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CATA Ridership on the Rise

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Times are good at Lansing's CATA, Capitol Area Transportation Authority, ridership has gone from 3.6 million in 1995 to 8.7 million last year, and is expected to top 9 million this year. See the full story here.

Could Lansing be ready for the next step in mass transit? It's something that has been touched on in other threads, but it could be a key issue in redeveloping the downtown area. Building Light Rail is the obvious option, getting money from the Feds the solution, albeit a sometimes difficult problem to solve. In my opinion the only practical way to bring in the dollars of young MSU students is to build a light rail line between MSU/EL and downtown Lansing, but that would only be one step. Over time I would like to see light rail along Michigan between Capitol Ave. and MSU, where it can wind through campus to the MSU CATA bus terminal. Also a line on Washington starting at the CATA terminal wrapping around the corner and going North to Old Town, turn down Grand River and up to the Airport. Of course this is only a dream, I'm sure if funding could be found these routes along with otherones would prove feasable and at least as profitable as the busses.

Will Lansing ever get Light Rail, if so when will it come? Would it be best if built and operated by CATA, a private owner or another public entity?

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I have asked myself this question so many times, and I'm still not sure where I stant on the issue. My father is a high ranking administrator with CATA, and he has admitted that their ridership could be about 15-20% higher if they spent a ton of money to update their routes and include many newly growing areas.

I am not sure if lansing is ready for light rail yet, but here is how I believe it would have to happen:

1.) CATA (Capital Area Transportation Authority, for all you out of towners) would need to max out at about 10 million rides/year, thus calling for a larger, more reliable system.

2.) Minimal lines would need to be established to prove that it is a viable means of transportation. I would suggest a line from Marsh/Grand River going through downtown EL and continuing west on Saginaw (Oakland) all the way to Grand Ledge. This would also leave the possibility of extending the line to Williamston, which is not that far with the eastern expansion rate. I think another necessary line would be following cedar st from the south, all the way up 27 to State Road. And the final rquried line would be an airport link that maybe follows Waverly Road to link to...I'm getting way to ahead of myself.

In a nutshell, I think Lansing is a few years away from light rail, but looking into it now, and even investing in it now not would be bad decision. However I know that this approach would be way to aggressive and only exists in my mind. The city is dense enough to support such a system on the inside, and yet has sprawled enough that it would be convenient to bring the system to the outer ring of towns. I'm sure it would save tons of wear and tear on the roads to. I long for the day when Lansing drops the title "Road Construction Capital".

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You know, mayoral candidate Virg Bernero has hinted at light rail. Not that something like this is completely, or even mostly, up to city leaderhip, but it would help bring in funds and interest for a future system. It really won't be more viable for a few more years, but were are steadily approaching the point. I've heard CATA called on the most effective and best transportation systems of its size in the country. I really don't doubt it. They are becoming more environmentally friendly, the buses are always clean, and the system doesn't seem to suffer from the stigma other bus systems experience across the country.

It's really want of the city's best amenities. Sometime, we get caught up in how much we don't have, instead of focusing on the things that we already have that we can build off of. CATA is one of those things.

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It's very obvious that CATA is improving greatly, adding those double length busses shows that Lansing may be able to support light rail in the near future. CATA is a much better system than many that I have seen in other cities of similar size, even Grand Rapids. I've heard people on the GR forums complain about the mass transit system there often, does anyone know what the ridership has been on GR's system?

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The latest data I could find is from the 2003 fiscal year. GR had 5.8 million passengers.

Here are a couple of links:

http://hometown.aol.com/motranzit/page8.html

http://www.apta.com/research/stats/ridershp/index.cfm#A4 - An official site (look under Transit Agency Data)

It's amazing that Lansing doubled its ridership numbers in only 5 years. Flint's actually dropped off after its budget got axed. They're up since then (they got a millage passed and some grants recently), but I haven't heard any numbers.

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As the article shows, CATA's aquisition of the Michigan State University bus system is what has to do with the popularity. You have 45,000 students, many of whom have to get around the large campus by bus. Then, you have students scattered all across the City of Lansing, 19,000+ to be more exact, that mostly ride the bus. And then, you simply have very good routes for everyone else.

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As the article shows, CATA's aquisition of the Michigan State University bus system is what has to do with the popularity.  You have 45,000 students, many of whom have to get around the large campus by bus.  Then, you have students scattered all across the City of Lansing, 19,000+ to be more exact, that mostly ride the bus.  And then, you simply have very good routes for everyone else.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Will we ever see light rail on a large campus such at that of MSU? Driving out on campus now is just insane at certain times of the day. It would be more time efficient and more reliable than CATA too. CATA does a great job, but they still run late for every traffic jam and every accident on Circle Drive. Rail would not have this problem. Maybe a giant people mover or something.

Just throwing it out there. I guess I can put up with bussing or walking for 3 more semesters.

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I would love to have an elevated train or monorail, that would be great, but it would be far too expensive. I beleive light rail in the Lansing area is inevidable, I'm guessing 5-10 years, closer to 5 though. Once the first light rail line(s) are built there will be more to follow, as many as planners think can prove profitable. This would likely mean many on the MSU campus.

Check out this thread on Ligh Rail in GR, there are links to several sites regarding light rail and BRT. http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=14258

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There's a chance that Lansing could be ready for rail in 5 years, but it takes so much just to get a line planned, financed, and built that it would be virtually impossible to actually get one in that amount of time.

I'm rooting for you guys, though. I don't care what city gets it first. I just want to see Michigan finally get light rail.

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Gr will almost certainly be first, they are already in line to get one. Then it's a toss up between Detroit and Lansing, it's kind of pitiful that Detroit doesn't already have light rail or even heavy rail.

