Detroit Light Rail hearings on February 12th

A proposed streetcar/bicycle design from Seattle

Below is the DDOT announcement about public hearings on the planned Woodward light rail project.

Why is light rail important to Detroit cyclists?

First, a well-designed light rail system will lets you easily take your bike on board and provides bike parking at the transit stops. The system can actually encourage more people to ride. Biking increases the light rail’s effective reach into the neighborhoods. The light rail is not going to take you to places like Hamtramck, Eastern Market, Cortktown, Mexicantown, or Ferndale — but those could be easily biked to.

Second, this project is an opportunity to get light rail on Wooward and make it a Complete Street. Can we improve biking in a way that works well with the new light rail?

Mia Birk from Alta Planning has been involved in streetcar/bicycle facility design for a some time and recently wrote an article called “Bikes & Streetcars – Let’s be Best Friends!.”

Both streetcar and bicycle transportation are highly effective, sustainable solutions with multiple benefits. Bicycling leverages enormous health and environmental benefits, while streetcar leverages development. Both use space efficiently and forward economic progress. Together, they signify the dawn of a powerful new era of transportation efficiency.

And one thing’s for sure: designing streetcar lines without serious consideration of bicyclists will cost more in the long run, as it’s always harder to fix things than doing them well in the first place.

That bolded text is perhaps the key point.  Let’s make sure things are done well from the beginning and save money.

And let’s be best friends!

More details on the public meetings

Woodward Ave. Light Rail Transit Project Public Hearings Slated for February 12

Public Encouraged to Attend

Detroit MI: On Saturday, February 12, 2011, the public is invited to attend the Woodward Avenue Light Rail Transit Project public hearings sponsored by the City of Detroit and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration.

There will be two hearings: The first from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a presentation at 11:30 a.m.; the second from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a presentation at 4:30 p.m. The public may participate in one or both events, which will be held at the Main Detroit Public Library, Lower Level Auditorium, 5201 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202.

The purpose of the hearings is to give interested parties opportunities to provide comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). This includes the project’s purpose and need, the alternatives considered, the potential environmental and community impacts evaluated, and some preliminary measures proposed to mitigate those impacts.

Project staff will be available to informally discuss the DEIS and the proposed project, beginning 30 minutes before each presentation. Copies of the DEIS are available at several municipal buildings and will be available for review at the public hearing. The Notice of Availability period (public comments and participation) begins January 28, 2011 and ends on March 14, 2011.

Hearing materials will be available in English, Arabic and Spanish and translators will be on site. Individuals with special needs or who require an accessible format version of the public hearing invitation should contact or (313) 963-4678, five days prior to the meeting.

For more information on the Woodward Avenue Light Rail Transit Project, contact or (313) 933-1300.

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10 Responses to “Detroit Light Rail hearings on February 12th”

  1. Joel Batterman Says:

    It’s hard to exaggerate how important it is that the rail line be done right, not just for bicyclists but for transit riders, pedestrians, and everyone who values a healthy and prosperous Detroit.

    To be rapid, rapid transit needs its own right-of-way. That means we need to support center-running rail (“Mainline Design Option A”), not the side-running trolley option. For more details, see

  2. Dave Says:

    “…no funding to construct bicycle lanes on Woodward Avenue or in Downtown.
    In August 2010, the State of Michigan passed a Complete Streets law, which states that future transportation improvements identified in a plan must be appropriate to the context of the community and consider all legal users of the public right-of-way. Complete Streets will be taken into consideration during LPA design as rules and guidance are promulgated by the State.

    For this reason, the extent and scope of the final LPA design with respect to Complete Streets will be determined at that time.” via

    Doesn’t sound like it’s been given much concern..yet..something like this is certainly not a top priority in terms of design and I’m not too sure how much it would add to costs, but reflecting that last sentence, it could be implemented in the later stages of designing. Like you said, biking in conjunction with transit is much more feasible, and that is an understatement. I think reading up on other examples, even if in other countries, may help make a case.

    As for other issues, there is a LOT in the environmental impact study…any parts of the study you recommend reading?

  3. Todd Scott Says:


    I haven’t had a chance to read all the documents yet. When I do, I’ll try pointing out the ones most relevant to this discussion.

