Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Regional transit extravaganza

23. June 2006 • Murph
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It seems to be a heady time for transit enthusiasts, with a number of noteworthy announcements released recently.

AATA has approved a market research contract to study the feasibility of becoming a regional transit authority and passing a transit millage across much or all of Washtenaw County. Neither a specific service plan nor a specific funding level have been set – the study is intended to measure interest. The Ann Arbor News cites AATA’s Greg Cook as estimating the regional millage at less than half a mill. (Ann Arbor voters currently pay about 2 mills for AATA.)

'The long and winding tracks...' from user nonsooth.Mayor Hieftje hosted a tour of the rails north of Ann Arbor, pictured, for a group of politicians, businesspeople, and transportation experts last Thursday, in support of his vision for commuter transit service running parallel to US-23. While the Ann Arbor Railroad’s cooperation has not been secured for the rail segment within the city, the rails from Ann Arbor north are owned by MDOT and licensed to the Great Lakes Central Railroad, which controls rail running all the way to Traverse City, and has expressed, beyond a willingness, a dream of running passenger service along that entire route.

Meanwhile, SEMCOG is expected to provide an update on its Ann Arbor to Detroit rapid transit study process at their General Assembly meeting, underway as I write; expect a link to appear as soon as one is available.

EDIT 27 JUNE: MDOT has posted an online survey asking for feedback on transportation spending priorities, including several questions which ask about mode choice between driving, transit, walking, etc.

  1. I had an interesting discussion about this the other day. I was buying a News out of the box (the one that featured the Mayor and his rail tour) and the policeman standing behind me said “you put in rail to Detroit and we are going to have to hire more police.” I said “because the rail goes both ways?” He said “that is exactly right.” “But wouldn’t it be great to be able to get back and forth to Detroit without driving?” I asked. He responded noncommittally and then said “I came from LA and Ann Arbor is just right now, we don’t need a lot of people from outside coming in.” The light changed and I walked away.

    It is also important to note that there used to be rail up to Mackinac with branches out to the east and west coasts of Michigan and rail to Detroit so we know it is feasible. It isn’t like this is some crazy new 21st-century idea.

       —Juliew    Jun. 23 '06 - 09:49PM    #
  2. That’s unfortunate to hear comments like that being made out here (not that AA is a bastion of multi-cultural harmony).

    They are very much in line with the racist/classist arguments made by the Livonia mayor and some of their city council members at council meetings when they were discussing opt-out possibilities from SMART.

    I’d be very interested in seeing data to back these opinions up. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist, but the only studies I’ve ever seen which positively correlate crime rates to transportation corridors are for expressways.

    It’s interesting…I’ve never heard anyone in Michigan mainstream politics ever say (from the 1940s right up through the present) that we shouldn’t put a new expressway through because crime rates in the immediate corridor could go up…

       —kena    Jun. 23 '06 - 10:30PM    #
  3. Although back in NJ, where I once lived, people fought exit ramps off expressways because people from Newark could more easily get off and into the suburbs. And there were, according to police, more car thefts in condo complexes located close to exit ramps that led to highways into Newark.

       —Just a homeowner    Jun. 23 '06 - 10:46PM    #
  4. While it may be true that crime increases around ramps because of easy on/off access, I also think it’s true that Michigan’s economy would benefit from more regional transportation—both to allow people to get to work without driving a car and to allow people to visit areas without having to drive a car.

    I am sure I would go to Detroit more often if there was some sort of fast transit system there. I would defintely use a train to the airport rather than use my own vehicle or pay some company to drive me there.

    I am from suburban Maryland and have seen the impact the Metro has on the entire acea. The fact that you can get into D.C. and hit all of the cool spots easily is a great asset.

    This being said, I would even be happy with some transit from Ypsi to Ann Arbor in addtion to the AATA. How dreamy it would be to get to Ypsi in less than 45 mins (my bus communte time)!

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 23 '06 - 11:58PM    #
  5. Ditto to everything Nancy said – give Southeast Michigan a transportation system that looks like something from a first world country? What a shocking idea! (Except, in my experience, it’s not just first world countries that have better transportation than we do…)

    Except, remember, “In Michigan, there can be nothing wrong with the car.” We may have to wait until that attitude has finished running our economy into the ground to see actual movement on this.

       —TPM    Jun. 24 '06 - 12:22AM    #
  6. Yeah, car culture is a HUGE problem here. It’s kind of scary that we have chosen to build entire cities around cars rather than people. Screwy.

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 24 '06 - 12:47AM    #
  7. Hm, I wonder how long it would take if you had an express bus Ann Arbor downtown – U of Michgian – Arborland – Ypsi downtown? There’s enough riders, and enough feeder routes, that it might work.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 24 '06 - 01:27AM    #
  8. Yeah, This is my DREAM route! Since I go from the Blake Transit Center to the Ypsi Transit center. Someone over at the AATA told me that this was something they have brought up, but who knows where it’s gone . . .

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 24 '06 - 01:37AM    #
  9. Ed – that’s been on my wishlist for years. A huge number of people cross-commute between the two places, and AATA would probably draw a much larger share of those if the trip took 20 minutes rather than 45. (As is, my household’s commutes between Ypsi and Ann Arbor are as likely to bike there as bus – and get there in about the same amount of time.)

    Just as AATA service to Dexter and Chelsea was hindered by a fixation on providing (terrible) service to all imaginable locations along the way, the A2-Ypsi route would also be much more appealing to riders of choice, in my opinion, if it were time-competitive with car travel – rather than bicycle travel.

    Though, if/when the other item mentioned above – the Ann Arbor to Detroit route – comes through, it will serve this purpose.

       —Murph.    Jun. 24 '06 - 03:02AM    #
  10. AATA was chartered to provide mobility to these primary groups: disabled people, seniors, and transit-dependant people.

    The bus system has been structured around timed-transfers emanating from two downtown transit centers. This is the type of fixed-route system that serves those populations best in cities with Ann Arbor’s characteristics.

    In recent years, service which is targeted toward choice riders (those people who have multiple transportation options available) has been added onto that core service.

    Recent cutbacks from the state, feds, etc. have presented an interesting challenge: how does one provide service to attract choice riders (such as express routes) without hurting service necessary for the core groups?

    Currently there isn’t any money to run express routes for choice riders without affecting those disadvantaged populations (hence the system isn’t being restructured to mimic express-trunkline/feeder systems such as those in Ottawa). But the expanded service millage will help provide an opportunity to generate monies to provide those choice services by producing a sort of Headlee-rollback for Ann Arbor and its environs.

    We’ll get that express route yet!

       —kena    Jun. 24 '06 - 03:02AM    #
  11. Kena, the balance between maintaining service for transit-dependant riders and attracting riders of choice is, of course, difficult to determine.

    I believe, however, that at least some service oriented towards riders of choice is necessary in order to maintain service for transit-dependant riders. After all, just consider what people say when you’re not attracting riders of choice – the oh-so-common, “Nobody rides that route – why do we have it?” and “Why do we have buses going around mostly empty?”

    Non-riders don’t understand how the routes work, and don’t understand how the system works – there’s only so much support you can build for a transit system from people who don’t use it directly. I think that attracting riders of choice is pretty critical to maintaining any sort of service at all. (Which is why I think the new MRide program and the go!pass are so cool: they remove entirely one of the psychological barriers to ridership – the need to have exact change for fare.)

       —Murph.    Jun. 24 '06 - 03:18AM    #
  12. That’s exactly the point i was trying to make.

    MRide, go!pass, etc. took advantage of unused capacities on existing services, and provided revenue opportunities to add on service for choice riders (at least MRide did). They didn’t create choice service at the expense of core.

    I will put it another way: don’t expect express routes or the like without major adjustments to the revenue structures of Washtenaw County’s transit systems. That’s why this expanded service millage is so important.

       —kena    Jun. 24 '06 - 03:31AM    #
  13. Hieftje’s north-south route gets pretty strong notice from the Ann Arbor News today:

    “We’ve previously endorsed a push for state funds to widen US-23 between Brighton and Ann Arbor, a project that would add another lane along that stretch in each direction. In part, that endorsement came because there were no viable alternatives, and some action is needed to alleviate the congestion along that route.

    “For many reasons, a commuter rail makes more sense. And although many questions need to be answered before we jump on board this particular train, it’s absolutely a project worth exploring.”

    (emphasis mine.)

    They do mention the barrier of acquiring appropriate land for a station and, especially, the parking lot for a station at the northern end of this line. On the other hand, I think that the smart “lifestyle center” developer will realize the benefit of having a train line directly into (or, more importantly, out of) Ann Arbor, and can probably be convinced to set aside land. (There was a news item recently, which I can’t find, about a developer on the west side somewhere building a new Amtrak station privately in order to sell condos to Chicagoans; same thing would apply here.)

    On the gripping hand, though, this leads to the possibility of land speculation…

       —Murph.    Jun. 25 '06 - 05:39PM    #
  14. “Given Michigan’s love affair with the car, we’re not sure the “if-you-build-it,-they-will-come’’ model would work here. Would enough residents be willing to unleash themselves from their vehicles? We’d hope so, but that’s unclear.”

    Michigan’s (and America’s) “love affair with the car” cannot be attributed to commuters without recognizing the role employers play in promoting the drive to work. The News’ stated hope would be much more effective if it were backed by some simple, painless changes to the paper’s HR policies.

    As I understand it, the Ann Arbor News owns one of the larger private parking lots downtown, offers free parking to employees, and does not participate in the Go!Pass program. I’m also pretty sure that they do not offer any commuting benefits for other commute modes similar to the significant cost involved in providing free parking to drive-alone commuters.

    Certainly the News is not the only downtown employer to talk the talk without walking the walk. The city has often been criticized for offering parking discounts to employees while promoting “green” transport options. However, the editorial implies that we (the residents, commuters, and employers) of Ann Arbor can only hope for the best in this issue left to the Fates of public opinion when there are easy and obvious steps that they and other downtown employers could be taking to actively support the success of such projects. Participating in the Go!Pass program and instituting a Parking Cash-Out program would be two great options. Employers interested in taking initiative instead of hoping desperately can contact the getDowntown program for all sorts of good ideas.

