| Follow Us:

Transit : Development News

163 Transit Articles | Page: | Show All

Mass transit speeds up in Metro Detroit

Mass transit is gaining speed in Metro Detroit. This time it's about the possible expansion of SMART and the progress of the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments still expects to launch the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line by October. It has reached an agreement with the railroads that own the tracks on the proposed line and is working out further details for the project. It also has nailed down $3.5 million in federal funding and hopes to get more soon.

At the same time, the Oakland County suburb of Keego Harbor is considering joining the SMART transit system for the first time. A local group of residents is pushing for the municipality's inclusion so bus services can be expanded to the small town. Local officials are considering the proposal. Oakland County has an opt-out clause that allows communities that don't want to be involved in SMART to opt out.

"There is a chance for a community to join or leave," says Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United. Earlier this month, Farmington Hills toyed with the idea of leaving SMART but instead city officials decided to let voters make the decision in the election this August.

The mass transit advocate is also holding a Transit Action Conference between 1-6 p.m. Saturday at the Michigan State University Detroit Center, 3408 Woodward, south of Mack. The event will feature transit updates, TRU Board elections, and opportunities to get involved in making comprehensive transportation options a reality for Metro Detroit.

TRU is also looking for an organizer/assistant director. Potential candidates should have a passion for mass transit and motivation to help improve the transportation options in southeast Michigan. For information, click here.

Source: Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments
Writer: Jon Zemke

Birmingham-Troy transit center gets $1.3M

The long-awaited Birmingham-Troy transit center is one big step closer to becoming a reality now that it has landed $1.3 million in federal funding.

The federal earmark could be first in what promises to be even more federal funding. So far, the two cities have raised half of the $7 million needed for the project from a variety of local private and public sources. It hopes to secure the rest of the money and begin construction this year.

"We're expecting word in the next 30-60 days from federal stimulus funding programs," says Michele Hodges, president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce.

The two cities plan to create the transit center on the Birmingham side of the border between the cities. About $4 million would be set aside for the center while the rest would be used to build a pedestrian tunnel underneath the tracks.

The center would facilitate traffic from pedestrians, bicyclists, automobiles, buses, and the planned northern extension of the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line. There has also been talk of creating an east-west streetcar line to connect the station to Birmingham's downtown and Troy's Somerset Collection mall.

The proposed site is in Birmingham's emerging Rail District. The cities plan to create a
transit oriented development district around the station that would roughly be bordered by Crooks, Adams, and Maple Roads and Lincoln Street.

Source: Michele Hodges, president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Jon Zemke

Transit update: PBS documentary, investment, and Farmington Hills

Mass transit in Metro Detroit is taking a couple of baby steps forward.

First, the Farmington Hills City Council decided not to leave SMART, instead putting the question of whether to remain a member of the transit agency to voters in August.

"It was frustrating that they felt they needed to even debate this since they have been a part of SMART for so long," says Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, a local mass transit advocacy non-profit. "But they did realize that transit is part of the community and something it couldn't do without."

Secondly, a new PBS documentary about mass transit in Metro Detroit called Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City examines how Detroit, a grim symbol of America's diminished status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. It asks whether it is time to fundamentally change the way Detroiters — and by extension all Americans — get around.

Third, the latest data on stimulus spending show that investment in mass transit has created twice as many jobs as investment in highways. The analysis from Smart Growth America shows that every billion dollars spent on public transportation created 16,419 jobs, in comparison to 8,781 for highways.

Source: Megan Owens, executive director
of Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke

Birmingham/Troy transit center moves forward

--This article originally appeared on April 23, 2009

The plans for the Birmingham/Troy transit center are taking shape while the funding sources are being targeted.

The planning commissions for the two cities recently met to review architectural renderings of the proposed center. They plan to hold a community design charrette on June 15-16 after the architects come back with more detailed plans.

"We're waiting on them to make some changes and tweaks," says Jana Ecker, planning director for the city of Birmingham.

The two cities plan to create a $6 million transit center on the Birmingham side of the border between the cities. About $4 million would be set aside for the center while another $2 million would be used to build a pedestrian tunnel underneath the tracks.

