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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.

 

Meet SEMCOG's Blogging team:

Amy Mangus
Member Services
About Amy . . .
Read Amy's past posts

Dave Boerger
Government Efficiency
About Dave . . .
Read Dave's past posts

Bill Anderson
Local Government Revenue
About Bill . . .
Read Bill's past posts

Carmine Palombo
Transportation
About Carmine . . .
Read Carmine's past posts

Xuan Liu
Data & Demographics
About Xuan . . .
Read Xuan's past posts

Grant Brooks
Public Outreach
About Grant . . .
Read Grant's past posts

 

 

Think Regional/Act Local

The rules that can save your life

(Transportation) Permanent link

 

July 28, 2014 – A tragic incident occurred last weekend. Police report that a vehicle containing eight people was travelling home from a bon fire. The driver of the vehicle was 16 years old. Unfortunately, that driver failed to stop for a red light. As they travelled through the intersection, their vehicle was struck in the side by another car and rolled onto its roof. A 16-year-old passenger, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the car. That passenger passed away. The driver who went through the intersection legally on the green light was arrested for drunk driving.

 

SEMCOG follows many issues that can result in a death on our roadways; this incident has something that matches just about every category. Unfortunately, it had a tragic ending.

 

One of the first things any child learns in school is that red means stop and green means go. Thousands of crashes occur each year in our region because somehow we do not follow that simple rule. August 3-9 is national Stop on Red week. This is a reminder that if this simple rule was followed, one more person would be headed back to school this fall.

 

Distracted driving is another key element involved in many fatalities. In some cases it is cell phones or trying to deal with children in the back seat. Having seven passengers in a vehicle with a very young driver leads to a concern about distracted driving.

 

People who wear seatbelts are much more likely to survive a crash. The person who lost their life was thrown from the car. Would wearing a seatbelt have made a difference? We will never know, but studies show that it is a very real possibility.

 

Finally; when people drive drunk, people die. Our first assumption when we hear that a person dies and a driver was arrested for drunk driving is that the accident was caused by the drunk driver. It doesn’t seem to be the case in this situation. However, sometimes it is the actions of the person who is not at fault that can mean the difference between tragedy and a close call. Everyone must drive defensively, especially when driving through intersections late at night. Driving while impaired means a higher probability of making a mistake while driving; it also means a smaller probability of making up for someone else’s mistake.

 

The rules that can save your life:

  • Don’t run red lights.
  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Minimize distractions while driving.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Always be aware of what the other driver is doing.

 

 

Bill Anderson
Every budget, every project, begins with revenue. Bill’s posts will focus on local government revenue issues across the SEMCOG region and state. Also look for a few insights on how legislation coming out of Lansing may impact your community.
 

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Intelligent Transportation Systems International Congress

(Transportation) Permanent link

 

July 28, 2014 -I am tired of writing about no money, too many traffic crashes, and the condition of our roads, bridges, and transit systems deteriorating. Today, I want to dream just a bit and write about ITS – that is Intelligent Transportation Systems. What is that, you ask? Well, it is the use of technology to help make our travel safer, more efficient, and better. Some of you probably believe that this type of treatment is not real or so far in the future that we will never see this type of treatment in our lifetime. Well, it is already here. Many of us have it in our cars today and maybe don’t even know it.

 

For example, many of us have OnStar or some other devise that helps us navigate places we have never been to before. These devices are essentially the 21st Century versions of a map. You put in the starting point and your end point and the machine determines your route and gives you clear directions on how to get there. Make a mistake? It tells you and recalculates your route. This is an ITS application.

 

How about cruise control? Many cars are now equipped with cruise control. The driver sets the speed control and the car responds by driving at that speed. Using ITS technology, the cruise control can be connected to a GPS that recognizes how far your car is away from the car in front of it. By setting the proper distance between vehicles and connecting the brakes to the cruise control, the cruise control can now slow down or speed up automatically to maintain the proper distance between vehicles. Now, that is a great tool, making driving much safer by potentially eliminating rear end crashes!

 

ITS technology is here today – no need to wait for the future. Every year, the ITS professionals from around the world meet and showcase emerging technology. This year, the International Congress is meeting in Detroit. I hope you take advantage of this rare opportunity to attend the International Congress. It is expensive, but guess what? You can volunteer and, in exchange, you can attend the conference. Elected officials can get in at no charge. For more information, or to volunteer, go to www.itsmichigan.org.

 

 

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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Not real money

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

July 22, 2014 -There have been several proposals over the past few weeks in both the Congress and the Michigan Legislature to fund needed transportation improvements. Nationally, we are dealing with two separate, but related issues. The more immediate is that the federal trust fund is going to be bankrupt any day now. Why is this? The simple answer is that we are spending dollars at a faster rate than money is coming in from the federal gas tax. The fix to this problem seems rather easy – either increase revenue or slow down spending. Well, the federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993 – over 20 years ago! And, this is an election year, so full speed ahead on construction!

 

What solutions do we get? First, we get the idea of stopping the U.S. postal service on Saturday, take the dollars we would save over the next 10 years, and use this to put into the trust fund to fund transportation. We also had a proposal to go back and sell bonds in order to raise dollars to fund needed transportation improvements.

 

I thought these were creative options, but now Congress is working on an even more unique idea. They found dollars by “smoothing” payments going to fund the retirement programs of federal employees, counting on some revenues that should be here by 2024, and taking money from the LUST – Leaking Underground Storage Tank – Fund! All of these gimmicks are to avoid the inevitable – we need more real money put into the system!

 

In order to improve our transportation systems, road and transit agencies need reliable, predictable, stable, or growing sources of revenue. They are never going to be able to improve our infrastructure based on these band-aid approaches!

 

The second issue is that MAP-21, the current federal funding program, expires at the end of September this year. If Congress can’t fix the trust fund issue, they have no chance of reauthorizing a 3-5 year bill any time soon. Costs keep going up and revenue keeps going down. Pension smoothing? Really?

 

 

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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A good week for M-1

(Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

July 1, 2014 -Well, you have heard the old saying, “All’s well that ends well.” That may be what the leaders of the M-1 Streetcar project were saying at the end of last week. The week began with a story that they were short of cash, yet again, citing a letter asking for additional funding from the USDOT TIGER program. Requests for TIGER funding aren’t normally singled out by the press – I have signed many letters supporting TIGER funding on behalf of local government projects. Obviously, the press has been following this project due to the prominent people involved. The week ended with the announcement that Detroit City Council had approved contracts and the project would begin construction in late July – and Woodward would be closed from Grand Circus Park to Campus Martius for 120 days!

 

It has been a long road for M-1 and I am very happy for them and even happier for all of us. It truly is the beginning of building the backbone of a regional transit system. The M-1 will connect to the Chicago-Pontiac rail line from day one. It will also connect to the Woodward bus rapid transit (BRT) and Ann Arbor-Detroit Commuter Rail line if voters agree to increase funding for transit some day. With these lines in place, along with potential new BRT lines on Gratiot and M-59, the rest of the large and small bus network can be enhanced and people will be able to make trips by transit that they can only dream of today.

 

M1
Image: Artist's rendering courtesy of M-1 Rail

 

M-1 made some mistakes along the way. It is easy to do when you are the first major transit capital project in the region in over 30 years. The first one is always the hardest, but they have now identified a path that will make it easier for the next projects to follow, both by identifying the process, but also by providing needed match for connecting projects.

 

The construction will be inconvenient for a while, but I can’t wait to ride M-1. Let the new era begin!

 

 

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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