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Allan

Light-rail backers face roadblocks

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Well, L Brooks is still moaning and complaining about how the #1 priority anywhere in the metro is widening I-75. The results of the Detroit News online survey are encouraging, but they should ask if people are willing to pay to get a mass transit system, since money from the feds for this type of thing isn't there and we probably won't get much, if any, at all.

Why we need mass transit

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That poll is very inspiring, but I guess some of it has to do with it being an Internet poll - there's probably a disproportionate amount of creative class residents voting.

Of course the pessimists are the most vocal. Hopefully they'll realize it's not possible to spend the money on widening 75 and they can shut up about that already.

I think there are two main reasons people in the metro don't want to accept rapid transit: 1) They look at what's currently offered and see its numbers how badly it's run (although they fail to realize that one affects the other), and 2) They've probably never used it outside of an airport.

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Why was this the title of the article? It seems a bit weighted and biased right from the getgo. Isn't pretty obvious Light-rail backers face roadblocks?

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The article breaks it down nicely with "Why we don't have it

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"L." has been complaining about these things for several years. Nobody has a real plan. I actually think the old railroads would do just fine, JMO. My grandmother has been hearing this noise for years too. Subways, light rail, bus lanes- unless we pressure the feds who give out all of the money there will be none and it's our fault. When the gas gets high enough to abandon the cars, we'll care but it's almost undoable for the entire region anymore. I say start up Woodward, Michigan, Grand River, and Gratiot- or equal- and connect it all with bus transport. Who's gonna pay though? Well, we are, of course. It's getting tougher here though with all of the cameras in Oakland County the Feds and locals are paying for at every intersection- Look up!

Peace from DetroitBazaar

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http://www.metrotimes.com/20/12/Features/newMass.htm

I came across this article and kind of laughed while reading it. It doesn't seem like it costs that much to build a commuter rail system. Take a look at the numbers. We could build a line from Detroit to Mt.Clemens and a line from Detroit to Pontiac with the money we got from the federal government (100 million). And studies show that after a couple of years. A revenue would be made off of the system. With another 30 million dollars, a line could be built from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

"A 1997 study by MDOT and Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), a board in charge of regional transportation planning, showed it would cost $130 million to build rail lines connecting Detroit with Pontiac, Mt. Clemens and Ann Arbor. According to the study, such a rail system would cost between $15 and $20 million per year to operate, over and above projected farebox revenues. Kendrick-Hands says reviving the line from Detroit to Pontiac would cost about the same as the $45 million that casinos expect to spend on the one-and-a-quarter miles of four-lane highway."

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Hmm... I don't know if I trust the $130 million figure for 3 rail lines. That seem awfully low. I'd think just building enough stations to make it useful alone would easily be higher than that.

What kind of rail system would fit in that budget?

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How can it be that expensive, especially if you use the existing rail lines that connect the cities.

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I can see it being that cheap if we're talking about having one station at each end. But clearly we want more stations than that if we're talking about something that's more useful and thus successful.

Also are we talking commuter rails or light rails? They tend to require different rail line altogether - not to mention actual trains, infrastructure to maintain the trains, etc.

Lack of public transportation to and from these new stations (presumably) means we're talking about large park lots/structures to feed these stations - particularly if there are only few stations. So there's going to be some land to buy around the station even if the station itself is a small structure. Or coming up with some other way for people to get to and from the stations - none of which is free.

The cost of refurbishing existing rail lines is probably going to be relatively inexpensive. But there's more to it than just that.

I'm not suggesting that we should forget about a rail system that connects the cities. I'm suggesting we should spend the necessary to construct a system that'll actually be useful, even if we blow the entire budget just on one line. Otherwise, the nay sayers will win.

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I posted this in another section of UrbanPlanet and thought it might be appropriate for this thread. This is a set of definitions of transit options that are commoningly being considered by US cities these days.

  • BRT - Bus Rapid Transit. This is bus on fixed usually out of grade routes. i.e. They travel down roads built to only be used by the buses, no cars allowed. This is what differentiates it from regular city bus service. BRTs may have to cross normal roads however. There are also stations and the buses resemble futurestic trains instead of city buses. Of couse parts of this can be dropped to save money, but the more this is done, the less "rapid" it becomes. Because the unique roads, BRT routes are not normally changed.

