Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City

Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City, a new documentary directed by critically-acclaimed filmmaker Aaron Woolf (King Corn), examines how Detroit, a grim symbol of America’s diminished status in the world, may come to represent the future of transportation and progress in America. The film debuts nationally on PBS on February 8 at 10 pm (check local listings).

Narrated by Blueprint America correspondent Miles O’Brien, the 90-minute documentary asks whether it is time to fundamentally change the way Detroiters — and by extension all Americans — get around. Detroit is the crucible in which the nation’s ability to move toward a modern 21st century transportation infrastructure is put to the test. The documentary shows how investments in the past — beginning with the construction of canals in the 18th century — profoundly shaped Detroit’s physical layout, population growth and economic development. Before being dubbed the Motor City, Detroit was once home to the nation’s most extensive streetcar system. In fact, it was that vast network of streetcars that carried workers to the area’s many car factories. And it was the cars made in those factories that would soon displace the streetcars in Detroit — and in every major American city.

Detroit’s engineers went on to design the nation’s first urban freeways and inspired much of America’s 20th century transportation infrastructure system — from traffic signals to gas stations — that became the envy of the word.

But over the last 30 years, much of the world has moved on, choosing faster, cleaner, more modern transportation and leaving America — and Detroit — behind. Viewers are taken on a journey beyond Detroit’s blighted urban landscape to Spain, home to one of the world’s most modern and extensive transit systems; to California, where voters recently said yes to America’s first high speed rail system; and to Washington, where Congress will soon decide whether to finally push America’s transportation into the 21st century.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ray LaHood

Ray LaHood
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood discusses the rebuilding of America's infrastructure and the future of high-speed rail.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Ray LaHood
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Moving Minds: The Next Transportation Infrastructure

SMART undertakes research, demonstration projects, education, and global learning exchange on a range of issues related to the future of transportation in city regions around the world.

Action for sustainable transportation is especially important now, as accelerating urbanization, population growth, globalization, and demographic shifts reinforce transportation and development patterns that threaten climate, environment, biodiversity, energy security, social equity, productivity, urban economies, and the quality of our lives. Recognizing the complexity of the challenge and the sophistication of the innovation required, SMART takes a systems approach to urban mobility and accessibility. We work with local and international partners from diverse sectors and disciplines to understand and develop new theoretical perspectives, and to generate practical, innovative solutions that tell a holistic and hopeful story for the future of city regions and the people in them.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Detroit lawmaker to introduce bills

C class tram number 3017 at the St Vincent's P...Image via Wikipedia

Detroit lawmaker to introduce bills to establish regional mass transit authority
12:45 pm, December 16, 2009
By Bill Shea

State Rep. Bert Johnson will introduce legislation Thursday that would establish a regional mass transit authority for metro Detroit despite concern from Mayor Dave Bing’s administration.

Johnson, D-Detroit, said he wants the bills introduced before the Legislature leaves for the year at the end of the week, saying that federal transportation funding will be lost to elsewhere if action isn’t taken soon.

“I don’t think we can waste any more time, with other states and cities competing for those dollars,” he said.

Bills that would set up the authority to govern a system of improved and new bus and rail service throughout Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, and in the city of Detroit, have been in the works for months.

The legislation sets up a board with members appointed by the Detroit mayor, the elected executives of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, and the governor. In turn, the board would hire a CEO to run the system on a daily basis.

The bills also set up the authority’s ability to levy a tax to run the system, but only after voter approval.

The legislatively-approved legal authority is needed to qualify for federal transportation dollars to finance and operate the regional system, which is the brainchild of local transit czar John Hertel. His proposed system of more than 400 miles of buses and trains would cost $10.5 billion over 25 years, but elements would only be deployed as ridership demand dictated.

The mayor of Detroit and executives from the three counties jointly the Regional Transit Coordinating Council but dubbed the Big 4 hired Hertel in 2006 to run their regional mass transit effort.

In December 2008, they approved the initial plan and directed Hertel to develop ideas for governing and financing the system.

The three counties were able to reach an accord on the bulk of the proposed legislation, but the city objected because the 65-35 city-suburbs percentage split of federal transit funding set up in the 1980s would be replaced in the new legislation by tradition state and federal formulas.

“The city is right to be concerned for that. That’s a very valid point,” Johnson said, but added that it was something that needed to be worked out in the legislative process rather than delaying the bills altogether.