  4. ThisAintKyle Says:

    Detroit has to re-center itself on the basics: low taxes, low crime, school choice. Make it a place where businesses and families want to live first, then maybe we can get some cool trains.

  5. Todd Scott Says:

    Wow. That’s a pretty uninformed and misleading video. To suggest that the city is spending $500 million to build the light rail is flat out lying. Phase I funding is from the private sector which can match Phase II funding from the Federal New Start program. To suggest that this funding could somehow lower taxes, fight crime, or improve schools shows a basic lack of understanding of the project — or it’s an intentional effort to mislead public opinion.

    Why not interview the private section and ask why they believe their millions of dollar in investment are worth it? Why not show the full DDOT and SMART buses at rush hour? Why not show congested traffic on I-75 during rush hour — potential transit users? Why not show the successful light rail projects in other cities which have similar mass transit ridership to the Woodward line? You can’t show these because their house of cards argument wouldn’t stand up to any of them.

  6. Jake Says:

    A city works like a human body. Detroit flourished on the nervous system of its trolley cars back in the day. Without that central system the city’s vital functions have declined. It’s basics are unable to function like they used to. Costs to keep up the current infrastructure is huge prevents any money from getting to those important issues. A long term investment in a light-rail system will benefit the city in many ways. You will start to see healthy improvements along Woodward because of it. A city relies on transportation. Sure you can use your car—but how much money are you spending on it to buy gas to drive around the metro area? How much on repairs? Wouldn’t you rather invest in a system that gets you from point A to point B cheaper? It’s not like the system is going to be built immediately. As the system is built you’ll see businesses migrating to the system (the would be smart to) and people as well. You’ll also see an increase in trust between people because you’ll see others more often instead of being isolated in your car. The light-rail system will create an area where businesses and families will want to live. If you keep throwing money at short term fixes in the current system you’re always going to be throwing money at them. Build an infrastructure that allows those systems to function better and allow access to them you’ll see less of a need to help those areas because the system will support it. If you don’t have a spine, you don’t have a functioning body. Detroit needs a spine again.

    Also watch the documentary by PBS called The Next American System: Beyond the Motor City. I’ve included the link.

  7. Hannah Says:

    Dave, looks like you’ve already dived into the transportation report (full disclosure, I’m one of the authors). If you’re looking for other topics out of sheer geeky interest, I’d suggest the historical impacts and environmental justice sections. I think they’re the most interesting.

    And with regard to bike considerations, it is still up in the air, which is why the DEIS is so vague on the issue. One of the things that helps drive how much attention we pay to a particular area is how many comments we get during the public comment period. I’m not sure if a full bike lane will fit into the design without some major cost implications, but there is still a lot that can be done to accommodate cyclists – assuming they ask for it!

  8. Joel Batterman Says:

    Todd, have you or others specifically brought up the possibility of including bicycle lanes or other infrastructure in the design? They did it in Cleveland, when they built the Euclid Corridor “Health Line” bus rapid transit system, after initial resistance.

  9. Todd Scott Says:

    Yes, it’s been brought up quite a bit. I’ve also been sharing information I find about streetcars/bike facility designs from other cities. I haven’t looked into the Euclid BRT Corridor yet.

  10. ThisAintKyle Says:

    I stand by my comment Todd – although I think it’s great to hear that the financing is coming completely from private coffers – however I heard the pork from DC is no longer available (although I find this hard to believe).

    Lets imagine for a moment that the rail does get built. Now the question remains: what does the operation cost the city taxpayers? And does it bring more economic vitality into the city than it steals through taxation? Folks on this forum seem to think that the cost/benefit analysis points toward a green light for rail, but I disagree for the time.

    If you really want Detroit to experience a revival, there is one core issue that will do more good for the city than thirty light rail trains could ever do: Tax Reform.

    But don’t take my word for it – listen to what the Free Press said just last month on the issue:

    I know it’s not as sexy as light rail, but I can promise that Tax Reform it is a more crucial issue. Trying to adopt light rail right now is like trying to cure a cancer patient by giving him a blood transfusion. Yes it may help a little, but it’s not the prudent choice.

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