Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good news on the Woodward Light Rail line

The aftermath of the Satan Sandwich is still going on, but it's not the only thing happening. Here's some good news from WXYZ.

The city of Detroit is hoping the M1 rail project will spur development in the city.

Detroit City Council President Pugh makes a cameo in this story from the Detroit Free Press as well.
Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh expressed concern that Mayor Dave Bing's administration has been heavy-handed with wealthy private investors and civic and philanthropic groups that have pledged $100 million in seed money for the Woodward project.

"My concern is that they're going to walk away because they don't feel like they're being heard," Pugh said after the meeting. "I want to make sure that doesn't happen."

Pugh said Bing and the region's elected officials need to meet to sort out the rail plans.
That's what the representative of the Obama Adminstration said as well.
Metro Detroit leaders need to settle differences over funding and managing regional transit, the Obama administration's transit chief told a gathering of civic and business leaders Monday.

Acknowledging the region's chronic inability to cooperate on public transportation, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff sounded an optimistic tone, saying other cities have overcome similar obstacles to building regional transit.

Rogoff said President Barack Obama is committed to helping Detroit reinvent itself, in part through the $550-million Woodward Light Rail line between downtown and 8 Mile, envisioned as the first leg of a regional transit system.
It looks like that might actually be happening, as the municipalities in my neck of the woods, the suburbs along Woodward in southeast Oakland County, are interested in extending the Woodward Light Rail Line all the way up to downtown Birmingham. The Detroit Free Press reports.
Southern Oakland County communities are looking for a game changer to spur redevelopment.

And they are looking to Detroit.

The idea: expand the Motor City's planned light rail line north to encourage redevelopment along Woodward into the suburbs. The move, they say, could create better transit for the 120,000 residents of cities from Ferndale to Birmingham and generate wider regional support for modernized rail and bus transit to boost metro Detroit's economy.

The group, under the auspices of Royal Oak-based economic and community development group Woodward Avenue Action Association, is preparing to apply for a federal grant of perhaps $2.5 million for a study of expanded transit options in six Oakland cities: Ferndale, Royal Oak, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Berkley and Birmingham.
I think this is a great idea, not only as an advocate of public transportation in general, but as a potential user. If this extention goes through and I am still living in one of these six cities, which I plan on doing until I retire, I'll be able to walk to the route and catch a train that could take me anywhere along Woodward I'm likely to want to go. YAY!

Even better, this project might finally start the integration of the local bus transit systems, which badly need coordination. That might lead to better coordination between Detroit and its suburbs, particularly those in Oakland County. The conflict among local governments has been an ongoing stumbling block for solving the region's sustainable development needs, as shown by this paragraph.
The region's political leaders have yet to agree on how to manage a regional transit network that could involve merging the Detroit Department of Transportation and suburban SMART bus systems. Nor have they determined how to pay to build and operate a system that would almost certainly require a regional tax subsidy. Most major U.S. metropolitan areas levy such a tax.
One of the worst offenders has been Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. It looks like he's getting on board with this idea as well.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said he would support expanded transit if voters are willing to pay to subsidize the system through a regional tax.

"My question all along has been: How much is it going to cost, and who's going to pay for it?" Patterson said. "If it comes, it will come with the will of the people."
In this conflict between sustainability and austerity, it looks like the will of the people in Detroit and its near Oakland County suburbs is starting to come down on the side of sustainability. I'll be leading the cheering for this welcome development.

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