Bay Area Detroit Honolulu

Detroit Mass Transit; San Francisco Congestion Pricing; Honolulu Impeachment?

The Detroit Free Press reports today on Detroit’s rapidly advancing plans for a light rail system in that city’s core. The first segment, as we’ve reported before, will be a 3.4-mile line running from Downtown to New Center along Woodward Avenue (which is now being called The Regional Area Initial Link, TRAIL). There continues to be some confusion about whether this project will replace, compete with, or merge with the Detroit Department of Transportation’s proposed Woodward Light Rail line. We’re betting on a merger.

Other phases of the project, which has been approved by the state legislature and the local council of governments, will extend the system for another 5 miles along Woodward, as well as add a commuter rail line to Ann Arbor and install a network of rapid buses throughout the 900,000-person city.

The project plans to apply for funding from the coming stimulus bill, making it the 1,000th transit agency to announce its intention to do so. (Pardon our sarcasm.)

San Francisco, wishing to repeat the failed fight New York had in 2007 over congestion pricing, is developing its own plan. The city, looking at the success of London in reducing congestion (whose own anti-pricing new Mayor, Boris Johnson, recently reduced the size of the zone), wants to charge motorists when they enter the city center. The federal government, whose current Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters, is close to obsessed with pricing zones, has provided $1 million to sponsor the study.

In the abstract, this makes sense. San Francisco is a dense and walkable city whose streets would benefit from fewer cars. There are also quite a few strong public transportation options, including Muni Metro, and BART. But BART’s Oakland-San Francisco Transbay Tube is reaching capacity, meaning that a sudden increase in commuters would overwhelm the system. If the city wants to be serious about reducing congestion, a second BART under Bay line would be a valuable investment. So how about more BART and congestion pricing?

In Honolulu, people disappointed by the November election, which not only served to reelect of Mayor Mufi Hannemann, but also endorsed his 20-mile rail system, have decided to call for his impeachment as a last resort. These individuals, whose project will almost certainly fail considering Mr. Hannemann’s enormous margin of victory and his continued popular support, claim that the mayor lied about the rail system and should therefore be pushed out of office. Their website,, is a bit lacking in specifics about how exactly he lied and the specific reasons for impeachment.

This cynical movement, whose actual basis has nothing to do with Mr. Hannemann himself and a lot more to do with their opposition to the rail line, which is marching towards construction as we speak. Sorry guys.

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