Monday, August 9, 2010

Tracking State Transportation Spending

Dear TRPT supporter:

We are really excited to present a blog from guest blogger Ya-Ting Liu of Tri-State Transportation Campaign. Ya-Ting is federal advocate for Tri-State, a non-profit policy and advocacy organization that works for a more balanced and sustainable transportation network in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metro regions. Ms. Liu also works as a field organizer for Transportation for America.

Francisca Porchas
TRPT National Coordinator

Guest Blog from Tri-State Transportation Campaign: Follow the Money

While transportation advocates struggle in Washington to derail the priorities that have shaped transit spending for the last 50 years, it is also important to understand how federal funding is only the first part of the transit pie.

We have learned many lessons about this work, but none comes up time and time again like the importance of tackling state transportation reform.

Read more about it at The Strategy Center

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Detroit moves transit forward!

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 25:  Former Department o...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Great new to as Detroit moves one phase closer to a light rail system for southeast Michigan.
Feds OK study of 9.3-mile Woodward light rail line

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The federal government today committed to undertake an environmental impact study of an extended light rail line in Detroit and Highland Park -- an announcement that Mayor Dave Bing called "a major milestone in making light rail a reality in Detroit."
A 9.3-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue will undergo the study, according to today's announcement by Bing.

Joining him at the news conference held at the Detroit Institute of Arts were U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick; and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Bing said a light rail system on Detroitwould offer convenient and modern transportation with a tangible economic spinoff.

Earlier this year, the city was awarded a $25-million grant to begin constructing a three-mile Woodward corridor line. The extension would run from Woodward to Eight Mile, and would allow continuous construction instead of a segment at a time.

"Today we're building on the storied tradition of Motor City innovation," said LaHood, who explained that Woodward Avenue was the first street in the nation to be paved with concrete.

The private group M-1 Rail, funded by wealthy Detroiters and charitable groups, has raised about $125 million to build a segment of rail between downtown and the New Center area, while Detroit would have to extend the line north, largely through federal funding. The cost of the 9.3-mile line is estimated around $425 million.

"You get things done when you work together, and this is an example of that," Stabenow said.

Officials said the environmental impact study should be completed within a year, and construction could begin in late 2011.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Creeping Privatization of Public Transportation

In cities across the country, local governments are making tough choices about how best to manage record transportation deficits. New York’s MTA recently announced a budget shortfall of $800 million, and this past weekend implemented a series of painful service cuts. The cuts have left many across the five boroughs looking for alternatives, and private industry is hoping to take over where the MTA left off. Entrepreneurs like Joel Azumah have opened charter van services running along many of the exact routes of discontinued MTA buses -- in open defiance of orders to cease from the city.

In Philadelphia, SEPTA’s board of directors recently approved the sale of naming rights to one of the city’s subway stations. In a deal to bring in $3.4 million over the course of five years, the city has agreed to change Pattison station to AT&T station and has said that it would consider other deals. Jerry Silverman, a former chair of SEPTA’s citizen advisory committee, warned of where this could potentially lead, “Instead of riding the Broad Street subway from City Hall to Pattison, people might soon take the Coca-Cola Line from Pizza Hut to AT&T."

Service cuts and fare hikes in public transport systems inevitably have a greater impact on low-income people, people of color, older Americans, and the disabled. Our financial crisis is real, but the solution is not forcing vulnerable Americans to navigate a patchwork of for-profit, unregulated transport systems. Investing in public transportation means investing in access to opportunity, green jobs, and energy independence. All those are things we need now more than ever.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

SEMCOG invites public comment on two strategies that will help move Southeast Michigan forward

SEMCOG invites public comment on two strategies that will help move Southeast Michigan forward

SEMCOG announces the public comment period for its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (or, CEDS) and its Sustainability Framework.

* The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy provides a framework for effectively investing the region's resources and seeking new means to diversify and reposition the economy, create jobs, strengthen and refocus our human capital, develop and promote our natural and community assets, improve our business climate, and maintain and enhance the necessary infrastructure to achieve the maximum economic impact and global competitiveness. The document meets the requirements of the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which in part funded this project. The document, Increasing Jobs and Prosperity in Southeast Michigan, is available for review here and from SEMCOG's Information Center at (313) 324-3362.
* A Framework for Sustainability in Southeast Michigan brings together SEMCOG's policies and plans for economic development, transportation, infrastructure, environmental quality, neighborhood and community development, and workforce development into a single document that outlines the region's sustainability goals. With this framework, SEMCOG intends to apply for funding through HUD's new Sustainable Communities Planning Grant Program on behalf of the region. This program is an opportunity to bring federal funding to Southeast Michigan to locally implement projects that contribute to regional sustainability. A summary of the framework is available for review here and from SEMCOG's Information Center at (313) 324-3362.

For those wishing to comment, please address letters to SEMCOG Information Center, 535 Griswold, Suite 300, Detroit, MI 48226; call 1-800-961-3334; send faxes to (313) 961-4869; or e-mail Comments can be made in person at the following meetings:

* Executive Committee, Thursday, May 20, 2010, 1 p.m., Ambassador Room, SEMCOG Offices (535 Griswold, Suite 300, Detroit, MI 48226); discuss and act on both items;
* General Assembly, Thursday, June 24, 2010, 2010, 4:30 p.m., Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48202; discuss and adopt the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Detroit Budget Hearing May 7

Detroit Transit

Between recent news about delayed commuter trains, national broadcasts about Detroit, state budget battles, and federal announcements, you may be wondering what is really going on around Detroit transit. Perhaps you have questions or want to know how you can help.

Never fear, TRU is here with several upcoming events to provide all the latest! Read on . . .

Megan Owens, TRU Director
May 4 - Detroit Transit
at the Detroit Main Library

Join us next Tuesday evening, May 4, at 6pm at the Detroit Main Library for a presentation and discussion about all the latest on Detroit transit!

I'll provide an overview of top transit issues, update you on local, state, and federal actions, and answer all your questions.

I'll also share TRU's advocacy priorities for the next few months - key ways for you to get involved in improving Detroit transit!!

