State pushes transportation effort again

By thauckthauck (1226802548|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

An opinion article from the Daily Tribune, a southeastern Oakland County publication, talking about transportation initiatives in the state government. The original can be accessed here.

When it comes to public transit in the Detroit area, State Rep. Marie Donigan gets it.

Donigan understands the long-term need for transit to make the region less congested and more usable for employees and employers, for those who can't afford a car or prefer to do without one.

She understands the way a fixed system can transform property within a transit corridor as the new transportation options it provides quickly make it more valuable.

For her efforts to make effective public transit a reality, the Royal Oak Democrat has been honored by the Michigan Municipal League as its 2008 Michigan Legislator of the Year. Donigan is a member of the House Transportation Committee and chairs the House Public Transit Subcommittee.

Donigan sees her subcommittee's major accomplishment the bringing together of those who have an interest in better transit, and she's pointed out how improved transit has changed cities such as Denver, Charlotte, N.C., and Portland, Ore.

The League's executive director called Donigan "a champion to solve our gridlocked infrastructure" throughout the state as well as in its southeast corner.

The award comes at a time when interest in public transit is beginning to take off. After years of ignoring the potential, leaders in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties are working with Detroit toward a regional mass transit plan that proposes buses powered by hybrid engines on existing routes, better shelters which provide information on the next arriving bus and faster service. It would be followed by a light-rail system, starting on Woodward between downtown Detroit and the New Center and light rail on Gratiot and M-59 in Macomb County.

The short Woodward line has already lined up much of its necessary funding — from private sources.

If the system can attract riders, it could be extended to Ann Arbor, Pontiac and Port Huron.

If some that sounds familiar, it should: Such a passenger rail was in place a century ago. More recently, Detroit and surrounding counties couldn't get together on a common plan for rapid transit from Detroit out Woodward to Royal Oak and beyond. As a result, $600 million in federal funding in the 1970s went somewhere else.

Good transit in southeastern Michigan has been a dream, no more, for many years while similar visions became reality in cities elsewhere that previously had about as little interest in it as southeastern Michigan.

Donigan understands the past. But she has a clearer view of the future than many, and she deserves the recognition she's getting for that vision.

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