public transportation

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Amtrak riders in Grand Rapids will notice a huge difference the next time they board a train. A new $6 million station opened today.

Grand Rapids' old Amtrak station was tiny, dingy and outdated.

Tim Hefner, director of Michigan Department of Transportation’s office of rail, says the old station was supposed to be a temporary one when it was built almost 30 years ago.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony Monday, state and local officials cracked jokes about the old “Am-shack."

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As state lawmakers look to boost investment in Michigan's roads, transit advocates are calling on Lansing not to forget the state’s public transportation systems.

House Speaker Jase Bolger has proposed legislation that would reconfigure gas taxes and add other measures to raise about $450 million a year for road repairs. On Tuesday, Senate Majority leader Randy Richardville said he wants to triple that amount to about $1.5 billion.

smaedli / Creative Commons

NILES, Mich. (AP) - An Amtrak train carrying more than 200 people has arrived in Chicago after weather-related problems caused it to stop for more than eight hours in southwestern Michigan.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the train's engine lost power Sunday due to cold weather. But he says heat, lights and restrooms still worked.

The train started in Pontiac, north of Detroit, and had trouble between Niles and New Buffalo in the corner of southwestern Michigan. It was later connected to another westbound train and arrived in Chicago around 1:30 a.m. CST Monday.

Magliari says passengers may have been frustrated but they were always safe on the stalled train. He says it was better to keep them on the train rather than switch to buses, even if buses were available.

Detroit cancels bus runs Monday, cites `sick out'

Oct 20, 2013
Sarah Hulett

Operators of Detroit's public buses say riders may have to find another way to get around Monday because of what officials say is a threatened "sick-out" protest by unionized drivers.

The union says it isn't behind the job action and can't do anything if drivers call in sick.

A recording on the Detroit Department of Transportation's phone line Sunday evening says that the union has "scheduled a sick out Monday" and "bus service will not be in operation."

Detroit Bus Co. Facebook page

In the quest to improve life in Michigan's cities, one of the biggest challenges comes down to transportation.

And one of the most problem-plagued, dysfunctional bus systems in the entire state is in the city of Detroit, where using a bus to get from Point A to Point B can become a herculean task.

And for kids, it's an even greater challenge getting them to and from summer enrichment and after-school programs and doing it safely.

But there's a solution to that challenge which launched this summer and which may have lessons that can apply to cities all over Michigan.

It's called the Youth Transit Alliance. It's a pilot program funded by the Skillman Foundation, a public-private partnership between the Detroit Bus Company and area youth groups.

Andy Didorosi, the president and founder of the Detroit Bus Company and Nina Ignaczak, the project editor for Model D's transportation series, joined us today to tell us how it works.

Listen to the full interview above.

It's called many things -- the

ACA, the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. As implementation of the law continues, so does the confusion. On today's show, we sat down and tried to make sense of it all. What will the law mean for Michigan and for you?

And, we spoke with the Detroit Bureau correspondent for the new TV network Al Jazeera America.

And, author Jim Tobin and illustrator Dave Coverly joined us to talk about their new children’s book.

And, public transportation can be confusing, especially for children. The Youth Transit Alliance in Detroit is looking to improve this. 

Also, Moo Cluck Moo, a fast food restaurant in Dearborn Heights, has stepped up and raised their starting wage to $12 an hour. The founder spoke with us about why he thinks fast food workers deserve to be paid more than minimum wage.

First on the show, President Obama is conditionally endorsing a Russian offer for international inspectors to seize and destroy chemical weapons in Syria. It's an effort to avert U.S. missile strikes.

President Obama addressed the nation last night amidst the continued erosion of support in Congress for military strikes. The President's speech drew mixed reactions from Michigan's Congressional delegation.

Todd Spangler, D.C. based reporter for the Detroit Free Press, joined us today from Washington.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

School is almost out for summer! For some students, that means camp. For others, it means time to get a job. For the three high school sophomores you’re about to meet, it means a break - not just from school, but from riding the bus.

