Posts Tagged ‘light rail’

Light rail, BRT and bicycles in Detroit

Monday, January 9th, 2012

It’s challenging keeping abreast of the recent announcements for the off-again, on-again light rail and now bus rapid transit (BRT) projects in Detroit.

The latest proposal is to build the M1-Rail’s 3-mile light rail on Woodward with BRT on Michigan, Woodward, and Gratiot.

Woodward Avenue

According M-Live, the M1-Rail group has “90 days to develop a plan to incorporate their 3.4 mile light rail line into the BRT system. Just how that will work on a practical level is something to be decided in the planning process, according to Bing spokesman Stephen Serkaian.”

Are we back to the curb-side versus center-running debate? Not sure.

Both the light rail and BRTs will all but certainly share a dedicated right-of-way and some stations. As wide as Woodward is, MDOT’s not going to dedicate four lanes to transit.

And in order for both projects to move most quickly while using federal dollars, they’ll likely use the DDOT light rail study which favored center running for most of the route. That coincides with a statement from the Mayor’s office that “Any light-rail studies to date can be applied to advance the approval and construction of rapid bus.”

Following the DDOT study would be fairly ideal for cyclists who want to continue riding safely on Woodward.

However, M-Live adds, “experts say the possibility of BRT ending in New Center is a real one.” That would make it easier to put light rail on the curbs, which would be?a terrible scenario for cyclists.

Michigan and Gration Avenues

For these roads, there are definitely more questions than answers at this point.

How will the BRT affect:

  • the new Corktown bike lanes?
  • the planned sharrows on Gratiot in Detroit?
  • the Woodward Avenue non-motorized planning north of Eight Mile?

We may not have answers to these for some time, especially since Woodward will likely be the first dip in the BRT waters.

We do know that BRT will be on state trunk lines and MDOT is committed to building Complete Streets.

Woodward Light Rail plan: a good compromise for cyclists

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Detroit Free Press image

Last week the city of Detroit announced a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the Woodward Light Rail project.

And while we have not yet read the FEIS, the city’s announcement does appear they did consider our bicycling safety concerns.

Those concerns mainly involved the alignment of the rails, center versus curb. The FEIS proposes a hybrid of these alignments, but mostly center-running — something that was preferred in 91% of the public comments.

The curb-running alignment is understandable on Woodward south of Grand Circus and there is not enough road right-of-way for center running rail. Besides, at this point, cyclists have many options even including the overly wide sidewalks if they want to stay out of the roadway. It’s really too bad the sidewalk planters hadn’t been designed differently in order to allow raised cycletracks along this section.

The FEIS route is also curbside along Larned and Congress. Since both are one-way, bicyclists (and eventual bike lanes per the city’s non-motorized plan) could be located on the opposite side of the street.

Washington Boulevard from Larned to Michigan will have curbside tracks, but we can probably live with that given the low traffic volumes. Washington is also supposed to receive bike lanes according to the non-motorized plan, but the rails may remove this possibility.

Why more center-running versus curb-running?

The city’s announcement provides the reasoning behind this design and alignment. Here are the reasons for pedestrians and bicyclists:

8. Provide a Safe Pedestrian Environment

a. Jaywalking is a concern under both options.
b. Stations associated with the center running option provide pedestrian refuges in center of Woodward.
c. Pedestrians would cross at marked crosswalks every 1/8th to 1/4th mile with the center running option.

9. Provide Safest Alternative for Bicyclists

a. Under both options, bicyclists will travel in the lane closest to curb.
b. The side running option creates a safety concern due to bicyclists traveling in lanes with uneven surfaces, inconsistent materials (steel & concrete) and gaps that could catch wheels due to the embedded track.

The Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, and Crain’s Business Detroit have also covered this recent news.

Detroit light rail comments due today

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Curb running trains and tracks aren't safe for bicyclists on Woodward

The city of Detroit is collecting comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed light rail project on Woodward. Those comments are due today, March 14th.

The DEIS is large, technical, and not always fun to read. It does provide three alternatives. One difference between the three is where the tracks would be located on Woodward south of Grand Boulevard: in the center or at the curbs.

We agree with the DEIS assessment that the curb-running alignment would have a negative impact on bicycling. For that and other reasons, we support Alternative A1 with median running light rail for the entire route.

This amazing video from Transport Michigan also supports median running. This video has gone viral as we’ve received it from a number of different sources.

Some other thoughts we had:

  • Adding a two-way cycle track on the east side of Woodward that connected Ferndale’s existing Hilton bike lanes to the proposed park and ride just north of the State Fairgrounds.
  • Adding bike lanes or cycle tracks on Woodward from McNichols to Eight Mile. Woodward is unnecessarily wide and could be road dieted.
  • Adding sharrows where bike lanes cannot be added.
  • Improve the parallel streets for bicycling (Second, Third, Brush, John R) by adding bike lanes/sharrows and by making them two-way for their entire length.
  • Allowing bikes to roll on to the trains.
  • Having bike parking (preferably covered) at the transit stations.
  • Consider future implementation of a public bike sharing system located at the transit stops.

To make comments, send an email to

Detroit Light Rail comments

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Today is the last day to submit comments to DDOT on the proposed Woodward Avenue Light Rail Transit project. Comments should be emailed to

The scoping booklet is on-line and presents a number of different options. One key issue with cyclists is the track alignment: curb-running versus median-running.

Curb-running makes bike lanes difficult to impossible. Do you really want to ride near the trains, their tracks, and their stations?

The best answer is median-running. In the scoping booklet, that is Design Option A. It would be great if many cyclists requested that option in their comments.

Transport Michigan also has some great thoughts and comments regarding this project and cycling.

Link: Additional information on Detroit’s light rail project

Detroit’s Light Rail Plans accomodate biking

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Congresswoman Kilpatrick discusses Light Rail in DetroitYesterday was the public announcement regarding DTOGS, the Detroit Transit Options for Growth Study.

We had concerns about the study’s proposed Woodward renderings. They appeared to remove the wide curb lane that makes Woodward more bike friendly. On other streets they removed the traffic lanes altogether.

On a positive note, they did have bike racks at the light rail stations.

During Monday’s announcement we learned that the light rail trains would allow bike roll-ons. This is a major benefit. It means cyclists could bring their bikes right on the train without the hassle of external racks like those currently on SMART buses. It also eliminates the two-bike limit those SMART racks currently face.

We also spoke with the planners afterwards to discuss wide curb lanes and in some cases bike lanes depending on the available road right-of-way constraints. Fortunately the planners are from Minneapolis and are familiar with light rail/cycling issues.

For further reading, the DTOGS announcement was covered by the Detroit News and Free Press.