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.
W. Sean McAde