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Allan

Public transit is key to region's growth

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Public transit is key to region's growth

By Mary Kramer

November 29, 2004

I have trouble joining the hand-wringing over damage to Detroit's image from the rhubarb at The Palace on Nov. 19.

I'm far more concerned about the lousy image we project to thousands of business travelers who can't take public transit from our spiffy airport to downtown Detroit or its suburbs.

I'm also worried that young college graduates are giving up on Southeast Michigan, in part because they don't feel there's opportunity here. In surveys and at forums, they tell us we need more of the big-city feel they find in Chicago, Atlanta or even Washington.

For years, public transit has been cast as an economic necessity for the underclass. We've stuck low-skilled and low-wage earners with city and suburban bus systems that can take hours for a rider to get from Point A to Point B.

We take mediocrity for granted.

What if we thought of 21st century transit as an economic development tool? Fuel costs are rising. Traffic congestion is getting worse. Our population is growing older. So are our freeways. Where would growing companies want to put down roots?

Our local political leaders trot the globe trolling for new jobs for the region. Yet they just don't "get it" when it comes to transit.

But their counterparts in Denver do. On Nov. 2, Denver voters approved a sales-tax increase for a seven-county region to fund a 12-year expansion of light-rail and diesel-powered commuter trains. The plan also includes a rapid-bus component, not unlike the SpeedLink plan that has been proposed for metro Detroit.

The price tag for Denver: $4.7 billion. The price tag for SpeedLink: $2 billion.

What's remarkable about the Denver project is that 31 mayors in that region signed on to the pro-transit campaign, which was opposed by Colorado's governor, who wanted to spend money on highway projects instead.

It was a victory for environmentalists, developers, and business and civic leaders who raised $3.5 million to persuade voters that the FasTracks plan would reduce commute times, reduce sprawl and aid development at a cost of about $90 a year for a household with that region's median income of $60,000.

Can we add to our water system what they put in the Denver water?

This week on Page 1, we report that the dramatic drop in market share for domestic automakers is the reason we haven't joined the national economic recovery.

We need to attract more businesses and help existing companies grow, adding and keeping employees.

Transit is part of that equation. If we want the world to view us as a 21st century region, isn't it time we start acting like one?

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/c gi-bin/article.pl?articleId=26 013

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Good article...I'm sure that a lot of people feel the same way but what will it take to actually put it into action.

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It will take some leaders willing to promote this, and a lot of cash. Not to mention the fact that we need to have regional cooperation....like that will ever happen!

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