Archive for the ‘Public transit’ Category

Woodward Transit Community Meetings this week

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Six meeting are planned this week to discuss the initial bus rapid transit (BRT) plans for Woodward Avenue.

  • Tuesday, December 3 from 6 to 8 pm (Royal Oak and Birmingham)
    Beaumont Hospital Administration Building, 3711 W. 13 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48073
    (Free parking in South Deck Parking, enter from Coolidge Highway.)
  • Thursday, December 5 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm (Berkley and Huntington Woods)
    Berkley Community Center, 2400 Robina Avenue, Berkley, MI, 48070
  • Saturday, December 7 from 11am to 1pm (Pontiac, Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township)
    St. Joseph?s Hospital, Anthony M. Franco Communications Center Auditorium,?44555 Woodward Avenue, Pontiac, MI, 48341
  • Monday, December 9 from 6 to 8 pm (Detroit and Highland Park)
    Michigan State University Event Center, 3408 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201
  • Tuesday, December 10 from 6 to 8 pm (Detroit and Highland Park)
    Next Energy, 461 Burroughs Street, Detroit, MI 48202
  • Wednesday, December 11 from 6 to 8 pm (Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge)
    Coolidge Intermediate School, 2521 Bermuda Street, Ferndale, MI 48220

BRT is the preferred model for connecting Detroit and the suburbs for a lower initial cost when compared with light rail. A well-designed BRT can greatly increase bicycling as well. Bicycling is often used for the first and last miles of a transit ride.

One of the major concerns we have with this planning involves M1 Rail. As you probably know, M1 Rail will be predominantly curb-running on Woodward where cyclists now ride. Adding tracks to the roadway will make it much less safe. The mitigation proposed by MDOT is to improve Cass Avenue for cyclists, which parallels a portion of Woodward. There have been rumblings that M1 Rail may also force the BRT off Woodward as well — and on to Cass. This could make Cass much less bike friendly. Our preference is to keep BRT on Woodward where it belongs and make Cass more bike friendly. MDOT owes bicyclists a safe alternative to Woodward per their Complete Streets policy.

 

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.

Huh?

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 River ferry would help cyclists cross the border

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Detroit River ferry service was back in the news last week – the Windsor news that is.

This CBC video and article provide a good background on where we stand with ferry service, including its potential to help bicycle tourism.

Gord Orr with Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island said the idea holds great promise.

“The potential of the bicycle tourism part of it is very exciting as we start to look at more trails and routes and see how we can increase more of that healthy lifestyle,” Orr said.

We agree. We need to connect the Detroit RiverWalk and Windsor River trail, as well as provide a crossing for the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route and future U.S. Bicycle Routes.

The CBC ran a similar article that spoke with MP Brian Masse of the Canadian Parliament.

“To me, this would be an exciting opportunity to put pedestrians and cyclists back and forth along the water,” Masse said. “Detroit has a marvellous waterfront now. They’ve worked hard on it and need to be commended for it. Ours, of course, is really nice and has been remodelled recently. This could be an exciting time to share both of our cultures again.”

The Windsor Star also chimed in with an article that also quoted Orr.

“I think that allowing passenger travel on ferry and bicycles included would also help the interest in cycle tourism. We have a number of trails to be enjoyed by cycle tourists and obviously this would eliminate the hassle of parking, crossing an international border at the tunnel or the bridge.”

It sounds like we’ve got the message out about the importance of this crossing, at least on the Canadian side.

What about the new bridge?

Progress continues to be made on a new Detroit/Windsor bridge – the NITC.

As mentioned earlier, the plans call for a bicycle/pedestrian path on one side of the bridge. We spoke with State Representative Rashida Talib. She said that if it’s in there, it’s unlikely MDOT can renege.

On the Windsor side, bicycle advocates are now making sure Canadian Customs is prepared to handle bike and pedestrian traffic. They also want to ensure their new greenways connect with the bridge. MTGA submitted comments to U.S. and Canadian officials asking that greenways are connected to the bridge.

Do cyclists need a bridge and ferry service? We think so. The bridge would be a 24/7 option, but it comes with a steep price – a steep climb. It’s also located a short distance away from the riverfront trails and downtowns. Ferry service would be more centrally located and you’d only have to climb on board a boat. However, ferry service might not be available year round. The bridge would also provide some amazing views.

Bridge path a greenway?

Also, one suggestion is to create a name for this trail connecting Detroit and Windsor. Something like the International Freedom Trail sounds much better than just calling it the bike path on the bridge. Who could be against a trail with a name like that?

Or can you think of a better name?

Bikes on Amtrak: Progress?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

What is the status of getting roll-on bicycle service for Michigan’s Amtrak trains?

MDOT told us we’d have it over a year ago. That didn’t happen.

A March article on MLive showed that Amtrak isn’t even close on this and that it’s become a bigger issue beyond Michigan.

“We’re committed — in new equipment purchases there will be space for bicycles,” [Amtrak Chairman Thomas] Carper said. “How we retrofit old equipment that’s going to be phased out over the next two, three, four, five years — some of the equipment is older than I am. So there’s a balance, a cost balance in there. How we retrofit, there’s some engineering things that need to be taken into consideration.”

He added that upgrading Michigan’s rail service for bicycles could likely come as part of an upgrade across the entire Midwest Amtrak fleet.

Last week MDOT released a press released on the U.S. DOT’s plans to buy 130 new rail cars, 25 of which would be used on Amtrak’s Michigan lines.

Rail car manufacturers across the country will have an opportunity to submit bids to produce the first American-made, standardized passenger rail cars, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.

The $551 million Request for Proposals (RFP) to manufacture approximately 130 new bi-level passenger rail cars in America comes from a groundbreaking multi-state effort to jointly purchase standardized rail equipment to be used on Amtrak’s intercity routes in California, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and potentially Iowa.

These new railcars “will also offer greater bicycle storage.”

Bids are due in a little over a month and the new rail cars will be delivered starting in mid-2015.

What we don’t know is how many existing railcars will be retrofitted to provide roll-on service sooner.

Taking the Bike Train on VIA Rail

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

This article is being written and posted from the VIA Rail Train 70 which runs from Windsor to Toronto, Ontario every morning.

This passenger train is part of the Bike Train program and allows roll-on bicycles as checked baggage. No disassembly is required, but it does cost an additional $20 each way. Still that’s much less than the standard airlines fees.

According to the VIA Rail web site, cyclists should arrive an hour before departure. Train 70 departs Windsor at 5:30am, but there’s no need to show up before 5am when the station is scheduled to open.

One caution: Not all VIA Rails allow bikes. You need to make your reservations while referencing the Bike Train page. There also seemed to be limited trains returning to Windsor on the weekend.

Another advantage of this service? You can find free parking and ride to the station to avoid the $10 daily fee at the local parking lot. Depending on how long your trip is, that could cover your Bike Train fee.

Now if only Detroit cyclists could get to Windsor without requiring a motor vehicle…

Overall, this nearby system seems to be a good model for Amtrak in Michigan. MDOT told us over a year ago that Amtrak would have such service but that was very optimistic. This M-Live article seems to have the most recent news on this effort.

There is an on-line petition for roll-on bicycle service as well.