Monday, December 13, 2010

Free Public Transit attracts business

Real Estate News and Analysis: Downtowns Get a Fresh Lease - "Like many cities, Detroit offered an incentive package, including giving Blue Cross employees free annual passes to a public-transit system that connects its downtown buildings. Another motivation: to have more people in one place as the insurer adjusts to the health-care overhaul."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Rapid will ask voters for property tax increase next May or November |

Riders board a Rapid bus -- Cory Olsen
The Rapid will ask voters for property tax increase next May or November | "Voters in six Kent County cities will not be asked in a special February 2011 election to increase property taxes for expanded and high speed bus service. But they are likely to see the question on the ballot in the May or November elections."
Here is what you get for $26 a year - (less than one tank of gas)
  • Increase weekday bus frequency to 30 minutes on all routes from 5 a.m. To 7:15 p.m.
  • Run all routes until 11:15 p.m. weekdays
  • Extend weekday evening service to 12:15 a.m. on the seven most productive routes
  • Improve weekday peak frequency service to 15 minutes on the six next most productive routes
  • Add Bus Rapid Transit on Division Avenue
  • Extend Saturday evening service to 10 p.m. on all routes except Woodland Mall/Airport Route 17
  • Extend GVSU Campus route to Central Station on weekdays at current frequency
  • Increase weekday evening frequency to 30-minutes on six next most productive routes to 11:15 p.m.
  • Increase weekday evening frequency to 30-minutes on seven most productive routes to 12:15 a.m.

Ride The Rapid |

Ride The Rapid | "Easy. Convenient. Cheap. Reliable. Safe. Clean. Relaxing. Fun. The smart way to get around Grand Rapids and the suburbs.
Everything you need to become an expert at riding The Rapid is here. Route maps and schedules. Fare information.

You'll be ready to ride in no time—and join the growing numbers of people who are tired of fighting traffic, hunting and paying for parking, burning up gasoline and wasting time driving they could spend reading and relaxing.

Dump the pump. Ride the Rapid."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Streetsblog Capitol Hill � The Car Loan Loophole: How Auto Dealers Dodged Financial Reform

Streetsblog Capitol Hill � The Car Loan Loophole: How Auto Dealers Dodged Financial Reform: "It isn’t just the financial reform bill that has left the real little guy, the car buyer, exposed to the avarice of auto dealers. Americans are at risk of ending up indentured to their car purchases because they can't escape from the car system itself. While the car is often presented as a vehicle of opportunity, getting people to work and new life chances, in reality it locks people into a costly lifestyle, creating more inequality in America than almost anything else besides access to quality education. While that’s a topic for another post, it is a key reason why transit and bikeable, walkable communities are so desperately needed -- to create a loophole car dealers can’t drive through."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mind Boggling Forest-Gobbling Biomass Boondoggle � Climate Connections

Mind Boggling Forest-Gobbling Biomass Boondoggle � Climate Connections: "To understand the magnitude of this assault, consider the recent developments in Ohio: The states’ Public Utilities Commission (aka “PUCO”) is on track to permit a whopping �2442 megawatts of electricity to be generated from burning wood as a substitute for, or in combination with coal. Estimates are that this will require around 26 million tons of wood per year. Just to supply this amount of wood for the first year of operation alone, would require harvesting 5 times the current annual growth of all public and private forests in the state. In fact the plan is to truck in woodchips from surrounding states as well – as far away as Florida."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Public transportation takes us places

I was listening to WDTW today and heard a PSA from advancing the slogan "public transportation takes us places." It's very refreshing to hear this message even here in the heart of car country.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Divorce Your Car!

"In the quest to find out what sustainability is, and how to achieve it, I have come to Sweden with an experiment in mind. As we left the U.S., both my wife Melanie and I divorced our cars."Click to keep reading on Divorce Your Car!:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Michigan sees one of hottest summers ever | | The Detroit News

Michigan sees one of hottest summers ever | | The Detroit News: "In Michigan, eight sampling sites across the state posted the highest overnight temperatures since record-keeping began in the late 19th century. Fifteen sites produced average overnight temperatures ranking in the top five warmest on record."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quality of life in the U.P. at stake

MARQUETTE -- Public transit leaders are up in arms about the lack of state funding for public transportation in Michigan.

Members of the Michigan Public Transit Association met to get the word out, so legislators will take action.

They explained that while the number of people using public transportation in the state is at an all time high, the funding for it, is at an all time low. UpperMichiganSource

Monday, August 9, 2010

Toronto: Let us not end up like Detroit.

