Todays meeting with Dan Dirks

Motor City Freedom Riders
Meeting with Dan Dirks, Director, Detroit Department of Transportation
Friday, November 21, 2014, 1 pm
DDOT headquarters, 1301 E. Warren, Detroit

Attending (Motor City Freedom Riders): Regina Dubose, Glenn Maxwell, Sean McAde, Gery Perkowski, Patti Fedewa, Anna Holden, Pat Hammer, Joel Batterman

Attending (DDOT): Dan Dirks (Director), Larry Lockett (Maintenance), Triette Reeves (External Relations), Bernadette

Main ask: can bus pullout information (actual and scheduled buses leaving garages) be made publicly available on Mayor Duggan’s Detroit Dashboard, so the public can be aware of the progress being made?

Dirks said he would ask concerning the Detroit Dashboard, which is not within his control. He said that he would get the information on the DDOT website by the first week of December.

Basic Performance

Pullout (buses leaving garage) has been increasing. “We started with 145.” It’s now in the 173-174 range (of 188) in the morning period, and 200 (of 229) in the afternoon. Revenue has been up 5 months in a row.

Fleet Size and Maintenance

The FTA allows a 20% maintenance reserve, which means DDOT is allowed to have 275 buses, but DDOT has petitioned the feds to have 300 for the time being. Eventual goal for fleet size is 275. 79 buses are currently being auctioned, with all funding reinvested in the DDOT capital fund.

31 new buses will arrive just before Christmas, and will become operational next year. “Ladders to Opportunity” grant, subject of press conference in September, will include 59 buses, including 10 articulated (accordion-style) buses. Mayor didn’t go three days without calling VP Biden or FTA about the buses.

New maintenance monitoring system went live.

Employee Relations and Training

ATU drivers voted down the proposed contract; they were concerned mechanics would get something better, and also took issue with tighter regulation of preventable accidents (currently, drivers are permitted 2 every year). Back to negotiation.

Driver hiring has been slow. Have hired 35, but lost 50. “You name it, we’ve tried it,” but despite outreach, low pay is a problem. Drivers get $8.57/hour for two-month training period, then start at $11.63, several dollars lower than SMART. “We’re going after money any which way that we can.”

DDOT is applying for grant for 2 new driver simulators.

Negotiations with AFSCME mechanics begin soon. Completed frontline training with federal funding.

Dispatchers move in to the Warren headquarters building from their current location on Dec. 19. Should have positive effect on the “bus bunching” problem.

Long-term Goals

Problem: even once buses are running as scheduled, there still won’t be enough service. “Even when service gets stabilized, there’s not enough service…Even when we get full tilt, we’re not gonna have enough buses.” DDOT had 350 buses operating before the 2012 cuts. Dirks wants to expand service by at least 80 buses.

Dirks met with Christ Watton, DDOT director under Mayor Young, who said that even then, DDOT couldn’t make pullout M-Tu-Wed. “It’s been that way forever.” Management needs its prerogatives in contract.

State and Regional Issues

Transportation funding bills are on the table in Lansing. Duggan got in an amendment in Michigan Senate’s gas tax bill, allowingDetroit to flex 50% of its road funds to transit. However, House is less sympathetic to transit, and representatives need to hear from constituents about the need for funding transit, not just roads. Get in calls, letters to editor.

Dirks continues to advocate for restoring SMART service to Detroit and allowing full SMART service in the city. “I might live in Macomb, but I’m a Detroiter.”

Dirks was supposed to lunch with Michael Ford, RTA CEO, today. Has shared concerns about lack of representation for Detroit in RTA: 60% of total transit ridership in region, and only 1 vote, compared to Washtenaw County’s 2 votes. Mayor has expressed strong concern. “I’ve made some very intense suggestions relative to outreach that the RTA hopes to do.” The date of the 2016 transit election won’t change, and “a sense of urgency needs to be developed.”

And tell SMART to bring back buses on RTA corridors…

Tell SMART’s
Board of Directors:
Three Years is Long Enough.
Let’s Bring Back the Buses!

In December 2011, the SMART bus system eliminated nearly one-quarter of all bus service, including all service inside Detroit city limits outside weekday rush hour, due to declining tax revenue.

These cuts to regional transit service led many people to lose their jobs, and have led others to spend hours waiting in the cold and dark.

In August, citizens gave an additional $28 million
for SMART to keep rolling. We believe a portion of that money should go towards bringing back some of the service we’ve lost, especially on Woodward, Gratiot, and Michigan Avenues – the priority routes for the Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

Afternoon Vigil for SMART Bus Service
Thursday, December 4, 2014, 1-3 pm
SMART offices, Buhl Building, 535 Griswold
1 pm – vigil outside building
2 pm – SMART Board Meeting, 5th floor

Motor City Freedom Riders
motorcityfreedomriders.org

I just could not think of another way to present this info to you so you got it on a blog post. Dan Dirks responded first then Joel.

