In the case of an emergency at home in Chicago, LSA freshman
Michael Rabinowitz would first have to hail a taxi, commission it
to go to Detroit, then find a flight out of the Detroit
Metropolitan Airport.

However, a study of mass transportation options between Ann
Arbor and Detroit may lead to making a trip to Detroit simpler.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments General Assembly
is studying whether a rapid transit route to Detroit would be
feasible. The assembly is a private organization that plans on
behalf of local governments on the subjects of transportation,
economics and the environment.

“We’ve started the process by looking at all
options,” said Carmine Palombo, SEMCOG’s director of
transportation planning. “We’ll whittle it down to the
best alternative.”

One of the options is a commuter train. Another option is Bus
Rapid Transit, designed to combine the flexibility of a bus with
the comfort of a train. It would be capable of running on exclusive
transitways, expressways and ordinary streets. One of its benefits
is its cleanliness and quietness, according to the assembly.

Nothing has been decided yet. The study will range 18 months
— it began in October 2003 and is scheduled for completion in
June 2005.

“We’ve done a regional transit study to identify
corridors of candidacy for more public transportation,”
Palombo said. “The Ann Arbor to Detroit Corridor was one of
those. We’re moving forward with the next phase, determining
whether the costs and benefits make it feasible.”

The study’s public kick-off is a series of meetings open
to all citizens from Oct. 19 through Oct. 21. In the meetings, the
assembly will judge interest in local communities.

“We’ve heard that a number of communities are very
interested,” Palombo said. “Washtenaw County,
Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Wayne County and Detroit have all expressed
interest.”

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick believes his city is in an
upswing and mass transportation is a way to facilitate the
progress.

“We absolutely believe wholeheartedly in mass
transit,” said Howard Hughey, Kilpatrick’s press
secretary. “The mayor and Legislature believe it would make
our region more competitive globally. It would help grow
Detroit.”

Exploring how rapid transit may help local economies is a goal
of the study.

“The transit plan aims to enhance overall
transportation,” Palombo said. “But it also aims to
improve the region’s economic competitiveness.”

Ann Arbor residents, who number 114,000 during the school year,
would have greater access to visit and spend money in Detroit.

It is possible to get to Detroit from Ann Arbor without a car,
but it requires a costly cab ride.

“I would probably go to Detroit more to see some concerts
if I could get there easier,” LSA freshman Callie Worsham
said. “If you don’t have a car here, it’s hard to
get there.”

Worsham owns a car, but she doesn’t bring it to campus
because of limited parking. For students like her who don’t
have cars on campus, getting to Detroit is often expensive.

“It would really save me money if I could use public
transportation instead of taking a cab,” Rabinowitz said.
“Especially when I want to get to the airport.”

Opening new modes of transportation to the airport is a major
consideration of the study, Palombo said.

A projected 22 percent increase in households and 15 percent
increase in jobs in the Detroit area points toward increased air
traffic, making better transportation to the airport a necessity,
according to the assembly.

“It would be great to have a route between Detroit and the
airport, which would probably be part of the route from Ann
Arbor,” Hughey said.

The Michigan Union Ticket Office sells reserved seats to the
airport for $13 roundtrip and $8 one-way on the Michigan Student
Assembly’s airBus service.

However, this shuttle only runs prior to scheduled University
breaks.

MSA President Jason Mironov said the assembly is contemplating
putting together an extended program in the same vein as
airBus.

“It would give students from the Detroit metro area a
better way to get home for holidays and other things,”
Mironov said.

Improving the program has been discussed at an MSA meeting, but
is not even in the planning stages yet, Mironov said.

 

Commuter consensus

Public meetings will be held to gauge community support for
increased mass transportation from Ann Arbor to Detroit.

Oct. 19, 4 to 8 p.m., Washtenaw Community College.

Oct. 20, 4 to 8 p.m., SEMCOG office, 535 Griswold St., Suite
300, Detroit.

Oct. 21, 4 to 8 p.m., Henry Ford Community Performing Arts
Center, Dearborn.

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