Monday, March 7, 2011

Exclusive: Music Video Describes Detroit Light Rail Choices, Urges Public Comment This Week

In the course of the Woodward Avenue Light Rail environmental review process, it's become clear that citizens of the Detroit region need more interpretation of the different transit alternatives at hand to make an informed choice, per their democratic prerogatives. The informational materials provided by the City and consultants didn't always state things in layman's terms, and even TransportMichigan's forthcoming posts on the subject aren't much more likely to be read by a mass audience than the 149-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement. How, then, to spread the word about the significant safety, speed, reliability, and equity implications of a little-mentioned detail of light rail line design?


A music video seemed like a good bet. As art, it can't match its local musical or cinematographic inspirations, and it's twice the length of that recent commercial, but as advocacy in the public interest, we hope it has some usefulness. Like Transportation Riders United, we support the center-running light rail alternative, Mainline Option A. We hope you'll join us in submitting comments to that effect to woodwardlightrail@detroitmi.gov. They're due March 14, one week from today.

135 comments:

  1. Wow! Excellent job, Joel. Interesting, informative and fun!

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  2. Who made this video? I'd love to get in touch with that person.

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  3. I agree that we need a fast and modern public transportation. The proposed model is not modern and is not going to be that fast. Plus, there are communities that are not very happy with the light rail stopping at their door steps. They have a voice and we have to respect it. An elevated structure, for instance a monorail, could solve that problem. For those community with no interest in it we do not need to build stations in their neighborhoods. We could cross over them or go along them . Down the road when they are going to see the advantages of the system we could add those stations. And not only that. An elevated structure does not mix with the traffic, does not take too much real estate space, could go easily in any direction, could be less expensive, and is not going to suffer from the weather related problems, like floods. If we are going to do it right it is going to be easy to maintain, reliable, fast, a tourist attraction and definitely modern. Adding something on the ground is going to create a crowded Woodward as the city grows. Not to mention that in 2011 we should promote a public transportation that looks and feels like 2011. If you are taking votes for the video, I like it. Good job!

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  4. @Anonymous, you've made some good points. Yes, elevated is out of the way and fast.
    There are just a couple of drawbacks: it costs way, *WAY* more than ground-level. Where's the money going to come from?

    Also, having trackways and vehicles overhead kinda closes in the roadway, like in the Chicago El.

    It's true that monorails are more "modern" than light rail, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily better. The first electric "light rail" was built in 1883 in Brighton, England, and is still operating - so yes, the concept is pretty old!

    But the first monorail opened for service less than 20 years later in 1901, in Wuppertal, Germany. It's still running, too! Japan also has several monorails active; I've ridden a couple, and I have to say the overhead "infra"-structure is pretty intrusive, even on wide boulevards. One of the ones I rode (Inuyama) had to be taken down because it was nearly 50 years old and they couldn't get parts for the trains anymore.

    So I'd say that monorails and overhead transit in general has both pluses and minuses, so that fact that we can't afford it isn't that big a tragedy.

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  5. we most certainly need light rail!!! Detroit needs to step up to what's current and give the ppl a little more in their lives; more than just the DDOT or SMART buses. when, a person misses the bus, they have only a few other options...hoofing it, calling for a ride, or paying a taxi (when $ is already too tight to mention). I'm a coach operator and I see the frustration--bring on the light rail and see how happy it'll make the ppl, I'd even park and ride more often!!! and, yes, keep it as safe as it can be. structure the light rail the best way for safety!!! I'm excited, so let's go!!!!

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  6. Great video! Thanks for making this and hitting all the right points.

    @Faramir: right on, well explained. Street-running light rail works by keeping the focus on the street, shared with all transportation modes. Of course, exclusive right-of-way and intelligent traffic signal pre-emption can give LRT all the advantages of an elevated (or even subway) rail, without the high costs and loss of street-focus.

    But I imagine in the future, as demand for more and better transit continues to increase, we might revisit elevated rail in places that are hostile to pedestrians but still in need of rapid transit, like crossing expressways or connecting downtowns separated by industrial areas. How about a PeopleMover extension to the airport, parallel yet not redundant to commuter rail and Michigan Ave LRT? :)

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  7. Glad your Little Lego people understand the importance of Center Running to creating the first link in Regional Rapid Transit system. I haven't had this much fun since Gumby!

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  8. Joel,

    This persuasive video has gone viral. I've had it emailed to me from MDOT (via ODOT!), private foundations, and others. Amazing job! Go center running!

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  9. Thanks, all. Those with a particular taste for the intersection of bicycles and hip-hop videos may also enjoy the following:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoFFg0W9UME
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQGLNPJ9VCE
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  10. Joel - I'd like to use this in a screening of LEGO stop-motion films at Brick Bash this Saturday (www.BrickBash.com). However, I can't figure out how to contact you to get your permission. Would you contact me at duane@bricksforbrains.org? Thanks!

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  13. You've done an amazing job with this video, which has received much deserved recognition. I am working on a regoinal transit project in northern California and am very interested in getting a little information regarding the creation and distribution of this video. I would really like to get in touch if you have a few minutes.
    - Thank you!

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