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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.


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.

Metro Detroit gets $16M for transportation projects

Looking for a new bike path or some park lighting or a few patches of pretty flowers? Well, if you live in one of the 67 communities slated for federal transportation aide you're in luck.


Ten metro Detroit projects valued at nearly $16 million are part of a $47.3 million in transportation enhancement funding paid for with federal stimulus and other transportation-related dollars announced in a statement by Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry on Thursday.

Sixty seven communities in 27 counties will get money. Twenty two projects will be funded by federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money that requires no local match.

The money will pay for enhancements such as bike paths, paved shoulders, lighting, landscaping, sidewalks, crosswalks, and preservation work on bridges and rail facilities, the statement said.

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.


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.


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.

IKEA Canton will start bussing in shoppers

For some people there is nothing more glorious than pulling up to the giant blue and yellow IKEA building. It's kind of like that scene in "2001: A Space Odyssey," minus the violent imagery. It is that monumental. And now you can get there without your car. IKEA shuttle service has been implemented for your IKEA shopping pleasures.


IKEA Canton's hourly destination shuttle will start Thursday, transporting patrons from the store at Ford and Haggerty to Campus Martius Park in Detroit and back.

The 40-seat bus, covered with IKEA's logo and a picture of its iconic Poäng chair, will run four consecutive days each month in conjunction with various events at the park to generate interest and revenue for both communities, said Kelly Frieze, store manager of IKEA Canton.

"While the IKEA store sits here in Canton, it was built to serve the entire Metro Detroit market," he said. "We're looking to broaden that appeal."

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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Smart cars hit milestone with 20,000 sales in 10 months

It's good to have goals. Otherwise, you'll get lazy. And, once you make those goals, you should set new ones. So, now, it's time for Bloomfield Hills-based Smart Car USA distributor to set a new goal since they've reached their last one - to sell 20,000 Smart Cars in 10 months.

If you don't know already, Smart Cars are those tiny little baby autos you see out on the road.


“Hitting this landmark just 10 months following sales launch proves that the Smart Fortwo is changing the landscape of America’s highways,” said Dave Schembri, president of Smart USA. “More U.S. consumers are discovering that the Fortwo is the right car at the right time, offering a high level of fuel efficiency, comfort, agility, safety and ecology.”

The Smart Fortwo is the most fuel efficient, non-hybrid vehicle in the United States according to the 2009 EPA Fuel Economy Guide, achieving an average of 41 miles per gallon on the highway.

The Fortwo is also certified by the EPA as a “Smartway” vehicle, which indicates good environmental performance, placing it among the “greenest” vehicles on the market.

Read the entire article here.

Coalition forms to push establish agenda for region's economic landscape

Not only are communities fighting for jobs, but the state, the region, and the country. The Detroit Chamber has joined a coalition revolving around the Great Lakes region to aggressively attract and retain jobs.


The Detroit Regional Chamber has joined with more than 30 other chambers of commerce in the Great Lakes region to promote a federal legislative agenda for growing the region's economy.

This coalition, pushing an aggressive business agenda for creating jobs and attracting investment in the Great Lakes area, includes more than 94,000 employers, said Richard Blouse Jr., CEO and president of the Detroit chamber.

Read the entire article here.

The wheels are turning and they're turning green

Transportation, like building, like living, is shifting to a greener, cleaner way of doing things. From trains, planes, and automobiles (well, maybe not planes yet), there is an environmentally friendly way of going about it. Some of these points were plotted during the Michigan Clean Transportation Expo last week.


Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje also spoke about the city's various green initiatives, which include converting all streetlights to light-emitting diodes (LEDs), green energy targets for city government and the community at large, and increasing use of alternative fuels and electric vehicles for city fleets. He said officials are discussing the possibility of using sensors to dim or completely turn off streetlights to save energy during times when no pedestrians or vehicles are detected on city streets.

Read the entire article here.
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