Compromise Over Detroit Light Rail Gets Thumbs Up from Advocates

A wrestling match between private investors and the transit community in Detroit has ended in compromise.

A rendering of the Detroit light rail concept. Photo: ##http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO2-IKM9Jpo## Detroit Options for Growth Study##

Detroit leaders have moved to run the city’s Woodward Light Rail along the center of the street throughout most of its nine-mile course. The line will be oriented along the curb, with more frequent stops, beginning when it enters the central business district.

The city announced yesterday that Mayor Dave Bing had signed off on the plan with the Federal Transit Administration, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The position of the train — center- or curb-running — and the number of stops has been a point of contention between the city and private investors, who had committed $100 million to the $500 million project.

Investors were interested in improving the real estate market and development opportunities along Woodward Avenue. They supported curb running with frequent stops.

But the city’s motivation was to improve transportation outcomes in a transit-starved city where many lack access to private automobiles. City officials told the Free Press that 90 percent of the public supported the center-running option, which is considered to be safer and faster.

In light of the decision, transit advocate Joel Batterman, creator of the Transport Michigan blog and producer of the viral Lego-man rap video advocating for center-running rail, said he is pleased.

“I think in general it’s a good compromise,” he said. “It was always going to be curb running in the central business district.”

The biggest compromise actually boiled down to the number of stops in the city’s Midtown district, which is a cultural and business center in the city and the nexus of its revitalization efforts. The city of Detroit had advocated for only two stops. But the current plan, at the behest of investors, includes five.

Investors did not comment on the decision in the press. However advocates are optimistic the investors have been appeased. In a statement to its members, Transportation Riders United said the plan is supported by “the strong majority of stakeholders, including the biggest financial backers.”

“Hopefully the last few hold-outs will give this compromise plan a fair consideration and join in strongly supporting Woodward Light Rail,” said TRU director Megan Owens.

The city has yet to secure some $300 million in federal funding needed for the project.

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