    [yes, this is basically a Letter to the Editor combined with a Shameless Plug for gDt, but I couldn’t let the News off the hook on this one.]

       —Scott TenBrink    Jun. 26 '06 - 09:54AM    #
  15. Half a mil will help cover costs of the current system which does not provide service to most of the county. It will cost significantly more to provide service to the entire population which AATA is hoping to tax. Most people prefer cars and the freedom associated with them. The goal of most is to stop riding the busses as soon as it is economically feasible to do so. If businesses work to limit the options of their employees, they will deter many persons from considering a job offer. You can drive to either Detroit or Lansing in less time than it takes to ride the bus from Ypsi to Ann Arbor. Riding Mass Transit makes you more vulnerable to illnesses, crime and terrorism, it reduces your freedom of choice, and wastes valuable leisure time.

       —Karen Luck    Jun. 26 '06 - 03:57PM    #
  16. Yeah, but it’s much better for you than trolling the internet for arguments.

    Karen, emphasizing individual car usage promotes teenage pregnancy. Case closed.

       —Dale    Jun. 26 '06 - 04:50PM    #
  17. Hey murph: thanks for posting all of the links to these various articles! Slogging through the various newspapers to find this stuff can be a challenging and fustrating process. It’s great to have a place which gathers a siginificant portion of these articles and makes them readily available. Thanks for your work.

    Karen: just to let you know – service provision outside of the AA-Ypsi area doesn’t have to take the form of big buses running fixed routes or trains (though there would have to be some to attract commuters who want to travel between cities…which is what murph and others have been pointing out).

    There are many other alternatives for service in lower-density rural areas which would provide widespread coverage without the necessity of running hundreds of vechiles. We won’t have to spend hundreds of millions each year to provide service in the out-county area.

    Also for you Karen: I’m being asked to examine alternative transportation employer-services programs for the AATA and possibly for the millage proposal. What options/improvements to the area’s transit systems would bring you out of a car and onto some other form of transportation to get to work?

       —kena    Jun. 26 '06 - 05:58PM    #
  18. I’ve really enjoyed the comments made about transportation so far. I was canoeing all Saturday and am now considering how we might set up a canoe route along the Huron River . . .

    Well no, I’m not. And as a rather frequent bus rider, and as a bus rider by choice, I applaud the efforts at least by the AATA to try to find a feasible solution to appease all riders. I know it’s tough, but I also know it will be well worth it if we can reduce emissions by getting people out of their cars.

    However, we’ve obviously got to make commuting by mass transit more acceptable and comfortable to people. Coming from the D.C. area, I know it can be done.

    I think we just have to keep having these conversations and let those elected know that regional transportation is a huge concern to many of us upstanding voters.

    Mass transit rocks, driving a car sucks(gas).

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 26 '06 - 06:08PM    #
  19. Nothing short of paralysis, blindness or similar medical conditions would make me prefer mass transit to commuting in my private vehicle. It is obvious that service in the lower-density rural areas would be even more time consuming and inefficient than the current system in the cities. We wouldn’t have chosen to live in the out-county area if we wanted taxpayer funded mass transit. Since I don’t want it, and wouldn’t use it, I would vote against paying for it. Find another way for the city of Ypsilanti to pay for its existing bus services.

       —Karen Luck    Jun. 26 '06 - 06:25PM    #
  20. Karen—I don’t have kids, but I pay taxes for schools. And I gladly do it. I think it’s important to help those who are less fortunate—whether they live next door or in the next town over. It’s also important to help support society in general, hence my happiness to pay taxes for something I will almost certainly never use.

    Why don’t you feel the same way?

       —Young OWSider    Jun. 26 '06 - 07:56PM    #
  21. Just out of curiosity Karen…if I said that with the support of your employer door-to-door service would be offered at times that you would choose (you would have to call at least 12 hours in advance to book the trip or pay a slightly higher fee), you would rather pay for gas, parking, etc?

    These are the types of options that I am referring to. And I’m only talking about employment-related services…services could be structured to assist with other aspects of your life as well.

    Wouldn’t you rather offer constructive suggestions for how we can all work together to build a system where you wouldn’t be as reliant upon your car?
    That’s all we’re talking about here. Why the overtly negative attitude before the process has even begun (when you don’t even know what could be offered)?

    I’m not trying to convert you into completely giving up your car, walking everywhere, and eating only vegan foods, but I’m curious to know what spawns this type of attitude in Michigan (because hundreds of millions of dollars are marching away from Michigan in all sorts of federal programs because people in this state largely can’t agree to even think about new choices in lifestyle and study those alternatives).

       —kena    Jun. 26 '06 - 08:40PM    #
  22. And another thing . . .
    “Nothing short of paralysis, blindness or similar medical conditions would make me prefer mass transit to commuting in my private vehicle.”

    We’ll, I just don’t want to go there. I guess this sort of comment just hurts me. To know that there is so much opposition to something that benefits the many over the few . . .

    If we actually had to pay for all of the damage we are doing to the Earth. If people in the United States actually had to take responsibility for the overconsumption of resources, I’m not sure any of us could even afford to drive a car.

    It’s unfortunate that our current orientation of cities makes it so darned hard to commute, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    But without the support of people from all walks of life, the bus system in the area will continue to be something not quite as nice as it would be.

    Kena, I applaud you for having to deal with all of this every day.

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 26 '06 - 10:28PM    #
  23. I am very positive about the benefits of my personal vehicle. I am expressing a preference for my personal automobile. It gives me the freedom to come and go at my choosing, to stop at stores at my convenience, and to do so in a manner that gives me the most time for leisure activities outside of work.

    I worked for an employer in the past that allowed me to drive to a parking lot outside of the immediate work area and park for free. I stood in line in the rain and snow and heat to board 15- passenger vans that drove a route that eventually stopped at the building where I worked. It was very difficult and time consuming to have 15 adults with their coats and backpacks and packages to load and unload a very crowded van. When my mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery in the middle of the workday I begged a ride from a stranger in order to get to the hospital in time so that she would know someone was waiting for her during her surgery.

    This employer makes its employees pay a large sum of money for a license to hunt for a parking space. It deliberately builds additional buildings without parking facilities for the employees they know will be working there. Because I did not agree with the political agenda of my employer, I chose to seek employment elsewhere. I now park for free within 50 feet of the building I work in. The hours I work are highly variable, out of my immediate control, and I don’t know 24 hours in advance when I leave each day. When I’m finished working, I walk outside, get in my car, turn on my favorite CD at a volume of my own preference and sing at the top of my lungs all the way home. Sometimes I don’t sing, but listen to politically incorrect talk radio. This is my preference. I own my car and pay for gas and maintenance. Sometimes I don’t go home, but drive directly to other activities from my workplace. I don’t believe in the eco-bullshit about global warming and greenhouse emmissions. The universe is vast, the oceans are a virtually limitedless sink for CO2, and the one degree of warming that has occured in the last century did so in the first 50 years of the century, before most of the automotive gases and human population growth occured. I didn’t believe the eco-bullshit about the coming ice age in the seventies either. And finally, I don’t agree with the implication that Michigan is losing hundreds of millions of Federal transportation dollars by not building Mass Transit infrastructures that we would prefer not to use. Federal money ultimately comes from the individual taxpayers. If we don’t want Mass Transit, we can save a whole lot more money by not building it at all. Why do you feel there is no option to avoid mass transit. Since you are still in the planning stage for this county-wide system, wouldn’t it be the best time to find out the majority don’t want mass transit. I’ve read that in Japan, there are persons employed in the subway system whose job it is to push people into already packed subway cars to make them more efficient during peak times. Is this something you think Americans will aspire to duplicate?

       —Karen Luck    Jun. 26 '06 - 11:34PM    #
  24. Congratulations Karen! You’ve been awarded the “Selfish Twit of the Week” award, sponsored by Disney’s “Finding Nemo”.

    You have won this award for being unable to view the world from any perspective other than your own.

    Congratulations, Karen, you earned this award all by yourself! And the best news of all? You don’t have to share this award with anyone! It’s all yours!

    No, no: thank YOU, Karen.

    Enjoy your hard-earned audio clip, brought to you by the fine people at Disney!

       —todd    Jun. 27 '06 - 12:20AM    #
  25. I don’t believe in the eco-bullshit about global warming and greenhouse emmissions.

    Yeah! I also don’t believe in greenhouse gasses. I’ve never seen them, therefore they’re about as real as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, and Jesus.

    The universe is vast…

    On that note, assuming just in case that greenhouse gasses are real (an acquaintance of mine claims to have witnessed his mother kissing Santa Claus), once this planet is burnt up you can just jump into your car, turn on that awesome CD of yours, and drive to the nearest orbiting rock with water and oxygen – traveling at the speed of light you’ll be there in a couple thousand years. Maybe.

       —FAA    Jun. 27 '06 - 12:24AM    #
  26. Hee hee. It’s not either/or.

    As Murph notes, 14 Michigan counties passed countywide transit millages of 15 voting on them in 2004. I’m sure politically incorrect talk radio can explain this anomaly.

       —Dale    Jun. 27 '06 - 12:26AM    #
  27. Todd, no need to get into namecalling. Is this the Blaine effect, in which we all get pulled lower and lower standards of behavior?

    I disagree strongly with most parts of Karen’s perspective. I believe the global warming science is strong, that communities have a responsability to care for all their members, and that government-funded programs can benefit society (for example, the highway system Karen and I both depend on when we drive our cars.)

    I’m also glad Karen doesn’t sing at the top of her lungs on the bus.

    Cars can bring freedom, but they can also trap you. Witness the clogged highways before Hurricane Rita. How much less congestion would there have been if there had been working regional transit to get people away from the storm?