“These are imperfect ideas we hope to make more perfect” through negotiations during work group and committee meetings, he said.

Johnson has been negotiating with Detroit CFO Norm White, who still oversees the city’s transportation concerns. White couldn’t be reached for comment.

Hertel said he was “thrilled” the bills are finally being introduced, but much work remains ahead.

“I won’t feel satisfied, nor will be needs of the community be satisfied, until we get this signed into law,” Hertel said.

The regional transit system which includes but is still organizationally separate from a $300 million public-private effort to build a light rail on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue would be federally funded, with state and local dollars contributing to both capital and operational costs.

The estimated annual base operating cost of the system, if built entirely, would be $293 million. The plan, the product of a $400,000 regional transit study by Kansas City-based transportation consulting firm TranSystems Corp., is 406 miles of improved buses and routes, light rail and commuter trains.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, during an October speech to the Detroit Economic Club, said metro Detroit needed to set up a regional system if it truly wanted to compete for federal money a fact Johnson said fuels the urgency to get the bills introduced.

“We have to get out regional act together, then get federal money,” he said.

A message was left for Oakland County’s Patterson, who has expressed concern about the proposed legislation in the past.

The RTCC acts as a pass-through for federal money for the Detroit Department of Transportation and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation bus systems, but it is not the type of legal entity needed to manage a regional transit system.

Hanging over the regional system effort is the memory of the Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority, which died after legal challenges by local transit unions. The Michigan Supreme Court in May 2006 declined to hear an appeal of a 2005 Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that found DARTA was not legally established.

Hertel has said organized labor has been part of the current system’s discussions in an effort to ensure there isn’t a repeat of the DARTA situation.

© 2009 Crain Communications Inc.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Time for Justice, Time for Jobs

Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
TEN and Gamaliel logos

Time for Justice, Time for Jobs
Webinar and Congressional Call-In Day: Dec. 17-18
The presidential administration is urging the House of Representatives to pass a job creation bill before Dec. 22. President Obama has said that transportation infrastructure spending will be a significant part of the bill.

Your experience and our studies have shown that the jobs the stimulus produced did not go to the people who need them most disadvantaged people: low income people, people of color, women and homeless/formerly homeless people.

Now is the time to take action to guarantee that any new jobs bill contains strong workforce equity requirements.

On Thur., Dec. 17th from 2-3pm ET, join our Webinar online or by phone for analysis, talking points, and training with:
· Judith Bell, PolicyLink
· Dr. Todd Swanstrom, Public Policy Research Center
· Rev. Paul Slack, ISAIAH

To register for the webinar, click here.

On Fri., Dec. 18th, join our National Congressional Call-In Day targeting Rep. James Oberstar and Rep. David Obey, the House members who have the most say over who will get the jobs. Visit the Take Action page at for more details.

· Rep. James Oberstar - Chair, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - (202) 225-6211
· Rep. David Obey - Chair, House Appropriations Committee - (202) 225-3365

For more information, visit or write
You are receiving this email because you signed up to receive communications from the Transportation Equity Network.

Unsubscribe from this list | Forward to a friend | Update your profile
Our mailing address is:
Transportation Equity
808 Glendale Dr
Greensboro, NC 27406

Add us to your address book

Copyright (C) 2009 Transportation Equity All rights reserved.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Funding for Woodward Avenue light rail project clears political hurdle

Detroit’s Woodward Avenue light rail plans have cleared a key hurdle, with an agreement struck in Washington on matching funds that can qualify for the project.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Detroit, announced that she got an amendment added to a federal omnibus appropriations bill that will allow $125 million that privately funded M1 Rail Inc. will spend on a link between Detroit’s Hart Plaza and New Center to be used as local matching funds for a publicly funded further extension of the line.

The city of Detroit plans an estimated $300 million extension of the line, from the New Center to Eight Mile Road.

Crain’s had previously reported the funding match provision had run into objections from U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., whose concerns included that bill language failed to require the private project to meet federal requirements for projects receiving federal funds.

Kilpatrick, however, said in a news release she was “able to forge a compromise” that will allow the $125 million to be applied toward the local match for the Woodward light rail project.

The provision was in the final version of the federal transportation budget that’s part of a multi-department appropriations bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.

The measure is expected to also pass the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Obama, Kilpatrick said.

In a statement, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing called it “an important development for the future of mass transit in our city. This legislation would allow once and for all a true public-private partnership to be formed for light rail on Woodward Avenue.”