  • LRT - Light Rail Transit. There are a lot of definitions of this but generally these are electric trains that provide service along fixed routes. They have stations and the trains normally hold between 75 seated to 250 people standing. Some cities, like Houston, have placed these trains at grade to save money, but this means it they have to deal with traffic. Other cities have LRT on dedicated ROW which is more effective. It is a trade off of between cost and utility where the tracks are placed. Electric Streetcars/Trolleys are sometimes referred to as light rail, but I tend to want to put them in their own category. The Detroit People Mover would fall into this category.

  • Commuter Rail - This is rail that is used to being people in from the suburbs into the center city or or other work locations and as its name suggests is setup primiarly to move commuters. Typically the timing of the trains is such that many trains will head into the city during the morning, out of the city in the evenings, and service is greatly reduced outside working hours. It's primary purpose is to help with traffic congestion on highways by getting cars off the road. Commuter rail resembles Amtrak locomotives pulling passenger carriages, though there is a newer technology out called DMU (diesel multiple units) that more resemble a light rail train. These trains use existing freight routes to move people and many times share these lines with freight traffic.

  • HRT - Heavy Rail Transit This is the high capacity, high speed, short stop electric trains that you see in the major cities. The NYC subway, DC Metro, and Atlanta's Marta are examples of heavy rail. It is very very expensive to build so you only see it being built in the USA in very few locations. The last new Heavy Rail system built in the USA was the Los Angeles Red line in the late 80s early 90s. Since then the city has permanently placed on hold further expansions and is now going the LRT/BRT route. Miami may be expanding its heavy rail line as it passed a local transit tax to pay for the line.

There are certainly other ways to describe transit, but most people on this and other forums go with these definitions. I hope this helps with the discussion.

It should be noted that commuter rail is the lowest cost rail option of the above. The people of Detroit may check out what has happened in Nashville with their Star commuter line. They are currently building 5 station 35 mile line for less than $40M! The stations are basic, and service will initially be limited to commuting hours, but it is a start for that area which has plans for a 6 line regional system over time. The Nashville system took advantage of things like free cars from the Metra in Chicago, but it shows what can happen if the political will is there.

I would expect that commuter rail in Detroit will cost more as most systems tend to run about $8M-$10M/mile.

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How can it be that expensive, especially if you use the existing rail lines that connect the cities.

Well, for one, Michigan Avenue's current road improvements include digging up the old rail lines for the first time in history and permanently removing them.

The only way people here will support paying for mass transit is by being assured that there is federal support. The percentage that people agree to tax themselves generally covers the operations and maintenance of the system. The bulk of the cost (being construction of the infrastructure) is ususally covered by the federal funds. Understanding of that monetary structure is another tough sell. People think that when they tax themselves, they are paying the multi-millions of dollars to build the system.

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I was referring to the commercial railroads, not the old streetcar lines.

You could easily build an effective regional commuter rail system using existing tracks or rights of way.

For instance, there are three commuter lines on this map. One traveling from Utica to Brighton via Detroit, another connecting Mount Clemens to Rockwood via Detroit, and another connecting Pontiac to Ann Arbor via Detroit. (with a spur that travels to the airport) All three routes use existing rail lines only (except for a part of the Green line that travels from the Dequindre Cut to the Tunnel Rail under downtown).

commuterrail.jpg

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I don't like the fact that the blue and red lines would only go through New Center. I would rather see all three meet up a a regional transit center downtown. It would be sweet if the station was under Cadillac Square.

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That's where transfer stations come in. But then, I guess the blue line could follow the path of the green line through Downtown instead of the red line through New Center. I did think it would be better to have at least one of the lines cross near the New Center/New Amsterdam area.

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I have spent a good amount of time dreaming out the Detroit Commuter rail system... a couple feasible scenarios that exist:

1. West Terminus

ROW is available from around the tunnel to the Joe Louis arena garage (old spur from the Michigan Central to Wabash/Pere Marquette lines). In fact, the north portion of the garage is built in a manner that would allow for a rail line terminus/station (albeit UGLY!). This would work with a free transfer to the DPM however, transfering tends to have a negative effect on transit vs. auto utility functions... we don't need to get any further behind the 8-ball in terms of disutility. Plus, that whole area is just lacking.

2. East (exGTW Terminus)

The old Brush street station/SEMTA terminal site within the river east development utilizing the st. aubin/dequindre cut is another viable option if not the best. I REALLY THINK THE RIVER EAST OPTION IS THE ONE TO FOCUS ON... why? East Jefferson has incredible potential iff (thats iff as in if and only if) the riverfront parks and river east proposals develop as planned. The river is a great tool for attracting development and could help to slightly offset the office centroid to the east. What you have the potential for is a transit oriented development. Imagine having the river east development with commuter rail pulsing people through every 30 minutes or so... soon you will have more and more offices sprouting around this taking advantage of this mobility (and views!)