Wow! It did not go as I thought…

I want a private transportation system.
 


I met this morning with Dan Dirks of DDOT and that reinforced my conviction that it is at least worth considering. Detroit area has five government transit agencies, AATA, SMART, DDOT, the People Mover and the Regional Transit Authority and none of them have a good relationship of working together. There is also M-1 Rail which is a public-private concern as well as Amtrak.

Most other regions of the country at least have a regional transit authority that controls a combination of transit concerns. Some operate very successfully and some do not, but Detroit region has just enacted one and I don’t think it chances are very good.

What I got out of the meeting before, during and after the meeting this morning included things such as:
*DDOT in 2000 ran 450 buses with a budget of 170 million, today it struggles to put 175 buses on the roads with a budget of 130 million.
*There are significant factors which are causing delays in getting everything from parts, employee retention and buses.
*There have been many directors of DDOT since 2000 and the current director does not plan on being there for five years.
*The city and DDOT need to reconfigure bus routes but how does that happen? With input from residence, or from what we have in current data? Most likely from transit users and that is going to be a factor in costs and studies (more).
*Some people say that a director should have a plan with specific dates on a time line. I agree but I say that the regulations are hindering it from happening and that the time frame is longer than these people want.
*There needs to be a multi layered approach to having a secure team in place that will carry DDOT though and beyond. (But also there needs to be in place a process that ensures the other agencies in metro Detroit also have a plan.) (Will this transpire?)
*There are changes in place that will allow buses to be redirected but it is a slow process and one which requires attention of a lot of people.
*There are 25% of the employees (some as young as 48) that are eligible to retire now, and if they don’t they will not be eligible until they are 62. (Changes for younger workers?)
*Cameras are being looked at for all buses but will they really be on them by this fall…?
*Cameras are being looked at on light poles especially around schools but as Ira pointed out there are cameras in some of the light fixtures that might also be used. Was the presentation by the manufactures of the systems?

I just think the time is ripe for metro Detroit to add a private system to the mixup of the multiple agencies that make up transit and to show that another system might work. We are the last area of the country that is so scattered as far as transit. It just might work and I think it will. There are a number of organizations such as the Center for Neighborhood Technology that have done studies that can be used to form the backbone of such a system. I am sure that there are other studies that have been done concerning Washtenaw, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties that can be incorporated.

Transit funding is a complicated mess. The federal laws say that only United States can provide the tools for transit programs that receive federal funds, except… That exception applies to 20% of the materials from what I gather and that is a lot. The United States does not make any measuring gauges for the distance spacing of rail road tracks for instance. Every one of these items must go through an often lengthy process to get approved.

Different localities access funds from a variety of sources. The city of Detroit uses general funds to fund transit. SMART bills .59 mils to a homeowner and AATA bills homeowners I believe 3 mils. AATA is better than SMART and much better than DDOT. Funding matters. These systems all rely on federal funds for some of their operational costs as well.

I recently saw a photo of a barge load of nine diesel locomotives produced in the United States going to Africa. What if they were nine streetcars going from Europe to the United States? No,it would not happen if federal dollars were involved in any part of the transit construction plan. California recently did a bridge project that shipped the bridge from China, but they did not use any federal funding and they saved millions.

I have an acquaintance in Europe that I think has a program that spaces pod cars very well. I also have a person in the United States that I think is on the right track to provide a maglev system, but I am unsure of his ability to schedule them. Can the two work together in the United States? No, not with federal funding. A system that can combine the technologies from different countries is an opportunity to consider in metro Detroit, an area that uses only 25% of the transit that Seattle does.

I mention Seattle because it has a similar population to metro Detroit. It has a regional transit authority and uses different funding mechanisms than metro Detroit.

Detroit area is prime for a private system that might use the Regional Transit Authority to secure some of its routes. The time is now and I am working on it. Regina stated at the last meeting of the DDOT MOSES meeting that transit should be above the streets and I agree. It is all the more important that the streets of Detroit proper are desolate at this time in history. An overhead system would be less of a factor as Detroit develops again.

I would like to put together a system for metro Detroit, and I need support in establishing a framework of doing so. The lawyer that I have in mind for establishing an LLT is  David Joswick http://www.millercanfield.com/DavidJoswick#experience

Drop me a line a michwood (at) msn (dot) com if you are interested in helping and I’ll get back to you on my proposal.