M-1 Rail Detroit

You can say one thing about the backers of the M-1 light rail project in Detroit, they're persistent.

The on-again, off-again federal funding of the project is now on-again, according to reports from the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

The Freep reports U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to visit Detroit next week with $25 million for the light rail project along 3.3 miles of Woodward Avenue.

The rail line is proposed between downtown Detroit and New Center.

Stateside: Regional transit authority faces big roadblocks

Nov 29, 2012
A DDOT bus in Detroit. People have been talking about the need for a regional transit authority for many years.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate recently passed a bill to create an authority for Detroit and surrounding counties to operate its own transit system.

However, the bill faces significant hurdles in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry and Daniel Howes of the Detroit News addressed the various obstacles the bill must overcome.

The bill is decades in the making and has wide support throughout Michigan, but Howes says the reason it has not yet passed is due to a history of control issues.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s first bus rapid transit system will be built in the Grand Rapids area. Bus rapid transit operates similar to light rail, but because less infrastructure is needed, bus rapid transit is much cheaper. Buses will arrive at stops every ten minutes. They’ll have designated lanes and be able to change traffic lights so they don’t have to slow down.

On Thursday federal, state and local officials gathered at The Rapid Central Station to officially sign the agreement. Peter Rogoff is with the Federal Transit Administration.

“It’s going to lower commute times by some 40-percent and even for folks that never take the bus, it’s going to take congestion off of US-131 and off of Division; in a way that’s going to be beneficial to everybody,” Rogoff said.

The new bus line, the Silver Line, won’t be complete until the summer of 2014, according to The Rapid CEO Peter Varga. It will run almost ten miles between the residential suburbs south of Grand Rapids up to major employers and the ‘medical mile’ in the downtown area.

A DDOT bus in Detroit. People have been talking about the need for a regional transit authority for many years.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Southeast Michigan county, business, and community leaders seem to agree; the region needs a transit authority to attract businesses and young talent.

Testimony at a House transportation committee hearing overwhelmingly supported bills to create an authority.

John Hertel is the general manager of the SMART transit system. He said this is the first time in four decades he’s seen this level of agreement between the city of Detroit and its suburbs.

"I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s wonderful to see. But while it’s there, we need to strike and move forward. This kind of thing obviously doesn’t come along very often," said Hertel.

Hertel said he’s not yet confident the Legislature will pass the plan.

Robert Daddow spoke on behalf of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. He’s confident the bills will pass.

"The governor has pressed this for some period of time, has been actively working in the coordination between the units – Detroit, Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw - in trying to get an agreement together. And we’re very, very close, if not right there, right now," said Daddow.

State officials have tried many times to establish a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan.

Some supporters are skeptical it can get out of the legislature. Others worry about possible legal challenges if it does pass.

Josh Leffingwell / Friends of Transit

People in the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker will vote this November on whether to withdraw from the regional bus system. Now transportation supporters are fighting back.

Supporters of the bus system in metro Grand Rapid held a kick-off rally in defense of the bus sytem, known as The Rapid.

Barbara Holt is a Walker City Commissioner and chairwoman of the regional transit authority. She and other business leaders at the rally said keeping Walker connected is vital to the overall community's economy.

“People can stay in Walker, go shopping someplace else, go working someplace else but we all come back. It’s so important that we do not isolate ourselves from the region,” Holt said.

“I use it for work, when I was working on my masters degree I used for school, medical appointments. I use it for everything,” Walker resident Tom Gilson said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters in a Grand Rapids suburb will decide in November whether the city should withdraw from the regional bus system.

This week the City of Walker certified petition signatures collected by the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance.

Ben Reisterer lives in Walker and is with the alliance.

"We’re not against busing at all. We think it’s a good thing for the community. But we don’t necessarily agree with the way they are going about providing that service," Reisterer said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Today some people in the Cities of Granville and Walker will begin collecting signatures to get their cities out of the partnership that runs the bus system in metro Grand Rapids. It’s called The Rapid.