Don't miss it!
Detroit Budget Hearing
May 7

The Detroit City Council is considering the city budget, including the budget for DDOT and the People Mover. Come tell them what you think - at the budget hearing May 7 at 5:00 PM in the 13th Floor Auditorium of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

We need to have a strong showing to remind City Council about the importance of transit. Specifically, we need to inform City Council that we cannot handle any additional service cuts, which would be the result of any additional cuts to DDOT's budget.

Remember, last September DDOT riders sustained a 15% service cut. The City's investment in DDOT has been reduced by $25 million compared to the previously approved budget. Those cuts are in addition to 30% cut DDOT riders sustained in April 2005!

We need to tell City Council that jobs and the vitality of the City are on the line. We would like to work with City Council and the proposed Regional Transit Authority to find a new source for funding transit, but until then, we cannot afford to cut any more than we already have.

If you can't make the hearing on May 7, please call or email the members of City Council and tell them that transit is an essential service that has already been cut too much!

National Train Day - May 8

National Train Day celebrates America's love for trains with events across the country.

The celebration commemorates the 141st anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad's inception by bringing to life the rich narrative of how trains have transformed America and will continue to do so in the future.

Join our friends at the Michigan Association of Rail Passengers at these local events:
Detroit Amtrak Station - 6:30-11:30am
Coffee and cake will be available to both passengers and guests throughout the morning.
A proclamation will be presented to the Mayor just before noon.
Ann Arbor Amtrak Station - 7-9am
Coffee and donuts will be available to both passengers and guests.
A proclamation will be read by the Mayor of Ann Arbor.
Dearborn Amtrak Station - 6:30-11:30am
Coffee and doughnuts will be provided, and a proclamation will be read by the Mayor of Dearborn.
Oakland University (Meadow Brook Hall) - 11:30am - 2:30pm
Lunch & Learn lecture about the Glancy Trains Collection at the Detroit Historical Museum, featuring John Lohmeier, President Meadow Brook Hall Squires, Meredith Long, Museum Services Coordinator of Meadow Brook Hall and Bob Cosgrove, Adjunct Curator of Glancy Trains at the Detroit Historical Museum. Complimentary tour of Meadow Brook Hall follows the lecture.

Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City
Screening, Discussion, and Action!

Mark your calendar for Tuesday, May 18, at 6pm at the Wayne State Law School for a screening and discussion of Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City, the recent PBS documentary about Detroit transit.

Director Aaron Wolf will be on hand, along with TRU and other top advocates. Presented by Transportation Riders United, Let's Save Michigan, and Wayne State University.
Reception and Networking at 6:00 pm
Screening (highlights) at 6:30 pm
Panel Discussion at 7:00 pm
Q&A and Call-to-Action at 7:30 pm

Commuter Challenge
May 2010

Take the Challenge.

Go green. $ave Green.

Take the Commuter Challenge by trying a new way to work during the month of May.

The Commuter Challenge is a fun and exciting way to encourage carpooling and vanpooling, riding public transportation, biking and walking, and using telework and flextime benefits. Log your results and you could win many great prizes!

Register here for the 2010 Commuter Challenge

Thanks again for your interest in Detroit Transit and your patience in this exciting time.

As noted above, I'm working part time over the next few months. If you have questions and can't reach me, contact our wonderful Organizer/Assistant Director Ruth Johnsonor our fabulous volunteer project leaders.

Also, check the TRU website for more news, information, and updates!


Megan Owens
Transportation Riders United

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is Tampa's light rail train stalled?

Metropolitan Highway SystemImage via Wikipedia
By Mitch Perry
Mark Sharpe's arms are flailing dramatically. Given just 15 minutes to speed through what is usually a 25-minute Power Point presentation on why he thinks Hillsborough County needs to approve a one-cent sales tax referendum this fall, the county commissioner looks at a blown-up photo of a massive traffic jam behind him and proclaims, "That is part of our present, and if we don't do something, that will be part of the future." The screen then shifts to a closeup of a Wall Street Journal article titled, "Is Florida over?," which allows the former U.S. Navy officer to riff on his fears of the Bay area becoming less economically competitive if our transportation needs aren't addressed.

Staring at the 200 or so people at the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, many of whom are staring back with blank visages, he pauses and admits, "I know this is not popular." Sharpe then furiously wraps up his address with a tribute to infrastructure, bellowing, "Americans BUILD! We BUILD -- Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower -- we BUILD!"

His speech ends. In some quarters of the Tampa Bay area, such a performance would inspire cheering, but not at this event. Following Sharpe on stage is Orlando-area conservative talk show host Doug Goetzloe, a fierce anti-tax zealot who offers such banalities as "Light rail is an expensive plaything. It doesn't work," ignoring how it seems to work pretty efficiently in many of our major American cities. Later he'll call it Hillsborough's version of Boston's infamous Big Dig project.

Shortly thereafter, State Committeeman A.J. Matthews reads the vote tally of Hillsborough Republicans: For Goetzloe, 115 votes, for Shape, 32.

Of course, that's a better reception than the commissioner received at the Blaise Alfano Center in North Tampa a few weeks earlier. That's where he squared off against David Caton, the former anti-porn zealot who has become a leading figure protesting against the referendum. The Tampa 9/12 group, a local tea party offshoot that was dead-set against supporting another government "boondoggle," hosted the event.

Sharpe is hardly the only public official supporting the transit referendum (Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has also been out in front on the issue for years), but he has lately become the face and voice of the movement — for now, at least. He's become a one-man show going to every part of the County to sell the referendum, which supporters say is necessary for the region to grow competitively. And his social networking skills are by far the most accomplished of any elected official in Tampa Bay, what with his blog ( and Best of the Bay-winning Twitter updates.

Though organizers say there will be a whole community movement to educate and advocate for the penny sales tax once the ballot language is approved for the measure, momentum for the project seems to be stalled. The "pesky details" (as the Tampa Tribune referred to them in a recent editorial) -- including the composition of an oversight board and questions of how the money will be distributed between the county and the three cities inside it -- continue to stall the implementation of an actual ordinance that can be debated.

Last week, Hillsborough County Commissioners learned that the earliest they might be able to vote on approving ballot language would be sometime in April, delaying an education and marketing campaign that advocates say they will unleash once there's an actual measure to support.

