UDM helps plan light-rail transit project
UDM's commitment to serving its community may have reached a milestone with its participation in the Woodward Transit Catalyst Project, which when developed, could be the first critical stage of a regional rapid transit system. UDM and Deloitte & Touche LLP collaborated on developing the Woodward Transit Catalyst Project plan, completed in late 2007, to reinstate rail-based transportation from Detroit's riverfront to the New Center Area.
The Woodward Transit plan was a project of the Michigan-Ohio University Transportation Center (MIOH-UTC), which involves five regional universities exploring transportation issues along with government and industry since 2006. UDM is the lead academic institution of the MIOH-UTC. Engineering & Science Dean Leo Hanifin serves as MIOH-UTC's director and was the leader of the Woodward Transit planning project. MIOH-UTC is part of a nationwide academic network of transportation centers funded in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation. See the MIOH-UTC web site.
The Woodward plan proposes a 3.4-mile light-rail line powered by overhead electrical wires. It would operate in the Woodward Corridor from Hart Plaza downtown to Grand Boulevard in the New Center Area, a route chosen for its destinations, relative ease of construction and expansion, connectivity to other current and planned transit systems, including bus and rail, and the opportunity it provides for transit-oriented business development. As explained in the system proposal, "An enhanced in-street system, pre-board fare payment and signal pre-emption (traffic lights to turn green for the train as it approaches) provide a near-rapid-transit level of service for a comparatively low cost."
Each one-way train is projected to carry up to 221 passengers at speeds from 31 to 47 miles per hour. Maximum wait time between trains would be on the order of 10 minutes. All trains would stop at the southernmost Hart Plaza station and northernmost New Center station each trip but at the other 10 stations only when summoned. One-way travel time for the length of the system is estimated at 10 minutes.
Says Hanifin, "As this was a plan and not a detailed design document, some elements have changed and will continue to change as the design is finalized but the key elements — route, location in the street, general location of stations, ticketing concept — remain unchanged."
Other participants in developing the plan include School of Architecture Dean Stephen Vogel, Architecture Professor Wladek Fuchs, Partner in ConstrucTWO LLC and former UDM Architecture Professor Julie Kim, ConstrucTWO Partner Paul Matelic, College of Engineering & Science Instructor Scott Anderson and Civil & Environmental Engineering Professor Alan Hoback.
"Since completing the plan, I have been on the Board of Directors of M1-RAIL (previously TRAIL), a private 401c3 corporation that is raising the money and is charged with building the system," Hanifin adds. "Nearly all the necessary funds are committed to design and build the system, six pieces of enabling legislation have been passed, and the bids for design have been received. The bottom line is that all is on track to have this system operational late in 2010."
Matt Cullen '83, a UDM Board member and president/chief operating officer of Rock Enterprises, serves as chief executive officer of M1-RAIL. Thomas Dekar '71, '75, a UDM Board member and vice chairman and regional managing principal of Deloitte & Touche USA, serves as M1-RAIL's treasurer.
As reported in the media, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, led by businessman and supporter Roger Penske, is supervising the project at this stage. Other key leaders include John Hertel, chief executive officer of the non-profit Regional Transit Coordinating Council; Laura Trudeau of the Kresge Foundation, which provided a major financial award; Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans/Rock Financial; and Ann Lang, president, Downtown Detroit Partnership.
Goals of reinstating rail-based transit in Detroit and the region include fostering economic development and jobs, easing traffic congestion, reducing energy use and pollution, and improving civic pride and quality of life. According to the project proposal, "Recent systems across North America have proven light rail effective with regard to cost, popularity and stimulation of economic development. Urban areas around Portland, Denver, Dallas, St. Louis and many others have experienced the benefits of such systems."