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: Give Woodward Light Rail a Whirl

Woodward Light Rail is coming to Detroit!  After decades of dawdling and debate, it's finally going to happen - assuming no one screws it up.

If there is any place in the country that screams out for convenient connections through rail transit, it is Woodward Avenue.  In blog entries over the next few days, I'll lay out what has been done to make it possible, what the next steps are, and what needs to happen to ensure it succeeds.  

Today, I'll start with why we need Woodward Light Rail (for those last few people in the region who still question it).

To explain why we need Woodward Light Rail I could share stories of the economic vitality of cities with successful rapid transit lines, or I could provide statistics on the number of Detroiters without a car, or I could quote surveys showing that talented college graduates and the businesses that want to hire them are moving to vibrant cities with effective transit options instead of to Detroit.

But instead, I'll explain how I personally plan to use it.    

Picture a beautiful summer morning in 2015.  My daughter and I walk to the end of our block and hop on the SMART bus that takes us the two miles to the Fairgrounds where the Light Rail will start.  We could drive to the secured park-and-ride lot or perhaps ride our bikes, but since the bus routes have been aligned to bring people to the Light Rail, that's really the easiest way to get there.

Within 10 minutes, the Light Rail train arrives to pick us up.  On the smooth quick ride downtown, my daughter may brighten the morning of some commuters with a friendly smile or I may chat with some students heading to class at Wayne State or workers heading home after the night shift.  We hop off downtown and walk the few blocks to her daycare and my office.  

At lunch, I'll hop back on the Light Rail and meet up with friends at Good Girls Go to Paris.  Oh, and I forgot my mother's birthday is tomorrow – I'll stop by one of the great new shops or restaurants that have opened up near the Light Rail stations and pick her up a gift.   

And drat, it's started to rain.  I guess instead of walking, I'll take the Light Rail up a few stops further for a business meeting up at New Center, since the covered platforms make the short wait comfortable and dry.  

Then it's back downtown, where a big convention is wrapping up at Cobo Hall and several hundred people are getting on the Light Rail to head up to the DIA.  Good thing the two-car Light Rail cars can hold so many people!

A few more hours of work, then I'll pick up my daughter and meet my husband Jason for the ball game.  He's not a big fan of buses, so he drives to the park-and-ride lot and rides the Light Rail to Comerica Park with lots of other excited baseball fans.  After a great game, we skip the traffic by getting back on the Light Rail.  Since we saved so much money not having to pay for gas or parking, Jason convinces me to stop at the Majestic for a drink with friends we bumped into on the train.

As we head home, I think about waking my daughter who is dozing comfortably on my shoulder to show her the big construction vehicles that are building the next section of Woodward Light Rail into Oakland County.  But there's no need to wake her. There will be lots of opportunities to see construction vehicles, since Light Rail and other rapid transit is being built all throughout the greater Detroit region.