"I think the strategy from the other side is to run the clock out," Sharpe told CL last week before the commission's meeting. "Throw everything that you can at it. My response is, that's good. As they throw a lot of dirt in the air, people are going to be able to see what that is. That's going to frustrate voters."

Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern is one concerned observer. Though the transit project has major implications for Tampa, for now the power resides east on Kennedy Boulevard with the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). She admits to getting a little antsy about the deliberations, and says what needs to happen is a major advertising campaign. "They shouldn't be relying on political consultants," she says. "They need to hire a local ad agency, and they need to bring a consultant who's done this in the past. End of story."

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Agency, also known as HART, has for months been paying Alan Wulkan, a consultant with the group InfraConsult who's been involved in similar campaigns. Wulkan says there's plenty of time for a full-fledged campaign and isn't concerned that ballot language hasn't been completed yet. "These are not easy decisions for a commission or any policy board to get right when it comes to planning," he says. "Frankly, I think they're making good progress. It's only March. Many communities don't finalize this far in advance."

The Tampa Bay Partnership said last week that they have a team of political and communication experts advising them currently on the light-rail initiative, and confirmed for CL that one such organization is the Tampa-based Victory Group, led by famed GOP consultant Adam Goodman (who did not return our call for comment).

It has been expected that the heavy lifting to get the business community behind the transit measure would be shepherded by the Tampa Bay Partnership. But in a brief interview last week, the Partnership's Stuart Rogel deemphasized the role his group will play in marketing the proposal. "We will be a part of, but we won't be the lead organization," he said.

Mayor Iorio and Commissioner Sharpe certainly hope that the Partnership plays a key role. Business groups have been instrumental in building support throughout the country in getting similar rail/transit projects approved in recent years, and pushing a sales tax through the Hillsborough County electorate will be a formidable task -- and would be even if the state and the area weren't undergoing some of the highest unemployment numbers in over three decades. Several sources that refused to be identified said the reason the Partnership's involvement is so crucial is that Mayor Iorio has alienated business groups in the city.

Former Tampa area Congressman Jim Davis has also been consulting with Sharpe, the mayor and others closely linked to the proposed measure. He acknowledges that passing the measure will be tough because "you're asking people to spend money on something and have to convince them that it's worthwhile." Davis said he hopes to see a bipartisan and "hopefully a grassroots campaign" for the measure once the language is approved by the Board, and says he hopes that includes a website that would provide a clearinghouse for information.

There has been an intense back-and-forth in the last few weeks between Sharpe, Iorio, HART Executive Director David Armijo and city and county staff on issues like governance, oversight, bonding and, most importantly, the actual 75 words that will be put in front of Hillsborough voters this fall. Armijo admitted during a HART meeting last week that writing the ordinance was taking up more time than he thought it would.

But several local officials contacted by CL insisted that it was too early to panic, though they admit it would be better for all concerned if ballot language had been approved by now.

University of Tampa Professor Scott Paine says that his sense is that "the public is frustrated with our transportation system [and with our county's leadership]. Given the right initiative and the right argument for it, I think it can win even in our bad economy."

Former Tampa City Councilman and now television analyst Bob Buckhorn believes that with the exception "of the insiders," the rail debate isn't resonating one way or another right now. He discounts any organizing effort to stop it.

But maybe he shouldn't.

Hillsborough GOP powerbroker Sam Rashid says he'll be part of as many as a half-dozen groups in the county that are committed to defeating the measure. He says it's never easy fighting a ballot question, as "there's unlimited money on the opposing side." But he says that the anti government-spending mood of the country makes it easier for foes of light rail than a year or two ago.

David Caton of the Florida Family Association may not be well financed, but he does have his e-mail list of 35,000 supporters, as well as the free media to get his message of opposition out. Speaking briefly to CL last week at the County Center, Caton was particularly irked at the reluctance of officials working on the measure to commit to a hard 75/25 split of how the funds will be distributed (with 25 percent of the monies going to road projects and the other 75 percent to bus and rail). Last week, officials thought they would include that language in the Interlocal agreement but not put it on the ballot, but it's the Commissioners who will ultimately decide whether or not to include that.

"This is a concern I've had all along, that they're going to dupe the voters, they're going to prey on the ignorance of the voters to get them to approve something they wouldn't otherwise approve," Caton said. "I'm not seeing any positive moves here, I think it's very deceptive."

Critics of the transit plan, like Commissioner Jim Norman, have insisted that the 25 percent of the penny sales tax devoted to road projects is nothing more than a fig leaf designed to convince County residents who don't support light rail to believe that there's something in it for them.

At a BOCC workshop last month, he called out supporters to "man up," accusing them of trying to obscure the rail component of the measure. On that count he was dead on, and officials scrambled to say that they would put the word "rail" back in for the next iteration.

At a recent luncheon with members of the county commission, Tampa City Council, school board members and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Norman blasted the whole idea of putting aside 25 percent of the revenues from the tax to fund road projects. He said, "The reason you put the 25 percent in there is to try to get people in this county to vote for it. ... You hope to entice people in different sections of this community to vote for this referendum. It is not a road project referendum. It is a rail referendum. A lot of famous people once said you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. This is a rail project, plain and simple."

And playing into Norman's paranoia is the somewhat embarrassing spectacle of what road projects would receive funding if the measure is approved.

Environmental activists had been angered that several of the roads that would be widened under the proposal were already supposed to be widened using funding from developers in the South County region, with six of those road-widenings directly backed by a single developer, Newland Communities.

But after Lucia Garsys, the county's planning and infrastructure services administrator, said last week that those proposals had been scrubbed because they were previously listed as developer-funded projects, commissioners Ken Hagan and Rose Ferlita said that they saw little incentive for anybody in that part of the electorate, with Hagan saying, "This area will never see any rail, and now that they're not seeing any road projects, I don't see any reason why any South County voter would support this."

Hagan and Ferlita are Republicans who have so far avoided party pressure to back away from supporting the proposal, which would simply allow people to vote on a tax increase to fund transit. But their concerns demonstrate that before the campaign for light rail even begins, it still has to get on the ballot first.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

TRU Testifies on State Budget Needs for Transit

The Michigan legislature has begun debate on the 2010-11 state budget.

