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 3: A Rail Platform for Leaders

There is enormous support for Woodward Light Rail.  That's not surprising given the great benefits it will provide to so many people and given the substantial public involvement throughout the planning process.  Throughout, there have been very few people actively opposed to it.

There have, however, been substantial debates over how it should be best achieved.  That is probably appropriate, since this is a major project that will shape our city for decades to come.  Over the past few years, diverse voices have been heard and compromises have been made.  Now we have a great plan that incorporates the best input from all parties involved. Now it is time for everyone to come together around this vital project.  

Since we're counting on the federal government for 60% of the funding, funding that many other cities want, Woodward Light Rail's very existence depends on our region coming together.  

It is time for everyone involved to put aside their past differences and embrace this project.

Norm White is the head of Woodward Light Rail and has done an excellent job of shepherding this concept to where it is today.  Yet he must now realize that he can't complete it all by himself.  He must truly embrace the M-1 Rail funders as valued partners by offering open information and true respect.

Matt Cullen and the other M-1 Rail funders are incredibly generous in donating key funds to support this project.  They also have a critical understanding of what the business community wants from this project to maximize its impact.  Yet donating does not mean dictating.  They received three-quarters of what they were seeking in compromises with the city and now need to fully and publicly embrace this project as planned.

Mayor Bing has a great opportunity to see enormous revitalization around this project, but he must provide more than just lip service.  He needs to actively and enthusiastically advance Woodward Light Rail while also achieving a much higher quality of service from existing DDOT transit service under his control.

The Detroit City Council has been very supportive throughout years of transit debate.  They now have an opportunity to demonstrate that great support by creating a Woodward Light Rail authority as soon as key details are worked out.  They must also ensure full funding of DDOT until new funding can be identified for this critical transit service.

Governor Snyder and the state legislature can help as well.  In addition to maintaining vital state funding for public transit, they now also need to provide local regions with new tools for funding transit, such as a voter-approved local sales tax or gas tax, to enable real expansion of Detroit area transit options.  

Other business owners, residents, and concerned citizens can show their support by spreading the word about this great project to their friends and colleagues and by getting involved with TRU – Detroit's transit advocate.

Woodward Light Rail can truly reshape our city in exciting ways by encouraging redevelopment and revitalization, by creating tens of thousands of jobs and by boosting our property values and our economy.  It is too important to be threatened by past squabbles or oversized egos.

Woodward Light Rail is coming to Detroit.  If everyone comes together, we can make it a huge success for all of us.