The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance says it's not against bus transportation in general, but feels the system is wasting tax dollars. The grassroots organization with volunteer staff tries to keeps tabs on taxpayer dollars in local government.

user (Buchanan-Hermit) / wikimedia commons

In a state like Michigan, with a history that's virtually inseparable from that of the automobile, it might be hard to imagine a life without cars. But according to  a recent report, an increasing number of the nation's young people are choosing to drive less or not to drive at all.

The report found that:

The Detroit News reports Andy Didorosi is set to open the Detroit Bus Co., a private company with three full-size school buses.

The 25-year-old Ferndale resident says he's invested $10,000, and insurance will cost another $10,000 per bus per year. His plan comes as frustrations linger over city buses running late or not at all.

Didorosi's first bus will launch the last week of April, and the other two will follow.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26 President Henry Gaffney says city service could be better, but he's not a fan of a private citizen tackling the issue. Gaffney says Didorosi doesn't really know what he's doing.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Rapid busses start a new schedule Monday that will better serve riders late at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday. The bus service is improving thanks to a millage voters passed back in May.

smaedli / Creative Commons

Amtrak trains in Michigan had a record number of riders and revenue for the fiscal year that ended last month. Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman Janet Foran says Amtrak riders have increased steadily since 2008 when gas prices spiked over $4 per gallon.

Nearly 800,000 people rode one of three passenger train lines in the state bringing in close to $28 million in ticket revenue “It goes to show that people like to have transportation choices,” Foran said.

The record numbers come despite major slow-downs over the summer on the most popular line from Detroit to Chicago.

The biggest ridership increase was on the line that runs from Port Huron through East Lansing to Chicago.

Foran says the summer months and the upcoming holiday season are the busiest times for train riders.

fabi k / Creative Commons

Nine public transportation systems in Michigan have won competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grants announced Thursday total nearly $44 million.

user K_Gradinger / Flickr

A series of bicycle lanes stretching 16 miles and connecting three neighborhoods in southwest Detroit has been completed. The Greenlink is part of the city's urban master plan for non-motorized transportation and allows bike riders safe access to the three historic neighborhoods.
    

A $500,000 Michigan Department of Transportation grant funded 80 percent of the project. Other grants and fundraisers paid for the other 20 percent.
    

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The public transportation system in greater Grand Rapids is celebrating a record number of riders this year. The Rapid is operated by an authority made up of Grand Rapids and 5 surrounding suburbs; Wyoming, Walker, Grandville, East Grand Rapids, and Kentwood.  

Barbara Deming waits for a bus at The Rapid Central Station which is packed every morning and afternoon on the weekdays. Deming has ridden the bus nearly every week since moving back home to Grand Rapids from a small town up north 7 years ago.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Supporters of a millage to fund and expand bus services in the Grand Rapids metro area celebrated a narrow victory last night.

More than 34,000 people cast ballots. It passed by just 136 votes.

David Bulkowski breathed a huge sigh of relief after hours of unclear results. He’s with the Friends of Transit – a political action committee supporting the bus service.

“We are conservative West Michigan. And together these 6 communities have said ‘yep, we want it.”

The bus system, known as The Rapid, will now be able to serve riders later at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Voters in Grand Rapids and 5 surrounding cities are voting Tuesday on a millage increase to support expanded public transportation.

Lizbeth Espinoza and Michael Tuffelmire walk into small Mexican super market in the mostly-Hispanic Roosevelt Park neighborhood. Tuffelmire says many people here aren’t aware there are any other elections but the big one in November.

That's part of the reason they’re driving around a passenger van, picking up anyone who needs a ride to vote.

“I’m just trying to just, no matter what people want to vote, I’m trying to make easier access for them," Tuffelmire said.

Public transportation officials in Grand Rapids are excited about one detail in President Obama’s budget announced this week. A proposed rapid bus transit system in Grand Rapids is one of ten new construction projects that Obama would like to fund in 2012.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Public transportation around Grand Rapids could get a huge boost if voters in the city and 5 suburbs approve a mileage increase set to appear on the ballot in May. If the levy passes, The Rapid CEO Peter Varga says it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $76 a year.