Joe Pantalone is fond of saying that if we cut the city's budget by too much we will end up like Detroit. While this is to some extent a valid argument, Pantalone is ignoring the unpleasant truth about Detroit: that it is partly in its current state because it was planned for cars. When a city plans for cars instead of people, it ends up with cars instead of people. Workers drive into the city from more and more distant suburbs until the businesses build business parks close to their workers, completely removing the city from the equation. What is there to keep people in the city at this point? All the street-level shopping has been replaced by decaying malls, the parks have been replaced by parking lots and the cultural activities have moved out to more accessible locations. This is what happens when a city plans for drivers instead of people and this is what George Smitherman seemingly fails to realize. Spacing

Thursday, July 29, 2010

SMART millage renewal--vote Aug. 3 in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb counties

Just got a sneak peek at the primary ballot for Macomb County. Here is the ballot language, verbatim:

If approved this proposal will renew the 0.59 mills levied by Macomb County in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and allow continued support for public transportation through a contract with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) or other public transportation authority, for the purpose of serving the elderly, handicapped and general public of Macomb County.
Shall the 0.59 mill, (59 cents per $1,000 of taxable value), increase on the limitation on the amount of taxes imposed on taxable property in Macomb County, which expired with the 2009 tax levy, be renewed for four (4) years, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, inclusive, for public transportation through a contract with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) or other public transportation authority, for the purpose of serving the elderly, handicapped and general public of Macomb County? It is estimated that the 0.59 mills would raise approximately $16.4 million when levied in 2010.

Of course I support the proposal, but something in the wording really burns me. In both paragraphs, to wit, "for the purpose of serving the elderly, handicapped and general public of Macomb County." I'm absolutely sick of the notion that mass transit is some kind of charitable service we run for the elderly and disabled. It is for the general public, and since it's accessible to the elderly and handicapped, it's a more general public than the motoring public. Also, the general public of Macomb County? What? It is for the general public of Macomb County, but it's also to make Macomb County more accessible for work, shopping, even tourism. And it's also about making Wayne and Oakland counties more accessible to the 'general public of Macomb County.'

The mainstream cultural norms of metro Detroit, especially in the suburbs, include a tendency to look down on apartment dwellers and bus riders as either deserving poor (elderly and disabled) or undeserving poor (LOSERS). Maybe that made a little bit of sense when the auto industry was a mass employer in the area, and there was a community spirit of supporting the industry that supported the community. More recently the 'Big Three' have made it perfectly clear that they intend their future to be dramatically less labor intensive, especially when it comes to American and other 'first world' labor. Only a handful of 'Big Three' jobs have been made available to the younger generations, and even then under a system that is frankly nepotistic. The auto industry is no longer a regional jobs engine and never again will be. At this point in our history, we as a community have nothing to lose by taking our transportation business elsewhere. Quite to the contrary. If anything our car-centric infrastructure and hypersuburban land-use patterns will make us obsolete at some point in the 21st century. Already there is a suburban underclass emerging in America.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

ANOTHER Oil Spill: 800,000 gallons in Kalamazoo River � It’s Getting Hot In Here

ANOTHER Oil Spill: 800,000 gallons in Kalamazoo River � It’s Getting Hot In Here: "That’s right, another oil spill.� Monday, July 26th, over 800,000 gallons (25,000 barrels) of oil from an Enbridge pipeline spilled into a creek that flows into the Kalamazoo River.

It appears that the spill was detected and shut off much faster than the Salt Lake City Oil Spill in June, but spewed nearly twice as much greasy scum as the Chinese Oil Spill just over a week ago.� It pales in comparison to the disaster in the Gulf, but is more than enough contamination for Michigan.

Enbridge, I should mention, is proposing a new tar sands pipeline to bring Canadian tar to Asian refineries.� Because we need more pipelines and tankers… Thankfully the Enbridge pipeline is facing massive opposition.

So that makes 4 major oil spills in 4 months.� Let’s hope that we learn to break this pattern."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Miscellaneous rants concerning the greater Detroit area

Blanket the area with bus routes

I feel a need to reiterate my view that the poor and lower middle class populations are the natural constituency for mass transit in the Detroit area. The urban yuppies, downshifters and high-density-living trendsetters, bless their hearts, are important and vital components of the constituency, of course, and their voices need to be heard. Nevertheless, much of the Detroit area still romanticizes the postwar era, and ecological concerns being the driver of mass transit can still be framed as a call for some kind of altruism or voluntary austerity. The voices proclaiming transit as a screaming need also need to be heard.

