Saturday, October 30, 2010

Transport Yourself (and Your Fellow Citizens) to the Polls on Tuesday, November 2

Vote so the Michigan flag can fly over transformed transport
Transportation policy often sounds like such a technical matter. A bottomless alphabet soup-bowl of acronyms: MPO, SOV, BRT, DOT, TOD, VMT. Mystifying infrastructure alternatives: light rail or streetcar? On-street or off-street bikeways? Indecipherable institutional structures: just who makes up that MPO, anyway, and who do they represent?

In the midst of this confusion, it can be hard to see a role for the public, much less a direct link between how we vote and how we get around. The experts will take care of transportation, right?

Not quite. No matter how complex, the transportation question is ultimately a political one. It's about who gets transported, who doesn't, and how that movement (or lack thereof) shapes our society. Do we clean up the air, or keep cooking the planet? Do we let everyone get to job centers, or shut out the have-nots? Do we grow our cities, or drain them dry?

Like other public investments, transportation doesn't get decided by specialists alone. The people we elect ultimately govern how we move. That makes transport one more reason to vote this Tuesday - and, of course, to think about who we vote for.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Celebrants cut ribbon on Ann Arbor pedestrian/bike bridge, sans Snyder

This Wednesday, October 20, a crowd of several dozen citizens, local and state officials, and construction workers officially opened the new bridge over US-23 at Geddes Road, on the east side of Ann Arbor, to bicycle and pedestrian traffic. It was a festive event for all involved, though candidate for governor Rick Snyder proved unable to attend.
Dignitaries tear the ribbon, to applause

Snyder, who lives nearby, had been invited by state and local bicycling and walking advocates after criticizing the bridge in his October 10 debate with Democratic opponent Virg Bernero.

The previous Friday, as reported in AnnArbor.com and the Ann Arbor Chronicle, a dozen bicyclists and pedestrians converged on Snyder's Ann Arbor office to deliver the invitation from the U-M Bike Coalition, Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition, League of Michigan Bicyclists, and Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. (Full disclosure: this writer served as lead organizer for that event.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rep. Johnson on Detroit regional transit authority: "We're gonna get this legislation passed"

Bert: bullish on bill boosting transit
The Sunday before last, at the annual public meeting of regional faith-based advocacy group MOSES, State Representative Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park) spoke with surprising confidence of the prospects for legislation that would create a regional public transit authority in metro Detroit.

"We're gonna get this legislation passed," Johnson said. He stressed that most bills "this transformational" take time to make their way through Lansing. However, "a lot has happened over the past couple weeks."

Johnson assured the audience the bill, H.B. 5731, would be passed not next decade, not next year, but this year, "without question."

For those who've awaited a regional transit authority for half a century, and who've watched the halting progress towards a bill this year, that unequivocal statement may seem hard to believe. But Johnson, the chair of the House Detroit Caucus and a member of the Public Transit Caucus, is in a position to know.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Snyder Swipes at Bike/Pedestrian Bridge in Gov. Debate

Walking the walk on walkability?
Last night's gubernatorial debate squeezed all Michigan's challenges into scarcely an hour of airtime, but Ann Arbor Republican candidate Rick Snyder still found time to target a local bike/pedestrian bridge as an example of wasteful transportation spending.

Snyder's comments are especially disappointing because his "ten-point plan for reinventing Michigan" calls for "walkable cities"- boasting "green infrastructure" and high "quality of place" - as a strategy for retaining young professionals and re-energizing the state's economy.

Asked if he'd support increasing Michigan's gas tax, given that the state has the nation's worst-maintained roads, Snyder said no, "because we need to get efficient first" with the state's existing transportation funds. (That opinion is sure to irk Carmine Palombo, transportation chief for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, who has repeatedly stressed that the gas tax, last raised in 1997, is woefully inadequate to fix Michigan's crumbling infrastructure.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rail Improvements Will Reach Vast Majority of Michiganders, if Lansing Gets On Board

There's a good chance it's coming to a station near you
A new study by the Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) and its Midwest partners shows that the Great Lakes State would see some of the biggest benefits from a high-speed rail system centered on Chicago.

The PIRGs' report, "Connecting the Midwest," was released last week in Dearborn, where Mayor John O' Reilly issued an accompanying press release citing the economic and environmental gains that high-speed rail would accomplish.

The study found that improvements to the Midwest rail network would put 71% of Michigan jobs within 15 miles of a rail station. That percentage is the highest for any state in the Midwest.