Today the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation took testimony on public transit and specifically invited TRU to testify. Michigan Capitol building I was joined by the Michigan Public Transit Association, SMART, MassTrans, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and Flint's MTA in speaking out for increased transit investment.

I used the opportunity to make two specific asks:

* Hold transit harmless, not stealing any money from transit to fill gaps in the general fund budget
* Increase transit revenue with a small increase in the gas tax and vehicle registration fees

While there are many reasons why transit funding is vital, I focused on a few key reasons:

Transit is a vital resource for struggling families to save money and for workers to get to scarce jobs.
Transit can and should be used by strapped cities to save money on employee cars and parking.
Transit can draw enormous federal investment, if we invest at the state and local levels (see last week's e-newsletter).
Transit can attract enormous private investment, with a 700% return on investment (according to updated studies).
Michigan can never win the race to the bottom, out competing Mississippi, Mexico, and China for lowest taxes and wages. Instead we should compete with Illinois and Minnesota for high skill workers and great infrastructure.
In addition to defending existing funding and fighting for increased funding, the other vital issue before the legislature is the creation of a Regional Transit Authority. As I've expressed many times before, these are the next two key issues that must be addressed to improve transit.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Red Alert!

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 14:  A Bay Area Rapid T...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Calling All Unions. Red Alert! Red Alert!

Alabama Bus Drivers Need Strike Support!

The Network to Fight for Economic Justice (NFEJ) is asking for union to union solidarity with the Alabama bus drivers of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1208 based in Jackson, MS.

The ATU organized the University of Alabama bus drivers who work for a private company called First Transit, part of a big British corporation FirstGroup, PLC. Alabama bus drivers make poverty wages of $9.50 per hour. Discrimination and racism in the South, combined with the repression of union activity, result in the lowest wages in the country. Only the unity of workers in a union can put an end to this abuse.

Mario Harmon, Secretary Treasurer of ATU Local 1208, is very appreciative of all the support the NFEJ has provided so far and wanted to thank his fellow union activists. He told us about Dr. Witt sending out “scab vans” to pick up students at bus stops. We are doing a call-in to stop this TODAY!

We are asking unions to do three things to show solidarity:

1. Union solidarity statements to the Alabama bus drivers union. Email support to Union Steward Tia Brown at
2. Donate to the Alabama bus drivers strike fund
3. Promote the NFEJ call-in to University of Alabama President Dr. Witt at 205-348-5103 and tell him to “Stop the scab vans!” and “Support the union bus drivers!”

Please write checks out to: “ATU Local 1208 Strike Fund”

Mail to: ATU Local 1208
C/o Mario Harmon, Secretary Treasurer
245 Treehaven Drive
Jackson, MS 39212

Contact the Network to Fight for Economic Justice (NFEJ) at

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Friday, February 26, 2010

A recurring theme in transit?

As ridership is up I see a recurring theme in city transit cutting what is need most by it's most vulnerable citizens for example.
'Good Possibility' CTA Bus Drivers Vote on Strike Monday

Mary Wisniewski
The Chicago Sun-Times

ILLINOIS - The leader of the union representing CTA bus drivers says there could be a strike vote Monday in the wake of CTA service and staff cuts.

"It's a very good possibility," Darrell Jefferson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, said Tuesday.

The bus drivers union has suffered the majority of the 1,057 layoffs the CTA imposed earlier this month to close a $95.6 million budget gap. The transit agency cut bus service 18 percent and L service 9 percent Feb. 7.

Jefferson said the CTA has been violating the union's contract -- for instance, by requiring part-time workers, who are supposedly limited to 32 hours a week, to work overtime amounting to 15-to-16-hour days to make up for the people laid off.

CTA spokeswoman Sheila Gregory said a strike would violate a state law that bars government employees from striking if they are "essential service employees."

Gregory said CTA management plans to meet today with Local 241 officials -- their first face-to-face meeting since the cut Robert Kelly, president of Local 308, which represents L workers, said he doesn't plan to bring up the idea of a strike to his members.

"It would hurt the riding public," Kelly said. "They've suffered enough.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Can Motor City combat its economic ills by becoming Rail City?

Vector image of a Michigan state trunk line hi...Image via Wikipedia

This is the heart of the fight that we are in not just for Detroit but for all of us.
Lee Gaddies

Mass transit for Motor City
A rendering of the Woodward Avenue light-rail line backers hope to
begin construction on this year.By Mike Scott, contributing
writerFebruary 15, 2010: 4:53 PM ET

DETROIT ( -- Can Motor City combat its economic ills by
becoming Rail City?

Along Detroit's Woodward Avenue, a downtown stretch that seems
permanently stuck in the "emerging" phase of business development,
community leaders are hoping a new light rail system will help spark a
renaissance. The city plans to break ground this year on stage one of
a $420 million project: the first modern, mass-transit initiative in a
city long synonymous with automobiles.

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Mass transit for Motor City
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"Transit in Detroit has kind of been a joke," says Matt Cullen, CEO of
M1 Rail, a private consortium heading the development effort. "We've
been a victim of balkanized politics and other efforts. But now we
have a plan in place. We'll get it done, and we feel it will have a
huge impact on this region."

In most cities, civic cash would pay for major infrastructure projects
like a new mass transit system. But in Detroit, which faces a $300
million annual budget deficit, private backers have stepped in to try
to kick-start the venture.

It's the only project of its kind in the U.S., and the donor list
reads like a Who's Who of area megamillionaires: Compuware (CPWR) CEO
Peter Karmanos, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, Penske Corporation
CEO Roger Penske and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch are among those
ponying up $125 million to cover the project's entire phase-one price

The planned 3.4-mile first stretch of light rail service would
encompass some of Detroit's best-known entertainment districts,
including Comerica Park, home of baseball's Tigers, and Ford Field,
where the Lions play football. The route winds past the Fox Theater
district and extends into Detroit's New Center area, the center of
gravity for many local hospitals and medical facilities, as well as
much of the Wayne State University campus.

"With this light rail system we will have a much greater concentration
of business investment possibilities," says Rip Rapson, CEO of the
Kresge Foundation, which awards grants to nonprofit organizations in a
variety of fields. The foundation has committed $35 million to the M1
Rail project.

