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Transit : Development News

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Farmington to present details of downtown parking study on Monday

Right now there are 2,370 parking spots in downtown Farmington. City officials, however, hope to squeeze out a few more in their new long-term parking study.

City officials will present the details of the study and how they hope to use it at 6 p.m. Monday in Farmington's City Hall. That means they will show how many spots the city has, make suggestions on how to better manage those
parking spaces and discuss how to create more spots in the future.

One of the city's main goals is to search for ways to reconfigure existing parking lots to increase occupancy and ease of access.

"If you combine three lots next to each other can we gain any spots by combining them?" says Annette Knowles, executive director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority.

The city is also looking at creating parking decks as a long-term solution. Knowles says that if downtown is built out as the master plan calls for in the coming years, the city will need to double the number of parking spaces to service that growth.

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Jon Zemke

District Lofts in Birmingham switches from for-sale to rental

The development bandwagon for rental properties is picking up speed in Metro Detroit, especially after one prominent project has jumped on -- The District Lofts in Birmingham.

The ritzy development in the posh suburb's emerging Rail District once billed its units as some of the priciest for-sale lofts in Michigan, starting at $400,000. They're still some of the most expensive modern living spaces around, but now they're just for lease. The developer decided to make the move after witnessing the credit market deteriorate to what were once unthinkable levels.

"The lending market is in so much of an uproar right now that even buyers who have had down payments on units for 18 months are being challenged (by banks making mortgage loans)," says J.C. Cataldo, developer of The District Lofts.

But this dark cloud has a silver lining in that for-sale housing markets are slumping while for-lease housing markets are soaring. A number of other downtown developments in Metro Detroit that were once for-sale are now for lease, and filling up fast.

Among them are The Fifth Royal Oak and New Street Lofts in Mt. Clemens. Urbane Apartment's redevelopment rentals in downtowns are going fast, too. These developments are cashing in on Hollywood workers looking for a place to live to people who want to rent because the housing market scares them so much right now.

The District Lofts is cashing in now, too. So far three of the units are finished and another six of the developments original 24 are set to be done and occupied within six months. Rents in these units start at $2,700 a month for a 1,550-square-foot loft, all of the utilities and an underground parking space. They go as high as $3,400 a month for just under 2,000 square feet.

The development consists of a 4-story, mixed-use building where the homes are located above ground floor retail space and an underground heated parking garage. They are a few blocks east of downtown Birmingham on South Eaton Street in the Rail District.

The old industrial corridor dotted factory buildings and a rail line is being converted to lofts and businesses as the city redevelops it. A stop for a northern extension of the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line is also planed for the area.

For information, call (248) 593-6000.

Source: J.C. Cataldo, developer of The District Lofts
Writer: Jon Zemke

MDOT set to improve Main Street for Dearborn's West Dowtown

New pavement is one of those things we tend to take for granted and only notice when it becomes old and crumbles. That goes doubly for a place where aesthetics are at a premium, like, say, a downtown.

And even though road pavement isn't as sexy as new streetlights, benches or bike lanes, its one of the first things people complain about when they fall into disrepair. Well, there are some sections of road in Dearborn's West Downtown that qualify in spades.

"We have some sections of pavement that are in dire need of some work," says Rob Morosi, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

That's one of the reasons why MDOT plans to revamp the pavement on the main thoroughfare for Dearborn's West Downtown Ė Michigan Avenue. MDOT intends to repair nearly a mile of road along Michigan, between Brady and Washington streets, starting next week.

The $456,000 project, which will take place mostly at night, will replace the most heavily worked and crumbling sections of road. The idea is to make it friendlier to all of the traffic on it, whether it is commercial vehicles, commuters, bicyclists or even pedestrians.

Work is expected to wrap up by early November.

Source: Rob Morosi, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Jon Zemke

TRU's Transit 101 workshop to discuss Woodward light rail, other transit projects

Transit 101. Sounds just like a college class doesn't it? But the people trying to bring more transportation options to Metro Detroit (i.e. rail) will use it as an excuse to school those interested in what's going on mass transit wise in southeast Michigan.

The event, set for Wednesday, is designed for those who want to know more about transit issues, such as the proposals for light rail along Woodward Avenue, improved bus service and commuter rail between Detroit and Ann Arbor. It's sponsored by Transportation Riders United, a local non-profit dedicated to improving mass transit in Metro Detroit.

