Posts Tagged ‘Dave Bing’

Will M1 RAIL become an M1 FAIL?

Friday, January 18th, 2013

The opinions expressed here are those of the m-bike blog, but you already knew that right?

Bikes, walkability and good transit are keys to forming an effective urban transportation system.

The shortcomings of Detroit’s transit — built on the DDOT and SMART buses systems and People Mover — are well documented.

We wish the M1 RAIL would be complement, but from all that we know to date, it won’t be. In many ways, it will diminish the urban transportation system.


First, let’s make one clarifying point. The Detroit Woodward Light Rail project from downtown to Eight Mile was a good one, but it didn’t connect enough Detroiters to jobs nor tap into the more millage-rich surrounding counties. Governor Rick Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing, and U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood changed this project into a Bus Rapid Transit system that would connect Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne Counties with a high-speed regional transit system. It’s a great solution and we support. This is exactly what this region needs for better transit.

But, once this project was no longer running on rails, the M1 RAIL investors restarted their 3-mile streetcar design — something that even they admit is a development project rather than a transit project. Development? Yes. studies show that permanent transit solutions like streetcars spur transit-oriented development along their routes. Guess what? So does Bus Rapid Transit.

There are some key points to keep in mind with the M1 RAIL. It starts at Larned and goes to Grand Boulevard. It runs mostly along the Woodward’s curbs except at the ends. Remember that Lego video that showed how curb running is slow and unsafe? The U.S. DOT’s Woodward Light Rail environmental review concurred as did the majority of the public comments.

Curb-running streets cars will run as slow as the slowest vehicle on the road. Streetcars can’t go around a stopped bus, a slow bicyclist, a parking car, etc. Even without anything in their way, the streetcars are expected to travel at 11 MPH — roughly equivalent to a beginning bicyclist.

This is a linear People Mover, but slower and is projected to carry fewer passengers.

Of course Detroit’s original street car system was center-running.

When asked, a M1 RAIL representative has said the curb versus center running was a “religious argument” among their investors.

If better transit was the goal, the M1 RAIL investors would have put money into level bus boarding stations and pre-sale ticket systems like NYC has. According to NYC’s transportation commissioner this was the best way to improve bus service reliability. It could have been implemented far more inexpensively. This would be a fix-it first strategy that relies on bus rapid transit to deliver transit-oriented development.

One other thought: why do you design a transit system that doesn’t directly connect with the Rosa Parks Transit Center or Cobo Hall or the Ren Cen?

Not Complete Streets

The reason for covering the transit issues first is to make clear that this is not an anti-transit article. We did not want this to read like bicyclists’ sour grapes. It’s not.

However, there’s another reason the Woodward Light Rail concluded that center-running operations was best rather than curb running. Curb running is significantly hazardous for cyclists. Bicycle wheels get caught in streetcar tracks causing serious injuries, and in some cities, lawsuits. This is why most cities don’t build curb running systems, or at least put them one side of one-way streets.

A very recent study found bicycling on streets with curb-running streetcar tracks is 300% more likely to cause a crash over a regular street like Woodward.

A center-running design would be a Complete Street. Putting the M1 RAIL at the curbs makes Woodward Avenue less Complete.

Now if you’ve following the recent Detroit Works Project unveiling, you’d have seen Complete Streets touted as a priority in Detroit.

According to the national experts, streetcar systems should design for safe bicycling from the start. MDOT and M1 RAIL did not. In fact, years ago MDOT’s Tim Hoefner said solving the bicycle safety issue was at the top of their to do list. Apparently they never got to it.

But its a public road

To date, MDOT has shown mostly indifference to this project’s negative impacts on bicycling. In exchange for a significantly less safe state-owned road they offered to put up some directional signs along a couple miles of Cass Avenue. Seriously.

MDOT has also said cyclists can use the sometimes parallel street, John R. Of course MDOT is removing the John R bridge over I-94 and in that project’s environmental review they said cyclists can use Woodward.

MDOT has been quick to deflect blame to others such as the Federal Highway Administration, but it’s a public road, they own most of it, and they have a Complete Streets policy. Why are they allowing a less-safe design based on some investors’ “religious argument?”

U.S. DOT’s role

From what we can gather in speaking with other sources is that the regular process rules are off the table. Secretary LaHood is so enamored with the investors’ commitment that he’s directed his staff to make it happen. And it’s Detroit — a laggard in the public transportation world.