Please note that the terminal cannot be where it was originaly placed. A garage at Rivard street is built on the old rail ROW. However, land is not a real significant coconcern in that immediat area. The only problem with this development is that it would require at grade rail in an area that may be marketed for being very walkable/campus like. The Cleveland (east) flats provide an example that rail can be worked in tastefully.

3. New Center

I don't like this idea as THE station (as proposed back in 90's). I think it could easily be used an intermediate stop (and in effect would help with the feasibility numbers) for south, southwest and west lines. I have heard the thought that they could extend the people mover to connect with this site but again, I have to go back to the fact that requiring a transfer is not a great thing in terms of utility. I do believe there was actually some big money that was sort of half committed to a new amtrak terminal to be constructed in place of the Taco Bell at Baltimore and Woodward (back in the 90's) ... I am glad this never happened to be honest, I feel it would have been a waste.

I think thats enough text for now... back to my traffic modeling project :blink:

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I would like to see the blue and green line come together through Downtown, hopefully a main terminal at Cadillac Square or somewhere near the Compuware garage PM Station. A light rail line would start from there and go all the way up Woodward to Pontiac, which would connect all of the commuter lines together because the light rail line would go through New Center. Eventually a line could be built along Jefferson/Fort from the River Rouge Area all the way up to St.Clair Shores. A transfer station would connect the commuter rail going to Mt.Clemens and the light rail line near St.Clair Shores.

Another light rail line going up Cass and/or Washington Blvd, ending at New Center. A light rail line up Brush Street through the Detroit Medical Center and taking a turn into the Woodward Line. All of these lines would connect to the Jefferson/Fort Line.

I will try to make a map to clear up any confusion.

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I would like to see the blue and green line come together through Downtown, hopefully a main terminal at Cadillac Square or somewhere near the Compuware garage PM Station. A light rail line would start from there and go all the way up Woodward to Pontiac, which would connect all of the commuter lines together because the light rail line would go through New Center(...)

Another light rail line going up Cass and/or Washington Blvd, ending at New Center. A light rail line up Brush Street through the Detroit Medical Center and taking a turn into the Woodward Line(...)

I don't think the density (and more importantly, money) is there to support three parallel routes in a 1/2 mile swath. You'd have much better luck putting all of your eggs in the woodward basket with low headways. Feeder busses, if time properly, will provide an adaquate equivalent.

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The fact that all of these plans are ignoring is that most people that live in Metro Detroit don't actually commute to downtown. For example, I live in Farmington Hills, work in Southfield, go out for entertainment in Novi or Royal Oak and visit friends in Clinton Township. The most traveled road in Michigan is not Woodward or Gratiot, it is I-696, which never even enters the city limits. Detroit has moved away from having a true core that people commute to everyday. SE MI is an area where people commute from suburb to suburb. If you want people to take some sort of transit to work, it better have major hubs in Troy and Southfield, not just downtown. Although I defenitely think that we need to stop widening highways and start limiting our society's depedence on automobiles, I don't think I will see anything remotely close to the above renderings wthin my lifetime...sad.

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You also have to take into consideration the future of the region though. A positive future illustrates Downtown Detroit as the hub of the region again. The hub of mobility, likewise should also be here. I know this goes against current trends, martfart, but change is inevitable, just like a change in the ecomony is inevitable, lest we all fall. People are going to have to start making some sacrifices for the better and for the consideration of their neighbor whether they have all the money in the world or not. This region cannot survive without more support for public amenities, not private initiatives that separate the sense of community and ultimately the common sense of quality of life.

So, I do agree that east-west routes should be considered in transit proposals where it would be deemed necessary, but ultimately Detroit's road network and design will have precidence. Many suburbanites are suburb-to-suburb commuters, but many also spend time in the city, and more would if they were given the desire from continued economic development, safety, entertainment, leisure, and population growth (whether it is friends or new suburbanites themselves). Public Transit mobility is a KEY initiative in sustainability of the entire Southeast Michigan and perhaps is most important to the welfare of the city of Detroit, which in effect is the welfare of you and me.

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Here's my plan. It is very messy so no nitpicking..... :blink:

Most will be commuter rail with light rail along the Woodward corridor from Downtown through the New Center Station to Pontiac. A Bus line from Pontiac to the Orchard Lake area on the Purple Line.

TransportationRBBPlan.gif

I hope you like my ideas. There may be too many lines that could be included into each other.

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