Bay Area Plan Michigan’s Latest Foray into Bus Rapid Transit

Transportation along the I-75 corridor could look a lot different in coming years with the exploration of bus-rapid transit (BRT) service between Bay City and Detroit. An upcoming study by Flint’s Mass Transportation Authority (MTA), will assess the potential for such service.

MTA General Manager Ed Benning is set to take proposals for the study, and intends to select a consultant by the spring. The study, which is finally rolling after years of delays, was first outlined in Genesee County’s 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan, approved in 2009. Genesee County has proposed development of a BRT line as part of the solution to infrastructure that is increasingly stressed due to growing traffic volumes and wear and tear. According to Mlive.com, the study will seek to identify and involve stakeholders along the route, collect engineering, traffic, and land-use data, and identify logistics of the proposed route. If the study finds that BRT is an appropriate option, the Long-Range Transportation Plan has construction slated for 2019.

BRT cover bus

BRT holds great potential for the I-75 corridor. (photo source)

MTA’s vision for public transportation in the corridor should be lauded. The I-75 corridor is immensely important to Michigan’s economy and prosperity. A quick recounting of the major urban areas along the route – Bay City, Saginaw, Flint, Auburn Hills, Pontiac, Troy, Royal Oak, Warren, and Detroit – shows great potential for highly competitive inter-city public transportation. What benefits could we expect from MTA’s BRT plan? The Federal Transit Authority lists several that resonate with regional needs:

  • Job Creation: Transit investment has direct positive impacts on employment for the planning, construction, design, and maintenance of facilities. With many economically depressed areas along the corridor, BRT is a sound investment in Michigan jobs.
  • Improved Economic Opportunities: BRT would provide Michigan workers a reliable, cost-effective commuting alternative along the corridor. BRT expands employment opportunities for individuals unable or unwilling to commute by car due to high vehicle costs, congestion, and time spent behind the wheel.
  • Reduced Congestion: The efficiency and reliability of BRT can reduce congestion by inducing drivers to switch to public transportation, thereby reducing the number of cars on the road. BRT could help alleviate the corridor’s congestion problem, especially during peak travel hours.
  • Positive Brand Recognition:  Want to attract younger people and keep area residents in town? Have a good public transit system. A BRT system on this scale could go a long way in boosting the overall image of the urban areas along the route as more livable.
BRT-highway

A dedicated-lane system could bypass congestion, especially during peak hours (photo source)

Completion of the proposed BRT line will depend on favorable study results and funding approval from state and federal sources. But MTA’s plan shows promise even before the study: a shift toward increasing transportation options and connectivity for Michigan residents commuting between cities.

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By Jeff Prygoski, Fellow, Transportation for Michigan

Cover photo: Flickr/Roger Dupuis

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