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Well, there has already been a solid study done of high-speed rail between Lansing and Detroit, though, that's been put on hold since Detroit can't seem to get it's act together in terms of financing and such. Lansing already had it's stop and station planned for right behind Clara's I believe. This would most assuredly make light rail even more popular in Lansing since you introduce more visitors and workers. People would be surprised at how many commuters the city get's from Livingston County. I really don't think the two are all that independent of each other, though they definitely serve different purposes.

Yeah, Michigan State's campus is a parking lot sometimes. The northern campus wasn't built for cars and it shows. South campus, on the other hand, was built almost specifically with the car in mind. I mean, they are building a new parking lot on north campus that they hope will alliviate what they see as a parking problem, but will end up just making traffic worse.

I can't even imagine how busy West Circle Drive is going to be when the deck get's put in. They are going to have entrances and exits on West Circle AND Grand River. That's just crazy! Grand River is usually backed up from near Frandor all the way to Hagadorn on really bad evenings.

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I heard about that line between Detroit and Lansing awhile ago, too bad it probably won't happen.

They really should of extended 496 further east or saved land for it. Now we are nearing the point wher a north/south freeway should be built on the east by Okemos and Haslett. Of course GR waited far to long for their new freeway, and I don't expect Lansing's situation to be any different, maybe we will get a new freeway 10 years or more after it is needed.

So many transportation needs, so little being done...

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Lansing's freeway infastructure is MORE than enough. No new freeways are needed. There are few other smaller cities with complete beltways around their cities. I'm glad Lansing wasn't destroyed like so many other cities were by freeways. When you take into account all of the other highway-type surface streets it becomes even more obvious that we're over built.

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Lansing's freeway infastructure is MORE than enough.  No new freeways are needed.  There are few other smaller cities with complete beltways around their cities.  I'm glad Lansing wasn't destroyed like so many other cities were by freeways.  When you take into account all of the other highway-type surface streets it becomes even more obvious that we're over built.

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I could not agree more...we got lucky. I'm actually suprised that we have not been developed all the way to I-69 on the north side, and barely past I-96 on the south. It is possible that Lansing could have been worse off than it is now. I think it helps that Lansing does not have more than 1 freeway that crosses the city. If it was any more easy to get around using freeways then there may have been far too much expansion.

But back to my previous comment, I think a simple light rail, like 3 intertwined people movers would be perfect for MSU. I know it will never happen, but from a student's perspective it would be much better than busses or biking.

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I don't think people movers are pratical for north campus, unless they were built right along Grand River. It would destroy the historic character of the area. Now, ground-level light rail would be much more appropriate for this area. Perhaps, they could do an elevated-type people mover east-to-west along Shaw or Wilson, but elevated people mover criss-crossing north campus would destroy the feel.

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I don't think people movers are pratical for north campus, unless they were built right along Grand River.  It would destroy the historic character of the area.  Now, ground-level light rail would be much more appropriate for this area.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree 100%. Do you know if MSU has ever considered other forms of transit? I know they have looked for alternatives to adding more busses each year but I dont know what those alternative were.

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I never heard of MSU trying to find an alternative form of transit, it seems they are trying to dump those responsiblities on CATA. But who knows MSU may suprise us all, they are pretty forward thinking.

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Well I know MSU's twenty year plan includes making campus a complete "green campus". They plan on removing the parking lots near the international center and other surface lots and replacing them with grass and trees, a more park-like setting, which can be found on north campus. That is MSU's 20 year plan, a green campus. If that includes a cleaner way of transportation too, then I wouldn't be too surprised.

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I've heard of the 20 year plan but can't find it on the web anywhere, do you know if it is avalible online? If so where?

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It does list a project with CATA that includes a "dedicated busway," not sure what that is, probably just a regular road dedicated to busses, heres how the 20/20 plan descrides it:

Name: CATA Busway Project

Type: New Construction

Cost: $1.63mil

Status: Feasibility Study complete - CATA seeking a federal grant to fund project

Description: New busway would start at the east end of Crescent Rd. and continue east, connecting with the existing busway north of the Commuter Parking Lot (Lot 89). Improvements would include a new bicycle and pedestrian pathway. Use of busway would be limited to buses, service and emergency vehicles. Earliest possible construction date would be Summer 2004.

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Time for Lansing to lead instead of follow. As a capital city and large college town, it has two things people look at when considering relocation. With gas prices increasing, a dependable light rail system could draw forward thinkers, empty nesters, and people who don't like to ride buses.

Don't wait, lay the groundwork now!

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We don't yet have the leadership here that could make like this happen. Though, coming November we very well may have the leadership to start to lay the serious ground work for such a plan.

Something I've always wondered is which communities would be willing to work with us. I think a Saginaw corridor would work best because Lansing Township, Delta Township, and East Lansing would work with us with little question. Meridian Township I'm not so sure about. They seem to have very powerful NIMBY's that could derail any plan to put part of this through there township. But then again, they could be easily left out without much loss.

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Tell the Feds and the State that. Grand Rapids received a Federal grant to help with a pilot light rail or BRT system that requires the state to match funds, it isn't known yet if the state will match.

On top of that our local leaders have showed no intitiative in hunting for grant money for these types of projects or any others, and that includes Hollister when he was in office. I think the biggest problem is just letting people know about light rail, most think only cities like New York and Chicago can have any kind of rail system. Cities smaller than Lansing, almost half the size, have light rail. It will come eventually, but I think as soon as people learn how feasable it is, it will be built quickly.

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Hmmm.

Might be time to move back to Lansing and make a little noise ...

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