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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

Here We Go

(Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

August 25, 2014 -Last Wednesday, the RTA finally got a CEO – Michael Ford. He has a proven track record of success throughout his career, most recently with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) and I believe he is the right person for the job. Make no mistake, this is going to be a very challenging position. Expectations are high, funding is down, people want a better working transit system – NOW – not next year or the year after. Michael has his work cut out for him.

 

Michael Ford

 

At the same time, this may be a perfect storm sort of a situation. There are so many positive things happening and so many more positive feelings about the role of public transit in our region. Construction of M-1 is significant, in my opinion. We have talked about transit along Woodward for over 30 years and it is finally happening. Whether you are in favor or not, the M-1 project signals an end to talking and the beginning of building. Woodward bus rapid transit (or, BRT) is not too far behind and the RTA, under the guidance of Mr. Ford, will have recommendations on higher levels of transit in the Michigan Avenue and Gratiot corridors by early 2016, along with a new comprehensive four-county transit plan in the same timeframe.

 

It is going to be tight, but it is doable. Here are some important things Mr. Ford should focus on as he goes forward:

  1. Introduce yourself to the political and business leaders of the region and try to secure their support. They need to be partners. 
  2. Establish good and regular communication with leaders of DDOT, SMART, AAATA, and the Detroit PoepleMover. Coordination of systems should be a big part of the overall plan. 
  3. Talk to union leaders, let them know the game plan, and invite them under the tent to own the game plan. 
  4. Coordinate the messaging of the public transit interest groups to ensure they are working in concert with the RTA and not ahead or behind them. 
  5. Look for little victories to establish some immediate credibility. 
  6. Be visible in the community. 
  7. Listen to all points of view, but make up your mind. 
  8. Prioritize, you will not be able to solve all of the problems at once. 
  9. Be transparent. 
  10. Be honest.

Welcome Michael. SEMCOG pledges to help in any way we can. Let’s do it!

 

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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The Power of Mother Nature

(Legislation, Regionalism, Stormwater management, Transportation) Permanent link

 

August 18, 2014 - Last Monday while driving home from a presentation in Birmingham, I saw something I have never seen before. There was so much water, creating so much pressure on the storm system that I saw a manhole cover literally explode out of the manhole! Incredible!

 

Monday was, indeed, an incredible day. I don't think I have ever seen so much rain in just a few hours. Each major piece of the public infrastructure system was taxed and pieces of each failed. The unprecedented rainfall severely impacted the road, storm and sewer, and electric systems, resulting in flooding in the streets and in many basements, as well as loss of electricity in some areas.

 

This situation was even worse on sections of the freeway, especially those below grade. Pumps are supposed to pump excess water out off the freeway, but many of the pumps either were overwhelmed by the volume of water or simply failed to work. Of course, I wonder where the pumps were supposed to pump the water to!

 

The result? Over 10 feet of water in some places. Water that covered several cars completely. By the way, the storm also knocked out electric service in several places which impacted the pumps on the freeway. I can't imagine having no electricity while watching water invade your basement. I feel so bad for so many people who had to endure that situation…and may still be.

 

The result? Cars totaled by their insurance companies, tons of bags of what used to be basement furniture, and personal things out on the street, people missing work to stay home and wait for help.

 

There have been several news stories about what happened and how we fix the situation. Mother Nature can display awesome power – power we cannot ever hope to totally mitigate. It is unreasonable to build an infrastructure system to address a storm of this size. A meteorologist said today that it was a once-every-500-years storm! However, it exposed the weakness in our public infrastructure system. We need to learn from this, prioritize improvements, and focus the resources we have on the most important improvements. We certainly need additional funding to improve the systems. We will never have the funds we need to fix everything, but we can make improvements over time.

 

It is our only chance to even begin to address the power of Mother Nature.

 

 

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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M-1 Progress

(Efficiency, Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

August 11, 2014 - It has been quite a summer for large transportation projects in our region. First, there was the massive closing of the I-96 freeway from Telegraph to Newburgh. As the summer has progressed, so has this project. Now, in mid-August, it looks like the project is into the home stretch. Parts of the freeway in the west part of the corridor look to be nearing completion and you can envision the day in the near future when this freeway will be open for business.

 

A second large project has just begun – the reconstruction of Woodward Avenue from downtown to New Center as part of the M-1 Streetcar project. This is the first time Woodward has been reconstructed since it was originally built. Construction continues to progress as planned. In preparation for track installation, crews have removed pavement along Woodward from Campus Martius to Adams Street. To ensure accessibility to businesses during construction, walkways have been installed across Woodward Avenue.

 

M-1 Digger

 

As you can see from the picture, things seem to be progressing very nicely. While this project does not impact as many vehicles as the I-96 closure does, it does potentially impact the business community in downtown, commuters trying to get to work, and visitors to the Fox Theatre, Tiger games and Lions games. So far, so good. Things seem to be going smoothly. A road project and a transit capital project moving forward – when was the last time you could say that 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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