The transit pickle: what does it take for mass transportation in the region?

Author:Roy, Melissa

All of the stars have aligned for our region to make a greater investment in a transit system. Both demands from changing lifestyles focused on more advanced transportation systems to a dramatic increase in fuel costs have made the case that a system is not only wanted, but needed.

Communities from across Michigan -both urban and rural--are calling for a better system-a system that is better connected and more efficient. Commuters spend hours in traffic on congested road ways and job providers have decreasing access to the workforce because of our system's limitations.

The business case is clear. Our current businesses and further economic development need a better system.

Key to realizing any community's vision is an investment model and what Michigan has now not only won't do it, but actually ensures we won't get it.

Since 2004, all of Michigan's transit agencies have seen dramatic ridership increases. Through the state's transportation funding system, both roads and transit are funded from gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. As ridership increases, money going into the transportation pot shrinks from shrinking per gallon gas tax revenues.

The funding challenge isn't only applicable to transit, but also roads. Increasing vehicle fuel efficiency is also making the funding pot smaller and smaller.

Sitting on the same side of the fence are both the needs of our roads and the needs of our transit system. Again, the stars have aligned for a joint solution.

On the horizon, the federal funding formula is up for review in 2009. As a historically underfunded state in road and transit funding, Michigan has a case on paper for more federal investment. However, the...

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