The obstacles
Is a rail line the best way to bring much-needed shoppers into
Detroit's retail zones? That question -- and political skirmishes over
funding for the rail line's future extensions -- kept the M1 plans
stalled last year.

Proponents say there's little to lose.

"If we can pull something off of this magnitude I think businesses
will see Detroit in a different light," says Sarah Hubbard, senior
vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional
Chamber of Commerce. "Business leaders have come to the table and are
ready to act on this. It's going to be as much of a psychological
benefit as anything."

Khalid Diab, manager of The Whitney -- a high-end restaurant on
Woodward Avenue -- sees the rail line as "free advertising" for
businesses on the route.

"You're not zipping by at 50 miles an hour. Your attention is on what
you are passing by, rather than the road you are driving on," he says.
He thinks trains could make downtown Detroit a more popular nighttime

But some on the proposed route are skeptical.

"I just don't know how significant the impact would be, because most
of our foot traffic drives and wouldn't take mass transit anyway,"
says Kevin Prihod, CEO of the Detroit Science Center.

Funding is another challenge. M1 was ready to break ground last year,
but the project went on temporary hiatus when Detroit's Department of
Transportation got involved. DOT had its own light-rail plans
percolating, for a more extensive system reaching several miles
further to 8 Mile Road, the traditional dividing line between urban
Detroit and the city's suburbs. (Eminem's 2002 movie 8 Mile
popularized the cultural boundary.)

DOT had plans, but not enough cash. Its executives hit on a novel
solution. The rail project would qualify for federal matching funds if
Detroit coughed up a chunk of the project's cost. Could the $125
million in M1 Rail funding -- contributed entirely from private
backers -- be used to fulfill the matching-funds requirement?

It can. In December, Congress blessed the unusual maneuver, tucking
approval for it into an omnibus spending bill. With that green light,
it's game on for the rail construction.

The first, privately financed phase -- built and operated by the M1
consortium -- plans to start construction by the end of this year and
have trains running by 2012. The second stage, adding at least 4.5
miles of track at an estimated $250 million price tag, is tentatively
scheduled to start soon after 2012. The federal government will pay
80% of its cost, with the city of Detroit picking up the bill for the
remaining 20%.

Civic planners hope the sight of trains carrying shoppers and workers
through Detroit's fledgling business corridor will win over the
project's doubters.

"Once we build this system, the benefit will become obvious to
everyone -- residents, business leaders and politicians," says Norman
White, Detroit's CFO and former Department of Transportation director.
"Already, we are getting calls every week about when ground will break
and when we can get this project off the ground."

The unstated hope is that a light-rail system will do more than simply
move people around. It's a sign of progress and modernization -- and a
selling point for the young, creative professionals Detroit wants to
retain and attract. Southeastern Michigan has suffered youth exodus,
thanks to its tepid job market. Cities like Chicago, Boston, New York
and San Francisco lure new residents in part because of their
extensive mass-transit systems.

There's precedent for this kind of transit revitalization. In 2004,
after three years of construction and more than a decade of political
wrangling, Minneapolis launched a new 12-mile light-rail service
connecting the city's downtown with its airport, the Mall of America
and several suburbs. In just two years, the line's weekday ridership
topped 25,000 -- a target the rail's developers didn't expect to hit
until 2020.

"[Minneapolis] is an almost identical process to what we're working
with here in Detroit," says the Kresge Foundation's Rapson, a
Minneapolis native who worked on the city's light-rail development.
"Getting the federal funds, though, is a key."

Even skeptics are willing to be won over. "Anything that brings people
to downtown is good, and none of the non-profit or business leaders I
have spoken to see a downside," says Prihod of the Detroit Science
Center. "Now we just need to see if it gets completed."

Diab, The Whitney's general manager, gives the line an "80% chance" of

"This rail system is the start of a new page in the city's growth and
development," he says. "We haven't received a lot of positive news
over the years here in Detroit, but this is great news for the city."

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Equity in the U.S.

The emblem of, the official site ...Image via Wikipedia

Equity Index
What would be needed to bring Equity around our economic policies in the U.S.

jobs lost in January 2010

new jobs needed monthly to maintain unemployment rate

percentage of workforce that was jobless in January 2010

percentage of workforce that was unemployed in December 2007

10.7 million
new jobs needed to return the jobless rate to 4.9 percent

number of U.S. states with double digit unemployment

percentage of unemployed African Americans

percentage of unemployed Latinos

number of jobseekers per job opening

5.1 million
number of additional people each week receiving unemployment benefits as result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)

average monthly cost of COBRA with ARRA subsidy

average monthly cost of COBRA without ARRA subsidy

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jump on board the trains: Federal millions are passing Michigan by

WASHINGTON - APRIL 16:  U.S. Vice President Jo...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Last month, President Barack Obama announced $8 billion in competitive grants for high-speed rail in the U.S. California got $2 billion. Florida and Illinois each got more than $1 billion. Michigan settled for $40 million to upgrade three train stations.

But Michigan's leaders shouldn't play the victim.

These high-speed rail grants were competitive. The states that pulled in more rail funds were the ones that made investments of their own in sustaining and expanding existing passenger rail systems.

It was no secret that the awards would be analyzed using this criteria. Except, perhaps, in Michigan.

Check the record: Voters in California -- where economic woes and legislative dysfunction may surpass even our own -- approved a $10-billion ballot initiative to support high-speed rail. Last summer, the Illinois Legislature approved $400 million to expand the state's rail system. Florida spent more than $500 million acquiring land to build a high-speed rail line, and the legislature endorsed the state's rail plan in a special session.

Wisconsin really ate Michigan's lunch. Last year, the state spent $47.5 million to purchase new trains from Spanish train manufacturer Talgo -- which then agreed to open two new manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin. When the $8 billion in federal money was announced, Wisconsin got $822 million.

It's not that Michigan didn't try. The director of our state Transportation Department created an office dedicated to seizing such opportunities. They quickly pulled together about $1 billion in various requests.

But while Wisconsin's governor was negotiating with Talgo, our governor was proposing a 25% cut in the state's passenger rail funding. While the Illinois Senate was approving that $400 million to expand passenger rail, our senators were looking to cut rail funding in half. While the Florida Legislature was endorsing its state's rail plan, we didn't have one. We still don't.