    Witness also the clogged freeways everyday around our major cities. I’ve lived in and around DC, and I felt freest when I didn’t have to drive. I could ride the metro and liesurely read my book, which was better than cursing Beltway traffic. I didn’t have to pay exhorbitant rates for parking. I was freer on transit than I could have ever been in a car.

    That said, there were times when I needed a car, as Karen’s mother’s case points out. That’s why I’m glad services like Zip Car are coming out, so folks who need a short-term rental have better options. I see valid concerns that Karen raises, many of which can be addressed, as well as a political perspective that no transit policy can address.

    Karen also expressed a preference for not subsidizing a service she doesn’t use. I wonder how that works out with her living in the “out-county” area. Do folks who live near where they work end up subsidizing the roads she uses to get around? This is an honest question, I really don’t know. (though it does relate to my beef with the issue of giving a Sheriff’s patrol subsidy to the higher-income, less-taxed townships).

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Jun. 27 '06 - 12:39AM    #
  28. “Todd, no need to get into namecalling. Is this the Blaine effect, in which we all get pulled lower and lower standards of behavior?”

    First of all, the namecalling was well served with some childish humor, so it shouldn’t be taken very seriously….if she can’t handle a little levity, well, my apologies.

    “Karen also expressed a preference for not subsidizing a service she doesn’t use”

    Second of all…this isn’t a subsidy. The word “Subsidy”, at least now in the Roveian era of dumbing down complex civic constructs, means “something that I’m taxed for, but I don’t like”.

    It is a government program, no more or less than the Fed highway funds that she enjoys, while I do not directly use them (often, at least) as I don’t own a car.

    She didn’t bring up economic pluses and minuses of the bond/millage. She didn’t cite any article that shows that mass transit bonds/millages have been a disaster in the past (which she could have done very easily). All she did was give a long, long explanation that she had a car, so tough cookies for those who either can’t afford one, or would prefer to use something else.

    So in short, admit it: The seagulls were funny.

    My apologies to Karen if they weren’t.

       —todd    Jun. 27 '06 - 01:09AM    #
  29. Chuck,

    You are the official Peace-and-Justice guy in this City.

    This transit discussion has nothing to do with me.

    So why drag me into it, by implying that I am somehow responsible for the violent cursing which your fellow ArborUpdate writers indulge in?

    Why is insulting me, by name, such a high priority for you, when the Mayor is using his police to violently intimidate peaceful campaigners for divestment, campaigners for the plain human rights of Occupied Palestine?

    If the Mayor and his cops commit violence against us, who will protect us in City Councuil?




    When personal death threats are issued, over ArborUpdate, to snuff out divestment talk, that seems to not bother you either.

    Some Peace Guy you are!

    Again, why is insulting me, by name, such a high priority for you?

    Just how much Zionist violence are you ready to countenance, before you will speak out against it, and finally stand up for your own ICPJ’s Divestment Resolution?

    Some “Peace Guy” you are.

       —Blaine    Jun. 27 '06 - 01:51AM    #
  30. So, uh, who remembers who this whole crazy Ann Arbor to Detroit Rapid Transit Study nonsense got started? Whose hairbrained idea this was?

    Oh! I do! Pick me! The backstory, as I understand it, is that…

    (cue theme music – Great Lakes Myth Society covering a military march would be best.)

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away – the Galactic eMpire is consolidating operations in the nearly complete Death Star…

    In 1996, GM announced the decision to move Oldsmobile and the other divisions that remained in Lansing to the Ren Center in Detroit.

    “But, your excellency, we have a battalion of the Ransom Olds Guard, 1,200 strong, remaining in the Capitol. Their children are in school, and they don’t want to relocate!”

    (Galactic eMpire Chairman Jack F. Smith, Jr. glares from behind the Chevy Suburban-styled grille of his helmet. Choking sounds from the Olds Guard Lieutenant.)

    “Mmmm, and yet he has a point. Perhaps there is some way we could shuttle the Guard between their homes in the Capitol and their new posts in the Ren Star.”

    (at this point, I want to say “enter the cowled Emperor Kerkorian, stage right”, but I don’t know if he’s an appropriate character in 1996, and I suck at writing dialogue. So, I’ll shift into PBS documentary voice, instead, which, really, is just my normal means of speech.)

    And so a very strange thing happened. After conspiring mid-century to buy up the nation’s streetcar companies and tear up the rails, in order destroy the competition, GM suddenly decided that mass transit would be exactly the cure to their woes – the perfect commute for whatever part of 1,200 Oldsmobile corporate employees who didn’t want to relocate from their homes in Lansing to their new jobs in Detroit.

    Headed by CATA, the Capitol Area Transportation Authority, the study effort decided on a route that would run from Lansing to Ann Arbor to Detroit, as the market research and study of available infrastructure showed that route to be most promising. At this point, however, restrictions on Federal transportation dollars kicked in, requiring that the shortest feasible segment of such a system be constructed first. This happened to be the Ann Arbor to Detroit segment. This happened around 2000, I think.

    Since the project was suddenly entirely outside of CATA’s jurisdiction (and, besides, by this point many of GM’s affected employees had already either relocated or left), they left the picture, and the project fell in the lap of AATA, who had no resources to deal with it. So the project sat for a while, until SEMCOG suddenly decided to step to the plate. (2004ish?)

    Which, more or less, brings us to the point we’re at now. SEMCOG has been actively advancing the project, and has narrowed to a few route/mode choices for the line. Federal money ($100 million) has been budgeted to fund the remaining market research, the engineering studies, and so on and so forth, and, hopefully, the Governor and Legislature will soon have worked out a plan that would allow the region to put together the operating funding package to make this plan go.

    Phew. The politics and logistics required to put together a regional mass transit system in an area like Southeast Michigan are truly dizzying! (Of course, I’m betting the National Insterstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 was no mean feat either – heck, it took a Cold War to make that legislation come together!) Regardless, I still find it pretty awesome that this whole thing was prompted by GM, a decade ago by this point – and here’s to the Mayor, too, for independantly pursuing the north-south route that had already been decided a good idea, and would be the next piece of the puzzle!

       —Murph.    Jun. 27 '06 - 02:47AM    #
  31. Now, while I think Karen is completely wrong on any number of levels, I think she provides an excellent example of the type of incorrect thinking that Michigan residents often engage in. Hers is the type of ignorance that transit advocates can expect to encounter whereever they (we) go, and I do not mean “ignorance” in an insulting or mean way – I mean it in the sense of “a real word that means uninformedness.” Responding to the concerns of people who really don’t know better is a skill that we need to develop.

    In my own case, two weeks ago I was driving 30-40 minutes to work every day (and similar home), dealing with M-14 (kachunkitycchunkitycrunch) or M-14 construction traffic (craaaawwwwwlll). I got a new job, started last Monday, and can now walk to work in about 10 minutes. So the first hour that I’m home after work is free time! I’m getting 5 * 50 = 250 new hours of “personal time”, above and beyond what my new job allows me, just because I don’t have to drive!

    I’m no longer a slave to my car for one to one-and-a-half hours every day. I no longer have to get frustrated with traffic, fill my tank once a week, worry about getting killed by the crazed drivers we seem to have an endless supply of around here, and arrive home cranky and tired just from the commute – not even from the workday.

    And, while the free hour every day is awfully nice, most of those reasons I prefer my new commute aren’t because of the time, they’re because I’m not in that damned car! If I were to have to go 30-40 minutes to work, I’d so much rather do it by bus or train (or carpool – leave the stress to somebody else) than drive it. On the bus, I can listen to my iPod. I can read a book. I can people-watch. I can talk to friends. Commuting by transit gives you so much more freedom to do what you want with your commute time than driving alone! (Okay, fine, so singing loudly might be a little rude, unless it’s a carpool with similarly rockin’ people.)

    My most valuable asset is my time. My attention. The least valuable way I can think of to squander my precious attention is staring at a f***ing yellow line on a f***ing black background – my brain is worth so much more than that. I may as well be sitting at home watching MTV and eating Cheetos. (p.s., when I’m sitting at home watching MTV and eating Cheetos, I can sing along as loudly as I want – but I’m not forced to do that every day by a commute. When I get home, I can choose whether or not to spend time singing along loudly.)

    Then, of course, there’s the money issue. I don’t know how many people are in Karen’s household, or how many cars they have, but: My having a job that doesn’t require driving to work allows my wife to consider a job that requires her to drive, without our buying another car. (Right now, though, she buses or bikes to work.) Consider that owning one less car allows you to devote the equivalent of $150,000 more to buying a home. (This is why mortgage companies are starting to offer “locationally-efficient mortgages”, offering larger loans or better rates to people who pick houses where they will not be slaves to their cars.) That nonsense about how “property taxes are cheaper in the Township?” I’m laughing at those people the entire time that I’m not dumping $7,500 a year into an automobile. Suckers.

    Of course, my new employer did give me a parking pass for free. This annoys me. I want to be charged for a parking pass! Parking ain’t free, no matter where it is – I don’t know how much, exactly, that parking costs my employer, but they could be putting it into my salary instead of into a parking pass that I don’t use. Just because you get 10 sick days a year doesn’t mean sick days are “free” – there’s a cost to not having you work, which is why some employers let you cash out unused sick days. Likewise, just because you get a parking pass at no visible charge, as Karen does at her new job, doesn’t mean it’s free – it just means her employer is robbing her of the choice to take the cash instead of the parking pass.

    (Boy, am I in a ranty mood today…)

       —Murph.    Jun. 27 '06 - 03:17AM    #
  32. “Responding to the concerns of people who really don’t know better is a skill that we need to develop.”

    Murph, to avoid insult, use “who don’t know” rather than “who really don’t know better”. “Really” implies that you know while they don’t, and “better” implies judgment.

    Todd, the seagulls were funny, but Karen didn’t insinuate anything like “tough cookies” for others. In fact, she even posed some questions, which is usually a sign of open-mindedness.

