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Cities battle to cash in on economic boost from new commuter rail line

High gas prices make Detroit-to-Ann Arbor link look better than ever
A Detroit-to-Ann Arbor commuter rail line planned for 2010 already has cities lining up for the economic development benefits that mass transit provides.
A May 12 story in the Detroit Free Press detailed how cities along the route are lobbying hard for stops on the rail line. Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ypsilanti and Dearborn already have guaranteed stops, while Inkster, Wayne and Westland are fighting to get one.
“Some studies have shown that for every dollar invested in mass transit, a community can reap $7 to $8 in economic benefit. That’s because stores, restaurants and other businesses spring up around commuter transit stops to take advantage of the flow of customers,” wrote the Free Press.
The battle for train stations was foreshadowed by a 2006 project of the Michigan Environmental Council and the Michigan Suburbs Alliance. That project documented the economic stimulus provided by transit-oriented development (TOD).
Public transit “has been an economic boon to every local government that has chosen to implement it,” an MEC synopsis of the report said in 2006. “St. Louis has seen substantial redevelopment and real estate investments near its Metro Link light rail system, which opened in 1993, generating approximately $1 billion to Metro’s service area. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit light rail starter line has generated over $922 million in development through TOD. Also, within five years of the construction of Portland’s light rail line, over seven million square feet of new development valued at over $900 million occurred adjacent to light rail.”
Skyrocketing gasoline prices in recent months have hammered the budgets of many who commute in personal vehicles. Park-and-ride carpool lots are full, existing public transit ridership is up substantially, and options like the Detroit-to-Ann Arbor train and another proposed rail line from downtown Detroit to the edge of the suburbs are looking better and better.
It’s not just household budgets and cities with train stops that stand to benefit.
Better transit options will reduce vehicle miles traveled and decrease the accelerating emission of global warming gasses and other pollutants. Southeast Michigan travelers logged a 25% increase in road miles between 1992 and 2005, according to a 2007 report by the Urban Land Institute, released in conjunction with the Michigan Environmental Council.
The Council continues to work on numerous policy initiatives at the State Capitol to create smart policies in transportation, land use and energy that create jobs, lower costs for consumers and protect the environment.
RELATED TOPICS: transportation policy
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