The center would facilitate traffic from pedestrians, bicyclists, automobiles, buses and the planned northern extension of the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line. There has also been talk of creating an east-west streetcar line to connect the station to Birmingham's downtown and Troy's Somerset Collection mall.

The proposed site is in Birmingham's emerging Rail District. The cities plan to create a transit-oriented-development district around the station that would roughly be bordered by Crooks, Adams, Maple and Lincoln streets. A Southeast Michigan Council of Governments official will conduct a walkability tour of the neighborhood on April 29 to gauge how best to take advantage of the expected transit oriented development.

Officials from both cities are also meeting with the staffs of Michigan's congressional and senate office holders to help arrange funding. Congressman Gary Peters has already put in for a $2 million federal earmark to help bring the project to fruition.

Source:
Jana Ecker, planning director for the city of Birmingham
Writer: Jon Zemke

Bus bike racks help fuse transit options in Metro Detroit

--This article originally appeared on April 16, 2009

Soon all bus riders in Southeast Michigan will have a place to park their bikes when they get on a local transit system.

The Detroit Department of Transportation will equip all of its buses with bike racks this year, joining SMART and the Ann Arbor Transit Authority. The $680,110 project is paid mostly with federal transportation funds funneled through the state.

Transportation Riders United, a local mass transit advocate, hailed the improvement as a way of connecting more transportation options in Metro Detroit. The lack of these options and connections has held the region back, in the view of TRU's leadership.

"If a bus doesn’t come within a few blocks of your house, it's not an attractive option," says Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United. "If you can ride your bike a mile or two to a bus, then it becomes a much more attractive option."

Incorporating more options for bicyclists has been a major goal for both TRU and local leaders. SMART and AATA added the bike racks a few years ago to help boost ridership. They have enjoyed significant use as more and more Metro Detroiters took to two wheels, especially as gas prices went higher.

They are also looking at making the proposed Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail and Woodward light rail lines bicycle-friendly.

"That's the ultimate goal, is to have many different ways to get around," Owens says.

Source: State of Michigan and Megan Owens, executive director of the Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke

Night Move bus opens new service in Detroit's city center

--This article originally appeared on June 25, 2009

The Night Move is no longer singular. The popular weekend express shuttle between some of Metro Detroit's most vibrant downtowns now has a companion shuttle called The Loop.

The Night Move goes between downtown Royal Oak, Ferndale and Detroit on Fridays and Saturdays. The Loop will focus on moving between hot spots in Detroit's downtown and Midtown neighborhoods on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Loop will stop at the Town Pump Tavern/Centaur, Bookies Bar and Grill, Greektown, Wayne State, Traffic Jam and Snug and MGM Grand between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. It costs $5 for an all-night pass.

"We'd like to eventually run this bus for free," says Jennifer Harlan, marketing director for The Night Move, adding that accomplishing that requires more sponsorships from area establishments. "That's the end goal."

The Night Move runs on biodiesel and is owned by Chris Ramos.

Source: Jennifer Harlan, marketing director for The Night Move
Writer: Jon Zemke

MDOT sets aside $5.6 million for new hybrid buses

--This article originally appeared on September 17, 2009

Hybrid buses could be coming to a stop near you, thanks to a new initiative through the Michigan Department of Transportation.

MDOT awarded a new $5.6 million contract to Azure Dynamics. The Oak Park-based firm will provide up to 50 small hybrid buses for yet-to-be-determined transit agencies located in Michigan.

"We have plans in the future to put out a call for projects to see who is interested," says Janet Hawkins, a spokeswoman for MDOT.

A protoype bus and recipient transit agency are expected to be chosen and delivered before the end of the year, with more to come next year.

Hybrid buses have been discussed but not really put into use in Metro Detroit, with the exception of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's aggressive efforts to switch its entire fleet to hybrid buses.

Azure Dynamics' vehicles are expected to improve fuel economy by up to 40 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maintenance costs by 30 percent.

Source: Janet Hawkins, a spokeswoman for Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Jon Zemke

Transportation Riders United celebrates 10 years

Transportation Riders United is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month, and what a decade it has been for transit since TRU came on the scene.

