Bus Rapid Transit is a fantastic idea, so why is it idling by the curb?
BRT has proven itself to have the comparable economic development potential as rail at a lower start-up cost than light rail.
What’s more, because it’s actually regional, the proposed system would allow people to come downtown without a car. Other transit schemes like the People Mover and the M1 plan--fine ideas for their limited purposes--still require people to park downtown and then ride. Any transit solution that can, even on the margin, reduce demand for downtown parking would therefore make more attractive alternative uses for the central business district’s ghetto/gravel parking lots. Such an economic shift can only help to further spur downtown’s revitalization.
But, unlike Calabrese’s Cleveland where BRT has been operational since 2008, the conversation about Detroit’s BRT system is left to cool its heels like a DDOT rider waiting a bus that’s about as likely to show up on time as Godot.
Unfortunately the entire thing remains stalled while Lansing tries to figure out this regional transit authority thing, which they have not. Among the hold-ups is whether Detroit is to receive one seat on the RTA or, like Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties, get two seats on the board.
There are probably legitimate arguments from all sides on that point and other concerns with the RTA legislation, but I really could care less. These are details that reasonable people negotiating reasonably can hash out with far less consternation than this process has required. Show me a major city without a comprehensive regional governance structure for transit and I'll show you Detroit.
In the meantime, I’m left to envy Cleveland and, like so many of metro Detroit’s under-40 set, I'm too often wondering why I’m not living someplace like Cleveland instead of a region that resembles this.