MI: Regional transit planners to present $10B in ideas at Ann Arbor meeting

July 18, 2019
The details include several commuter rail lines, bus rapid transit routes, airport services and more across Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Jul. 18--ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Regional transit leaders plan to reveal new ideas for a 2020 to 2045 vision in a public meeting Thursday evening in Ann Arbor. 

The details include several commuter rail lines, bus rapid transit routes, airport services and more across Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

The $10-billion vision for the next 20-plus years includes the long-discussed Ann Arbor-to-Detroit commuter rail, which would need $135 million in capital funding and $9 million annual funding for its operations, according to regional transit planners, who could propose a new regional millage next year.

"Having a commuter rail option between Ann Arbor to Detroit, we think that's a near-term possibility with additional revenue," said Matt Webb, general manager of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA).

Ideas will be presented at an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Traverwood Branch Library, 3333 Traverwood Drive, Ann Arbor. The RTA is attempting to garner feedback from the public in each county and is not presenting a ballot proposal at the meeting.

The potential projects would need $4 billion over 20 years for its near-term priorities, and an additional $5.7 billion for aspirational goals.

A $5.4-billion plan proposed in 2018 that would have added a plethora of bus and train routes across the four counties never made it to the ballot, and a similar plan from 2016 was rejected by voters.

"A one-size-fits-all solution isn't going to work. What transit and mobility needs in northern Oakland, Macomb, (and) western Washtenaw look very different than within the core areas, the very dense urban areas," Webb said.

Commuter rails

The Ann Arbor to Detroit rail could start at either the Michigan Central Train Station or the Amtrak station in Detroit and end at the Ann Arbor Amtrak station, Webb said.

Operating and maintaining the Detroit-to-Ann Arbor line would require about $16 million a year, in addition to the initial cost, according to the preliminary plan.

Light rail lines to Detroit Metro Airport and the possibility of an Ann Arbor-to-Chelsea rail are also being considered. Several more rail ideas that planners call "aspirational goals" include lines from Detroit to Pontiac and from Detroit to Mount Clemens, as well as an extension of the QLine streetcar system in Downtown Detroit.

Airport services

Implementing express bus services to the airport from Downtown Detroit and other major economic centers across the region are part of the vision.

The airport services would require $7.6 million a year, and another $24.5 million for future goals, which include: Light rail and bus rapid transit service to the airport from Downtown Detroit and a rail or shuttle to the airport's car rental facilities.

Local bus routes

Improving local bus services, including the Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority (AAATA), Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), would require an additional $68.7 million a year in funding on top of the current $164 million per year, according to the preliminary plan.

Some priorities would include: efficient route modifications, expanding bus service in underserved areas, adding more routes with service every 15 minutes on major corridors, seamless connections between job centers, expanded security presence, infrastructure upgrades and more.

Aspirational goals include adding bus services in communities previously excluded from existing systems, monitoring and testing future autonomous technologies, and more integration between regional service providers.

Enhanced bus systems

Planners are looking to enhance bus routes and amenities in four modes, including:

--Fast Service: Limited stops on lines provided by the SMART system in suburban Detroit.

--Arterial rapid transit: Traffic signal priority, 15-minute frequency services, bus queue jumps and limited off-boarding ticketing areas.

--Bus rapid transit: Traffic signal priority, prepayment ticketing stations, dedicated bus lanes, all-day service and limited stops.

--Commuter express: Weekday rush-hour service for commuters traveling to and from employment centers, utilizing freeways.

The arterial system could cost between $500,000 to $1 million a mile for investments and upgrades, Webb said. Bus rapid transit could cost between $5 to $7 million a mile.

Near-term priorities include:

--Expanding FAST service on Grand River, Van Dyke/Mound

--Implementing arterial service on Gratiot, Michigan and Washtenaw avenues

--Expanding FAST along Woodward Avenue

--Adding 15-minute peak routes on Eight Mile, Nine Mile, 12 Mile, 15 Mile, Fort/Eureka, Greenfield, Jefferson, John R, 23 Mile and Telegraph.

--Increasing cross-county connections to job centers.

--Constructing 15 new park-and-ride lots in core service areas.

--Leveraging mobility technologies and last-mile investments.

--Commuter Express Service: Ann Arbor-Plymouth-Livonia, Canton Express, M-59, I-75 Chrysler Express, I-96 Express, M-10 Lodge Express, I-75 Fisher Express, US-23 Express, I-696 Express, I-94 Express, M-39 Express, I-275 Express, Ann Arbor to Chelsea.

Annual operation costs for FAST would be $17 million; $2 million for arterial transit; $2.2 million for bus rapid transit; and $11.3 million for commuter express.

Other plan features to be discussed Thursday include regional fare cards, an expansion of service hours, shrinking trip booking times, shelter and station upgrades, WiFi and other system enhancements.

The plan will be presented in Macomb County in August and in Oakland County in September.

Click here to take the RTA's public survey for feedback.


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