In due time, Detroit may be able to lay claim to a modern public transportation system. Since early 2007, a proposed project — called M1 RAIL for Woodward Avenue — outlays a 3.4-mile light-rail system, which would connect the downtown and uptown areas along historic Woodward Avenue. Construction, optimistically scheduled to begin in 2012, has been stalled due to uncertainty over the long-term viability of the project. The building of the M1 RAIL would stimulate the economy and the development of jobs in the city, promoting a better future for Detroit.
Light-rail is one of the most economically advantageous forms of mass inner-city transit. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the average price of gas now costs Michigan drivers $4.04 per gallon. According to the Detroit Free Press, the average price of gas in Michigan is the eighth highest in the nation. Furthermore, Detroit’s bus system has been suffering from budget cuts, vehicle breakdowns and disgruntled union members. While the cost of travel using the M1 RAIL is yet to be determined, it’s certain that this mode of transportation will be cost-efficient and eco-friendly.
Since a light-rail system would be highly economical, it could also encourage commuting throughout the city, which would increase commerce and trade among the 34.5 percent of the city’s residents who live below the poverty line, according to census data. The project remains under review by the Federal Transportation Administration and the city itself. On Monday, United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger and House Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas in Washington D.C. in an attempt to garner necessary funding to commence construction.
The most promising aspect of the M1 RAIL is that the majority of the project would be privately funded. The rail would provide a transportation upgrade without draining the struggling city. The project has a total estimated cost of $137 million. It would receive $25 million from a federal grant, $16 million from New Markets Tax Credits and $84 million from private donations. These private investors have agreed to fund the rail line’s operations until 2025. In addition to prepared funding, similar projects have found success in Texas and Oregon. In Dallas, the DART rail system, also privately funded, was responsible for an estimated 27,000 jobs as a result of an initial $1 billion investment.
With the promise of accessible transportation and the gift of funds to create it, the proposed M1 RAIL project is an investment in Michigan’s once-great port-side epicenter. With an effective transportation system, the city will become much more attractive to new businesses and job-seekers young and old. With an influx of people taking advantage of the ease of transportation, the economy and development of Detroit will witness positive change.