    Karen, I think the guys have a point about tax-funded highways. Add to that the taxes that go toward securing gasoline and diesel fuel, and the balance starts to tip in favor of those who use (or are willing to use) mass transit.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 27 '06 - 07:17AM    #
  33. “Since I don’t want it, and wouldn’t use it, I would vote against paying for it.”

    Why should Karen support transit?

    There is a social obligation to provide some way for all people to access necessary goods and services. Karen’s generosity in accommodating this need appears somewhat limited. But that may be because she sees other methods for accomplishing the same goal more efficiently. At the very least she has indicated that transit is a benefit for blind and paralyzed people that may be worthy of public investment.

    The argument that I would like to see used more frequently, because I think the direct benefit would be more obvious to Karen, is that more transit riders mean fewer cars on the road. People who use transit are not only making more road space available during their transit trips, but they are more likely (like Murph) to have fewer cars per family and live within walking distance of many services and goods. As a result, they generally don’t make as many trips that require a car. If most transit riders either live or work in high(er) density areas like cities and towns, she can expect to see fewer cars in these areas, resulting in more available parking spaces.

    I won’t pretend that this isn’t an over-simplified version of how increased transit ridership would play out, but as a marketing campaign it is at least as sophisticated as “global warming is bullshit” and “in Japan, there are persons employed in the subway system whose job it is to push people into already packed subway cars”. If she can equate expanding transit service across the county with packing Tokyo trains, she should easily see the connection between more transit use and fewer drivers on the road.

    Karen has stated in no uncertain terms that she is not a candidate for transit ridership. However, that does not necessarily exclude her from advocating for transit use insofar as it would benefit her. Promoting transit as a benefit to stalewart drivers may be more effective than trying to convince them to ride the bus.

       —Scott TenBrink    Jun. 27 '06 - 09:01AM    #
  34. Contrary to the general opinion on this site, I don’t advocate personal cars due to selfishness. I advocate automobiles for everyone, except those who are paralyzed, blind, etc.. I think society is best if we all get our first choice. I would support and pay for door to door transportation for those who are unable to drive and I believe it benefits society to provide the best transportation options for these unfortunate few.

    But I don’t think those “economically less fortunate” should be forced to use mass transit so that there is less congestion on the roads and more parking for my and your BMW’s. That would be selfish, IMHO. With a few exceptions, it seems most persons are willing to pay so that someone else can use mass transit.

    When Henry Ford started the assembly lines, he paid his workers wages such that they could purchase their own cars. With the high wages paid in the manufacturing sector, we had a system of government that had the highest standards of living for the greatest numbers of people throughout history. Our capitalistic system is based on each individual freely choosing their preference.

    I thought the seagulls were a laugh – not offensive at all. I think Chuck is exactly right when he says he’s glad he doesn’t have to listen to my singing. Now, Murph’s comments on incorrect, wrong thinking and ignorance weren’t at all funny. He’s wrong about the parking pass. My employment is not in a high density urban environment. My employer realizes that providing parking is a cost of doing business and a means of attracting the best employees. There is plenty of room to build more parking spots should the need arise. If he left his books and ivory tower ocasionally, he might have a better grasp of what the average person wants. Why doesn’t he set up a booth at the next auto show and see what an enthusiastic crowd he can draw to his plans for trains and busses.

       —Karen Luck    Jun. 27 '06 - 04:17PM    #
  35. As usual, Karen’s pushing her preferences as “freely chosen” while the rest of us are proto-fascists trying to force people into doing what they don’t want to do. The truth, which Karen refuses to acknowledge, is that her lifestyle is highly subsidized by people who have no desire to live her lifestyle. Does Karen really believe that she’s paying the full cost of her suburban lifestyle where services like paved roads and police patrols come at the expense of taxpayers in urban communities who pay for their own as well as Karen’s? If she does, she’s wrong. When Karen’s finally paying the real cost of her lifestyle, then she can lecture the rest of us about her “right” to choose her lifestyle. Right now, she’s a leech on all of our wallets.

       —John Q.    Jun. 27 '06 - 05:51PM    #
  36. ‘Todd, no need to get into namecalling. Is this the Blaine effect, in which we all get pulled lower and lower standards of behavior?’

    With all due respect Chuck, this is not name-calling without cause. Karen has walked into a conversation about mass transit and contributed the same that she has contributed to other conversations, “I don’t know anything about what you are discussing but what I do is exactly what all of you should be doing as well.” Clearly she is not interested in allowing for other perspectives.

    It boils down to Karen’s characterization that “…the majority don’t want mass transit”; the operative word is ‘want’. Karen, mass transit is a tool that simply allows for more people to be transported using less infrastructure and less fuel without the additional burden of needing 300 sf of surface area to store each vehicle until you are ready to drive and sing again; ‘want’ plays no role. If you lived in New York or Chicago, for example, you can use your personal vehicle all you want but you would probably spend much of your day stuck in traffic, and you would pay a ton for parking if you could find it; your car which offers so much freedom would be your prison. I have lived in major cities and even if I ‘wanted’ to drive I would not as it was a huge liability to have to deal with the car.

    The gist of this discussion that I think you are not appreciating is that it is not about you. The truth of the matter is that circulation based solely on cars has a limit that is much lower than a circulation system that includes mass transit and Ann Arbor is large enough to be considering how to use mass transit. If Ann Arbor is to grow, and it will and it should, the traffic system will have to be monitored and systems have to be employed that are more efficient than one person, one car.

    I also have to add that I am appalled by Karen’s lack of caring for anyone who doesn’t seem to have the resources she has “…find another way for the city of Ypsilanti to pay for its existing bus services.” Her attitude that if she doesn’t use or like it then certainly her taxes shouldn’t be spent on it is selfish beyond belief (not to mention naive). You know, I have never been to Louisiana, and currently have no plans, so I want my Katrina Relief money back; find another way for New Orleans to pay for its re-building.

    If that person who you begged a ride from knew how selfish you were they would have made you walk, I would have.

       —abc    Jun. 27 '06 - 06:15PM    #
  37. While Murph is a working man who is more engaged with the public on these issues than anyone here, I know for a fact that he read a book while chained to the ivory tower that gave the lie to the statement “Our capitalistic system is based on each individual freely choosing their preference.” The Origins of the Urban Crisis by Tom Sugrue details, among other things, widespread racial discrimination in the manufacturing sector Karen lauds. Bottom line, Murph is the man.

    BTW, my first choice is mass transit. I love trains and buses. I thank you all for your votes.

       —Dale    Jun. 27 '06 - 06:28PM    #
  38. I used to be one of those car people. I got my driver’s license the day I turned 16. I grew up in the township (“close to town, but much lower taxes”) and drove everywhere all the time. Then I moved to Colorado and had to live without a car for four years. Then I moved to Boston and commuted every day on the bus and subway. When I moved back to Michigan and had to commute in a car from Chelsea to Ann Arbor, I realized just how much of a pain it was. I have walked to work now for well over ten years, my husband now walks to work, and neither of us would ever go back to commuting via car. It is simply so much more expensive, more complicated, more aggravating. Winter is the worst if you commute in a car, you have to scrape the windows, it is freezing when you get in, you worry about the roads. Ughh, no thanks. Now I can leave work, do errands, chat with people I know on the way, and be home sitting on the porch with a gin and tonic before half my coworkers even make it home (and have gotten a good 30 minutes of exercise). I can use the University or AATA buses for free and walk to the Amtrak station. It is a nice life that is happily shared by many people of all income levels, all races, all ages. The life Karen advocates sounds pretty much like hell to me. I too think “I think society is best if we all get our first choice” which is why my first choice includes lots of public transportation, the more the better. I would far rather pay for public transportation then for gas subsidies, police subsidies, water subsidies, garbage pickup, and so on for people who choose to live in the exurbs and crow about how they don’t want to pay for other people’s lifestyles.

       —Juliew    Jun. 27 '06 - 07:53PM    #
  39. Scott: you’re thinking exactly along the lines i was! I hate to say it, but it’s a selling point that has worked fairly well in suburban communities like those that surround Grand Rapids. The focus of transit campaigns in those areas has typically been “here are the effects of transit which will create benefits exclusively for YOU”. People in overly congested urban areas tend to realize that they’ll benefit from transit even if they aren’t using it themselves.

    Karen: You can choose not to believe that the state of Michigan is losing federal money, but ignoring that fact doesn’t make it go away. In 2004 Michigan only received 85 cents back for every tax dollar it sent to the federal government. I’m not sure how that broke out for transportation, but i do know that we lost money on that too.

    But this type of figure doesn’t include monies lost for studies, for coordinated service programs, and a number of other things that michigan doesn’t do to help bring back federal dollars (all of which help provide jobs for people in the state). The Bush administration’s focus for states has been to get entities within many sectors to coordinate their efforts to receive funds. Michigan (with its extreme home-rule mentality) has been very slow to adopt these types of programs. So it’s not unreasonable to say that Michigan passes up tens or hundreds of millions of dollars every year because we can’t play well together.

    The reality is that while the michigan legislature and parts of the executive branch have been largely sitting on their financial hands (especially when it comes to transportation), many other states have been cashing in on a wealth of program funds (relatively speaking under the Bush administration) which allow them to try new things to help strengthen their communities. Classism (which correlates almost directly with racism in SE Michigan) continues to play a large role in the development (or non-development) of many of Michigan’s social programs…and those –isms are usually cloaked in the Orwellian language of “freedom of choice” and such terms.

    A book that you all may be interested in is “Detroit: I do Mind Dying”. It does a great job of tying the corporate-style unions such as the UAW into the racism/classism that kept most Detroit workers from ever attaining the “highest standard of living…throughout history” mentioned above. FYI, over 90% of Ford workers never qualified for the five-dollar-a-day wage, and those that did were given extra-special attention by Ford’s Servicemen to make sure that they used that money largely as old man Ford saw fit (you were not to blow that money on things such as heavy drinking, etc.). But myths such as that help us more easily overlook the real factors which helped to the conditions which still oppress people today.

