January 4, 2010
Check this week's classifieds to learn about Help Wanted positions, including one Executive Director and one Executive Director, Operations!
Also, be sure to watch for Passenger Transport's next issue, which will focus on 2010: The Year Ahead!
Keep Transit Plans on Track
Reprinted with permission of the Detroit Free Press, where this editorial appeared Dec. 28, 2009.
Local, on-the-ground efforts to improve mass transit in southeast Michigan should not stall while legislators consider a sorely needed plan to create a Regional Transit Authority.
Bills to create the authority were introduced in the state House last week by Rep. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit. But getting the plan covering Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties approved could take months. Meantime, other projects need to move forward, including a plan by Detroit to build a light-rail system along Woodward to 8 Mile, and basic improvements to city and suburban bus service. Such changes are needed to generate enthusiasm for a regional transit system and support for a tax to pay for it, as well as to improve service for the nearly 150,000 daily riders who already depend on the system.
Light rail appears essential for getting so-called choice riders who own vehicles to try transit. A light-rail system in Detroit along Woodward could provide a first success for the region to build on. City officials, working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration, hope to get the Woodward line operating, from Hart Plaza to 8 Mile, by 2014.
Private investors will build the first leg of the Woodward line from Hart Plaza to the New Center—the so-called M1-RAIL project. The City of Detroit seeks to use the $120 million in private money invested to leverage federal match funding to complete the rest of the line to 8 Mile. Detroit plans to secure more than half of the $400 million needed to complete the project from federal new-starts grants, and secure urban transit money, called 5307 grants, from the Federal Transit Administration.
To secure suburban support, rapid transit plans for the rest of the region need to develop quickly. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments has already applied for federal funds to study alternatives for rail, or rapid transit buses, along Woodward to Pontiac, Gratiot to Mt. Clemens, and M-59 from Pontiac to Mt. Clemens.
Other basic improvements are also moving forward. The Regional Transit Coordinating Council, SEMCOG and the city and suburban bus systems have been meeting since August to work out plans for transit hubs and express service along heavily traveled corridors. Simple changes, such as creating transfer passes from buses to the People Mover and operating a central information center for city and suburban buses, should have been in place years ago.
These on-the-ground improvements are as important as a Regional Transit Authority to creating a 21st Century transportation system. Southeast Michigan’s leaders must be equally committed to making them happen.