Transportation for Michigan Community Forums :: Helping Decide How Michigan Rolls
Some Michigan leaders hope that transportation issues will dominate the agenda in 2013. Residents want better transportation systems. Our roads and bridges need repair. Additionally, Michigan needs to develop options which could reinvigorate our metropolitan areas, reconnect rural communities, and better-equip Michigan to compete in the global economy. The following is a summary of what over 300 hundred residents told us over 18 forums across the state.
Taking Up the Governor’s Challenge
In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder announced his intention to reverse years of disinvestment in Michigan’s transportation system. “Solving this decades-long challenge will not be easy,” he said, “but I am convinced that starting the conversation and debate now is absolutely necessary for the future of our economy and our quality of life.”
Trans4M agreed. We also wanted to find out what kind of transportation system Michigan residents wanted. The coalition jump-started the conversation through a series of 18 community forums across the state from Detroit to Houghton, hosted by local groups and attended by hundreds of people, who gave generously of their time to help shape a new transportation vision for the state.
“We need a transportation system that is based on the actual needs of the community and is well funded.” – Detroit
Michigan Wants a New Direction
Transportation priorities varied depending on where people lived. In metro Detroit, forum participants sought regional rapid transit connecting the city and suburbs; in the Upper Peninsula, maintaining roads topped the list. Yet people across the state demonstrated a strong desire for shifting the state’s focus towards supporting a complete transportation system – not simply laying pavement.
“[We need] … a transportation system that is resilient to increasing fuel costs in Michigan.” – Marquette
In Marquette and Houghton, participants cited the high cost of taxi service and called for expanded rural public transit. In Flint, they urged stronger penalties against speeding in pedestrian areas. In St. Joseph, people wanted better infrastructure for bicycling, and for taking bikes on board trains.
“Michigan should have a full range of interconnected transportation choices for easy, safe, and active mobility.” – Lansing
Putting Michigan’s Money Where Our Mouth Is
Community forums participants were willing to back up their words with their wallets. Across the state, participants asked for shifting state transportation spending towards more transportation choices for Michiganders, and away from new highway lanes.
“Building roads without a plan or the financial obligations for keeping them maintained is unacceptable.” – Escanaba
Participants in the forums sought a spread of Michigan transportation spending starkly different from that of current spending by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT):
- 4.65% of state transportation money for new road construction – approximately half the current percentage allocated by MDOT
- 12.49% for local bus operations – over three times the current percentage
- 8.47% for local bus purchases – over four times the current percentage
- 8.45% for pedestrian and bicycle connections – almost nine times the current percentage
- 10.33% for intercity train and bus – over 10 times the current percentage
- 9.11% for new transportation modes, like light rail and bus rapid transit – incalculably more than the current amount, since the state does not yet have allocations for these at all
The Mandate for Movement
In his 2013 State of the State address, Governor Snyder reaffirmed his commitment to rebuilding Michigan’s transportation system. Yet as forums participants made clear, we must not just rebuild and repair Michigan roads – we need to reinvent Michigan’s transportation systems. The days of blank checks for bigger freeways are over. The need to repair our roads is indisputable. However, the reconnection of Michigan communities and the revival of our competitiveness in the global economy that can come from increased diversity in transportation choices cannot be ignored. Michigan’s people want a complete transportation system. Lansing must act to get us there.
To view the full report, click here. Questions regarding this report should be directed to Jeremy Orr at jeremyo[at]trans4m[dot]org, ISAAC (Trans4M Member).