Thursday, July 28, 2016

The future of mass transit in Detroit

Transit station - Photo by Ted C/
Earlier this afternoon, representatives from Macomb and Oakland Counties blocked a key vote that would have allowed voters in southeastern Michigan to decide on a millage to improve mass transit in the region. This is the 27th time that funding for a regional transit authority has been blocked due to parochial interests.

There are many across Michigan who a disappointed by this news. Many are even confused since the bulk of new transit options that would have been created under this plan would have been in Macomb and Oakland Counties.

While I join the echo of disappointed Detroiters, I must admit that I am not surprised by this development. Many in the northern suburbs, particularly the more distant suburbs, have long been hostile to public funding for mass transit.

The question that I believe all Detroiters must ask now is: where do we go from here?

There are no doubt those who will simply give up. Others will attempt to appease Macomb and Oakland Counties with an even greater share of transit benefits, most likely at the expense of those who live Downriver and in Western Wayne County.

I, however, advocate for a different option. The City of Detroit as well as Wayne and Washtenaw Counties are the three entities that were eager to move forward with improving mass transit in southeastern Michigan. There are also a few communities in our northern suburbs, such as Ferndale, who are also eager to see a better transit system in place.

Bus stop - Photo by Andre Montejorge
Rather than continue down the same path that we've been on for decades - of constantly trying to convince our holdout neighbors that this is in everyone's best interests and constantly being rebuffed - I believe it is everyone's best interest for those communities who see the value in transit to move forward on our own rather continuing to spend more time and resources convincing the holdouts that they're wrong.

By moving forward without these skeptics, we could improve upon the QLine and take it to 9 Mile. Build upon the walkable communities in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Ypsilanti. Provide coordinated support to the DDOT and AATA systems in Detroit and Ann Arbor.

Based on what we've seen in other parts of the country, people and business will likely flock to those parts of our region where transit is improved. (For a detailed accounting of this trend, please see Transit-Oriented Development in the United States: Experiences, Challenges, and Prospects by Robert Cervero available for free here.)

The holdouts will likely circle behind once they see the progress and realize that they cannot extract even more from the people of Wayne County. If they don't, it's more their loss than anyone else's.

The bottom line is that I believe it is time to stop allowing a relatively small group of individuals to hold the transportation needs of more than 2.1 million Michigan residents hostage. It's time for us to move forward, with or without the holdouts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2,500 GM employees to help Detroit's neighborhoods

teamGM Cares - File photo
It’ll be all hands (and arms and legs) on deck when 2,500 General Motors employees return to Detroit’s Cody Rouge community, which includes much of Warrendale. They will volunteer the week of August 15. Employees will donate their time and talent to board up vacant homes, clean empty lots, spruce up streets, and tackle other neighborhood and school improvements.

The transformation is part of teamGM Cares, a company-wide volunteerism initiative that is partnering with the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance (CRCAA), Cody High School and additional corporations. Several of GM’s senior executives will join employees throughout the week.

The CRCAA and residents have been working with GM and The Skillman Foundation since early 2016 to determine the community’s needs and develop plans. “Our organization has been working for 10 years to create a strong, sustainable community for residents and businesses,” says Kenyetta Campbell, CRCAA executive director. “We are excited to partner with GM to help amplify our work.”

GM’s improvements to Cody High will include a concession stand, fitness park, dugout, soccer field, pavilion and a complete field cleaning.

“GM’s employees made great progress two years ago and now we are returning to work with residents and community leaders to create a safer, sustainable neighborhood where families and businesses can thrive,” added Heidi Magyar, director of GM Community Outreach.

Other partners working with GM in Cody Rouge include Quicken Loans, DTE Energy, The Skillman Foundation, PwC, Roncelli, Inc., and Oak Pointe Church. Their projects will include:

  • Employee volunteers from Quicken Loans will clean and paint boarded-up vacant structures and renovate the walking path at Rouge Park;
  • DTE Care Force employee volunteers to support board-up efforts by clearing trees, assessing utilities and service reliability and by planting new trees in the neighborhood;
  • The Skillman Foundation will provide logistical support to all employee volunteers;
  • PwC will do cleaning and painting at Cody High School;
  • Roncelli, Inc. will provide project management oversight; and
  • Oak Pointe Church will provide onsite support at Cody High School.

The week of sweat equity concludes with an Employee and Community Family Fun Day on August 20, where residents and employee volunteers will relax over food and music. GM employees will distribute backpacks filled with school supplies to neighborhood students at the Fun Day. GM employees stuffed 5,000 backpacks at Cobo Center in June alongside attendees at Points of Light, the world’s largest volunteering and service conference.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

47 years later

Astronaut on the Moon - Photo by NASA

Today, I feel an urge to set aside the needs and stories of the Warrendale neighborhood to focus on what I believe is an important anniversary. 47 years ago today, humanity left this rock we call Earth and took a stroll on the surface of the Moon.

47 years ago today, we lived out President John F. Kennedy's famous challenge to this nation.

47 years ago today, we did what so many skeptics said could never be done.

That, however, was 47 years ago.

Today, for the first time ever, the Hubbel Space Telescope examined the surface of two Earth-sized planets that are orbiting a star other than our Sun. While all of this is going on, NASA's Juno Mission to Jupiter is still exploring the largest planet in our solar system and some of the best engineers in the world are getting ready to have the next generation of astronauts land on an asteroid and on to Mars.

It's all one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.