Whew! What a crazy few months! Over the summer I had the honor (we often forget how amazing our state is) to travel to almost every corner of Michigan to hear citizens’ views on the future of Michigan’s transportation system.
During last summer’s Community Forums, we stopped to chat with residents in eighteen of Michigan’s unique cities and towns: Midland to Royal Oak; Dearborn to Detroit; Ann Arbor to Macomb; Muskegon to Flint; Lansing to Jackson; Houghton to Escanaba; Marquette to Traverse City; Kalamazoo to St. Joseph; and Port Huron to Grand Rapids.
And while there may be different views on what it takes to achieve their very own transportation vision, Michigan residents made one thing clear: Michigan needs better and safer streets and bridges, more effective transit systems, and great passenger rail.
Our coalition hosted these community forums across the state to create a shared transportation vision for the state. It’s an idea that arose out of Governor Snyder’s 2011 special message on infrastructure, in which he said, “I fully recognize that solving this decades-long challenge will not be easy, 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. I look forward to working with the legislature, our local communities and our citizens over the next several months to develop a plan and the political will to implement it.”
What an enlightening experience it was to hear all of the differing viewpoints and opinions on what the future of transportation should look like in Michigan. The Upper Peninsula is focused on snowmobiles as transportation—something residents in the Lower Peninsula rarely consider. Urban communities such as Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo are focused on creating better bus transit options. Rural areas want Michigan to stay focused on repairing and maintaining the roads and bridges that already exist.
So, the big question for us now is this: How do we bring these diverse thoughts together? How do we as citizens come together to achieve the larger picture: a better transportation system for Michigan?
I often had to remind participants: We all agree on what’s at the “center of the table”—a successful Michigan. Each region needs something just a little different to be successful depending on their population and how close they live to each other. A renewed interest in rail transportation, better transit options, and continued efforts to maintain our roads and bridges are all vital in making Michigan, and each of its regions, successful. So thank you Pure Michigan, for an amazing and enlightening summer!
A final report summarizing the feedback from the forums will be released in January. And to all of the partners and sponsors in making these forums a success: thank you!
For pictures from all of our forums, visit the Trans4M Facebook page.