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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"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!