Sincerely,

W. Sean McAde

Metro Detroit 2040

I missed the presentation by Dr. Joe Grengs, a professor of transportation planning at the University of Michigan. When I got there another person was talking. Shortly after Joel Batterman of the Suburbs Alliance broke everyone into table groups. There seemed to be a piece of paper that outlined what we should be discussing, concerning the widening of I-94 and/or taking a look at public transit.

One woman that was speaking did mention that it was possible to take another look at the proposal but that it would be difficult.

Robert Prud’Homme (TRU’s VP) gave a speech about how roads that get expanded fill up and then Joe Grengs proceeded to explain about the variety of reasons for this.

The breakdown for the cost amounts to 12% for Detroit which is 70 million dollars and that amount is unlikely to be contributed. I never did get a sense of where the federal and state dollars will be coming from but from past reading I get the idea that it will be difficult. In the meantime I-94 has to conform to plan that is laid out. Right now there was 30 million the state had and I assume it is going into the exit ramps at Grand Blvd. and Van Dyke. Maybe MDOT did cover Detroit’s 3 1/2 million this time but 70 million?

I will discuss my feelings about table groups later…

You might want to see Gus Burns article http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2013/05/live_transportation_leaders_pr.html

M-1 PRT?

A light rail line running from Pontiac to Detroit could carry over half a million people in a twelve hour day. Today we have between 21,000 and 31,000 using that route. That’s about 5% of the traffic that is now riding the bus. If the projections are close to being right about 5,500 will take a streetcar between New Center and Downtown. Right now the bus ridership on the 53 is around 8,500 but most of them (from my experience) start out north of New Center.

From the perspective of running a PRT (personal rapid transit) type system from New Center to downtown 13,000 people could ride individually in a twelve hour day. That is more than the projected 5,500 people riding a streetcar.

So on to the streetcar proposal. When I attended the event on February 28th I expected the streetcar to run down the center of the street like it did in the early days like in these historical photos. That was what got me working on a proposal for PRT down Woodward.

For several years I have been working on a proposal to bring a PRT system to southeast Michigan like this July 2011 plan, but I avoided the Woodward corridor figuring that the streetcar would take care of that area. A side running route caused me to revisit this area. I am not sure what is going on but my suspicion is that it revolves around cost. During an earlier presentation when the line was to run to Eight Mile I questioned a turn around the Coleman Young Municipal Center. I was told that the train cars would have to be outfitted with special bogies like they used in Salt Lake City. They would cost several million more!

Likewise I sense that the decision to run down the side of Woodward is due to costs. I suspect that that also means that T-Rails would be run instead of“Block Rail”. The difference could run about 3.5 million and would be a big step in preventing bike riders from using Woodward. A “Block Rail” has a 1.5 inch gap where the T-Rail has a 2.5 inch gap. The cost of support wires could run a lot less as well.

The biggest concern for me is the bus service that would be interrupted by running streetcars down the side. If there are about 11,000 passengers traveling on this line (Eight Mile to downtown) and only 5,500 taking the train (which seems a little bit illogical) how do the buses get to drop people off? Does the bus not run down Woodward from New Center? If so that means two transfers, one at State Fair and one at New Center. That is not conducive to getting people to ride the streetcar.

Detroit metro area is in a unique situation in that it has a very poor transit system. As a city it does not have a cohesive system and even with the RTA it has only the ability to mandate cooperation between some of the systems in operation. It can also award the rights to roadways to a system. Without funding besides the several hundred thousand in state money it can not do much more.

As I researched PRT systems, self driving cars became real in the sense that several states actually “legalized” them. PRT (personal rapid transport) has been around a long time, since the 1970 in earnest. Yet it has never taken off. They are essentially a self driving cars on a fixed track, so why not let them get off the track?

At one point I actually thought about making PRT a pedal system as well but in talking to Bubble Motion’s founder that quickly got dropped. Yet why could not every pod become a carrier for a bicycle. That got me to thinking of a system that allowed you to get to a pod car within a few miles, by riding a bike. Something large for the metro area, like this:

If we had a system of pods that could carry a bike operating on system like this it would be easy to get around. Some of the tracks could be laid on the ground but most of them would be elevated. Some areas could have self driving routes, like at the airport or malls.

The way I see a system coming together is by starting small with private money. Right now there are no manufacturers of a PRT system made in the US. This creates a problem when funding a transit system that uses federal funds mandating that all (most, the stick that measures rail spacing is not made in the US) components be US made.

