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Possible Mass Transit in Detroit


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A feasiblity study has been conducted to see if speedlink trains would work in metro Detroit. It's not rail, but it'll have to do for now. At least it'll be better than the alternatives that currently exist (unreliable city buses & cars). The system will cover 250 miles, going into the suburbs. It'll be like a metro for the city, with 12 belts. The question is, when will Detroiters see anything?

Unfortunately the system won't bring in development like light rail would, but given the anti-rail stance in the burbs, the lack or funding, and high land aquisition costs, it's as good as we can do for now.


Final Speedlink Report

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Actually we do have a subway system, just not a finished subway system. Tunnels extend as much as 3 miles out from downtown. The depression, and then the automotive industry totally killed the project....work stopped in 1929, and the project was totally dropped by 1935.

This is a good start for Detroit, however. It can be implemented rather inexpensively, and in Detroit, cost is always an issue. This means that it has a higher chance of actually happening.

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Detroit is the biggest city w/o rail transit. It has the people mover, but that just loops around downtown so it has few riders.

Actually no, the bus system sucks! It is used by mostly minority residents, and causes many headaches because the service is unreliable. There's no telling when or if the thing will ever show up.

The freeway system is actually pretty good - it gets you where you need to go pretty efficiently. However many of the interstates themselves are in pretty rough shape (as are most roads in Michigan).

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Sunday, May 4, 2003

Leaders fail to put plans in motion

SpeedLink is dead; legislation to create authority is stalled; funding doesn't exist

By Joel Kurth / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- A $2 billion proposal to dress up buses as trains is the latest addition to a growing scrap heap of plans to revitalize public transportation in Metro Detroit.

As legislation stalls in Lansing to create an authority to coordinate transit improvements, backers of the so-called SpeedLink plan admit there's little chance Metro Detroiters will see the funky buses -- which look like rail cars -- rolling on reserved lanes of major roads.

"If SpeedLink isn't dead, it's certainly gone for a long sleep," said Carmine Palombo, transportation director for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, which pushed the plan.

It was at least the ninth plan in 50 years. Through the decades, the region has considered subways along Woodward Avenue, light rail, elevated railways and combined city-suburban bus operations.

"It's been a series of bungles, missteps and missed opportunities," said Karen Kendrick-Hands, president of Transportation Riders United, a Detroit-based advocacy group. "All we've ever been able to do is get money for more studies."

The closest Metro Detroit came to a mass transit system was in the mid-1970s, when President Gerald Ford committed $600 million. Detroit and the suburbs bickered over whether to build subways or elevated rails until the money evaporated when Ford left office in 1977, Palombo said.

The biggest obstacle has been paying for improvements, he said. Even when political leaders have agreed on the framework for changes, they've disagreed on revenue sources necessary to secure federal funds.

"Detroit has had tough times and you need that dedication of (tax) revenue," said Dale Marsico, executive director of the Community Transportation Association of America, which lobbies on behalf of bus systems. "That's a tough sell for a city without a history of transit."

Legislation lingers

A consensus for change seemed to exist before Gov. John Engler, on his last day in office, vetoed legislation to create the Detroit Area Regional Transit Authority, said Richard Blouse, president of the Detroit Regional Chamber and a major backer of the authority.

It would have devised an improvement plan that could have included SpeedLink buses that would travel at high speed along reserved lanes of Woodward, Gratiot and other major roads.

Despite Detroit's status as the Motor City, Big Three automakers supported the authority.

Legislation to form it remains in a Senate committee. In its current form, it would let communities opt out of the authority -- a change championed by Republicans, but opposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and other Democrats.

No vote is scheduled. But Gloria Jeff, state Department of Transportation director, predicted the measure will pass and provide a "building block" to improve transportation.

Rapid transit rails

Other metropolitan areas have embraced rapid transit in recent years, leaving Detroit as the largest region in the nation to rely solely on buses.

Federal funding has increased dramatically since 1991, said Amy Coggin of the American Public Transportation Association in Washington, D.C. Even traditionally transit-resistant places such as Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Las Vegas either built or are in the process of building light rail systems.

The federal government had paid 80 percent of transit projects, but this year that share shrank to 50 percent, Marsico said.

Mass Transit Misery in Detroit

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Everyone in Detroit also knows that they need SOMETHING. But nobody can agree on what. And the funding always gets in the way, mostly because the city is broke and the suburbanites would rather see more freeways and road widenings before any sort of transit system is built :(. In fact, in theDetroit News poll, 96% said Detroit had inadequate mass transit. But will anything get done? No, or at least not anytime soon.

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BRT can encourage growth along it's corridor. The Washington Street area of Boston's South End (now called SoWa by tedious trendsters) has seen a marked increase in development since plans for the Silver Line BRT were introduced. And the Silver Line is only quasi-BRT. Development would have happened without it, but the transit improvements (such as they are) were desperately needed to make the area attractive.

The cost benefits of BRT vs. LRT are still open to debate. There is little question that the initial costs of BRT are lower than LRT, but buses are more expensive to maintain than LRT vehicles and have a shorter lifespan, which could make LRT less expensive in the long run.

Boston's Silver Line 'BRT'

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