Detroit Tries to Get Its Transit Act Together Again

And Austin unveils a long-range transit proposal and more in this week's New Starts.

Detroit People Mover

Detroit's downtown “people mover” may someday connect to a yet-to-be-built regional transit network. (Photo by David Wilson / CC BY 2.0)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Detroit Takes Another Stab at Creating a Regional Transit System

Seven years after the creation of the Regional Transportation Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA), a group created to coordinate regional mobility in Detroit and its surrounds, there is still no regional transit service in the area. City residents still find it difficult to reach suburban employment centers, and suburbanites have no options besides driving if they want to access city amenities.

Efforts to create a regional service were rejected by voters in 2016 and never made it to the ballot in 2018. Now, reports WDIV, leaders in three of the four core counties of metro Detroit want to give it another go.

The plan being put forth by Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties would ultimately result in a ballot question authorizing a regional transit plan and taxes to fund operations this fall. Macomb County, which operates its own countywide bus service, would be excluded from this plan.

The route to the ballot question is complicated and runs through Lansing. It would result in a new three-county partnership to fund and run transit service that leaves open the possibility of adding Macomb County later. This partnership and the funding mechanism is what Metro Detroit residents would vote on this fall.

“We have been working on solving our regional transit challenges for years to allow us to compete against other states for major economic opportunity and investment,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told WDIV. “This legislation is a big first step toward a transit solution that has escaped us for too long.”

Austin Releases Plan for Regional Rapid Transit

Don’t look now, but there could be a light metro in Austin’s future. The Texas capital’s rapid growth and underdeveloped road network have combined to make travel around the metropolitan area a major pain, and now, the metropolitan transit agency has come forth with a proposal for a major pain reliever.

KXAN reports that Capital Metro officials gave Austinites a vision of a regional rapid transit network that could include a downtown subway tunnel in a presentation to Austin City Council Jan. 14. The presentation laid out several possible alternatives that offer a mix of bus rapid transit and light rail transit routes, one of which could be a grade-separated LRT line that would run underground in downtown Austin.

Capital Metro officials say that 40 percent of the proposed network’s cost — which would range from $3.2 billion to $10.2 billion, depending on what options are chosen — could be paid for with federal grants. That leaves it up to the city to come up with the other 60 percent. That would require a ballot question in November that would authorize either bonds or new taxes.

Cap Metro officials say that bus rapid transit routes through the city center would reach capacity by 2040 and that light rail lines would be preferable. The fully grade-separated light metro with the downtown subway tunnel, of course, is the costliest option, but it would also carry the most riders by 2040.

Work to Resume on Another Stalled Rail Line in São Paulo

In October, this column reported that work on a long-stalled metro project in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, was on its way to resuming. Now comes word by way of the International Railway Journal that work will resume on another suspended project in that city.

The project in question this time is Line 17/Gold, a monorail line that currently stands 86 percent complete. São Paulo Metro had terminated its contract with the Monorail Railroad Consortium (CMI) because of delays and a work slowdown; on Jan. 13, the agency signed a R$494.8 million (US$119.7 million) contract with Constran to complete the 7.7-km (4.8-mile) line and its eight stations.

The monorail will serve Congonhas Airport and connect with two other metro lines, Line 5/Lilac and Line 9/Emerald.

São Paulo Metro is still in the process of evaluating bids for the other parts of the terminated contract with CMI, including the supply of trains and signaling systems.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: detroittransit agencieslight railaustin

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