It's reached the point where truly usable mass transit needs to be implemented immediately. Any rail-based system is a major up-front investment, and face it, the national and state polity is still such that 'infrastructure' is a fancy word for 'roads and bridges.' We need major restructuring of the infrastructure (roads and streets) and equipment (buses) that are already present. I don't personally give a damn whether DDOT and SMART can be combined into one system. As long as they continue to honor each other's transfers, their failure to do so is an inconvenience, not a deal breaker. Also, I'm willing to put my generally suspicious attitude toward privatization on the back burner if private sector bus service can actually get people within walking distance of where they have to go, especially if they have to go to work. I think a plurality of carriers can be accommodated by the road infrastructure if certain conventions and standards can be agreed on throughout the 'industry':

  • A bus stop is a bus stop, and a bus will stop at a bus stop if someone has stopped there to wait for a bus.
  • A bus route known by a certain name or number is the same bus route no matter who services it.
  • If you overlay the routes and schedules of all the carriers, you should have fewer gaps in service provision than under the status quo.
  • So I'm inclined to say, if we must do privatization, let's do it with the intent of maximizing competition (this means minimizing any hoops to be jumped through for a 'license'), and not privatization for the sake of privatization, especially whole-farm transfer of assets to a private entity, which I still think is just union busting by another name.

    Some thoughts on bus routes

    Except for 'inner city' Detroit, and some 19th century small towns that have been absorbed into greater Detroit as de-facto suburbs (Farmington, Plymouth, Center Line, Royal Oak, etc.), the whole area is under a grid of 'section line roads,' imposed by the Northwest Ordinance back in the day. In the local dialect these are of course called 'mile roads.' It seems simple enough. The name of the route is the name of the street. Instead of the Imperial Express covering most of Seven Mile road on the west side, then taking a turn on the Lodge nonstop to downtown, why not have a Seven Mile Bus that covers the length of Seven Mile all the way from the original St. John's Hospital on the east to Whitmore Lake on the west? Actually there is a Seven Mile bus, but it only goes as far west as the Detroit city limit. With a few kludges to patch in pre-war neighborhoods and natural interruptions of the mile-road grid such as rivers, such a system should be able to pick up or drop off a passenger within 0.707 miles of any location in the metro area. The Detroit system pretty consistently tracks the grid, but SMART's coverage map (pdf) has coverage gaps as much as eight miles wide, in suburbs as not-so-far-flung as Livonia (ALL of Livonia, whose residents excluded SMART service by defeating a SMART millage), Harrison Township, and more than half the land area of Sterling Heights and Troy.

    A Detroit subway?

    I half jest. Detroit, even Detroit proper, is sprawled out enough to make subways an impractical mode of transportation, but if LA can do it… Anyway, since most of Detroit's freeway miles are below-grade, I was thinking out loud the other day, what if they lay tracks, slap a roof over it and call it a subway? A web search on the search terms 'Detroit' and 'subway' of course yielded lists of locations of the ubiquitous Subway sub shop chain in Detroit, but there was a needle in the haystack, courtesy of one Matt, posting to Google SketchUp: Feast your eyes on this. Also, this. My own thought was that if the freeways become subway lines, maybe the freeway intersections become subway stations with a dual function as a locale for parking structures to accommodate the 'park-and-ride' concept. There's a lot of acreage in those fields of clover they call 'clover leafs.' Seems Matt would use the space for bus parking, which also sounds fine to me. Many current proposals by leading urban planners in Detroit call for 'transit villages,' starting with the already-operational Rosa Parks Transit Center. Given the total perfusion of the area by car culture, I think large-scale parking is an inevitably necessary feature for such a facility.


    I wish to call attention to Muskegon Critic's blog article on the Complete Streets initiative passed by the Michigan House. In it said Critic criticizes Muskegon, MI for being found wanting relative to some cities of comparable size in Iowa, in the area of walkability. This article also clued me in on experimentation by ultra-big-box retail chain Meijer with a downsized store concept in Niles, Illinois. I'm sure many of the lifestyle transit riders would like us all to shop at health food stores or better yet farmers' markets, but for many of us, there's major-chain supermarket food, and there's overpriced 'boutique' food, or worse, overpriced substandard 'urban supermarkets.' If the supermarket concept can adapt to pedestrians or bus riders, I've got no complaint. Happily the farmers' markets have been getting noticeable less 'few and far between,' although I find their hours of operation to be a rather narrow window of opportunity.