       —kena    Jun. 27 '06 - 08:09PM    #
  40. Federal legislation (SAFETEA-LU) puts a floor of 90.5 cents on the dollar return to “donor states” in 2005 and 2006. Over the next 3 years it will climb to 92%. Meaning we’re leaving as much as 9.5% of our gas tax in Washington (or sending it to South Dakota).

       —Dale    Jun. 27 '06 - 08:52PM    #
  41. A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage;from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance;from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency;from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency;from dependency back again to bondage.
    —Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813) Scottish jurist and historian

       —Karen Luck    Jun. 27 '06 - 10:00PM    #
  42. Thanks for ignoring all the previous comments Karen.

       —John Q.    Jun. 27 '06 - 10:16PM    #
  43. The tremendously funny thing is that that “quotation” is not real.

    Check out Google’s results for the first line. No reputable sources. I couldn’t find a wikipedia entry for Alexander Fraser Tyler, and Google’s top hit for that name is the snopes link.

    Now what was that about the ivory tower and them books? I hope you are embarassed, but I doubt it.

       —Dale    Jun. 27 '06 - 10:32PM    #
  44. True or not, it seems that Karen is ahead of all of us. I am guessing that most of the comments above are in the Liberty(ish) range. But Karen has already progressed right through Selfishness and seems to be hip deep in Complacency.

       —abc    Jun. 27 '06 - 11:59PM    #
  45. Ummm . . . not sure where to start here. Man, you leave to go to a one-day seminar and come back and there’s so much to read!

    For one thing, I am definitely a supporter of mass transit for all people. I think the benefits are many, many, many. Because of the bus system, I don’t have to buy another car, which would be more expensive for me, and more costly for the environment. Because we live about 1.5 miles from downtown A2, my husband can bike to work and I can take the bus to Ypsi. Sure it’s a little bit of a communte by bus and faster by car, but I don’t have to worry about getting into an accident, and all of a sudden the people around me become familiar. I am actually PART of the community, rather than a bystander. Rather than just drive my car, go into my office, get back into my car, then shut my front door to my own little world, I am surrounded by the world, with all of its sloppyness (and smellyness) and race issues, and youth and old age, etc.

    I read a book once that talked about how we are slowly loosing public spaces with which to interact with one another. Most spaces now adays are private—businesses and such. Many of these places would kick out the type of people that are allowed to ride the bus. But the funny part is, those people don’t go away if we just ignore them. My fear is that if we decide to all live in our own private little lives we will soon forget that there are people out there that need help, that need support, that just need to be listened to.

    And another thing. I really like to walk. I really like to walk when I should be able to get somewhere by walking. But in many places, even in Ann Arbor, it is pretty impossible to walk. I went to a seminar today at the Best Western on Jackson (by Weber’s) which happens to be about a 10 minute walk from Westgate and a 15 minute walk from my house. Well, since my husband and I only have one car and it needed to be serviced, he dropped me off at the Best Western for my seminar.

    This was fine, except that the seminar did not offer lunch. So I had to walk to Westgate for lunch. A 10 minute walk. A really dangerous walk across four lanes of traffic (thank God for the median by Weber’s!).

    I had to do the same to get home today.

    Wouldn’t it be great for me to have been able to walk TEN MINUTES without having to worry about getting hit by a semi? Wouldn’t we all benefit from being able to walk around? Obesity epidemic anyone?

    So yeah, I’d rather have mass transit. And more walkable cities. Because after all, people live in cities, so shouldn’t we be able to get around in them without lugging an expensive piece of metal with us?

    I can say more, but I need to stop.

       —Nancy Shore    Jun. 28 '06 - 01:33AM    #
  46. Thanks for the backup, Dale, though, Karen and Steve, I’ll admit I was being a little bratty with wording. I apologize for the tone, but my points stand: our current land use and transportation system forces most people to be slaves to their automobiles.

    Just like Karen, I want the freedom and flexibility to do what I want with my time, and not be forced to travel the way somebody else wants to travel. Karen, what you either don’t see or are choosing to ignore are the ways in which our society is set up to penalize, to punish, people who try to get around without a car. Your points about personal choice are well-taken, but you are looking at a situation in which most people are not offered choice and declaring that to be what people have chosen – just because people have been forced to spend their time and money on cars does not mean that they all want to spend their time and money on cars.

    Nobody is saying, “Everybody needs to ride the bus!”; the two stances in these conversations seem to be “We need choices!” vs. “Everybody needs to drive!” I’m not against driving, as long as I don’t have to do it personally – if driving is what makes you, personally, happy, then drive to your heart’s content. But don’t pretend that driving is a fully self-funded practice, don’t act as though driving is the only respectably responsible way to travel. All transportation is to some degree socially constructed, from walking to space exploration, and we can probably find a better arrangement working with that fact than against it.

    And, lest it be thought otherwise, I will say that I appreciate Karen’s contributions to this site. I may disagree with every stated opinion of hers that I remember hearing, but I’m glad to have people around who disagree with me.

    (oh, and, p.s. If I were still at my old job, where I was forced to drive to work, I’d still be on the road, having left work at the same time in the morning. At my new job, within walking distance of home, I got off work, stopped at the food co-op, picked up some beer at the Corner Brewery, came home, made dinner, and ate dinner while blogging. This is what I call Free Choice!)

       —Murph.    Jun. 28 '06 - 02:02AM    #
  47. I’ll add this to the head post as well, but a comment will probably be more visible:

    MDOT has put up an online survey asking for people’s thoughts on transportation spending priorities . I know everybody here has some!

    (And, Nancy, I sympathize with your experience playing Frogger. When we first moved to NJ, my wife would take the car to get to school, stranding me at the exurban apartment complex we were subletting. (I was telecommuting at the time.) In order for me to get anywhere at all – except for the liquor store and video rental – I had to walk a few miles, including crossing and walking along US 1, four lanes each direction of sidewalk-free badness. We moved within walking distance of Stuff as soon as we could.)

       —Murph.    Jun. 28 '06 - 02:07AM    #
  48. The city’s Environmental Commission has been working with city staff to develop a list of environmental goals for the city (another, bigger topic.) One of the goals deals with transportation and was worded as “Maximize Transportation Options” in the latest draft.

    I’ve been working on an alternative list of goals and came up with the wording, “Barrier-Free, Safe Human Mobility” to cover transportation. (Energy and pollution issues are covered by other goals.) As I see it, this goal would address the following:

    • Barriers of time and distance (e.g., direct routes), cost, choice (i.e., limited options). Hence, “barrier-free”.

    • Infrastructure and programs to provide and support diverse options/needs—walking, biking, wheel-chairing, skating, skiiing(?), private autos, cars for hire (taxis), car sharing, carpooling, buses, other mass transit.

    The discussion here reminded me that congestion/traffic is a barrier as well (a form of time and cost, really.)

    I would welcome thoughts on this here (since, as usual, we’re straying a bit from the topic.) In particular, how would you word your goal for transportation for our community?

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 28 '06 - 03:07AM    #
  49. Steve Bean wrote: “In particular, how would you word your goal for transportation for our community?”

    I think “Barrier-Free Safe Human Mobility” gets the job done. But I associate the phrase “Barrier-Free” predominantly with the notion of buildings constructed so that they’re usable by physically disadvantaged people. “Human” invites a contrast with something, but is it with animals or rather cargo? (In the context of a transportation goal, I think that should be clear enough that it’s humans without saying it).

    My transportation goal would be: “Simple, Safe Streams”

       —HD    Jun. 28 '06 - 04:07AM    #
  50. Many of the previous comments explain why some people prefer mass transit to personal automobile use and they do so quite well. However, many of the negatives cited against autos are essentially arguments against using autos in high density urban environments. I don’t experience gridlock, parking problems or road rage when driving in the out-county areas. It’s peaceful, relaxing and gives me a chance to appreciate nature. Maybe my different perspective is a result of the different environment that I experience day to day.

    I don’t desire to continue in my “incorrect thinking, ignorance, or uninformedness.” So I went to the SEMCOG site and read the Purpose and Need statement of the Ann Arbor to Detroit Transit Study:

    “The Washtenaw County Comprehensive Plan recognizes that it is critical to coordinate transportation and land use planning in developing and implementing a comprehensive plan.
    One of the major areas of concern emphasized by residents during the comprehensive planning process was that public transportation, especially in urban areas, is not convenient enough to make it a preferable option to automobile transportation. As a result, the plan addresses this issue by encouraging infill development at a density that will support transit and require new development to provide transit stops and pedestrian facilities that support transit.”

    By their own study they admit that persons in Washtenaw County prefer personal automobiles. So in response, the plan is to require more dense housing, to exacerbate the problems, to force the citizens to see the light and to correct their thinking to see the need for mass transit. How ingenious – create the problem that will force the market to buy your product!

    And to make matters worse – you’ll still have to subsidize all the existing roads because they are necessary for emergency vehicles, trucks, and the few remaining priviledged elite who might still be able to afford a personal automobile.

    And Dale- I am embarassed. I used a 1800 quote from a source that I couldn’t find on my local library shelf either. Busted.

    John – Didn’t mean to neglect – I do read your comments. There is more traffic on urban roads, more crime in urban environments, and therefore both cost more. Ypsi city has the option to contract lower cost county sheriffs, but they have chosen not to.

       —Karen Luck    Jun. 28 '06 - 07:11PM    #
  51. We all make mistakes, but the reason for the “ivory tower” (at least, my lowly dungeon) is to discover and teach the means for evaluating truth and fiction and to reckon the meaning and relevance of the past.

    Copying and pasting a too-perfect fake quote from the internet as a proxy for argument? That’s one skill we don’t teach in college. One advantage of book learnin’.

    Your uses of the words “majority,” “subsidy” and “preference” throughout this thread are just about as specious as that quote.

       —Dale    Jun. 28 '06 - 07:41PM    #
  52. Karen,

    “There is more traffic on urban roads, more crime in urban environments, and therefore both cost more.”