The Woodward corridor as redesigned for a PRT type system could start out by building perhaps the center loop shown below. The spaces to fill in could run up Woodward or take a detour wherever it was felt the need might be, like Henry Ford Hospital.

Getting back to the streetcar proposal there are concerns about bike riders using Woodward with side running cars but there is also the ridership projection and the bus stopping issues. Along with unexpected cost overruns such as Tucson’s that likely to cost a lot more each year.

How does a company get off the ground? Especially when the cost of doing business will likely run into billions of dollars. By forming a company that is structured to take on value each year and thus incorporating other partners over time. That would be a start and I’ll fill you in on more details in a latter posting.

Codes

A simple code:

Round((If(buy it now price < caseif, buy it now price, caseif) * group sale) – ((group sale – 1) * buy it now profit),0)

A complex code:

If(sell type = "nbf auction",auction price & f5 & v6 insurance & match::Auction 1 & f3 & match::Auction 2 & "thanks for bidding" & match::Auction 3 & f7 & match::Auction 3a & f5 & match::Auction 4 & four code workon Clone::description & " " &"” & “$” & ship & “” & match::Auction 5 & payment policy 5 & match::Auction 6 &” ” & v6insert notes 2::description & ” “& ” ” &”” & v6 insurance & ““&” ” & v61insert notes 3::description & “

” & supplier list::Ship to &match::Auction 7 & match::V6 48 & match::Auction 8 & refund policy 14 &”

” & ““& match::Auction 9 & f2 & supplier & match::supplierid & match::Auction 10 ,If(sell type = “doba auction”,auction price & f5 & v6 insurance & match::Auction 1 & f3 & match::Auction 2 & “thanks for bidding” & match::Auction 3 & f7 & match::Auction 3a & f5 & match::Auction 4 & four code workon Clone::description & ” ” &”” & “$” & ship & “” & match::Auction 5 & payment policy 5 & match::Auction 6 &” ” & v6insert notes 2::description & ” “& ” ” &”” & v6 insurance & ““&” ” & v61insert notes 3::description & “

” & supplier list::Ship to &match::Auction 7 & match::V6 48 & match::Auction 8 & refund policy 14 &”

” & ““& match::Auction 9 & f2 & supplier & match::supplierid & match::Auction 10,If(sell type = “postage included A”,auction price & f5 & v6 insurance & match::Auction 1 & f3 & match::Auction 2 & “thanks for bidding” & match::Auction 3 & f7 & match::Auction 3a & f5 & match::Auction 4 & four code workon Clone::description & ” ” &”” & “$” & ship & “” & match::Auction 5 & payment policy 5 & match::Auction 6 &” ” & v6insert notes 2::description & ” “& ” ” &”” & v6 insurance & ““&” ” & v61insert notes 3::description & “

” & supplier list::Ship to &match::Auction 7 & match::V6 48 & match::Auction 8 & refund policy 14 &”

” & ““& match::Auction 9 & f2 & supplier & match::supplierid & match::Auction 10,If(sell type = “doba fixed” and listing type = “Bedding”,buy it now price &”-” & f5 & “-” & v6 insurance & match::ug yellow 1 & f3 & match::ug2 &match::ug2b & “thanks for visiting my store” & match::ug3 & f7 & match::ug3a & f5 & match::ug4 & four code workon Clone::description & ” ” &”” & “$” & ship & “” & match::ug5 & payment policy 5 & match::ug6 &” ” & v6insert notes 2::description & ” “& ” ” &”” & v6 insurance & ““&” ” & v61insert notes 3::description & “

” & supplier list::Ship to &match::ug7 & match::V6 48 & match::ug8 & refund policy 14 &”

” & ““& match::ug9 & f2 & supplier & match::supplierid & match::ug10,If(listing type = “garden” or “coffee” or “cutting board,table service” or “Patio” or “woodworking kits” or “woodworking supplies”, buy it now price &”-” & f5 & “-” & v6 insurance & match::ug border 1a & Backgrounds 2::html& match::ug border 1 & f3 & match::ug2 &match::ug2b & “buy this now for only”” “”$” & buy it now price & ” ” & “Total with shipping is” & ” ” & sell price ship & match::ug3 & f7 & match::ug3a & f5 & match::ug4 & four code workon Clone::description & ” ” &”” & “$” & ship & “” & match::ug5 & payment policy 5 & match::ug6 &” ” & v6insert notes 2::description & ” “& ” ” &”” & v6 insurance & ““&” ” & v61insert notes 3::description & “

” & supplier list::Ship to &match::ug7 & match::V6 48 & match::ug8 & refund policy 14 &”

” & ““& match::ug9 & f2 & supplier & match::supplierid & match::ug10, “left off”)))))