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Monday, August 18, 2008

CAN THIS NEW LIGHT RAIL PROPOSAL BE FOR REAL?

Originally Posted 4/22/08
Updated 8/18/08

There was big news yesterday in the basically non existent world of mass transit in the Detroit area, which could have huge implications for the future world of mass transit in our region.

The Free Press reports "Detroit took a small but significant step Monday toward a long-envisioned proposal to construct a two-rail rapid-transit system along Woodward Avenue from downtown to 8 Mile."

The Free Press goes on to explain, "A study group recommended construction of an estimated $371-million light-rail system that would allow commuters to park in 400 spaces at the State Fairgrounds and ride to and from downtown with stops at 13 to 15 sheltered stations."
Source: Detroit Free Press

The Detroit News reports, "City leaders have pinned their mass transit hopes on an eight-mile stretch down Woodward Avenue that connects the State Fairgrounds with downtown, calling the $371 million project a "first step" toward the return of light rail to Metro Detroit."

The Detroit News states, "Construction could begin in three years, with an estimated 11,000 riders a day by 2013."
Source: Detroit News

Model D points out the obvious obstacles that still remain. "There are still, of course, the nagging questions of getting approval for federal funding, finding a local funding source and traversing the minefield that has blown up so many other well-intentioned mass transit initiatives in the past. All important concerns, but not enough to take away from the big-picture changes that would come with creating the line."
Source: Model D

There is so much excitement, so many opinions, and so much skepticism about this plan, that it is hard to sift through all of the information. I, for one, am not sure how this plan will ultimately turn out, and I'll use a cautiously optimistic approach being that it is so early in the process and taking into account Detroit's track record with regard to transit.

It is true that there have been plenty of mass transit initiatives within the last 30 years which have fizzled, but there is no denying that this study, recommendation, and gathering of multiple groups, all with the intention of making light rail a reality, can only be a good thing.

Below are links to the news sources mentioned above as well as others so that you can find as much information about this potentially pioneering plan as possible.

Detroit Free Press
Detroit News
Model D
Crain's Detroit

8/18/08 Update

More details have emerged regarding the light rail proposal by the Detroit Department of Transportation. It appears that the details of this plan differ from the minimal information that we are aware of regarding the privately backed light rail proposal from the likes of Illitch and Dan Gilbert.

"The $371.5 million light-rail system Detroit has proposed to build along Woodward Avenue features the type of passenger boarding the city argued was too dangerous as part of its justification to switch from streetcars to buses in the 1950s.

The layout also isn't as conducive to economic development along the route as lines that offer curbside service, some transit insiders say. Atop that, there's a privately funded Woodward rail plan, backed by at least two of Detroit's billionaires and kept mostly secret, that does offer streetside service.

Backers of the city's proposal say it's both safe and every bit a driver of revitalization."
(Bill Shea/Crain's Detroit)

Again, more details to follow.

Dueling transit plans differ on station placement

Detroit Army

1 comment:

Heuer said...

This would be an amazing development, I view it as a crucial step towards real revitalization, but have a question. Shouldn't the line run a few miles further up Woodward to capture Ferndale, Royal Oak and Berkley area commuters? It seems that any plan that doesn't go that far out isn't going to generate the revenue necessary to be viable in the long run.