Alignment Questions for Detroit’s Rail Line, Almost Ready for Construction

Woodward

» Light rail or streetcar approach for a project whose proponents claim would restore the health of this city’s core?

Unlike similar projects in nearby cities like Cincinnati, Detroit’s planned light rail line for Woodward Avenue has near-universal support from just about everyone in local and state government — even though it is being constructed in a city that is shedding population quickly. The $528 million route, which would by 2016 extend 9.3 miles from downtown to the city’s borders at 8 Mile, has been the priority of regional transportation planners for years. And with federal support for the first phase of the corridor announced in February 2010, construction is supposed to begin later in 2011, at least for the 3.4-mile section from Hart Plaza to Grand Avenue.

Aligning the project with other transit offerings in Downtown Detroit, however, has become a contentious issue. The Detroit DOT, which

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Austin Contemplates Urban Rail, but Skepticism is in the Air

Downtown Austin

» A year after the opening of a commuter rail line to the city’s northern suburbs, Austin dedicates funding to planning a light rail line that focuses on the inner city.

In 2000, Austin came within 2,000 votes of approving a $2 billion, 52-mile light rail system that would have run through the city and its suburbs along east-west and north-south corridors. The first stage, estimates suggested, would attract more than 30,000 daily riders and serve the city’s most prominent destinations, including downtown and the University of Texas.

The failure of that referendum, however, forced those plans to be abandoned. Local transit proponents replaced it with the much less ambitious 32-mile Capital MetroRail, which opened in 2010 for a cost of about $100 million. Like many similar commuter rail lines built over the past few years, MetroRail’s limited frequencies and poor downtown connectivity have limited ridership to less than

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Losing State Support, Cincinnati’s Streetcar Project in Peril

Downtown Cincinnati

» Wavering commitment to this — and similar infrastructure projects around the country — sends the wrong message about the seriousness of public investment in better transport.

Over the past few months, American transportation projects have been canceled at an accelerated rate: From New Jersey to Florida to Wisconsin, rail programs that have been in the making for years have been abandoned because of conservative opposition to expansion in transportation spending at all levels of the federal system.

This movement, which has been grounded in claims of fiscal responsibility, has sent a disappointing message about the commitment of the American public sector to projects it has previously endorsed.

Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) made his mark last year, eliminating state support for a new intercity rail line to connect Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland — despite the fact that the federal government had agreed to pay for all of the project’s construction

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In Charlotte, a Busy Highway May be No Place for Rapid Transit

Red Line 63rd

» A recommendation from the Urban Land Institute suggests pulling a proposed rail line out of a highway and onto a neighborhood street.

Take one trip on the Dan Ryan branch of Chicago’s Red Line and you’ll be convinced of the perils of locating transit stations in the medians of fast-moving expressways. Getting to stops is hard enough: It usually requires crossing first a huge intersection featuring cars hopping on and off the freeway; then, on too small of a sidewalk you’re required to bridge over several lanes of rushing traffic below. Once you’re finally on the platform, though, the situation may be worse: Cars are whizzing by at high speeds — producing tremendous noise and emitting nauseating pollutants — on both sides of the track. It’s certainly not a welcoming experience.

Fundamentally, standing there at a station waiting for a train makes you feel like you are a second-class citizen

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Streetcar Projects Advance Nationwide Thanks to Local Initiative

US-Streetcar-Systems

» In spite of questions over whether the federal streetcar program has a future and the death of a project in Fort Worth, local dollars are distributed to build new links in Cincinnati, Dallas, New Orleans, and Tempe.

Last week’s decision by officials in Fort Worth, Texas to halt planning work on the city’s streetcar line struck a blow to the nation’s nascent collection of modern streetcar lines, one of the Obama Administration’s biggest transportation policy moves. Local leaders backed down from a $25 million grant received from the federal government earlier this year, arguing that the city wasn’t ready to invest its own money in a project that some suggested shouldn’t be funded by taxpayers.

The decision reinforced the commonly heard argument that the federal government is encouraging a form of transportation that is not fully accepted by people on the ground. It is certainly true that

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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