Transit :Development News

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SMART switches fleet to fuel-efficient buses

The traditional red, orange and white colors of the SMART buses are about to go green.

The suburban Detroit mass transit agency is transforming its fleet so they can run on bio-fuel. So far three of its 283 buses have made the switch. The rest are expected to be phased in within the next two years at a rate of 15 per month.

The buses will run on grain-based B-5 bio-fuel, which will up their fuel efficiency from 4.2 mpg to 4.9. That might not seem like much of a bump on the surface, but it represents a nearly 17 percent increase in fuel efficiency.

And the best part is SMART is making the switch for free. The buses were not living up to their normal life expectancy, so they were able to negotiate for new engines from the manufacturer. The new engines include the upgrade to bio-fuel compatibility.

Source: Beth Dryden, director of external affairs, marketing and communications for SMART
Writer: Jon Zemke

Is streetcar service possible for Ann Arbor?

Ann Arbor is looking at multiple ways of beefing up its mass transit service, including building a streetcar line.


Could a streetcar line be in the cards for Ann Arbor? It’s a distinct possibility according to the Ann Arbor Connector Feasibility Study.

The $250,000 study outlines ways to beef up the transportation options on a crescent moon-shaped line. It would connect the Plymouth Road exit for U.S. 23 to downtown. It would also travel further south along South State Street to Briarwood Mall.

Read the rest of the story here.

Hertel's office set to release regional transit plan Wednesday

What promises to be one of the most important master plans for Metro Detroit is set to be released Wednesday, when the Regional Transportation Coordinating Council starts holding public meetings about new transit plan.

The council, which is headed up by Metro Detroit Transit Czar John Hertel, created the new plan as a key approach to obtaining more federal dollars for local mass transit. It is the first comprehensive regional transit plan for the tri-county area in decades.

"What we'll be sharing is some recommendations for enhancing public transit systems for DDOT, SMART and MDOT," says John Swatosh, deputy director of the Regional Transportation Coordinating Council.

It details plans, timelines and funding mechanisms for improving bus lines and creating rapid transit initiatives, such as light and commuter rail. It will advocate for the creation of commuter rail, light rail, streetcar and bus-rapid-transit lines throughout Metro Detroit and serve as the roadmap for implementing them for decades.

What mass transit improvements will be applied where (such as light rail on Woodward Avenue) will be revealed early next week. Municipal planners and other stakeholders will review the proposal over the weekend before it's presented at public meetings between Wednesday and Oct. 2.

The meetings will be held from 4-7 p.m. as follows:

  • Dearborn on Wednesday in the U-M-Dearborn Fairlane Center, 19000 Hubbard Drive
  • Ferndale on Thursday in the Gerry Kulick Community Center, 1201 Livernois
  • Sterling Heights on Oct. 1 in the Independence Building at Freedom Hill County Park, 15000 Metro Parkway (16 Mile Road)
  • Detroit on Oct. 2 in TechTown, 440 Burroughs

For information, call (313) 393-3333.

Transportation Riders United, a local non-profit that advocates improving mass transit, will also attend the meetings to further discussions about how best to make the plan's recommendations realities.

TRU's fall meeting will also center on the new regional transit plan. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 7 in the lower mezzanine of the Guardian Building in downtown Detroit.

Source: John Swatosh, deputy director of the Regional Transportation Coordinating Council and Transportation Riders United
Writer: Jon Zemke

More redevelopment set for Birmingham's Rail District

Redevelopment in Birmingham's Rail District is starting to pick up steam as some projects close out and others begin.

Finishing up first is the District Lofts, a mixed-use project that will start moving in people and businesses this fall.

Beginning is the redevelopment of 2010 Cole, from an industrial building into a retail and office structure on the district's south side.

The developer wants to turn the 1-story structure into eight commercial spaces, similar to how 2121 Cole was recently transformed into homes for the likes of personal trainer and architecture firm. The redevelopment of 2010 Cole will include repainting (dark grey) while adding doors, windows and awnings so the building can be divided into eight spaces. The three truck bays will be replaced with brick to match the building.

It's just the latest example of how the area is transforming from its Rust Belt industrial past into a vibrant urban center. Sidewalks are being rebuilt on Eton Street this fall and the sidewalks for Cole are set to be redone next year.

"We're trying to make it more walkable over there," says Jill Robinson, a city planner for the city of Birmingham. "There are a lot of businesses over there and a lot of activity."

The district, which is adjacent to railroad tracks, is primed to take advantage of a proposed extension for the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line. City planners are also looking at it as the potential hub for an east-west streetcar line connecting Birmingham and Troy.

Source: Jill Robinson, city planner for the city of Birmingham
Writer: Jon Zemke

Farmington to present details of downtown parking study on Monday

At long last, the long-term parking study for downtown Farmington is set to be released at a public meeting Monday.

District Lofts in Birmingham switches from for-sale to rental

The District Lofts in Birmingham are changing direction from for-sale to for-lease units to accomodate the volatile changes in the market.

MDOT set to improve Main Street for Dearborn's West Dowtown

Dearborn's West Downtown is about preparing for construction, as work crews begin repairing large sections of Michigan Avenue next week.

TRU's Transit 101 workshop to discuss Woodward light rail, other transit projects

Wanna know the latest on Metro Detroit's light rail and commuter rail projects? Then get on down to TRU's Transit 101 meeting on Wednesday evening where those projects will be discussed in depth by people in the know.

More people take to rails as Amtrak ridership goes up in Metro Detroit

Ridership on Amtrak trains is up 5 percent throughout Michigan with the biggest increase coming on the Wolverine line, connecting Pontiac, Detroit and Chicago.

Rallies and meetings attempt to advance mass transit discussion

Improving mass transit options (and providing a better variety of them) will be the center of conversation at a couple of public meetings and rallies this week and next.

Farmington to hold final public info meeting for streetscape vote

There is one last chance for Farmington residents to ask questions about the proposed downtown streetscape improvement project before deciding whether to approve it on Tuesday's election. The meeting will be held early Friday evening.

Ann Arbor DDA exploring options for Fifth Ave underground parking garage

Local leaders in Ann Arbor are trying to see how best to shuffle more cars into the proposed underground parking structure on Fifth Avenue. Right now plans call for 500 parking spaces and those plans are set to go before the city in September.

Dearborn expects commuter rail station to push economic development

City officials are working on another way to get into Dearborn, this time it's a commuter rail station for the Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail line.

Transit-oriented development subject du jour in upcoming meetings

Transit-oriented-development is a phrase being tossed around more and more in Metro Detroit. It will also be the focus of two meetings this month held by the Urban Land Institute and the Sierra Club.

WALLY commuter line 16 months and $32 million away from pulling into station

Come on ride that train, and ride it. That's what Washtenaw and Livingston County resident could be doing by 2010 as the people behind the U.S. 23 commuter rail line (commonly known as WALLY) digest the findings of a feasibility study on the initiative.
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