    The question isn’t whether the cost is more. The question is “who pays for it”? In an urban environment, city taxpayers pay most of the cost of maintaining their roads. Who pays to maintain township roads? Taxes that come from people who drive in the City and Township. Since there are more drivers in the City, they are paying a disproportionate share of maintaining roads in the Township. The same is true of police services. Washtenaw County is one of the few places that is finally acknowledging one of the dirty secrets of municipal services which is that county sheriff and road patrons are subsidized by city taxpayers who have little use for those services since they have their own police services.

    I know that Karen will tell us that all of our homeless and drug-addled residents and the services provided to them are being subsidized by her tax dollars but I’m pretty confident that when you do the math, it’s city tax dollars that are subsidizing Karen’s lifestyle.

    If the day ever came where Karen paid the full cost of her lifestyle “choices”, we might hear her singing a different tune.

       —John Q.    Jun. 28 '06 - 08:03PM    #
  53. Karen,

    Of course many people prefer driving to the inadequate public transportation system. For example, I prefer driving home from Ypsi at midnight or on Sunday to the nonexistent bus or walking six miles. But if the public transportation was there, I would greatly prefer that.

    (Technically, I prefer biking to all of these things, weather permitting. But that only applies for maybe half the year, as I’m not so much a winter biker.)

       —Kelli    Jun. 28 '06 - 08:07PM    #
  54. Steve,

    As far as listing “congestion” as a barrier – well, I’m glad you’re labeling it a “barrier” to getting where people want, rather than a “problem” to be fixed. It’s generally understood within traffic engineering and transportation planning these days that congestion can’t be eliminated – try Anthony Downs’ Stuck in Traffic (and updated “Still Stuck in Traffic), which provides basically an exhaustive analysis of potential strategies for “fixing” congestion, with the conclusion that nothing will “fix” (eliminate) congestion. This is part of why I’m so interested in looking at alternatives to being stuck in traffic in a car. Walking to work, spending your “drive” time reading or getting work done on transit, socializing, etc.


    My car commute was Northville to Plymouth, then Plymouth Road into A2 – definitely more pleasant in the more rural Washtenaw County section of the drive than at either end. But I don’t care for commuting by car at free flow/65mph all that much more than at a congested 40mph. several years ago, I commuted from Chelsea into A2, near the airport, along Scio Church – no traffic for almost any of the length. But that doesn’t mean I liked that half hour each way.

    Karen, I think that you and I really want the same thing: for people to be able to travel the way they choose to, to maximize their personal benefit without harming others.

    In pursuit of the goal (freedom, choice), you seem to interpret the current state of things as something freely chosen in an unrestricted market of transportation and land use choices. For once, I’ll skip the rant/lecture, and simply say, “I disagree that this is the case.”

    And, specifically, I will disagree with,

    the plan is to require more dense housing, to exacerbate the problems, to force the citizens to see the light and to correct their thinking to see the need for mass transit.

    And offer, “the plan is to permit more dense housing, to exacerbate the problems, to allow the citizens to make real choices about transportation and land use.”

       —Murph.    Jun. 29 '06 - 03:03AM    #
  55. I’m surprised you left “to exacerbate the problems” in there, Murph, especially since that’s the most fallacious piece of Karen’s statement. (Distracted? Eating dinner at the computer again?) To the contrary, more dense housing would alleviate the (traffic) problems, as several people have pointed out. At the same time it would create the critical mass for transit for those who prefer or need it.

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 29 '06 - 06:05AM    #
  56. Density, rail, cycling, walking, all of these seem like methods to reduce congestion and air pollution. $5 a gallon gas will help too and it may not be more than a couple of years away. The UM needs to fill the life sciences buildings with researchers and other workers, they are building a new women’s and childrens hospital. More people living in downtown and nearby neighborhoods seems like it would help to ease congestion as they would be close to work. Seems like the city is on top of this and planning for it, finally.

       —Dustin    Jun. 29 '06 - 06:37AM    #
  57. Steve, Murph was being honest. The high density has to preceed the effective mass transit systems. It will be 10-20 years of exacerbation of the problems before the infrastructure is in place to allieviate the congestion and gridlock.

    What population total would be required to have a system that operates 24/7 in the AA/Ypsi area?

       —Karen Luck    Jun. 29 '06 - 05:00PM    #
  58. Karen, whether it will take that long (and I don’t believe it would—we do have a transit company operating a successful bus system that could be quickly expanded) is irrelevant to my point. What’s relevant is that, absent increased density, the “congestion and gridlock” would be worse because the same number of people would simply be dispersed around the county, driving their cars everywhere out of necessity (i.e., no options.)

       —Steve Bean    Jun. 29 '06 - 05:08PM    #
  59. Transit can be implemented and increased simultaneously with increased density. For example, as Ann Arbor increases in density, we can expand the bus system to deal with the increased number of people until such a time as rail might be feasible. Transit doesn’t one day appear as subways from nothing.

    Also, Karen, is the question about density or about population?

       —Dale    Jun. 29 '06 - 05:28PM    #
  60. Karen, thanks for coming around. The initial entry makes reference to market research, a dream about passenger service, and has a request for feedback on transportation spending priorities. We started by talking about planning for mass transit; and while high density does typically have to precede the construction of an effective mass transit system, the planning for such a system does not have to wait for the problem. You however, as early as comment 15, changed the discussion from planning for mass transit to your personal preference to drive with your claim that, “Most people prefer cars and the freedom associated with them.” Now, 42 comments and three days later, you are ready to talk about planning for the future. Thanks for coming around.

    As far as population density goes I do not believe it is to simply get to some magic number and then trains become viable. Clearly you have to focus on how they are used and where you can build them. For example in DC when the Metro was built some of the stations were located in existing neighborhoods and some were located in the median along the highways. The stations in the neighborhoods have become commercial nodes with retail and if you lived near one of these you could be fine working and shopping without even owning a car. The highway stations on the other hand were located far from most housing and were not very accessible by foot so most riders used the ‘Park and Ride’ approach to commute downtown; no less car ownership just fewer cars downtown. Clearly the highway stations can never grow into commercial nodes.

    We need to identify the users. Are they commuters from bedroom communities along 23 looking to get to the University or Pfizer, or are they Arborites and Ypsiers looking to shop and work without cars. I think that’s why there needs to be some research and study.

       —abc    Jun. 29 '06 - 06:07PM    #
  61. I’m sorry if I misled you. I haven’t “come around” to desire mass transit, I’m just asking you professionals how dense the population has to get before mass transit is built up to a point where you can depend on it for all your needs and not require a car as well. I’ve rode the subways in Boston and D.C. and found them very useful for travelling. Will we need a million plus people in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi area before mass transit eliminates the need for personal vehicles? Or will we need continuous subdivisions from Detroit to Lansing?

       —Karen Luck    Jun. 29 '06 - 07:12PM    #
  62. St. Louis’ Metrolink is an excellent example of implementation of a light rail system which is built to flex between anticipated and existing demand.

    The western end of the system is new construction which connects the western suburbs with its terminus at the airport. The central part of the system uses previously-abandoned rail ROW which travels under part of the downtown core. The eastern part of the system goes across the river out to Southwestern Illinois College.

    In the city Metrolink acts as a subway with stops integrated into/under buildings, the baseball stadium, etc. In the country and suburbs (especially on the low-density eastern part of the route) the stops are park-and-ride lots where people drive and leave their cars while they shop, recreate, or work in the city.

    There are other options for commuter transit as well: Commuter rail would use existing rail lines with Amtrak-type rolling stock. Bus rapid transit is basically rapid transit with rubber wheels…the vehicles are very much like rapid transit vehicles, and the stops are spaced appropriately as well. Express buses are just that…detroit to AA with minimal or no stops in between.

    All of these modes could be used as intermediary steps before deploying a light or heavy rail system. Good transit means different things to different people (including those who need/want cars), so whatever system is initially put into place around here needs to balance those needs.

    None of these options (including light rail) needs 10,000 people/sq. mile density or continuous development along the entire length of the route, but it does need to pass through destination areas (downtown cores or places with lots of employment/destinations/etc.) which do have those types of characteristics.

       —kena    Jun. 29 '06 - 11:18PM    #
  63. I have a six mile commute from Ypsi to Ann Arbor and I take my car. It takes me 15-20 minutes each way. It takes me an hour to take the bus since the feeders from my home on the east side of Ypsi to the transit center dont match up with the bus I need to catch. That is a pretty big difference. I really dont like riding in busses and kind of enjoy driving my car. The only way I would choose to take the bus to work is if it took the same amount of time and if the fare were cheap. I enjoy trains though and actually would take a train to work even if it took an hour :)

    However, I do support having my tax dollars subsidize a bus system. Mostly this is because I know that if my car breaks down, I still have a way to get to work.

       —lynne    Jun. 30 '06 - 03:10AM    #
  64. The bus system is difficult to ride Ypsi to A2. The proposed and partially funded ($100 million unless Congress pulls the money) east-west rail system would have two morning stops in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, and 2 afternoon, near depot town and in A2, at the foot of UM Hospital with shuttle buses taking people to other destinations, Pfizer, N & Central Campus, downtown, etc. Ypsi to A2 would be a pretty fast train ride.

       —Dustin    Jun. 30 '06 - 06:46AM    #
  65. Without an exclusive right-of-way (a la Bus Rapid Transit), bus service is never going to be as fast as personal vehicles simply because they operate on the same roadway. Buses are victim to the same congestion, construction, and other delays as cars.

    Even with increasing fuel prices, buses are not likely to offer a significant cost savings for those who own a car in the current pricing framework. Where sunk costs (purchase, insurance, registration and maintenance) are not considered in trip cost and destination parking is not charged directly to the user, bus fares can hardly compete. Innovative transit fare programming like the M-card and go!pass programs are an exception. This suggests that the only audience for the cost-savings benefits of transit is those interested in avoiding purchase of or selling a car. That would exclude both Lynne and Karen.

