Ann Arbor is considered to be one of the leading cities in the movement to go green. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of on-site green power producers in the agency’s Green Power Partnership list ranked the city of Ann Arbor 12th in the country this year with about 29 percent of its electricity produced by renewable energy. Ann Arbor is also ranked in the top 15 most bicycle-friendly cities in America. But there is one environmentally-friendly component missing from this major metropolis: a train. While the city has a public bus system run by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority — and many of its buses are hybrids — it lacks a form of multi-city public transportation. This problem was on its way to being fixed, but there may be a stumbling block in the plan.
In October, U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.) announced that the state would receive $150-million federal grant to create a high-speed railway system. The rail would travel from Kalamazoo to Dearborn and pass through Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Jackson, Albion and Battle Creek. Now it appears there is a financial block in the train’s way.
According to a Tuesday annarbor.com article, Michigan will be forced to send back its federal funding if the state Senate doesn’t agree to allocate the required matching funds. The state House of Representatives bill needed for the funding was passed on Nov. 10 and is currently awaiting approval from the state Senate.
While I understand that the Michigan economy isn’t exactly at it’s finest and that there may not be $37 million lying around, the Senate needs to figure out a way to scrap together the money. Most major cities in the country have some form of a train system. Our Midwest neighbor, Chicago, has had an electric rail for nearly a century.
While the high-speed rail would help many cities around the state, Ann Arbor will greatly benefit from the addition. Ann Arbor is a high-traffic city. Hundreds of people commute to Ann Arbor each day. And yes, Ann Arbor has already established many efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Projects like Commuter Challenge — which encourages people to make their daily commute on foot — and others developed by getDowntown, which creates commuting alternatives to driving, have helped to offer the community eco-friendly routes. But on a day like today, when it’s below freezing and snowing, I doubt that many people would decide to walk to work instead of drive.
The high-speed rail is an essential addition to the city. Not only will it help commuters who travel to Ann Arbor for work or leisure, it will also benefit students. While the airBus — which is sponsored by the Michigan Student Assembly — is offered before and after vacation breaks for $7 per student, many out-of-state students take a cab to Detroit Metro Airport instead. Not only is that up to a $60 fare, it also increases traffic around the holidays. With a high-speed rail, students would be able to get to the airport more quickly and cheaply.
Additionally, building a high-speed rail will create many jobs. Workers from multiple cities will need to be hired to build the tracks and people will need to be hired to monitor the stations.
The condition of Michigan’s economy is mediocre at best. The city of Detroit, particularly, has taken a huge hit by this economic downfall. But as economist John Keynes said, the only way to help a struggling economy is for the government to put money back into it. The state government needs to subscribe to this theory. Michigan will never be revived if it doesn’t begin to incorporate more efficient and advanced technology. The high-speed rail will decrease air pollution, decrease traffic and help commuters save money. It’s a perfect start.
Emily Orley is a senior editorial page editor.