That might explain why he’s giving the M1 RAIL group $25 million before the supplemental review process (which determines if it should be built) is even completed.

Other issues

And this discussion hasn’t gotten into other more significant issues like social equity. How do the investors justify building a redundant transit system when Detroiters and Detroit school children struggle to find mobility options with the current bus system? That is a far greater travety than any bicycling safety issue.

And where has the media been on this reporting? They’ve certainly covered the happy talk but so far have shown an unwillingness to look any deeper.

Now, what happens when Bus Rapid Transit comes to Woodward? At its ends, the M1 RAIL runs in the center where the Bus Rapid Transit will go. According to one transportation expert, M1 RAIL may have to get torn out.

There are many, many good people involved in the M1 RAIL and we all feel very passionate about doing the right thing for Detroit, but this project as currently designed doesn’t work. It’s a project heavy with investors and light on collaboration.

We need to do better.

Detroit Complete Streets: Updates and meeting tomorrow

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Speak up for Complete Streets

We’re asking people to attend tomorrow’s (7 pm, Wednesday, June 27th) Mayor’s Community Meeting at city hall to speak in favor of a Complete Streets ordinance in Detroit. An ordinance has been drafted and is being reviewed by the Law Department. The Department of Public Works is opposed to an ordinance, while others are in support.

The Mayor’s office holds much sway in determining how this will play out. We hope to encourage the Mayor to support the ordinance. This meeting is one opportunity to do that.

Mode Shift published this article with more details:

Bring your friends, neighbors, co-workers, colleagues and moms, dads, sisters and brothers to come tell officials why a bikeable, walkable, transit- and disabled-friendly city is crucial to the progress and revitalization of Detroit!

We plan on arriving a bit early in order to get on the list to give public comments.

If you cannot attend and want to show your support, you can submit a letter of support. A sample letter with information on where to send it are available here.


There’s been much discussion over public lighting in Detroit and Highland Park. Both cities have removed or are removing more lights. Many lights are no longer work due to their outdated design, equipment, and scrappers.

It’s been reported that 40% percent of Detroit’s 88,000 streetlights are broken. Highland Park just removed nearly 70% of their streetlights.

What we’ve learned through community workshops across Detroit is that public lighting is a key reason why people don’t walk or bike more.

Woodward Avenue

Woodward could get a bit safer for biking and walking.

From the Birmingham Patch:

The Woodward Avenue Action Association (WA3) has been awarded a $30,000 grant to support its efforts to develop a Complete Streets master plan for Woodward Avenue.

The grant is from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and complements the $752,880 grant that was previously awarded by the Federal Highway Administration for the initiative.

The association, an economic and community development organization based in Royal Oak, plans to develop a “Complete Streets” master plan that will transform the 27-mile corridor – from the Detroit River to Pontiac – into a complete, compatible and integrated roadway.

Certainly Woodward looks different across its 27 miles. Those differences will call for different Complete Street solutions.

We’re just excited that this discussion is underway.

Detroit Mayor Bing: a city that embraces bicycles and greenways

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing delivered his state of the city address tonight. And while his entire speech is on the city’s web site, we thought we’d reprint where he referred to the city embracing “bicycles, greenways and better public transit.”

Detroit is at a crossroads.  I have said it before and I will say it again –we cannot operate the way we did 50 years ago or even 10 years ago.  Change is at our doorstep, whether we like it or not.

When we announced the Detroit Works Project, we knew we were taking on an unprecedented challenge.  We knew it would force us to make tough decisions. And we knew it would test our faith and resolve.  But if history tells us anything, it’s that Detroit is a city of great faith and resolve.  It is time to channel that spirit to develop a blueprint for our future and reestablish Detroit as the world’s most innovative city.

A city that reversed the cycle of decline by stopping the population drain and beginning to attract new residents.   A city that transformed its economy and made Detroit a major job center once again.

A city built for the automobile that finally grew to embrace bicycles, greenways and better public transit. A city that attacked blight and turned vacant land into opportunity for economic development, jobs and public use. A city that brought residents together to create safe neighborhoods and deliver outstanding city services.  A city that works.

This is the future we can build, but not without dealing with today’s reality.  With the fiscal challenges we are facing, reinvesting in housing and infrastructure in every Detroit neighborhood is not a viable option.  Creating areas of density is the best way for us to improve public safety, deliver better services and offer the quality of life amenities like recreation centers, parks and grocery stores that you want and deserve.