"The attitude has changed dramatically," says Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United. "The public and public officials' attitude toward transit has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. In 1999, transit wasn't even on the radar of public officials and if it was, it was for buses for poor people."

Today Metro Detroit is on the precipice of approving a regional plan (and even an authority) for mass transit. Plans for a streetcar along Woodward are on the verge of materializing. A commuter rail line connecting Detroit, Metro Airport, Dearborn, Ypsilanti, and Ann Arbor is even closer. That's a long way from the everybody-drives-their-own SUV culture of the late 1990s.

That's not to say TRU is primarily responsible for this change in perception, but the mass transit advocacy non-profit has certainly played a major role in making it happen. Owens sees potential for even more change in the next couple of years that could literally redefine how Metro Detroiters view and use mass transit.

"The next couple of years have the potential so we can really see the rails hit the road," Owens says.

Ten years from now, she sees not only the current projects up and running but expanded, so the Woodward light rail stretches as far north as Royal Oak and the commuter rail line also swings up to Birmingham and Pontiac. Other possibilities include expanding these lines into Macomb County and the Downriver area, plus a much more effective and comprehensive bus system across southeast Michigan.

This is not about maps, tracks, and technology," Owens says. "It's about making people's lives more convenient."

TRU's 10-year anniversary celebration will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 16 in the Majestic Theater in Detroit's Midtown neighborhood. For information, click here or call (313) 963-8872.

Source: Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke

N Oakland colleges expand alt transit options

Getting around northern Oakland County's commuter campuses is getting easier now that more transportation options are becoming available.

Both Oakland University and Cooley Law School's Metro Detroit campus are known for their large sprawling parking lots, landing pads for most students' mode of transportation to and from class. That's starting to change, if only a little.

The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation has added Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills campus, which sits in the shadow of the Chrysler headquarters, to its list of destinations. Maps, routes and links can be found at the Campus Resources link here.

Oakland University has already signed up for SMART service, but is now expanding its transit options to pedal power with its launch of a Bike Share Program. The student-led initiative makes use of the honor system, providing 30 free-to-use bicycles to students at bike racks around the campus.

Another 23 bikes have been donated to the cause by students and staff since the program began earlier this fall. Organizers are finding a number of bikes left at the local parking lots, but are looking at adding more bike racks to improve availability and convenience.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

Mass transit ridership hits record levels in Metro Detroit

Mass transit ridership continues its climb in Metro Detroit, saving millions of gallons of gas and increasing demand for more effective transportation options.

Michigan transit usage jumped 6 percent from 2007 to 2008. All of those bus and train riders helped save 35.6 million gallons of gas, the amount consumed by 61,800 cars. That also equates to 4.4 billion fewer miles driven in 2008 than in the year before, a 5 percent drop, and 321,000 fewer tons of air pollution.

"People are voting with their feet by driving less and taking more public transportation," says Shelley Vinyard, a spokeswoman for Ann Arbor-based Environment Michigan.

These numbers come when Metro Detroit is pursuing plans to dramatically expand and improve its mass transit system, primarily by adding rail lines to the mix. Detroit and Ann Arbor are looking at adding streetcar lines, and there are plans to create commuter rail lines between Detroit and Ann Arbor and north from Ann Arbor to Howell.

However, there have also been attempts to cut transportation funding at the local and state levels. Environment Michigan and other groups/local politicians are calling for more funding to meet the growing demand for mass transit.

"We need more public transit funding so we can provide more choices for the increased demand across the state," Vinyard says.

Source: Shelley Vinyard, a spokeswoman for Ann Arbor-based Environment Michigan
Writer: Jon Zemke

Alt transportation answers WCC's parking problem

The conventional wisdom in Southeast Michigan is that more parking always solves the problem. That's not what they're thinking at Washtenaw Community College.

Excerpt:

Washtenaw Community College is dealing with its highest enrollment ever, which means the commuter campus is experiencing its greatest demand for parking (and lack of supply) ever.

