Posted in INFRASTRUCTURE by urbanmi on October 23, 2012

Amtrak is important.

Illinois has been aggressively pursuing high speed trains between Chicago and St Louis. This is a very important development and will be significant for Michigan.

The concept of high speed trains has been oft criticized. This past week the radio program Marketplace  had a piece on the issue claiming they will compete with planes and containing the criticism of Ray Mundy, Director of Transportation Studies at the University of Missouri St Louis.

The main point of the critique is anyone traveling by plane between Chicago and St Louis are likely transferring and high speed trains will do nothing to compete with planes for a form of travel between the cities. This point is generally true, but only because the premise is incorrect.

High speed trains will not compete with planes. They will compete with cars.

No one takes planes short distances, (except for high income earners or business flyers) it is not affordable. I regularly travel between Grand Rapids and Chicago, I regularly travel between Detroit and Grand Rapids. I have never made these inter-city trips by plane; I have made them via Amtrak. It is cheap, stress free, and enjoyable. The only criticism I have is one of convenience. With only two trips per day between Grand Rapids and Chicago, I have to plan my days around the train. Given increased frequency and time of the train I would use the Amtrak regularly, and make the trip far more often than I already do.

To suggest high speed trains will do nothing for commerce is a mistake. High speed trains will merely not compete with the plane, but only because the plane is not a practical transportation option for short distances. However, with increased convenience high speed trains would be fantastic for Michigan providing a practical and affordable solution. High Speed Trains shrink the map, they increase the interconnectedness of the region.

If you agree with the premises of Richard Florida and others and his description of the importance of mega-regions and the new geographies that are defining the progress of the country. Tapping into the network of cities we live in is the key to Michigan’s future. High Speed Trains is the way Michigan can become united with Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin…

Without investing in this infrastructure Michigan and its cities will likely be bypassed.

The only key part to the High Speed Trains discussion is the importance of a strong and vibrant public transportation system in your destination city. It is wonderful taking the Amtrak to Chicago and hopping on a bus or the subway, but it is not a pleasant experience to arrive in Grand Rapids or Detroit and be stuck in a concrete wasteland fighting for a cab.


Dave Bing is Dead to Me

Posted in DETROIT by urbanmi on December 17, 2011

It’s official Dave Bing has now completely lost any semblance of any support from me.

With the death of light rail in Detroit in favor of more buses my positive feelings towards Dave Bing and his efforts for the city have transformed into a powerful cynicism towards him and his administration. His efforts are hollow and his rhetoric is meaningless.

There are certain things that must be performed in order to move Detroit into the ranks of a modern and genuine city.  At the front of those items is light rail in Downtown Detroit.  Functional mass transportation is an asset in every city that provides it. Businesses and residences establish themselves along transit lines and property values rise. People relocate to these hubs for their convenience and amenities sparking revitalization and vibrancy.

Buses provide none of these causes and positive secondary effects. People do not want to use buses, they feel unsafe, they are typically dirty, and they are slow and inconvenient. Light rail offers an alternative that is not beholden to the pace of traffic and through its use a convenience and an asset is added.

Put simply Light rail is an investment with measured positive results and buses are a financial black hole.

In a city where bus service is already being cut and hours are being limited why would throwing more money at buses be considered a choice at all.


Posted in DETROIT, URBANISM by urbanmi on March 13, 2011

Send an email to woodwardlightrail@detroitmi.gov by March 14th advocating for the light rail to travel down the center of Woodward Ave. Investing in light rail and public transportation will be wasteful if the system isn’t effective. In order for public transportation to be an alternative to the automobile it needs to be rapid, cheap, and reliable.

The desire to increase business and development will be undone with additional stops and inconvenient riding. The People Mover demonstrates the effects of a poorly designed system. Its existence alone will not create business and investment if it is not well-designed and productive.


Tagged with: , , , ,


Posted in DETROIT, quick links by urbanmi on September 22, 2010

Going through a huge back log of links.  Selections:

Also, I have a very simple wish: RichRod is fired and Michigan man, Jim Harbaugh becomes the Wolverine’s next head coach