It's as if we struck out without swinging. Michigan showed a desire for federal money, but not the commitment to support the projects it would fund.
Passenger rail is a catalyst for economic development that invariably accompanies it. Businesses near rail stations profit. Companies whose employees take transit benefit. And travelers lured to the "Pure Michigan" experience spend money with our friends and neighbors.

The state Transportation Department recently concluded that rail routes cost the state about $7 million per year and return about $62 million. Ridership is at historic highs.

The $40 million Michigan secured for train stations is valuable. But we missed good opportunities to maximize our economic stimulus.

Further dawdling will not help. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned during a Detroit visit last fall that a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan will be a prerequisite for federal money. Legislation creating that authority is drafted. Let's pass it.

The governor and the Legislature shouldn't play the victim anymore. That's not going to make Michigan more competitive for the next round of federal funding.

Let's fully fund our current passenger rail system and get moving on regional cooperation. Let's demonstrate that we have a vision for our transportation future.

Let's get in the game and swing for the fences.

Tim Fischer is deputy policy director with the Michigan Environmental Council.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Here is positive news for the Woodward Ave. project

Seal of the w:United States Department of Tran...Image via Wikipedia

Here is positive news for the Woodward Ave. project. We know that it will take more money then this to get the project started but every penny helps.

CONTACT: Bill Shreck, Director of Communications, 517-335-3084

MDOT announces $55 million in TIGER grants awarded for Woodward Avenue light rail and Port Huron bridge

February 17, 2010 -- State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle today announced that Michigan is the recipient of $55 million in two federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT). The Michigan projects were awarded funding under a $1.5 billion nationwide discretionary competitive grant program called "TIGER," or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the TIGER grant awards today (more details are available at

Proposed light rail service along M-1 (Woodward Avenue) in Detroit will receive a $25 million boost. The project will help transform transportation in Michigan's largest urban area with a proposed 3.4-mile light rail system connecting downtown Detroit to the New Center district along the region's main traffic artery, Woodward Avenue. The TIGER-funded portion of the project will help complete needed roadway reconstruction, community enhancements in conjunction with the construction of the rail line and vehicle acquisition. Twelve stations are planned along the route. The next stage of the project is to obtain environmental clearance and complete design work.

The I-94 Black River Bridge replacement in Port Huron will receive $30 million. This project is the first phase of the Blue Water Bridge plaza expansion, a project to modernize and improve capacity at the nation's second-busiest U.S.-Canadian truck border crossing, and the fourth-busiest traffic crossing between the U.S. and Canada. Annually, over $38 billion in goods cross the Blue Water Bridge and the adjacent I-94/I-69 freeway corridor by truck. The project will completely reconstruct the existing Black River Bridge and add a non motorized path across the river that will connect Port Huron Township with the city of Port Huron.

"The funding announced today by the US DOT is a great shot in the arm for the Black River bridge project," said Steudle. "This is an important part of the Blue Water Bridge plaza overhaul and the first step to getting this major gateway modernized. The project will improve local mobility and safety across the Black River Bridge by separating local Port Huron traffic from international traffic, and will create job opportunities associated with construction on the first phase of the Blue Water Bridge plaza project."

"We're also very pleased that the Woodward Avenue light rail project has received a TIGER grant, which will help leverage $120 million in local and private money investments. The first phase of the project from the Detroit River to New Center looks promising. We look forward to working with our public and private sector partners to advance this project," said Steudle.

Feb. 17 marks the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the Recovery Act, of which TIGER funds are a part. Recovery Act funding put $48 billion to work nationwide to save or create jobs, rebuild highway and bridges, improve and restore transit systems and put rail projects on a new track. In Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation was able to get 331 highway projects and 57 transit project under way in 2009, representing $912 million in Recovery funds.


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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Some people just don't get it!

The Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan, i...Image via Wikipedia

When you through a rock and some one yells that's who you hit.
Adrian Moore is a transportation economist and vice president of Reason Foundation. Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at Reason Foundation, was an editorial writer at the Detroit News, and has lived in the Detroit area for close to two decades.
Once upon a time we lived primarily in dense cities and traveled by trolley in the city and by trains between cities. Then came the automobile, and though it was expensive, it offered such a vastly superior means of travel and access to a significantly wider range of the country that in seemingly no time at all Americans en masse made the switch. To quote the narrator: “Most American’s who could were happy to ditch the crowded trolleys and choose the freedom and luxury of Detroit’s finest.” They were not forced to do so, they chose to. And they continue to choose their cars.

But this documentary forgets all of this and issues a clarion call for rail to once again stage a competition that it has already lost.

sdalmia_reasonThe documentary asks: When “will the U.S. change course and begin to catch up with the rest of the world?” This puts reality on its head. The U.S. has an interstate system that, even with all its faults and current needs, has long been the envy of the rest of the world. And today, Europe’s dense, walkable, transit-oriented cities that those in the film yearn for are losing population to the suburbs as car ownership soars. As people choose what is best for them, Europe’s transit systems are losing market share

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Transit-Plan Prescription for Disappearing Detroit

Acela Express power car 2000 at BWI Rail StationImage via Wikipedia

Was this guy watching the same show as you?
Published: February 7, 2010

The biggest jolt in “Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City” comes as the director of Madrid’s subway and light-rail system talks about the importance of infrastructure. (Maybe “jolt” is too strong.) Discussing Spain’s ambitious high-speed rail system, he says countries that neglect their infrastructure experience “a slow decline in importance and their weight in the world.” Cut to Detroit’s imposing Michigan Central Station, sitting in abandoned, broken-windowed splendor. It doesn’t look like decline — it looks like whatever comes next.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Beyond the Motor City -- DPTV/Kresge/WNET -- Welcome

Detroit's transportation future plays a starring role in Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City, coming to Detroit Public TV on Feb. 8 @ 10 pm I hope you all can use this as a starting point for a broader conversation about transit in America.
Lee Gaddies

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Transit focus on Ch. 7's Spotlight on the News

Check out TRU Director Megan Owens and Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano on Channel 7's
Spotlight on the News, now in its 44th season, is Michigan’s longest running weekly news and public affairs program. It airs every Sunday at 9:30 am on WXYZ-TV/Channel 7.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How you can transform your city!