Most other Midwest institutions would conclude they need to build more parking. Well, Washtenaw Community College is dealing with the acute parking shortage by asking its students to take the vehicle less traveled – alternative transportation.

"We still have a parking problem but we're redoubling efforts to alleviate the problem," says Janet Hawkins, director of public relations and marketing for Washtenaw Community College.

Read the rest of the story here.

Oakland U starts bike-share, van shuttle services

It's not just the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor that are finding new and innovative ways to get university students, staff, and faculty around. Oakland University and Rochester are getting into the groove, too.

"It is important to start looking at alternative forms of transportation," Glenn McIntosh, dean and assistant vice president for student affairs at Oakland University, said in a press release.

Oakland University plans to start two new alternative transportation programs this fall – a bike-share and van-shuttle programs. These environmentally friendly services will be available to all university patrons for free.

The bike-share program is a student-led initiative that will depend on the honor system. It will feature 30 bicycles for on-campus use only at 30 different bike racks across the campus. The bikes will be stored in the winter term.

Another seven bike racks will be added to campus to facilitate the program. Student and university officials are also working on plans to make the commuter campus more bike-friendly by adding bike lanes and trails throughout the campus.

Shuttle buses, a pilot program, will enable students and staff to travel between campus points without having to worry about losing their parking spaces. The 12-seat vans will run in a loop between Busch's shopping center, Buffalo Wild Wings, the Village of Rochester, and downtown Rochester during weekends.

Source: Oakland University
Writer: Jon Zemke

SEMCOG looks for input on transit plan

Most of the time a local government body wants public input about transportation and centers of mass transit. That's not necessarily so with the Southeast Michigan Council of Government's latest string of transportation meetings.

SEMCOG will host public meetings in September (and one in October) for its Direction2035 plan, the region's next long-range transportation plan. The idea is to figure out in which type of transportation infrastructure to invest.

"It's not just public transit. It's the whole gamut of things," says Carmine Palombo, director of transportation for SEMCOG.

A copy of the plan can be seen here.

The meetings will be held on Sept. 23 at 9:30 a.m. and Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. in SEMCOG's offices, 535 Griswold, Suite 300 in Detroit. Another meeting will be held Oct. 22 at 4:30 p.m. at the ConCorde Inn, 44315 Gratiot in Clinton Township.

For information, send an email to Direction2035@semcog.org or call (313) 324-3362 or send a letter to SEMCOG, Attn: Information Center, 535 Griswold, Suite 300, Detroit, MI 48226.

Source: Carmine Palombo, director of transportation for SEMCOG
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor's underground parking deck moves forward

Ann Arbor's new underground parking garage is preparing to break ground this fall.

Excerpt:

The underground parking structure next to the Ann Arbor Library's Main Branch continues its steady slog toward becoming a reality.

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority approved upgrading the 6-inch water mains along Fifth Avenue to 12-inch water mains and hired Lansing-based Christman to handle the pre-construction planning. It all means shovels will go in the ground for the water mains by October and the main hole for the parking deck will start going down by early winter.

"I think we may start excavating in November," says Susan Pollay, executive director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

Read the rest of the story here.

TRU rallies supporters to defend mass transit funding

Mass transit hasn't been a priority in Michigan's budget for years, and this year isn't any different.

More cuts, big and small, are being bandied about Lansing as the state Legislature tries to figure out how to fill a 10-figure budget hole. Detroit-based Transportation Riders United is organizing supporters of mass transit to make sure money specifically designated for transportation funding stays in the right pot.

"There have been many, many cuts over the years," says Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United. "This is just making a bad situation worse."

The non-profit mass transit advocacy is in the midst of launching its Local Transit Action Kickoff initiative. The idea is to pressure legislators and state officials to maintain funding for mass transit in a time when ridership is increasing faster than the price of oil.

Public meetings for the initiative have already begun. The remaining two are at the Roseville Recreation Center on July 9 and the Covert Center in Waterford on July 13. Both meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

For information, call (313) 963-8872 or click here.

Source: Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke
163 Transit Articles | Page: | Show All
Share this page
0
Email
Print
Signup for Email Alerts