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tracer1138

Ann Arbor to Detroit Transit Study

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Yesterday, Nov. 8, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governements (SEMCOG) posted its initial screening of Transit Alternatives between Detroit and Ann Arbor Michigan.

Here's a link to the study

Detailed Screening Results

Essentially, LRT (Light Rail Transit) is out of the question along the route (I agree that it does seem an awfully long distance for LRT.

However, CRT (Commuter Rail Transit) and BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) were both left on the table, although ridership projections don't bode well for either being built.

Semcog will further investigate several alternatives involving CRT and BRT, but it doesn't look like they're going to make a major push for either one.

Basically, Semcog has deemed rail mass transit to be un-viable in southeast Michigan and that's another $100 million down the toilet. <_<

Part of me really wants to live in Detroit after I graduate from College, but if this region can't get its act together, I have no choice but to go somehwere progessively minded.

I love you Detroit, but I can't wait around for you forever. :(

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#1 People don't and won't ride buses in this region. Plus, as the primary mode of mass transit, they are not environmentally friendly.

#2 The distance for LRT is not too long (IMO). The route from Detroit to the airport is ideal, especiall when it travels along a corridor and services cities along the way. Between airport and AA is an ideal lenth as well. In this case, however, there would be less stops and as a result faster speeds between stations. That's not to say trains can't gain swift speeds in the denser areas of Detroit as well. It's all in how it is planned and built.

We also have to understand the complexity of this whole process. A lot of it weighs on the federal government and if we don't please them to a tee, we're not getting funding and will have to start all over. I'm pretty confident that that's what SEMCOG is referring to when they want to lower the standards, because if they present something with overexaggerated numbers, we'll get rejected as soon as we walk in the door.

Competition for funding is so steep right now because so many cities are in the running for a limited pot o' cash. You have to have the best proposal to win.

If this is the case, then I suggest we focus on the Woodward Corridor as the first and foremost implimentation for mass transit of the LRT style.

Also, we need a governing body first. The feds will not throw money around at quasi-establishments that think they can oversee transit. The state of Michigan has to allow and enact DARTA. One system, one comprehensive plan serving ALL, one successful result.

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I have a hard time believing that this region (especially on the corridor between AA and Detroit) could not support the ridership for a transit system. I'm not a fan of "statistics show" or "our numbers suggest". In my mind that just says "We dont have the guts to take a chance".

Although I guess thats easy for me to say, as I'm not paying the bills.

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You have a point. Why? Because, really, you can consider there to be 3 cities on this route being connected...#3 being the airport itself. Especially with all the projected development increasing future ridership...Aeropark/Aerotropolis/Pinnacle Aeropark...

It's nothing short of amazing what mass transit can do for this region and its ability to put us back on the map.

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Does anyone know the # of employees both publicly and privately employeed at Metro Airport? I would think that with the number of employees+business travelers+park/ride, an airport link would be the obvious first step regardless of what else is considered.

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Well since that bombed, can we at least add some HOV lanes on I-94. I knew Michigan would never pull this one off, even if the studies showed the opposite.

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Perhaps the problem is leadership? The debate doesn't have a single strong voice in either the region nor the state legislature. But I guess that's a discussion for another time and another forum.

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SEMCOG should look at the commuter rail option, similar to ones recently built in Nashville, Austin, and Orlando (under construction), where there are stops about every 4 - 5 miles. It also might not be a bad idea to look at the possibility of foregoing a lot of the Federal dollars and going it alone with public/private partnerships at the local, regional and state level. That's what many progressive cities in the country are looking at doing because federal support for mass transit is rapidly dwindling ($1.5 Billion awarded this year by FTA for $45 Billion in requests). It also wouldn't hurt if the State stopped adding new highway projects and started investing in mass transit.

That should be one of Granholm's top goals to achieve in the next five years.

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^ Absolutely agree...although I wouldn't mind seeing some of the freeways in Grand Rapids widened.

Re: HOV lanes. I-94 won't be expanded anytime soon, especially since it was just reconstructed. Plus the new gateway bridge isn't wide enough to allow another lane in each direction.

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Speaking of I-94, I also thought it'd be cool to make it even more limited access and make it into an autobahn-type of freeway since it's such a heavy-traveled cross-state/cross-region viaduct.

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Those bridges were designed so that an extra lane could be added in either direction, though I doubt we'll see an expanded I-94 anytime soon.

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SEMCOG really works against Detroit and the inner-ring, and it shows in everything from their population estimates to their "reports" they release, unfortunately. It looks like Wayne County is going to have to take the initiative to go in alone on some county-wide system, but even that seems farfetched, as western Wayne County isn't much a friend of Detroit. I'm holding out home that Ferndale and Detroit can make a Woodward test line (for LTR) work. It's quite clear that the metro, as a whole, will refuse to make this work.

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^ Absolutely agree...although I wouldn't mind seeing some of the freeways in Grand Rapids widened.

Re: HOV lanes. I-94 won't be expanded anytime soon, especially since it was just reconstructed. Plus the new gateway bridge isn't wide enough to allow another lane in each direction.

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The costs being given for CR seem to be unusually high for that mode of transit. Were there any breakdowns on how they came up with these costs?

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thats the kicker to this thing, there is no supplemental study. What probably happened is that when they tried to run commuter rail with the baseline, they assumed trains every 15 minutes over the existing norfolk southern line. Well, that line can in no way sustain a train every 15 minutes in addition to amtrak and freight traffic. Therefore, you have to basically build a whole new line. That is how you come up with a figure of 1.4 billion for a commuter rail package. This really shows how out of whack this whole "study" or shoudl I say phase of the study is. To give you some comparison, I was looking at the costs of the original lansing-detroit commuter rail and it was around $80 Million. Interestingly enough, this study was also done by parsons.