    I think the selling point for many choice riders would be service. The most obvious perk is that you do not have to operate the bus, leaving you free to focus on other tasks. Mobile devices like cell phones, ipods, mini video and game players, and PDAs (not to mention antiquated technology like books, notepads, and Rubik’s cubes) allow you focus your attention on something besides the road. That is a big perk for some (like Murph).

    Transit is also a great place to interact with people. The interaction has traditionally been (understandably) viewed negatively. But a bus is a public space similar to a park, and despite the potential for undesirable interactions, many people visit parks. I’d love to see something like a knitting group that meets in Ypsi to commute together to Ann Arbor. It would be really cool if people could organize some version of LAN games (with PSPs) on the bus. Book clubs, informal business meetings and language classes could all conceivably happen on the bus. Note that none of these require any formal organization, support, or infrastructure provided by AATA. They are just uses of a public space that would work on a bus. Emphasizing the positive interactions you can have on the bus would go a long way toward attracting choice riders.

    Of course I recognize that there are obstacles and that each of these “positives” that I point out might be a negative for someone else on the bus, but you can always put your headphones on and escape the interaction.

    Something that AATA could do to contribute is to improve the level of service. I’m not suggesting that some or even most of the staff isn’t friendly and helpful. But I do feel there is a focus on rules and procedure that makes the bus feel institutional. For example, I’d like to be able to drink a cup of coffee on the bus. I know that there are all sorts of good reasons to prohibit food and beverage on the bus, and it would require some added work for staff that would have to clean up occasional spills. But the bus would feel a little more welcoming if I could sip a coffee during my Spanish lesson.

       —Scott TenBrink    Jun. 30 '06 - 07:58AM    #
  66. I’m going to make an extrapolation from Karen’s questions on density and transit that may or may not reflect her personal concern, but would likely be an issue with other suburban/rural/exurban dwellers.

    It is generally understood that transit requires a certain level of population density. abc says that transit planning allows us to prepare for the eventuality of denser populations. Then Kena points out that transit lines can be flexible enough to accommodate low density needs and then adjusted to accommodate future increases.

    This all adds up to sound like regional transit is the first step towards turning my rural neighborhood into a high density transit-oriented development. I’m not opposed to using transit where it is needed, in fact I support efforts to improve transit in Ann Arbor and Ypsi. But I am opposed to using transit as a first step to killing my rural experience.

    To get my vote, you will have to do more than say that increased density is not inevitable in my area. You have to prove to me that it won’t happen without my neighbors and myself approving it. Even if you do not see this as a set-up for higher density, other forces, like suburban developers, who are beyond your control can use it to push for such changes.

    Perhaps these changes are inevitable, as has been argued here many times, and I can only control where growth goes and not how much comes in. In that case all I can do to slow things down is vote against supporting regional transit and delay the inevitable. Unless there is some hope that this regional transit system could provide some protection for me from density increases, I see no reason to support it and plenty of reasons to vote “no”.

       —Scott TenBrink    Jun. 30 '06 - 08:03AM    #
  67. Steve, oops – thanks for the catch. I need an editor sometimes. I did mean to leave out “to exacerbate the problem”, but was too focused on the terminology of coercian vs. freedom. Like you, I think that allowing increased density, providing transportation choices, and other such policies would decrease congestion, by reducing the total amount of traveling that people are forced to do to get where they want to go.

    Karen does have a piece of a point, though. As congestion gets worse – and congestion only ever gets worse, in the long-run – seeking out alternatives to auto-dependancy will become more and more necessary. I think we should not wait until Ann Arbor to Chelsea is an hour-long trip by car, though, before working on providing alternatives.

       —Murph.    Jun. 30 '06 - 03:29PM    #
  68. Scott, you have no protection. You do have communication, which is supposed to be somewhat binding in the form of your zoning. Development in your neighborhood cannot be any denser than your zoning allows. It would also be a good idea to know what the Master Plan has in store for your neighborhood as it could show a density increase in the future. The planning documents should also include thoughts about big changes like a future mass transit line but I’ll bet few do. No matter where you go people do not want to acknowledge that cities are alive and change is something which will occur so it is politically easier to avoid the issue until you have a demonstrable problem.

       —abc    Jun. 30 '06 - 03:59PM    #
  69. Scott, you do have a good point there. I hate riding the bus mostly because it is boring to me. I have trouble reading on the bus because it causes me to have a bit of motion sickness. However, there are other activities that I could possibly engage in like checking email on my laptop. What if there were free wi-fi on the bus or something similar? Or tables so that people could play cards or something.

       —lynne    Jun. 30 '06 - 09:30PM    #
  70. Scott: I think the quandary you describe informs the state of regional planning/service delivery in SE Michigan (and beyond). Regional transit (when used in combination with effective regional land use planning and land use controls/incentives…things Michigan ranks near the bottom of the nation in) can be used to combat sprawl very effectively. Transit can help keep central city people/density focused into a smaller area while allowing people from surrounding towns to do the same (yet they can still reach central cities easily without feeling like they need to live somewhere in between to reduce travel time). In places where this is more effectively implemented (like some places in Europe), many cities tend to be defined by more of a discreet edge which abuts the surrounding countryside (in contrast to north America, where many cities are surrounded by huge buffers of suburban sprawl).

    The problem that Washtenaw County currently faces that transportation planning is largely an afterthought to most municipalities (especially transit options). Developments are often planned (using exclusionary zoning and other such policies) without much thought given to how people will access services such as shopping, working, etc., and the result is that in some areas of the county it is tough to conveniently reach services using any form of transportation (even car). Right now non-city municipalities such as townships rely primarily on the county to provide road and transportation resources…they don’t develop as efficiently as they could because they don’t have to under the current structures.

    Municipal entities are improving in these matters (even Scio Twp. has been talking about integrating transit into their area), but they/we still have a long, long way to go. Somebody besides Terri Blackmore needs to step up and say that Washtenaw municipalities need to begin sharing resources and effectively coordinating as a region instead of operating as little fiefdoms – and make these municipalities follow through with more than just lip service.

       —kena    Jun. 30 '06 - 10:21PM    #
  71. The leadership of the Wahtenaw Metro alliance has been promoting the breakdown of barriers between local governments and the sharing of resources. The twps. however, see little to gain from funding transit, they don’t have to build parking structures to hold the workers. Transit has another champion at the city but don’t expect the twps. to buy into it. The UM might, along with the DDA, and the largest employers, Pfizer for instance. That should be enough. The N-S rail route seems much closer than the E-W for that very reason, the city does not need the twps. to pull it off. They have a railroad that wants to run the route and they have the partners. The SEMCOG plan for E-W has to get agreement from many other governments and they have to create or find a railroad to run the route. Ever rising gas prices will help.

       —Dustin    Jun. 30 '06 - 11:59PM    #
  72. Dustin, I disagree. As much as we dis townships, I found in conversations with several WashCo township supervisors (particularly a few that bordered Ann Arbor) this spring that they were interested in creating and improving transportation options, in many cases because so many township residents worked in the city. It was at a much slower pace than we would like, however.

       —Dale    Jul. 1 '06 - 12:41AM    #
  73. Scott’s 66, above, is a good discussion of concerns that Townshippers could have – and, therefore, something that would have to be incorporated in any transportation plan, which, as kena notes, we’re bad at doing.

    (Of course, Scott’s points – “transit might bring more people to live by me” – could be as easily (or better) said about roads, which are already everywhere.)

    But, again, this is a case of “transit would help the people who don’t use it.” Let’s say rapid (meaning comparable to car or faster) transit were run back and forth between Chelsea and Ann Arbor – the people most likely to use it would be the people who live in downtown Chelsea, close to the station. With Chelseaites taking the BRT or train, they wouldn’t be driving, freeing up a little capacity for the Sylvanites and so forth who would still find it a pain to get into Chelsea to use transit. Additionally, having good transit service between town centers is an important part of convincing new residents to live close in – if traveling between Chelsea and Ann Arbor were suddenly made that much easier by adding a transit option, people would take that into consideration when choosing a home location, putting a smaller share of the development pressure on the townshippers.

    Scott, I don’t think any feasible transit plan would put regular transit service throughout the county. I would expect a fixed-route rapid-transit service running between towns and park-and-rides on the freeways, and paratransit throughout as the likely “most transit” outcome. A transit service that will pick you up at your door, but not at any guaranteed time, and requiring a reservation, is unlikely to induce much sprawl.

       —Murph.    Jul. 1 '06 - 01:59AM    #
  74. Gotta love mass transit. But I’ve learned to be skeptical about whether proposals are for real or just for show.

    Do the politicians or the operator of this Brighton-Ann Arbor commuter line have any data of any kind that supports the idea that this operation would be economically feasible?

       —AK    Jul. 5 '06 - 01:03AM    #
  75. The potential north-south commuter line is a vision by the mayor and some others at this point.

    If they hope to get any sort of federal funding for this project (as i doubt that we have any private investors that would be willing to put up the tens of millions that would be needed to start up the project and the millions that would be needed to operate the line each year), a full study (market analysis, alternatives analysis, etc.) of the project will have to be completed.

    Not much of this has been completed at this point (at least not formally).

    The only formalized market analysis that was ever completed of the Brighton-AA segment was part of CATA’s original study of the Lansing-Detroit commuter project.

    As a person who has watched other metro areas develop and implement similar projects, i would say that three years’ completion time is probably a bit optimistic.

    Props to the mayor and Eli for getting a serious discussion of this project up and going though!

       —kena    Jul. 5 '06 - 02:59AM    #
  76. It’s not clear to me that any “serious discussion” has actually begun. What indicates this to you? Who is Eli?

    I didn’t read about any next steps in the article. I didn’t see any reference to data demonstrating that the route had practical potential. I didn’t see anything about the operator’s start-up plan. Or anything Ann Arbor or other governments (were any officials from Brighton even present for the train ride?) expect to actually do in the next year or so to make this project happen.

