Report: Light rail plan in Detroit has been scrapped in favor of a bus system

Dec 13, 2011

The on-again-off-again light rail plan in Detroit is now officially "off," according to the Detroit Free Press.

A light-rail system was planned between downtown Detroit and 8 Mile Rd.

The paper reports the $25 million pledged to the project from a federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant will go toward a bus system instead.

From the Free Press:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that doubts that Detroit could pay operating costs over the long term for the light-rail line because of its and the state’s financial problems swayed him against the plan. The decision came despite earlier public support that included LaHood’s 2010 visit to Detroit to award a $25-million grant to get the project moving.

LaHood, President Barack Obama’s top transportation official, met last week with Bing and Snyder, and the sides agreed that the better option is a system of rapid-transit buses operating in dedicated lanes on routes from downtown to and through the suburbs along Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan avenues and along M-59, the officials said.

Private and philanthropic investors had pledged $100 million toward the light rail project. Though some investors had shown signs of wavering.

The Free Press reports the decision to scrap the light-rail plan "outraged Megan Owens, director of the Detroit advocacy group Transportation Riders United." Advocates said the investments made in light-rail line would lead to redevelopment along Woodward Avenue:

 “We’re basically throwing away a $3-billion economic development investment,” Owens said. “I’m outraged Mayor Bing would let this happen on his watch.”

Critics of the project said the light-rail project would be a waste of money and could suffer the same fate as the People Mover in Detroit. That system has been struggling to remain economically viable.