mass transit

Pothole in a road.
Wikimedia Commons

More money for roads. It’s being debated again in Lansing. Right now there’s talk about more than $1 billion a year to improve the state’s roads and bridges.

But Chris Kolb of the Michigan Environmental Council wants to make sure there’s money for mass transit: reliable buses and rail lines. As of now, there hasn’t been a lot of talk about improving mass transit. Listen to our interview with Chris Kolb below:


Below-ground work starts on Detroit light rail

Dec 21, 2013
M-1 Rail Detroit

DETROIT (AP) - Below-ground utility relocation is underway on a 3.3-mile light rail system that will run from Detroit's riverfront to the city's New Center area.

Officials for the M-1 Rail say crews are moving or replacing water catch basins, storm manholes and water main gate valves along Woodward Avenue.

The work is the initial step toward full construction activities on the streetcar system and is not expected to prevent customer access to local businesses.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Gov. Snyder signs three bills for Detroit

"Governor Snyder was in Detroit yesterday to sign several bills he says will boost Detroit’s long-term fortunes. One bill establishes a Regional Transit Authority to fund and operate mass transit in southeast Michigan. Snyder also signed bills establishing an authority to run Detroit’s troubled public lighting system, and a downtown development district to subsidize a proposed new hockey arena for the Red Wings," Sarah Cwiek reports.

"End of the world" rumors close Genesee and Lapeer schools

"Schools are closed in Genesee and Lapeer counties today and tomorrow as a precaution and to calm people down. Police say they have determined that social media rumors about an armed ‘student revolt’ in conjunction with and "end of the world" Mayan prophecy were unfounded," Steve Carmody reports.

First snowstorm of the season sweeping the Midwest and northern Michigan

"Snow is falling in parts of northern Michigan as part of the Midwest's first major snowstorm of the season that's sweeping across several states. For parts of Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula, the weather service forecasts that 8 to 14 inches of snow will fall Thursday and into Friday. For parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the weather service says that 8 to 13 inches of snow could fall by Friday afternoon. In West Michigan, several inches of snow could fall. Rain and snow are expected in southeast Michigan," the AP reports.

Stateside: Mass transit a possible option for the state

Dec 19, 2012
screen grab from YouTube video

Michigan’s  Regional Transit Authority will attempt to redesign travel throughout the state.

Adie Tomer, a Senior Research Associate at the Brookings Institution, says implementing a mass transit system in Detroit is entirely possible. Tomer says the state has put spending highway infrastructure ahead of spending on mass transit.

"One of the consequences of building out so many highways… is an underinvestment relative to those highway miles for public transit. In many ways, this left Detroit as one of the few cities without a major mass transit system," said Tomer.

There’s a new public transit option for those who want to travel between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport.

It's called AirRide, and it hits the road Monday.

The AirRide bus is not your average mass transit ride. For starters, there’s wi-fi, outlets for your laptop, and a bathroom. Apparently the seats are comfortable, too. So comfy that Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's David Nacht describes them as "more comfortable than three out of the four chairs" in his living room.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and federal transportation officials will speak today at a conference in Lansing on improving rail service in Michigan.

Michigan has 540 miles of publicly owned rail.

The governor has called for improving and expanding that system to move people and cargo more quickly and efficiently. He said he will seek more federal dollars and wants part of vehicle registration fees to be used for improving mass transit. 

“He believes very strongly that infrastructure is very important both to Michigan’s economy and to the future and that rail is very important to that mix, both passenger and freight," said Sara Wurfel, the governor's press secretary.

The state recently won a federal grant to purchase and upgrade 140 miles of track to be part of accelerated rail service between Detroit and Chicago. The governor’s plans for the state include making Michigan a central point in a regional business corridor that runs from Chicago to Toronto.

Here’s the problem with selling people on local mass transit: Everyone is in favor of it, and everyone thinks that everybody else should take it. Everybody, except for them, that is.

You understand, I really need to take my private car, because  uh, I might have an important stop to make. But when it comes to longer distances it’s different. People love trains.

Airline travel ceased being fun a long time ago, unless you like being groped by strangers before being packed in a sardine can. Driving gives you freedom, but not the freedom to read or surf the internet. Plus, it can be nerve-wracking and exhausting.

Compared to everything else, trains are relaxing and civilized. Yet for years, during the rise of the airliner and the expressway, we sort of forgot about train travel. Lines went out of service; some sections of track weren’t maintained.

Now, there’s a renewed interest in trains, so much so that the governor has made former Congressman Joe Schwarz his special advisor on rail, a job for which the emotional rewards are sometimes great and the salary is non-existent.

Michigan still has more than three thousand, five hundred miles of track. Schwarz told me that, by the way. Back when he was in the state senate, he was known for his expertise on higher education, but the insiders knew if you had a question about rail, Joe was the man.

Right now, Job One is improving the route from Detroit to Chicago.  Can you believe that six hundred thousand people may have traveled that route by rail in the last fiscal year?

If you’ve ever been hung up in a traffic jam on I-94 outside the city, you probably wished you were on a train instead.