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Welcome to SEMCOG's Think Regional/Act Local blog! SEMCOG is the only organization in Southeast Michigan that brings together all governments to solve regional challenges and enhance the quality of life for the seven-county regions 4.7 million residents. With this regional perspective in mind, we work with member local governments to sustain our regions reputation as a great place to work, play, and do business.

 

Our panel of SEMCOG staff bloggers will post daily to this blog, discussing SEMCOG's data, federal and state legislative issues, and environmental and fiscal sustainability best practices for local governments all with the goal of creating a successful future for the region.

 

 

Think Regional/Act Local

New Transportation Bills Introduced

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

Last week, a series of bills were introduced in the Michigan House and the Senate. These bills implement many of the messages discussed by Governor Snyder in his infrastructure message of late 2011. The bills include proposals for:

  • A Regional Transit Authority.
  • Increases in transit funding, including:
    • an optional county registration fee to benefit public transit.
    • an optional registration fee for a regional transit authority.
  • Local road agencies to adopt best practices and asset management standards as a condition of receiving funds.
  • Implementing a wholesale fuel tax on fuel wholesalers.
  • Increasing the vehicle registration fee.
  • Changing and creating a sunset for meetings of the complete streets advisory council if the state transportation commission adopts a complete streets policy.

The specific bills can be viewed on a special page on our Web site.

 

That is a lot of bills covering a lot of territory, but it is great that they were introduced at the same time. I have heard that the RTA legislation is likely to be the first bill taken up. Hopefully, it is one we can all rally around and support quickly. It is critical to the future of transit that this legislation be considered and acted on quickly. Hopefully, if the legislature sees it can act together on this bill, it may give them confidence that they can find enough common ground to move forward on the rest of the bills.


Moving these bills will not be easy. Already there are polls everywhere suggesting that people do not want to have taxes or fees increased. Guess what, there are also polls out there that indicate people think the road and transit systems are terrible and need to be fixed. The solution is for us to do some educating on the need, the needed funds required, and the road and transit agencies to spend the dollars in a way where the public can see that the systems are indeed improving.

 

Is it a tall order? You betcha it is. Can we do it? Absolutely. And we need to do it now. Please read these bills and tell your legislator how important they are to the future condition of our transportation infrastructure. Do it today.

 

Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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Teen Driving

(Transportation) Permanent link

Well, we just had our first significant snow of the year. When my kids were in high school, I always worried about them driving – especially on nights like last Friday night. Teens continue to be over represented in the number of traffic crashes they are involved in despite our efforts to protect them. Traffic crashes are still the leading cause of death for teens – a statistic that is completely unacceptable.

 

This month’s AAA magazine references a study recently completed by the AAA Foundation that has some very interesting and disturbing findings. For example, the study indicates that teens are 50% more likely to get into a crash the first month after they have their license than they are after their first full year of driving. Speeding, inattention, and failure to yield account for more than half of the crashes new drivers are involved in.

 

What does this tell us? Well, it tells us that new drivers still have lots to learn about driving, but it also seems like they pick up things fast. It tells us that their primary teachers, their parents, should continue to help their young drivers even though they have their license. The education process shouldn’t stop just because the young driver has a license. AAA suggests that parents ride along with their teens as a passenger from time to time to help them understand new situations – like driving in the snow and ice. They also suggest the teen driving agreement at Teendriving.AAA.com.

 

I still worry about my kids driving on snowy nights like last Friday, probably always will. But, at least I know they have a lot more experience now in snow conditions and they are better prepared to drive safely in any kind of weather. That is all we can ask for, isn’t it?

 

Young Driver Crashes, 2008-2010 (PDF) 

 

Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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It is Time

(Freight, Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

I have not written very much about the owners of the Ambassador Bridge and the need for additional and improved border crossings because I did not want to contribute to what has unfortunately become a three-ring circus in my opinion. Unfortunately, though, after the events of last week, I feel the need to say a few things.

 

First of all, it is SEMCOG’s position that a new crossing is needed south of the existing Ambassador Bridge. All of the studies that have been completed indicate as much. SEMCOG is also on record as supporting replacement of the existing Ambassador Bridge with a new one for many reasons including capacity and redundancy needs. So, we are on record as supporting both sides in this issue.

 

However, no matter what your position is, the nonsense around the new bridge and the Gateway Project has to stop. Last week, the judge reviewing the dispute between MDOT and the owners of the Ambassador Bridge was not pleased with the lack of progress in the bridge owners’ completion of their portion of the project. As a result, he ordered two representatives of the bridge company jailed until the improvements were completed. Subsequently, the bridge company appealed and the representatives are out until the court hears their appeal. 

 

This saga of the government and the Ambassador Bridge has to stop. It has gone from being mildly amusing to extremely serious and potentially dangerous. Going to jail is a serious matter – not to be taken lightly by anyone. It is past time for all parties to come together and resolve all of the issues that exist. A good place to start is for the owners of the Ambassador Bridge to quickly make the required improvements to complete the Gateway project. Once this has been completed, all parties need to meet in a locked room and not come out until an agreement has been worked out that will allow the new bridge to be constructed at the site to the south of the current Ambassador Bridge. It will not be easy and it will not be cheap, but it must be done and done quickly. It is time.

 

Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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Light rail has 9 lives

(Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

There was a story the other day about a cat that cheated death twice. Twice, they tried to put it to sleep by injection and thought it was dead, only to have it came back to life. Officials took this as a sign and found the cat a nice home and it is doing quite well according to the story.

 

Well, it seems that like our friend the cat, light rail is back from the dead – a shorter project, but back just the same. This is the right thing to do and I hope it ultimately gets done. How can you turn down a $100 million coming from the private sector to build a light rail system from downtown to New Center? It appears the $100 million, when coupled with the $25 million federal TIGER grant, could cover the capital costs of the project. The operating costs – well, hopefully the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) legislation can help provide the funding for both the short, light-rail section and the bus rapid transit program. We will find out in the next 90 days.

 

In the past months we have seen both DDOT and SMART cut back on service and the PeopleMover has increased fares for the first time since it began service. Funding for public transit is critical if we are to have just basic service, let alone even a small, light-rail line. This is why the most important next step is the passage of the RTA legislation. Transit needs someone to be in charge – a face, an entity – who will be responsible and accountable and who will develop a planned, phased approach to improve transit in the region. That is the only way they are ever going to be able to go to the public and ask for the additional funds needed. This should be the highest transit priority of the region and the state.

 

In the coming days, much will be written on this subject. Call your legislators and tell them to support the formation of an RTA. It is the only chance we will have to improve transit in our region.

 

Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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