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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

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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Bike and ped meetings

(Walkability bikeability) Permanent link
 
July 14, 2014 - SEMCOG has been working with the Michigan Department of Transportation and communities and organizations throughout the region for over a year now to develop a Regional Nonmotorized Plan for Southeast Michigan. There has been an incredible increase in biking and walking over the past few years all over Southeast Michigan, and communities continue to look for dollars to provide for safe biking and walking paths.
 
Blog picture - 7-14-14

This planning process we undertook included:
  • Creating an inventory of existing and planned facilities in the region,
  • Developing guidelines for new facilities,
  • Identifying the most critical gaps in the system, and
  • Recommending regional policies to facilitate safe nonmotorized travel
    Public meetings to gather input and information have occurred throughout this process. Now there is an opportunity for the public to look at the draft plan and see if your input and comments have been addressed. SEMCOG and MDOT will be holding nine public meetings throughout the region beginning this week and running through September.
Here is the summer schedule of public meetings:
  • Macomb County – Thursday, July 17; 4-7 p.m., Richmond Community Center (36164 Festival Drive, Richmond, MI 48062)
  • Wayne County – Wednesday, July 23; 4-7 p.m.; Wayne Community Center (4635 Howe Road, Wayne, MI 48184)
  • St. Clair County – Thursday, July 24; 4-7 p.m.; Pine Shores Golf Club (515 Fred W. Moore Highway, St. Clair, MI 48079)
  • Oakland County – Tuesday, July 29; 4-7 p.m.; Wayne State University (33737 West 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48331
  • Wayne County – Wednesday, August 6; 4-7 p.m.; Recreation Stone Creek Banquet Hall (One Maguire Drive, Flat Rock, MI 48134)
  • City of Detroit – Thursday, August 14; 4-7 p.m.; Wayne State University Engineering Building (5050 Anthony Wayne Drive, Detroit, MI 48202)
  • Monroe County – Thursday, August 21; 4-7 p.m.; Dundee Council Chambers (350 West Monroe Street, Dundee, MI 48131)
  • Livingston County – Thursday, September 4; 4-7 p.m.; Carnegie District Library (314 West Grand River Avenue, Howell, MI 48843)
  • Washtenaw County – Thursday, September 18; 4-7 p.m.; Ypsilanti Council Chambers (One South Huron Street, Ypsilanti, MI 48197)
The plan is scheduled for adoption by the SEMCOG General Assembly on November 13, 2014. Hope to see you at one of the meetings.
 
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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