Monday, February 28, 2011

Double Standard for Snow Removal Imperils Vulnerable Users of the Public Right-of-Way

Road users like him can "bank" on snow obstructions.
A Wayne County road director lost his job last week over lax plowing efforts, but many Michigan travelers are resigned to waiting for warmer temperatures to get snow out of their paths. There's a stark contrast between snow clearing policies for motor vehicle lanes and the pedestrian right-of-way, offering a seasonal example of the second-class treatment which pedestrians and transit riders receive in our cities.

Major public roadways are plowed on the public dime. The burden of clearing sidewalks, however, rests on individual property owners, even though they too are public facilities in the public right-of-way. Outside downtown districts where business associations or development authorities take on the task, it's apparent that the obligation often goes unfulfilled.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekly Trackback: Regionalism Still Rejected

Former State Representative Marie Donigan (D-Royal Oak) points out that the "comprehensive regional" part of the Detroit regional transportation plan is "being ignored" in a frank, must-read assessment of the metro area's lagging efforts. "Our leaders can't agree on a regional authority to operate and plan a transit system -- or if we even need one," she observes archly. A planner by profession, Donigan doesn't spare her own kind: she cites authorities' "top-down" approach to public involvement as another obstacle to progress.

Few news outlets reported on Saturday's Woodward light rail hearings, and none provided details on the implications of rail alternatives. All the more reason why we need citizen media to fill the gap.

Complete Streets advocates are still out burning up the road, with a major organizing session in Lansing. Their model for effective political advocacy exemplifies "people power." Now to take that to the regional level!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weekly Trackback: Cars Going Nuclear?

The U.S. will need more nuclear power plants to provide electricity for cars, U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) tells Kalamazoo businesspeople.

Grand Rapids region voters will be asked to approve a property tax increase in May to support better transit service and a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line. A similar measure narrowly lost in 2010. If transit supporters mobilize more effectively this time around, the proposed "Silver Line" could be Michigan's first modern rapid transit system. They might look here for tips on running a successful campaign.

89-year-old Ann Arbor bicyclist Joe Datsko has pedaled 120,000 miles in the past several decades, and he's not stopping. In Traverse City, bicyclists take it upon themselves to shovel snow off the TART trail system.

One commentator asks how anyone can consider new housing (read: continued sprawl) an economic win for Michigan, when the state's population is shrinking and thousands upon thousands of homes sit vacant.

The Case for Center-Running Transit, Part One: Why Woodward Matters, for Detroit and the World

Woodward as it is. What would we like it to be?
Transport Michigan is embarking on a multi-part series making the case for center-running light rail on Detroit's Woodward Avenue, as against the two side-running rail alignments being considered. The question sounds like a technicality, but not all forms of transit are created equal. Choosing the best one is crucial to making sure that transit in Detroit gets done right, to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of citizens and set an example for the region.

It also has importance beyond Michigan. Given Woodward's global significance in the development of twentieth-century transportation, what happens on the street could be a bellwether for the twenty-first. We'll begin this series today with a short review of Woodward's place in history, suggesting why it matters as people around the country and world strive for a better transportation paradigm.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Weekly Trackback: Light Rail Hearing to Come

Public hearings on Woodward light rail have been scheduled for Saturday, February 12, at the Detroit Public Library, main branch. As previously noted here, the center-running alternative would be far faster and provide a more congenial pedestrian environment. Please consider attending and/or submitting public comments; look for more analysis on this site in coming days.

The Free Press's Jeff Gerritt paints a compelling portrait of one Detroit bus rider who, like thousands of others, spends three hours on a bus each day to get to work: the consequence of half a century of disinvestment in transit and in the city itself. After cutting one-third of its bus service over the past five years, the Detroit Department of Transportation system remains in dire straits, with much of its fleet in disrepair. Why does Mayor Bing oppose a regional transit authority, when the City so clearly lacks the money to provide basic transportation for its citizens?

In Washington, as Congressional Republicans propose massive cuts to non-car transportation, the debate over what constitutes "subsidies" heats up. One new member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee says he won't stoop to "mandating" bike paths.

And as snow blankets the state, let's hope and/or pray for the safety of all travelers.