Blog: Lisa Wozniak & Ryan Mark-Griffin

How does the Great Lakes State become the Great Conservation State? This week Lisa Wozniak and Ryan Mark-Griffin of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters unroll an environmental health and safety blueprint for 2012.

Ryan Mark-Griffin: Thank You, Michigan, for High-Speed Rail

As a 20-year-old college student, I couldn't be more excited about the prospect of high-speed rail lines running from Detroit to Chicago and Kalamazoo. Although the improvements won't be completed overnight, I have already contacted friends in both cities about taking turns hopping on the train for weekend getaways between the respective cities.

There is something really cool about the idea of buying a ticket for a high-speed train. You may not think that how cool a multi-million dollar project is really matters. But you'd be wrong.

Across the nation, cities are desperately trying to find ways to be considered cool. The New York Times ran an article on the subject, citing projects in cites from Lansing, Mich., to Portland, Ore. The reason for all this preoccupation with popularity?

Educated young people.

As baby boomers retire, attracting young professionals is increasingly looked to as an important factor in a city's economic growth. Demographers call them "the young and restless," because of their high relocation rate as they search for a job in a city that will satisfy their cultural cravings. Studies show that their probability of relocating drops significantly the closer they get to age 35, so cities have a limited window of time to attract them. Washington, D.C., is one metropolitan area that has seen growth in its population of "the young and restless" during the recession. This will give them an advantage over cities that are losing their young professionals once the economy rebounds. Reliable modern transit systems like Michigan's newly approved high-speed rail lines are key factors in boosting the vital "cool" factor that is drawing the young and restless to D.C.

So as someone who will soon be a member of this coveted demographic, I want to say thanks.

First, I want to thank those behind the scenes of Governor Snyder's team who participated in the negotiations for the state of Michigan to provide $20 million in matching funds for the $161 million in federal funding granted by the Obama Administration. These are people like former Congressman and Michigan LCV board member Dr. Joe Schwarz, who worked with Michigan's railroads and Department of Transportation to make sure that we didn't let this opportunity get away from us. The Michigan LCV has made promotion of Michigan's high-speed rail a major priority, and Dr. Schwarz was right there with us on the importance of this initiative.

Next, I'd like to thank the Michigan legislature. Despite earning a reputation for being extremely frugal, even they recognized the opportunity that this represents, passing the bill almost unanimously in both the House and the Senate. As our political director puts in his transit edition of his PWIR, this was a "sweet deal," and one Michigan couldn't afford to pass up.

Finally, I'd like to thank the Lieutenant Governor, who signed the bill into law immediately. This project is a major milestone in the battle to revive the state of Michigan as a thriving cosmopolitan destination for people all over the world.

Especially the young and restless.