The organizers will also talk about what people can do to get involved in these transit issues and how they can help make turn these proposals into reality.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in TRU's offices on the 16th floor of the Guardian Building, 500 Griswold, in downtown Detroit. For information, contact Megan Owens at trumember@detroittransit.org or (313) 963-8872.

Source: Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke

More people take to rails as Amtrak ridership goes up in Metro Detroit

More and more people are riding that train in Michigan as Amtrak posts significant increases in ridership over the last year on all three of the lines that go through the state.

The Wolverine line increased 5.9 percent, jumping from 369,966 passengers in 2006-07 to 391,959 in 2007-08. The six daily trains travel along the Wolverine line between Pontiac and Chicago, via Detroit and other stations.

The Blue Water line went up 6.5 percent in the same time period. Ridership went from 105,605 in 2006-07 to 112,426 in 2007-08. Trains run between Port Huron and
Chicago, with stops in East Lansing and other stations, along the Blue Water.

Last and smallest, but not least is the 7.2 percent jump for the Pere Marquette line between Grand Rapids and Chicago. The line also stops in St. Joseph and at other stations. Ridership went from 86,073 to 92,248 in the same time period, jumping 7.2 percent.

Source: Marc Magliari, media relations manager for Amtrak
Writer: Jon Zemke

Rallies and meetings attempt to advance mass transit discussion

As gas prices rise so does the popularity of mass transit, but groups like Transportation Riders United and MOSES are looking to drive that message home to local politicians.

Organizers from both groups have been organizing a series of public transit rallies this summer in each of the tri counties to motivate elected officials to improve mass transit. The last will be held tonight in Belleville at 7 p.m. in the Trinity Church, 11575 Belleville Road.

Two similar rallies have been held in Macomb and Oakland counties earlier this summer. For information, call (313) 962-5290.

The Detroit Department of Transportation is also looking for public input as it develops a 5-year service plan. DDOT will hold several public meetings about the plan, which will be designed to address the regionís transportation needs, such improved bus lines and light rail.

Information on the meetings and the plan can be found here or call (313) 933-1300.

Source: Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke

Farmington to hold final public info meeting for streetscape vote

The last public information meeting about the proposed streetscape improvements for downtown Farmington is set for Friday, a few days before Tuesday's vote on the project.

The designers of the project and local officials will be on hand to take questions from 5-7 p.m. at the Sundquist Pavilion in Riley Park. Voters will decided whether to give the green light to the $3.2 million project during Tuesday's primary election.

City officials have been fighting to keep the project afloat, holding meetings and releasing a video depicting what the new streetscape will look like if and when it's installed next year.

The proposal calls for rebuilding Grand River Avenue between Farmington Road and Warner Street. That stretch of road will receive the lion's share of upgrades, except for a boulevard set to be developed on Grove Street between Grand River and Orchard Street.

The project will expand the sidewalk area and add bump outs around parallel parking spaces, while installing new sidewalks, crosswalks, benches, bike racks, trashcans and decorative streetlights.

The idea is to make downtown, particularly Grand River Avenue, friendlier for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians as well as more aesthetically pleasing. Local leaders hope this will help encourage vibrancy and increased business investment in downtown.

Source: Krista Wolter, marketing and promotions coordinator for the Farmington Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor DDA exploring options for Fifth Ave underground parking garage

Ann Arbor's leaders are pushing for homes for people and cars in downtown with equal zeal. The latest effort is for a 500-car underground parking garage next to the Ann Arbor District Library's main branch.


More parking is on its way to downtown Ann Arbor, but to a place most people won't see it.

The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority wants to build a 500-space underground parking garage where the massive surface parking lot now stands adjacent to the Ann Arbor District Library's main branch. The DDA presented some ideas to the City Council Monday night and expects to present a site plan to the city in September.

Read the rest of the story here.

Dearborn expects commuter rail station to push economic development

Dearborn has high hopes for its station on the long commuter rail line between Detroit and Ann Arbor.

City officials have created plans for a station in the city, bordering The Henry Ford. Local leaders hope the two stations will help make the city a destination for tourists, shoppers and workers.

