Blog: Megan Owens

Ironically, early auto workers once rode the streetcar to work in factories. This new model year, facing a crumbled rail system and plant closings, the communities of greater Detroit are assembling a regional transit authority. Megan Owens, the executive director of Transportation Riders United, outlines a timeline of transit and what's needed to make the jump from jalopy to streamlined bus service and regional light rail.

Post 1: A State of Transition

Transportation Riders United (TRU), Detroit's transit advocacy group, is celebrating our tenth anniversary next week.  This has gotten me thinking a lot about just how much the greater Detroit region has changed over the past decade and what it will be like ten or more years from now.  

TRU, along with Metromode and others, has been discussing transit for several years now.  You've probably heard about the great economic benefits and cost savings that transit investment can bring.  Maybe you've seen the various transit plans and maps.

But what will more and better Detroit area transit really mean for your daily life?  That's what we all really want to know, isn't it?  So I'll start my blog series by taking a stab at it.

Imagine being able to take your kids (or grandkids or nieces) to the zoo, the Science Center, and the Riverwalk carousel all in one day without once worrying about parking or traffic, just hopping on and off the Woodward streetcar whenever you want.

Imagine heading to the ballgame (be it Tigers, Red Wings, Lions, or even Wolverines) with a group of friends and never having to worry about parking or who will be the designated driver, because you can all party safely on the train.

Imagine not having to drive your 15-year old to the mall, or soccer practice, or a friend's house, since they can use the safe, convenient and reliable bus system to get there. Imagine saving thousands of dollars in gas, parking, insurance, and car repair bills because you can leave your car at home on your commute to work, or even get rid of a car altogether. Imagine an attractive new condo just steps away from the streetcar stop where you can ride, walk, or bike to lots of new restaurants, markets, shops, coffee shops, schools, theaters, and other businesses that also popped up along the streetcar line.

Imagine a business trip to Chicago that doesn't involve either five hours of monotonous driving or taking off your shoes to go through an airport security line.  Instead you hop on a high speed train and spend three hours polishing your presentation or relaxing with a coffee and a paperback.

Or just imagine fewer people crowding your highway on your drive to work, more young professionals and new technology businesses moving into the region, increased property values and a higher tax-base throughout the region.

That's all to say nothing about helping cut global warming pollution, decreasing asthma attacks, minimizing obesity by increasing walkability, focusing development, reversing Detroit's population decline, decreasing sprawl pressure on rural farms and open spaces, and much, much more.

Sold yet?  

Hope so, because the greater Detroit area is truly on the cusp of making this vision a reality. In the next few blogs, I'll explain how far we've had to come to get this close, the tough steps we still need to take, and how you can help make it all happen.