The long-awaited commuter train connecting Ann Arbor and Howell inched closer to reality last Wednesday. At the Ann Arbor Ecology Center Mayor John Hieftje reiterated that the plan is on a three-year timetable. Although many were hoping for progress to be made as early as this year, Hieftje’s statement is a reassurance that this important plan is still a priority.
As planned, the train would use existing tracks to allow commuters to park their cars in Ann Arbor or Howell and take the train, instead of the expressway, to the other city. A similar plan to connect Ann Arbor with Detroit is also in the works.
The benefits of the new plan for Ann Arbor would be two-fold. First there would be a reduction in traffic congestion and standstills. Also, with less traffic downtown, carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced, something that should always be a priority – especially for a city like Ann Arbor. Less carbon dioxide comes with the obvious benefit of better air quality, helping the health of the planet and city residents.
A commuter transit system could additionally serve as a valuable model for the rest of the state. If the Ann Arbor-Howell train is a success, state officials may finally turn their attention to building a comprehensive mass-transit system in the Metro-Detroit area, something that remains conspicuously absent in the region.
As Detroit struggles to reinvent itself in the aftermath of the automotive industry’s decline, a commuter train to Ann Arbor could be key to its recovery. Connecting Detroit to Ann Arbor dually allows Ann Arbor residents and University students an easy way to travel to events in Detroit and brings some of Ann Arbor’s vibrance and youth to a city that desperately needs it to attract businesses.
If the Ann Arbor-Howell train proves that public transit can work, it might be just the thing to help get Detroit back on track.