INTRO: About 100 people came to the Ford Education Center today in Royal Oak to hear about bus rapid transit. Mass transit managers from around the country said technically, it’s not hard. It just takes a lot of planning. And, they say, it’s a cheap alternative to light rail. Governor Snyder’s transit men were also there. They talked about the metro Detroit plan. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus reports.
The governor’s office wants the city and suburbs to support bus rapid transit. They invited transit managers from Cleveland, Portland, LA, Tampa and Las Vegas where Jacob Snow comes from.
“On bus rapid transit, instead of building one light rail line we had enough money build 7 bus rapid transit lines or to build a system.”
Snow was part of a presentation to transit advocates and curious citizens. Governor Snyder unveiled his bus rapid transit plan in October. He got it from Scott Anderson who is a math professor at UD Mercy. Anderson says the plan will give metro Detroit more bus routes.
“So there’s an opportunity here for DDOT, SMART and AATA to reallocate service to provide more feeder service and allow people more access to the rapid transit so they can get where they’re going quicker.”
36 stations will be built in 40 communities. The buses will run for 110 miles.
“We’ve got the political capital now and the will to actually do this.”
Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh attended the session. He said he didn’t agree with Mayor Bing’s decision to trim down the plans for light rail on Woodward.
“I saw a little video when the governor first announced plans for bus rapid transit. But hearing from the people who run the systems, fund the systems, maintain the systems, it seems more realistic. I was a big proponent of light rail and was really disappointed when the city, the mayor, decided to pull back from light rail. But seeing this, it has a rail-like feel. I’m not as disappointed anymore. In fact I’m close to being on board to bus rapid transit after having seen this presentation. It’s not perfect. But it’s also not just another bus. We need mass transit for the region. We’re the largest region in America that doesn’t have it. Until we get it our economy will be stymied.
“It kind of seems though,” McCarus said, “that this is more of Detroit aiming low.”
“I wouldn’t say aiming low,” Pugh said, “Because you can add other pieces of this. The comprehensive regional transit plan includes rolling rapid transit (BRT). So there are other pieces you can add: light rail, heavy rail. You can connect to the railroad, the AMTRAK and others, high speed rail. This would be the first piece. We need to get a first piece.
“The good thing to hear about this is you can add many more BRT lines for the cost of building one light rail line. So we could have a pretty expensive rapid transit with several lines for the cost of one light rail. Although I think the M1 folks, the privately conceptualized run light rail in the downtown area may still happen. They’re fighting real hard to keep it alive.”
“May still happen?” McCarus asked.
“Yes. Obviously the FTA has to approve it. And the City of Detroit would have to approve it. As one potentially voting member of a body that would approve that I would have no problem with also having light rail. In fact I’m a big proponent of light rail.”
“How much are the state, federal and M1 authorities keeping you in the loop?” McCarus asked.
Pugh said, “I had a presentation Wednesday from M1. I go to the neighborhood forum which is all of the area’s foundations.”
“Where was that?”
“At the DAC,” said Pugh. “Because they have a 90-day justification of the M1 line so they’re working very closely with the state and the FTA to show that they can be coordinated with the planned bus rapid transit for Woodward Avenue and spark economic development and be relevant. But then the question is how are you going to pay for the operating costs.”
Mass transit helps people get to and keep their jobs. It attracts young educated people. And it raises real estate values. But before that happens the state legislature will have to create a regional transit authority for metro Detroit.