The intermodal station located at Michigan Avenue and Elm Street is set up like a park-and-ride and is pedestrian friendly to those going to the adjacent Henry Ford museums, nearby west downtown and the Rouge Parkway. Busses and taxis will be available to take passengers to the nearby Fairlane Towne Center and the campuses of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Henry Ford Community College.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) is heading up the commuter rail project and is working out details with a number of train companies that control the tracks between Ann Arbor and Detroit. A video of the proposed line, set to come on line in 2010, is available here.

People who want to comment on proposed line and other Metro Detroit transportation issues can do so at any one of three meetings next month. SEMCOG will be taking public comment as it prepares a long-range transportation plan for southeast Michigan.

The first meeting will be held on Monday in SEMCOG's Detroit offices, Suite 300 of 535 Griswold, from 4 to 7 p.m. The second meeting will be held Tuesday in the Southfield Public Library, 26300 Evergreen, also from 4 to 7 p.m. The third meeting will be held on Wednesday in Ann Arbor at Washtenaw Community College's Morris Lawrence Building from 9 a.m. to noon. Formal presentations about the plans will also be given during the meetings.

For information on the plan or the meetings, call SEMCOG at (313) 961-4266.

Source: Randy Coble, spokesman for the city of Dearborn and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments
Writer: Jon Zemke

Transit-oriented development subject du jour in upcoming meetings

The push for better public transit (i.e. rail) is getting a hand from a couple of groups popular with young professionals. The Metro Detroit chapters of the Sierra Club and Urban Land Institute will be holding meetings and lectures this week on the importance of mass transit to the region's environmental and economic well being.

ULI will be holding a lecture/presentation on transit-oriented-development at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, 4454 Woodward Ave, in Detroit at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday. The event will focus on how creating long-term mass transit lines, such as light and commuter rail, lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment.

Much of that investment comes in dense, mixed-use buildings that let people live, work and play in the same urban village. It's a model that is widely considered one of the most sustainable around. The event will discuss such developments that are happening in Metro Detroit, future local mass transit projects and other similar developments elsewhere in the U.S.

Those attending will be served breakfast and be able to tour MOCAD's considering Architecture: Sustainable Designs from Detroit exhibit.

The central subject of the Sierra Club & Beer event in Berkley on July 31 will also be transit-oriented-development and how it can create more sustainable jobs locally.

"It's essential that young professionals get involved in the push for better transit because the decisions made now will shape the communities and infrastructure that we will live in in the future," says Chris Frey, the board president of Transportation Riders United.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Berkley Front bar.

Source: Metro Detroit chapters of Urban Land Institute and Sierra Club
Writer: Jon Zemke

WALLY commuter line 16 months and $32 million away from pulling into station

The commuter rail project in Ann Arbor commonly known as WALLY is chugging along. The project needs about 16 months of work and $32 million to become a reality.


Here's the down-and-dirty info that came from the recently released feasibility study for the proposed U.S. 23 commuter rail line commonly known as WALLY.

-- The commuter rail project is feasible
-- 16 month timeline before service can begin
-- 24 steps need to be taken to initiate service
-- $32.4 million in start-up costs
-- $6.3 million in operating costs
-- Fare box projected to cover 30 percent of operating costs
-- Ridership estimated at 1,300

The hope is to get WALLY up and running before planned improvements on U.S. 23 will once again bring traffic to a standstill in 2010. The next step is for RL Banks & Associates to publicly present the findings to both Washtenaw and Livingston counties on August 6 and 7.

Read the rest of the story here.

Pontiac works to finish Phase II of Clinton River Trail expansion into downtown

The Clinton River Trail is slicing right through downtown Pontiac. Phase II of the extension of the trail through the heart of downtown.

The new 1.5-mile extension continues where Phase I ended on Bagley Street, heading north to Orchard Lake Road. It then turns east on Orchard Lake toward downtown through the Woodward Loop before ending at Woodward and Huron Street.

The $375,000 project is being paid for by a $300,000 federal grant and $75,000 in local matching funds from the city of Pontiac. The new extension, a paved pathway alongside the streets, will connect a number of downtown's institutions to the trail, such as the Phoenix Plaza Amphitheater.

"It will provide people on the trail an option to get downtown in a safe fashion," says Dan Keifer, a member of the steering committee for the Friends of the Clinton River Trail.