Here is a great site to find videos about transit and local transit issues.

Get involved locally and take action to help transform your city!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Obama Administration Proposes Major Public Transportation Policy Shift to Highlight Livability

Official portrait of Secretary of Transportati...Image via Wikipedia

Last Wednesday LaHood

proposed that new funding guidelines for major transit projects be based on livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved, which are currently the primary criteria.

In remarks at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting, the Secretary announced the Obama Administration’s plans to change how projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance in the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts and Small Starts programs. As part of this initiative, the FTA will immediately rescind budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in March of 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost.

"Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it," said Secretary LaHood. "We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live."

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

TRANSPORTATION: Officials warn Obama's 'smart growth' initiatives may be hard to sell

(Monday, January 11, 2010)
Saqib Rahim, E&E reporter

Administration officials gave an update yesterday on the president's "livability" initiative, saying it has been difficult to recast the vision of U.S. communities, with so many laws geared toward another vision: the auto-driven society.

Speakers at a conference of transportation researchers said the three main agencies in charge -- the Department of Transportation, U.S. EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development -- have already begun to craft plans.

But they said the Obama administration's "livability" vision, which has taken flak for being too vague, also faces hurdles because many federal laws discourage, or even make illegal, transportation plans for walking, transit and dense neighborhoods.

Beth Osborne, DOT's deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy, said federal laws often work at cross-purposes, so planners have a hard time drawing a blueprint that includes different kinds of infrastructure.

"A lot of it [is] the disjointed federal programs that often discourage and certainly do not incentivize the coordination of housing policy and transportation policy, water infrastructure policy, economic development policy," she said.

"In fact, within the transportation program, we really disincentivize this," she said. A state that improves traffic flow and transit use will burn less gasoline, meaning it will lose revenue from its main source of transport funding -- the gas tax. "That state that creates greater efficiency can see their own budget get slashed as a reward."

The administration introduced the livability initiative last March, proposing that the three government agencies, working together, could improve coordination in a transport system that had developed in an ad hoc way, making cars and sprawling suburbs facts of daily life.
Scant public support for congestion pricing

The initiative was built on a "smart growth" vision that assumes Americans are often forced to drive because they don't have other options, such as quick transit service, walkways to grocery stores, or even carpool lanes.

The speakers said they are tailoring their new programs, many of which are funded through last year's economic stimulus bill, to help localities break through zoning laws that prevent smart growth. Osborne said Capitol Hill has asked DOT to craft its own version of a transportation reauthorization bill, the half-decade-long plan that would not tell states how to grow, but would offer funding to guide growth.

Officials on the panel said this large-scale shift is a difficult pitch to make, especially in the economic slump.

There's another reason, as well, according to other experts on the panel: Many transportation policies are being sold poorly to the American public, which doesn't understand the wonky talk of researchers and remains unexcited about plans that make driving more expensive.

One proposal, known as "congestion pricing," would charge motorists to drive on the most stagnant roads. The revenue could be used on an urban highway or other ways to unsnarl the knottiest zones of a city's downtown.

New York City is one of two governments that are using the charge, but as Bruce Schaller, the city's deputy commissioner for planning and sustainability, pointed out, it's a tough sell to drivers that see they will pay more, but don't know what they get for it.

Unless leaders can make that connection -- that the congestion charge should reduce traffic, reducing commute times, with the money possibly going to other infrastructure -- the policy just won't get popular support, Schaller said.

"The key issue is ... what the benefit is for drivers," he said. "We need to have a conversation with the public ... not in ways that [researchers] frame the discussion, but in ways that people can relate to."

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ClimateWire is written and produced by the staff of E&E Publishing, LLC. It is designed to provide comprehensive, daily coverage of all aspects of climate change issues. From international agreements on carbon emissions to alternative energy technologies to state and federal GHG programs, ClimateWire plugs readers into the information they need to stay abreast of this sprawling, complex issue.

The Obama-Biden Plan

The Obama-Biden Plan

As a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, Barack Obama learned firsthand that urban poverty is more than just a function of not having enough in your pocketbook. It's also a matter of where you live -- in some of our inner-city neighborhoods, poverty is difficult to escape because it's isolating and it's everywhere. Our job across America is to create communities of choice, not of destiny, and create conditions for neighborhoods where the odds are not stacked against the people who live there. Barack Obama will lead a new federal approach to America's high-poverty areas, an approach that facilitates the economic integration of families and communities with efforts to support the current low-income residents of those areas.

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Beyond the Motor City

{{fr|1=Rame TGV 4402 (Record du monde de vites...Image via Wikipedia

Spain: The Next American System?
When President Barack Obama introduced his high-speed rail plan last year, he pointed to Spain — not only as an example to follow, but also as a country America has fallen behind. “In Spain, a high-speed line between Madrid and Seville is so successful that more people travel between those cities by rail than by car and airplane combined,” said the President, “There’s no reason why we can’t do this. This is America. There’s no reason why the future of travel should lie somewhere else beyond our borders.”

Spain opened its first Alta Velocidad EspaƱola, or AVE (meaning “bird” in Spanish), high-speed train route in 1992 — the same line President Obama referenced. The network has spread out since, with trains traveling at speeds up to 218 mph over 1,242 miles of rail from Malaga (the south coast) to Barcelona (the northeast coast) and points in between.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Eased Federal Rules a Boon for SEPTA and NJ Transit Plans

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 3: SEPTA elevated ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

By Paul Nussbaum
The Philadelphia Inquirer
PENNSYLVANIA - Proposed rail projects on the Philadelphia waterfront and in South Jersey got a significant boost yesterday when federal transportation officials announced plans to rescind Bush administration restrictions on transit spending.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the Obama administration wanted greater flexibility to pay for transit projects that could provide an economic boost or benefit the environment.

That could make it easier to get federal money for a proposed $1.5 billion light-rail line from Camden to Gloucester County and for a $500 million light-rail line along the Philadelphia waterfront.

The Delaware River Port Authority, which is planning the projects, had acknowledged they likely would not qualify for federal aid under existing rules.

Projects being developed by SEPTA and NJ Transit could also benefit from the proposed policy change, officials said.

"Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it," LaHood said yesterday at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington. "We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities, and how it makes our communities better places to live.