All in all, this latest release is thoroughly confusing and frustrating. I understand why the numbers are so high, its just disapointing that they did the study this way. Here is my basic summation of what they did.

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Ahh. I did not notice this study was performed by Parsons Transportation Group. This company is in the process of being sued by the city of Charlotte for all of the design errors and mismanagement of its light rail project. The city hired parsons a couple of years ago to provide engineering, design and management experience for this project. The city has subsequently fired this company and announced this past September that due to their incompetence, the project is $38M over budget. $38M is a significant amount of money when you consider there was $30M of contingency in there to start off with.

Parsons did such things as build a boiler room 11FT tall for 11.5FT boilers, order ticket machines to be delivered and installed before the platforms had been built, and there are structural problems in a number of the structures. The city had to go back to the FTA and to get a new budget approved and this kicked off a congressional review of the project. It has also hurt the credibility of CATS, the transit agency, in terms of building future projects. Based on this experience I would say the numbers really ought to be questioned if Parsons was involved in the matter.

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MDOT needs to get off their asses and tell SEMCOG to back off and let them do it. They obviously havent gotton anything done. BTW, i dont think the whole rapid bus thing would work very well.

Also, id like to see a woodward light rail line go in, to show evryone else that it could work in Detroit.

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Ahh. I did not notice this study was performed by Parsons Transportation Group. This company is in the process of being sued by the city of Charlotte for all of the design errors and mismanagement of its light rail project. The city hired parsons a couple of years ago to provide engineering, design and management experience for this project. The city has subsequently fired this company and announced this past September that due to their incompetence, the project is $38M over budget. $38M is a significant amount of money when you consider there was $30M of contingency in there to start off with.

Parsons did such things as build a boiler room 11FT tall for 11.5FT boilers, order ticket machines to be delivered and installed before the platforms had been built, and there are structural problems in a number of the structures. The city had to go back to the FTA and to get a new budget approved and this kicked off a congressional review of the project. It has also hurt the credibility of CATS, the transit agency, in terms of building future projects. Based on this experience I would say the numbers really ought to be questioned if Parsons was involved in the matter.

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i know the feds require that you review all options, but it was a complete waste of time to even look at the light rail and bus rapid lines along this corridor. A simple drive between Wayne and Ypsilanti shows that there is NO density. This should have been without question based first and foremost on commuter rail. The whole thing really irks me because picking an local preferred option is not rocket science. I will admit that developing a ridership model is tough, but the fact that the consultant needed 4 extra months to come out with this steaming pile is absurd and a waste of taxpayer money.

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How much of the $100 million do you suppose they spent on this study? This study is disappointing indeed and I hope vast majority of the budget is still left for something better.

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$100 Million for a ridership study!!? It shouldn't cost any more than a couple of million at the most, especially for one line, especially at the phase we are talking about.

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How much of the $100 million do you suppose they spent on this study? This study is disappointing indeed and I hope vast majority of the budget is still left for something better.

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$100 Million for a ridership study!!? It shouldn't cost any more than a couple of million at the most, especially for one line, especially at the phase we are talking about.

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i know the feds require that you review all options, but it was a complete waste of time to even look at the light rail and bus rapid lines along this corridor. A simple drive between Wayne and Ypsilanti shows that there is NO density.

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Keep in mind that I am speaking only with the information presented here but it sounds as if this line should be commuter rail and here are the reasons why.

  • Light Rail - This is only suitable for short distances 10 miles or less on a line and is very expensive to implement. It has to have its own tracks (no freight can use the line) and you have to electrify the tracks. These days it is costing on average of $55M/mile not including ROW costs. Unless there are opportunities to develop this corridor with high density housing, its probably not worth the expense.

  • BRT - This is a bus on a dedicated lane on a track. It has stations like light rail. It also costs almost as much as light rail but doesn't have the ridership. The FTA likes to push this option because it has been besieged by officials that see this as a way to build more highways. An HOV would be as effective in moving people and less expensive.

  • Hybrid Commuter Rail - This is a high end commuter rail system that uses hybrid diesel electric trains and operates on two way tracks. It can be used on freight corridors and it's possible to achieve 15 minute or less response times. Its fairly expensive to implement mainly because it usually means building new tracks. Raleigh, NC has a proposal for a line like this that will run between Raleigh, and Durham. It's about 30 miles and the current price tag is above $800M. The project was rejected by the FTA for not being cost effective enough.

  • Commuter Rail - These are trains that operate on singled tracked freight routes. Two way travel is achieved by advanced signaling and pullouts. The major cost of a line like this are usually the upgrades to the tracks needed for passenger safety and dealing with the grade crossings. Response times on a train like this are usually 20 to 30 minutes. Lines such as this are running somewhere between $10M - $15M mile. It is also dependent upon how willing the freight line is to work a deal for their tracks. There is a system proposed like this in Charlotte for a 30 mile like that will cost $265M. It currently does not meet FTA requirements for cost effectiveness, but because of the fairly low cost, they are going try and build it without federal funding.

  • Limited Commuter Rail - This is similar to commuter rail, but it only works in one direction. In the morning all the trains start in the suburbs and leave one by one every 30 minutes or so and head into the city. During the mid day they may run a couple of trains back and forth, then in the evening, the trains all return to the suburbs. Sometimes they will run a couple of evening trains and special event trains like going to a ball game. This is the type of system that Nashville (mentioned above) built, for a total cost of about $40M. This was remarkable price for a 35 mile line.

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