Phase III will connect downtown to Auburn Hills, however, construction on that part of the overall project is still a couple years down the line.

The Clinton River Trail is a recreational trail on 15 miles of abandoned rail line through the heart of Oakland County. It connects the cities of Sylvan Lake, Pontiac, Auburn Hills, Rochester Hills and Rochester. It also connects with the existing West Bloomfield Trail to the west and the Macomb Orchard Trail to the east.

Source: Dan Keifer, steering committee for the Friends of the Clinton River Trail
Writer: Jon Zemke

SEMCOG, train companies reviewing latest study for Detroit-Ann Arbor line

One small step for Metro Detroit... is the one just taken by the commuter rail project connecting Detroit, Ann Arbor and Metro Airport.

Officials from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the myriad of train companies that control the track are now meeting to discuss the recently completed infrastructure capacity and fare-box studies.

Finishing these studies brings the project closer to concluding the second stage of a largely three-step assessment. The last step (what it costs) is still yet to be determined.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, which is spearheading the project, is negotiating logistics and improvements with the railroads that control the tracks and Amtrak for providing the trains. Organizers behind the proposal are looking at picking stops, arranging a shuttle service between the Metro Airport stop at Merriman Road and the airport's terminals and making sure delays are kept to a bare minimum.

SEMCOG hopes to establish service by late 2009 or early 2010.

The commuter rail line would utilize existing tracks with stops at Metro Airport, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Dearborn. It's possible it could also be expanded to connect Royal Oak, Ferndale, Troy/Birmingham and Pontiac.

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

Farmington set to release downtown parking study at end of month

It's coming. They promise its coming. It is the long-awaited parking study for downtown Farmington. When? The end of June.

All of the actual information gathering is done and the study is actually being finalized this week. It should be realized next week.

The survey addresses the status of parking in Farmington's downtown area, its immediate needs and long-term requirements. It also details ways to improve and expand parking options to help grow local businesses and make them more accessible to local residents.

This study is part of Farmington's wider effort to make downtown more pedestrian friendly. Last summer Dan Burden, the executive director of Walkable Communities Inc., took a tour of Farmington, suggesting local officials make downtown more walkable by expanding the sidewalks and shrinking the roads. This would give more room to pedestrians, encourage foot traffic and at the same time slow down traffic, making everyone feel safer.

Sounds good to us.

Source: Annette Knowles, executive director of the Farmington Downtown Development Authority

Writer: Jon Zemke

TRU pushes transit debate to the forefront with rallies and events

How we get from Point A to Point B without going broke is becoming the discussion of choice. Especially as gas prices climb ever higher. Transportation Riders United (commonly known as TRU) is making moves to bring that debate front and center to Metro Detroit this summer through a series of meetings, letter writing campaigns and rallies.

The main component will be the rallies. TRU is partnering with a number of other local organizations, such as MOSES, to hold a series of public transit events in each of the tri counties. The first will be held in Oakland County at 7 p.m. Monday in the Temple Emanu-El, 14450 W. 10 Mile Road, in Oak Park.

The idea is to send a strong statement about the importance of public transit and how transportation alternatives are vital to the region's economic future. Another meeting is set for Macomb County on June 30 and one for Wayne County is still being organized for later this summer.

TRU will also host a "Dump the Pump" event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 19 in Cadillac Square (next to Campus Martius) in downtown Detroit. The event, which also features a number of other local transit agencies, will help illustrate what transit options are available and how best to avoid shelling out your life savings on skyrocketing gas prices.

TRU is asking local residents to start applying more pressure on local leaders to develop better public transit options. The organization is requesting that its members and those who care about things like better bus service, light rail and bike paths to call, write and email their local officials and legislators and tell them why they are important.

The "Lead the Leaders" program is designed to help get local leaders to stop talking about improving transit options and actually do something to improve it. TRU has partnered with ProgressMichigan to create www.FundMiTransit.com. The website lets its users send a message to their state legislators about the importance of investing in transit and helps them articulate why they care. 

TRU is also hosting a transit happy hour today at Foranís Irish Pub on Woodward just south of Campus Martius to chat about how gas prices could change transit. The meeting is between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

For information on any of these initiatives, send an email to trumember@detroittransit.org or call (313) 963-8872.

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

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