see themselves as just that, car makers, rather than mobility providers who innovate, design, and manufacture a range of mobility options.

Read the entire blog post here.

Non-profits hold seminar on reducing global warming

Transportation Riders United and the Sierra Club will hold a seminar at 10 a.m. Saturday (1/27) in the Birmingham/Baldwin Public Library, 300 W. Merrill.

The lecture will cover the impacts of and solutions to global warming pollution, including the role of transit in preventing it. The event will also go over what other cities are doing to reduce their global warming impact and what citizens can do to encourage their local government to reduce its footprint on climate change.

For information, call Leigh at (248) 425-5277 or send an e-mail to leigh.fifelski@sierraclub.org.

Source: Transportation Riders United.


U-M to fund commuter line between AA & Howell

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje announced U-M's intentions to pay for its employees to ride a commuter rail line between Ann Arbor and Howell. Approximately 4,000 employees could benefit from the route.

Excerpt:

Hieftje said the offer from U-M came from Hank Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations, in a conversation during the holidays. The mayor has been promoting a commuter rail service on an existing railway now operated by Great Lakes Central Railroad between Ann Arbor and Howell.

Read the entire article here.
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