The big 4 what regional priority do you believe the big 4 should focus their efforts on and resolve? Every year Mackinac Policy Conference participants look forward to the big four panel. This year, the Detroiter asked them.

Position::Transforming Michigan's Economy
 
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Mass Transit is Top Priority

Willliam A. Crouchman

chairman Macomb country Board of commissioners

Is there anyone who has not felt the pinch of rising fuel prices? Can anyone deny that our region is in dire need of economic development and investment? I believe that the development of a mass transportation plan here in Southeast Michigan will help to address and alleviate both of these issues and more. Further, mass transit should be a top priority upon which regional leadership places immediate focus and resolves with collective efforts and resources.

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There are many positive benefits to creating a convenient, affordable, reliable and safe public transportation system. Mass transit reduces congestion on roads, increases accessibility, results in fewer accidents and improves air quality. It increases mobility choices for aging populations and people with disabilities. In addition, it provides a link to more jobs and provides workers with options for cost-effective, dependable commuting. Employers also gain access to a broader workforce, which enhances competitiveness.

Mass transit encourages growth in planned corridors, provides interconnection to vibrant centers and discourages sprawl. Mass transit can also reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and since it now costs upwards of $3.50 per gallon of gasoline, that would certainly provide welcome relief.

Over the last 20 years, light rail projects developed within our country have created jobs and enhanced economic development. Research indicates that for every dollar invested in light rail mass transit development, an additional $8.50 is generated through private investment in commercial and residential development.

Consider this: If leaders in the Southeast Michigan region were to take a conservative approach and expect a return of "only" 4:1 on mass transit development dollars invested, we would still experience a $4 billion surge in private development from an investment of $1 billion dollars.

In metropolitan areas that already have mass transit systems in place, it has been demonstrated that this investment supports regional economic vitality and sustainability. It serves as a catalyst for new opportunities for users of the system as well as non-users.

The benefits of having an effective mass transit network to serve our regional area are clear. It is absolutely necessary for leadership to focus on finding a viable way to bring mass transit to...

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