The Bush administration, which believed transit systems should rely less on federal funding, in 2005 restricted federal grants to projects that could show significant reductions in commute times in comparison with costs.

The new approach, said Federal Transit Administration chief Peter Rogoff, "will help us do a much better job of aligning our priorities and values with our transit investments. No longer will we ignore the many benefits that accrue to our environment and our communities when we build or expand rail and bus rapid-transit systems."

The $500 million Philadelphia light-rail project would operate on tracks in the middle of Columbus Boulevard between Pier 70 and Girard Avenue. The route would provide service between the two casinos planned for the waterfront, Foxwoods in the south and SugarHouse in the north.

A Market Street light-rail line would run from City Hall to the waterfront line.

The waterfront trolleys could be running by 2016 if funding is available, DRPA officials have said.

The $1.5 billion South Jersey project is proposed to run 18 miles alongside a Conrail freight line and serve Glassboro, Pitman, Mantua, Wenonah, Woodbury, Deptford, West Deptford, Westville, Bellmawr, Brooklawn, and Gloucester City.

The line would connect to PATCO and River Line trains at the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden, where passengers could catch trains to Philadelphia or Trenton.

The first leg, between Camden and Woodbury, could be operational in five years.

Gov. Corzine committed $500 million in state funding to help build the line, and transit officials said they hoped to get state, federal, and corporate funding for the rest.

Most of the DRPA's money comes from tolls paid by drivers who cross the agency's four bridges over the Delaware River.

Without substantial federal aid, the most likely source of money for the rail lines would be higher bridge tolls. Auto tolls are scheduled to rise by $1, to $5, on July 1, 2011. That revenue is committed to paying off existing debt and maintenance and repair projects that are already scheduled.

The new policy won't take effect until the FTA prepares rules and a 60-day public comment period is held. The rule-making process could take at least six months.

"Hopefully, it's good news for us," SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said yesterday, "but we just don't know yet what the rules are going to be."

Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or

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Change in Washington Could Mean Shake-Up for Central Corridor Plans

Changing of the Guard, Inaugration Day, Washin...Image by Beverly & Pack via Flickr

By Dave Orrick
St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota)

MINNESOTA - A major change to a powerful bureaucratic formula in Washington sent local officials scrambling Wednesday to figure out the impact on the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line linking St. Paul and Minneapolis.

It's all about the CEI.

Behind all the politics and posturing that have characterized many major decisions about the proposed 11-mile train line -- the debate over a tunnel beneath the University of Minnesota, the struggle over how much to spend, if anything, on University Avenue businesses facing the loss of parking, the decision to remove three stations from largely minority neighborhoods -- the Federal Transit Administration's "cost-effectiveness index" has reigned supreme.

On Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the CEI's reign was over.

The CEI is a complex algorithm that determines how much a project should cost, given its ability to save time for the population it serves. Under President George W. Bush, it determined the fate of all mass-transit projects in which the federal government was asked to pay half the construction cost, including the Central Corridor.

With President Barack Obama's blessing, LaHood is proposing new guidelines based on "livability issues," such as economic-development and environmental benefits, as well as cost effectiveness.

Some said the change opened the door to more stations along University Avenue and more money for businesses. Others suggested it could provide more money to address the University of Minnesota's concerns over the trains' effect on sensitive research equipmen

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And some said it would do nothing.

"There's a lot we don't know about what this means," cautioned Nancy Homans, the Central Corridor point person for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff specifically mentioned the Central Corridor, saying he was troubled "from a civil rights perspective" that the project might not build train stations in black and Asian neighborhoods of St. Paul because they wouldn't comply with the Bush policy's cost-effectiveness rules.

The new policy "will allow that (train) service to do a better job of serving those communities," Rogoff said.

"He's my hero," St. Paul City Council member Dave Thune said Wednesday with a fist-pump after a reporter read him Rogoff's quote. Thune, along with council members Russ Stark and Melvin Carter III, made a beeline for Coleman's office shortly after learning the news.

"We can use this to supply relief for our businesses," Thune said.

"And build the three stations," Stark interjected, referring to stations along University -- at Victoria, Hamline and Western -- that were initially planned but yanked from the official project because they hurt the cost-effectiveness index. Currently, the city is planning to pony up the roughly $5 million needed to build one of those stations, but the fate of the other two is unclear.

"It's an enormous opportunity to give people the project we always promised," Thune said Wednesday.

Not so fast, warned several other officials, including Peter Bell, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, the lead agency on the project

"I am not, as of this point, planning on taking any different actions," Bell said. "Everybody's broke."

In other words, Bell and others said, just because spending restrictions might be loosened doesn't mean there's any more money available.

The Coleman administration appears to agree.

"Everybody's pockets didn't just get fatter with this announcement," Homans said.

Bell, an appointee of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said the cost-effectiveness index was too restrictive, but he cautioned against removing it from play entirely.

"Does everything come back now?" Bell said, emphasizing that his staff as of Wednesday evening was unsure what the announcement meant. "Is the tunnel back on? That's two years of study and analysis and a lot more cost -- and everybody's broke. ... I am not planning on revisiting the tunnel."

Susan Kimberly, interim president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said too much progress and too many compromises have been made to reopen many aspects of the plan.

"This does not change the realities of Minnesota's economic climate," Kimberly said. "We simply don't have the time or money to re-examine every decision made over the last several years. Central Corridor must move forward on time and on budget so we can realize its benefits."

University of Minnesota officials were reviewing the federal action Wednesday and hadn't fully determined what it meant either, a spokesman said.U.S Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, praised Wednesday's news, and a spokesman said it would help the Central Corridor. A congressional staff attorney told local officials the change would help the project reach a crucial milestone next month of receiving Federal Transit Administration recommendation for funding in the president's 2011 budget.

But although LaHood rescinded the Bush policy, his new proposal can't take effect until after a long regimen of hearings and public comment under the federal rule-making process. It's highly unlikely that will be done before the spring, when, officials hope, final agreement with the Federal Transit Administration will be inked.

"And that might mean this has no effect on the Central Corridor," Bell said. "We're still trying to figure it all out."

If all goes as Bell outlined, construction will begin later this year.

This report includes information from the Associated Press.