    If a project like this could be running in three years, even from an optimistic perspective, I would expect all or most of the above to be in place.

    Maybe I’ve been made too skeptical by the history of attention-getting PR followed by inaction and underinvestment on mass transit in this area. Consider even the very modest project of a circulator bus around the Ann Arbor downtown area. That died pretty quickly, without City officials doing much that demonstrated creativity or commitment to the concept.

    What did the study you refer to have to say about the feasibility of running a Brighton-AA commuter rail line?

       —AK    Jul. 5 '06 - 09:48AM    #
  77. “Who is Eli?”

    The reference is likely to Eli Cooper, Transportation Program Manager for the City of Ann Arbor, which which reports to Craig Hupy, who’s head of the Systems Planning Group. But who, really, IS Eli? Well, here’s a little more.

       —HD    Jul. 5 '06 - 05:00PM    #
  78. AK – aren’t we the little doubterpuss! (Not that you don’t have some good questions, of course.)

    AFAIK, the route wouldn’t actually go through Brighton; it cuts west just south of Brighton and goes through Howell. I think “parallel to US-23 congestion hell” is the important part of the route description.

    I haven’t seen segment-specific market data on this piece; since it was part of the larger study, all I have on hand is the overall. That study, for the overall route, predicted an operating cost of $24/train mile, farebox recovery of $0.15/passenger mile, maximum operating speed of 79mph outside of city limits. It predicted 960 passengers/day “for the Lansing to Detroit service”, but I don’t know if that’s for the end-to-end trip, or for a trip on any segment.

    I find your pessimism about PR and inaction somewhat justified, though perhaps overblown. The Ann Arbor – Detroit study got lots of PR…and then got $100 million in Federal funds. The State is (please oh please oh please) on the brink of passing legislation that would enable long-term regional transit financing – a proposal brought by west-side Republicans, no less.

    And the downtown circulator? Hasn’t The Link been running for three seasons + art fair now, with increasing ridership? Started out with a CMAQ grant from the EPA, and now with the DDA and UMich chipping in? (And several other people on board whenever I’ve used it, which has mostly been for the non-campus segment.) I don’t know that I consider that the failure of leadership you seem to find it.

    You’re right, though, that there’s lots of work to be done. Maybe you should write/call/visit the Mayor and ask him where he’s planning to go from here?

       —Murph    Jul. 5 '06 - 08:15PM    #
  79. AK: I don’t think that we should get to the point of studies for start-up plans without first raising community consciousness about the concept in general.

    In my opinion, transit initiatives have a tendency to fail in SE Michigan because proposals have often been put together by professionals and other people “who know best” which are then dropped on various communities (who have very little input on what goes into them) from above.

    From what I was told by one of my bosses, the city’s “plan” is currently a broad vision of what a possible commuter rail could look like. I personally like this choice of community awareness before technical planning.

    When I refer to ‘serious discussion’, I’m only referring to the visioning stage at this point (or call it ‘scoping’ if that feels more technical).
    To have to the city gov’t draft a possible plan for discussion and charter a train tour may be a dog-and-pony show, but it still requires a fairly serious amount of commitment.

    The study i was referring to can be found here.
    There are many indicators within the market survey which say that people were interested in Livingston-Washtenaw trips, but keep in mind that this was a study which was not specifically focused on that segment

    Also, which ‘downtown circulator’ are you referring to?
    The Link is alive and well. It never was the city’s project…it was/is the AATA’s. The CMAQ grant funding for that route has expired. Like Murph points out, the major reason it survives today is because of significant operational commitments from governmental agencies: namely the AA-DDA and UM. Murph is right that Link ridership is the highest it’s ever been, but most of that ridership comes from university people.

       —kena    Jul. 5 '06 - 09:08PM    #
  80. Murph and Kena, you schooled me again! I haven’t seen The Link in my recent downtown jaunts. I assumed it folded, as I recall newspaper stories about the end of funding and the unwillingness of the City to get involved. Kudos for the DDA and UM for continuing the operatino. It seems like a pretty modest cost for something that would really help both downtown’s economy and help people get out of their cars.

    So my skepticism is knocked down one notch. Still, you guys are more convinced than I am that the north-south commuter thing is more than politician PR. I think discussion of commuter rail, in all directions certainly including N-S, is not new at all. See the long-standing discussion/study/media coverage over the Lansing-AA-Detroit rail proposal, for example.

    I don’t see how the recent stunt added anything in terms of community awareness. If you want to do that, come up with something with some data in it and have an operator talk about a timeline for operation. That’s not much, but it would be an advance in the discussion, and more real. The Detroit-AA project is an example of something where there was a lot more going on than a photo opportunity prior to the big federal money coming in. There are things far short of a major technical study that would be useful to pursue, and wouldn’t take a massive effort. Their absence says something, at least to me.

    Kena, thanks for the link to the study. I’ll explore it. HD, I take it that you are the interviewer on the site you directed me to? at first I thought you were kidding, but that’s good stuff. I’ll go back and read more.

       —AK    Jul. 7 '06 - 12:07AM    #
  81. The June 15th train ride was not just about N-S rail, although it did show in a very real way that it was possible. But the overall goal was to introduce the A2 Model for Mobility (check the city web site) a comprehensive program to provide more transit options. A2 has been hard at work on cycling for 4 years now and they are making a lot of progess. A2 has been pushing the E-W transit hard and the N-S train ride opened up a new front. Unless people keep talking about this stuff it won’t happen. I thought it was brilliant. In a way, it seems like the mayor & Eli could get the N-S up and running before the SEMCOG led plan. There is a railroad (Great Lakes Central) that owns cars and engines and wants to run the Howell to A2 route. It is not nearly as complicated as the E-W route, not as many governments involved and the need is more clear. US 23 is a parking lot every morning and afternoon. There must be 15,000 commuters using the 23 corridor to get into A2 every day. The $100 million that may be there for the E-W, has to buy a whole RR. The 27 million for the N-S seems like a small number by rail standards. Plus, it is a whole lot easier to get people to park and ride when the trade off is sitting in traffic for 40 minutes or riding the train, coffee in hand scanning the web. Much of the study has already been done for the old Lansing to Detroit route and I thought I heard something about the “Small Start” rail money not having to go through the same type of lengthly study process.

       —Dustin    Jul. 7 '06 - 05:08PM    #
  82. Dustin: “There must be 15,000 commuters…”

    Check WATS’ traffic count search page. Example: In 2005, US-23 just north of Geddes carried 89,000 vehicles daily; a little over 7,000 during the peak hour of 6pm-7pm. In 2004, US-23 just south of 8 Mile carried 78,000 vehicles daily; 6,300 at peak hour of 5pm-6pm. Tragically, the online version doesn’t list directional breakdown (or average speed during each 15-minute segment) like the raw data does.

    That should give some idea of the magnitude of north-south travel. It’d be worth checking out P-Trail, Whitmore Lake Road and so forth for the same time slices, as well.

       —Murph    Jul. 7 '06 - 05:48PM    #
  83. Wouldn’t it be possible for AATA to set up a “test drive” of this idea before making the plunge on rail? I’m a big advocate of rail as a commuting option but $27 million is a huge investment. I would imagine that AATA could lease a location in the 8 Mile and Whitmore Lake area to establish a commuter lot near the freeway and then setup a few express runs for the morning and evening commutes to downtown A2. Then we could see how many people would be willing to use such a route. How’s Whitmore Lake Road as a commuting route in the morning? Or run the buses down US-23 to encourage people to see the alternative to taking their car? Once that gets established as a viable route, you could extend service to the Brighton area. If the bus service generates enough demand, then you could look at the rail alternative.

       —John Q.    Jul. 7 '06 - 06:23PM    #
  84. John –
    I think the disadvantage of buses as a “proof of concept” is that the buses would not be able to bypass traffic, but be stuck in it. A big plus for transit in this corridor is the craaaawwwwwllll of traffic at peak hours.

    I know that in some areas (Twin Cities, in particular), buses are allowed to travel on the shoulders during peak hours, and the shoulders are built to accomodate this, so that on-road transit still has a speed advantage – assuming nobody’s been in a crash / broken down and is using the shoulder for that purpose.

       —Murph    Jul. 7 '06 - 07:17PM    #
  85. Murph,

    Point taken – that’s why I asked about Whitmore Lake Road as being a possible alternative route to US-23. Any time I’ve driven it, it’s been “country road” levels of traffic, at least south of 8 Mile, but that’s never been during the major commuting times.

    Looking down the road, that might be an argument for a dedicated HOV lane on US-23 as a trade-off for a future expansion. I’ve driven HOV in Virginia and elsewhere and typically they are for cars with passengers, buses and motorcycles. With just 2 lanes in each direction, US-23 couldn’t support an HOV lane in its current configuration. That being said, $27 million for a rail alternative doesn’t look so expensive to the cost of widening/improving US-23 between A2 and Brighton.

       —John Q.    Jul. 7 '06 - 08:13PM    #
  86. If I remember correctly from my days as a WATS intern (2 years agoish), WATS / AATA / Ann Arbor were pushing for any widening of US-23 to take the form of an HOV / transit lane in each direction; MDOT’s counter was along the lines of, “How about we just widen it to four lanes in each direction?”

       —Murph    Jul. 7 '06 - 08:30PM    #
  87. From what I saw a few months ago in the news, the cost of that widening would be half a billion, a huge pile of money compared to the $27 million Ely Cooper was talking about as the estimate to get the Howell to A2 commuter rail up and running. And, as every traffic engineer knows, new lanes bring only a very temporary release from congestion. Within just a few years, it roars back.

       —Dustin    Jul. 11 '06 - 07:04AM    #
  88. I would love to see a rail system from at least Howell to Ann Arbor. I would love to be able to sit back, read a book, and let someone else worry about getting me to work. We need this rail system, but only if it includes Howell or even further North if at all possible.

       —lauri    Feb. 13 '07 - 09:30PM    #