    2010 primary election

    The SMART bus system, as always, is at the mercy of the voters:

    SMART is seeking a millage renewal that will appear on the August third primary ballot. Voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County will consider the 59 mill renewal, which translates into $59 per $100,000 of property value a year.

    So, unless you're some kind of anarchist (and in this case even if you are), be sure to vote.

    Sunday, July 4, 2010

    Divorce Your Car!: Free Public Transit

    Divorce Your Car!: Free Public Transit

    Among ideas for recovery -- from the Gulf spill, from oil addiction, from our economic doldrums – more investment in transit is near the top of the list. Now here’s another suggestion to layer in: make this free transit – with no fare charged at the point of use.

    Monday, June 7, 2010

    Traverse City, Try Transit !

    TRAVERSE CITY—This year’s “Try Transit Day” events on Wednesday, June 9 encourage people from far-flung locations like Northport, Empire, Frankfort, Fife Lake and Kalkaska to participate in Smart Commute Week.

    Bus riders, as well as carpoolers, bikers and walkers can enjoy a free breakfast or even a yoga lesson when they arrive in downtown Traverse City that morning. The free breakfasts, catered by the Warehouse Lounge, will be served to Smart Commuters when they arrive at the downtown BATA Transit Center, on Hall Street, between 7 and 9 a.m. The nearby Yen Yoga studio will offer quick, free morning sessions.

    Residents of Kalkaska County may hop on a regularly scheduled bus with the Kalkaska Public Transit Authority, which carries riders to Traverse City every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

    While they travel to work that morning, bus riders are likely to bump into transit agency officials, community leaders, or celebrities who are riding, too, to promote the region’s bus service. Upon arriving at the transit center, they’ll have a chance to mingle with other commuters and transit agency staff, according to a Bay Area Transit Authority press release. Read more... Morningstar Publishing

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Free public transportation service expands in Chelsea

    A new enhanced collaboration between the Western Washtenaw Area Value Express and the United Methodist Retirement Communities has led to a free community shuttle transportation service for all Chelsea residents.

    Starting June 14, the free shuttle will operate Monday through Saturday, for four hours each day, and offer three “shopping loops” with a total of 11 stops that will allow residents to shop, visit the post office, enjoy the farmer’s market and many other opportunities and activities throughout Chelsea. Read More in Chelsea Standard

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    Attention Farmington Hills residents

    Be sure to vote in your August primary, to prevent yet another SMART opt-out. The Oakland County Commission voted against a county-wide SMART millage. Your city council has voted to allow you to vote on a SMART millage this August.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Everybody wins with public transit

    ...If Michigan built a better public transit system, this would allow people to affordably travel in the state at farther distances, increasing travel, tourism money and also helping to bring the people of the state closer together. It would also mean less commuter traffic, so people would not only have more time, but the highways would be less clogged at rush hour, speeding up traffic, which to be honest will still be large even if diminished from mass transit.... Chris Hoitash on Eastern Echo

    Sunday, March 21, 2010


    ...After a chapter summing up conditions that make us the “United States of Automobiles,” home to more vehicles than licensed drivers, Carjacked examines our automotive illusions. Chapter Two, “Dream Car,” looks at movies and marketing, branding and beliefs, and how they shape an automobile mythology that largely obscures the costs and problems that come with basing transportation so heavily on cars. The book then goes on to take an in-depth look at the realities of car culture:
    • how aggressively cars are marketed and sold, with $18 billion per year spent by automakers on ads mostly for TV, “ making it impossible to channel surf without landing on an ad for a car, SUV, or truck.”
    • manipulation of consumers in the process of the car purchase itself: “Dealer tactics that are not simply unethical but baldly illegal are unfortunately not rare.”
    • how the dollar price we pay is actually much more than we realize: by 2003, car transport “swallowed one in five dollars spent” by American households.
    • how cars contribute to social and economic inequality: “The automobile has largely cemented and accentuated class and race divisions in America.”
    • the factors that encourage us to drive more and more: at just 16 percent of car trips, “commuting isn’t the main culprit. …. The numbers of other types of trips have exploded.”
    • how cars sicken us and our environment: cancer risks increase “within 150 to 500 yards of major roads, although some studies find these cancer corridors can be as wide as a mile on either side.”
    • how – and how much – automobiles kill and maim: “The advent of SUVs has made America less safe. But even if all of our SUVs magically disappeared, cars would still be the deadliest factor in most of our environments.”... Kate Alvord on FireDogLake