Dear Governor Synder,
I am writing to you today as a 32-year-old working resident of Michigan who is longing for employment and residence in a state that offers better public transportation. I have not given up on Michigan yet, though. I feel there are things that can be done here by our government, without spending millions on new infrastructure, to improve public transportation in Southeast Michigan.
Why improve public transportation here? Because I believe it would seriously stimulate our economy and attract businesses if we could get to work and play without a car, freeing up thousands a year to spend on other things.
Split the Amtrak
While it is not my field of study or employment, transportation is a passion of mine. Perhaps experts or professional research will prove me wrong but here is my thought: Split the Amtrak line between Pontiac and Chicago into two lines. One line will run between Ann Arbor and Chicago three times daily and the other between Ann Arbor and Pontiac a dozen or more times daily. This new line between Ann Arbor and Pontiac will serve those who can’t or don’t want to drive into and out of Detroit for work and recreation. This line already exists and would not take up additional traffic lanes or require new track.
It would also help free up our overburdened highways and bridges. This line has stops in or near major cities such as Pontiac, Birmingham, Royal Oak, Midtown Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor. Increased service and use would fuel increased demand for new stations and busses to close by destinations such as Great Lakes Crossing, The Palace of Auburn Hills, DTE Music Theater, Meadowbrook Theatre, Oakland University, Somerset, downtown Birmingham, the Detroit Zoo, downtown Ferndale, Russell Industrial Center, The Dequindre Cut, Eastern Market, Hamtramck, downtown Detroit, Wayne State, The Henry Ford, Greenfield Village and Detroit Metro Airport.
I believe this service would attract employees, employers, sports enthusiasts and consumers. It would also compliment projects like the Troy Transit Center and the M1-Light Rail.
The parking problem
Since most existing train stations were built well before the invention of the automobile, parking remains a constant constraint on the growth of our cities. New construction is stunted and demolition of potential residential/business spaces results from increased demand for auto parking spaces. Several examples come to mind. Downtown Detroit (Foxtown) remains 50% business and 50% parking to accommodate visitors to baseball, hockey, football, concerts, casinos and other large events. Parking fees often exceed $20 on game days.
Unless you can bring these people, who mostly live outside of Detroit, quickly and economically by rail to downtown, the need for parking will continue to keep downtown from growing. Another example is that of the event in Royal Oak called Arts, Beats and Eats. It is a major automotive sponsored event that moved from Pontiac to Royal Oak a few years ago. This event would greatly benefit from increased rail service.
I strongly believe that if there was a train that ran between Ann Arbor and Pontiac every half an hour or hour, this event would draw more people from up and down the line than ever before and would not be constrained by the availability of parking spaces. The cost and availability of parking often deters people from attending events but most attend anyway because there is no other alternative.
The train to work
This idea goes beyond ball games though. There are residents in Detroit who work in the Metro area who take multiple busses to get to work who would benefit from increased train traffic. There are people who have moved to the city and want to give up their car but still want to visit the suburbs for shopping and entertainment. When people fly into Detroit, they are forced to rent cars or take a long, expensive taxi ride to their destination. When I flew into Baltimore airport last year we took a free shuttle from the airport to the Amtrak station. If only we had that luxury.
I believe a better alternative is owed to the people of the state of Michigan and you are a governor who gets things done. If you would like to hear more about my ideas, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will do whatever I can to bring about positive change in our great state.
David Gifford, Rochester, Michigan
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