We are working on a plan–a plan guided by data and your input.  Is it ready today?  No, because we believe this plan is too important to take short cuts.  Are we making progress?  Absolutely!  That is why we are going neighborhood by neighborhood to share our challenges and get your feedback as we prepare alternatives to help us make the tough choices that lie ahead.  We will be sharing a draft analysis about neighborhoods with you in April.  While neighborhoods are the core of our city, we must address the big picture and the entire city.

Your voice will be heard as we consider our options. We know we don’t have all the answers but one thing should be clear to all of us by now.  Continuing on the same path will bring the same results.  You deserve more than that and if you are willing to work with us, I believe we can deliver on all the promise of this city.

Given Bing’s mention of all transportation modes, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that he is Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood’s favorite mayor.

Detroit celebrates Dequindre Trail opening

Friday, June 11th, 2010

It’s only three blocks long, but it connects the Dequindre Cut to Milliken State Park and the Detroit RiverWalk.

And it’s a beautiful three blocks.

Today, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and others cut ribbons on both ends of the trail to mark the official opening of the Dequindre Trail Extension.

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy also unveiled their new banners along the Dequindre Trail and Cut. Those banners were designed by local school children and reflect a series of themes, such as “play”, “grow”, and “inspire.”

Spring is here: Detroit biking in the media

Friday, March 26th, 2010

W. Vernor improvements to target pedestrian safety, add bike lanes

Model D has published follow up to the open house we mentioned earlier in Southwest Detroit.

Concepts shared at the Open House include the installation of bike lanes on W. Vernor between Waterman and Lansing, which would mean narrowing the road down in some areas to one lane of vehicular traffic; redoing the street surface and water and sewage lines on the stretch of W. Vernor that passes under the viaduct just east the W. Vernor/Dix/Waterman intersection, as well as the installation of new sidewalks and lighting; the incorporation of a left-turn lane on eastbound W. Vernor at Livernois to prevent illegal and unsafe turns; and improving lane configuration at the W. Vernor/Dix/Waterman intersection to prevent lane jockeying.

Plans will be submitted for approval to the Michigan Department of Transportation this month in the hope that construction can begin this year.

All total this will be about two miles of bike lanes (1 mile westbound, 1 mile eastbound.) Plans also call for lighting underneath the viaduct.

Sounds like a Complete Street to us!

Sharing Woodward Avenue

Metromode has an article on returning Woodward Avenue to a Complete Street.

That means making the thoroughfare friendly to all forms of transportation, like pedestrians, bicyclists, trains and automobiles. It also means building density and economic opportunity along Michigan’s Main Street. The belief is that by making Woodward less car-dominant it can grow into one of Metro Detroit’s primary economic engines.

“The time has come,” says Heather Carmona, executive director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, a non-profit that advocates for the avenue. “The irony is decades ago Woodward was a transportation-inclusive corridor, but it lost that with the rise of the automotive industry. However, it’s coming back full circle.”

Detroit Has to Demolish Before it Can Rebuild

ABC News has a story on Mayor Bing’s efforts to rebuild and reinvent Detroit.

Demographer Kurt Metzger envisions small urban villages connected by parks and bike paths.

“We could become the greenest city in the country because of the land that we have if we start to manage it correctly,” he said.

We share that vision as do many others. While the Mayor in his recent state of the city address did not specifically say bike paths and greenways, he did mention “parks and green space” twice:

Strengthening our city will take a long-term strategy for how we use Detroit’s 140 square miles more productively. The harsh reality is that some areas are no longer viable neighborhoods with the population loss and financial situation our city faces. But instead of looking at our land as a liability, we need to begin to think creatively about how it can be a resource as we rebuild our city. That conversation is in its initial stages but let me take a moment to dispel some myths out there.

We’re not giving away or selling any neighborhoods to anyone. This is about determining what areas of our city are best suited for residential use, commercial and industrial businesses, parks and green space.

When I imagine Detroit’s future, I see a city with vibrant neighborhoods, with retail and grocery stores, a city that’s home to thriving small businesses, better mass transit and community parks and green space. But it will take all of us to make that happen and it’s a process that will not happen overnight.

And he also mentioned Detroit’s Safe Routes to School effort.