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April 24, 2013

Modes, routes discussed at bus rapid transit meeting

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

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Modes, routes discussed at bus rapid transit meeting
The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments held a community meeting April 17 at the St. James Catholic Church in Ferndale to discuss the Woodward Avenue Transit system. Boards along the church’s gymnasium depicted suggested modes of transportation and possible routes.

FERNDALE — With roughly a year of research and studies in the books, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments went to the public April 17 to discuss the Woodward Avenue Rapid Transit Alternatives Analysis.

At St. James Catholic Church in Ferndale, SEMCOG representatives talked with inquiring community members about bus rapid transit, the system deemed to be the most logical along the 27-mile Woodward corridor from the Detroit River to Pontiac, as well as the most cost-friendly.

SEMCOG lined the church’s gymnasium with boards discussing possible routes, potential station locations and the different modes under which the BRT system could be developed. SEMCOG plans to have a system in place within the next five to seven years.

During the official presentation, supervising transportation planner Sharmila Mukherjee, of Parsons Brinckerhoff, tried to put some minds at ease about the long study and planning period.

“Woodward has been studied a long time and there is fatigue, but this is an essential step to make the next step to get federal transit dollars,” Mukherjee said. “By the fall, we hope to have a more complete, more involved option in front of you.”

The April 17 meeting was the first of five forums SEMCOG is putting on in the coming weeks with the purpose to get public input, Mukherjee said.

One of the topics of discussion was which mode the BRT system on Woodward could possibly take. With a fixed BRT system, the buses would have a dedicated lane, either on the edge of the avenue or in the median, separate from other traffic.

If SEMCOG went with a BRT mixed-in traffic system, buses would share lanes with traffic, much like current Detroit Department of Transportation and SMART buses. In either system, buses would have level boarding and pre-boarding tickets to make shorter stop times, as well as priority traffic lights, to give buses more fluid travel.

“We have looked at all different types of modes, and with bus rapid transit, there are a variety of different ways to do it,” said transportation engineer Sarah Binkowski, of Parsons Brinckerhoff. “Whether running on the edge or in the center, the best option will be one that gives the best travel time along the corridor. We know we have people who want to know they can get to work in a certain amount of time.”

The BRT system, which would be funded by the Federal Transit Administration, would pass through 11 municipalities and two counties. Alternative routes were another topic outlined on the informational boards.

Instead of just traveling down Woodward, one suggested route had buses turning on Coolidge Highway in Berkley, getting back on 11 Mile Road and then connecting back to Woodward. Concern about incorporating Eight Mile Road, which goes under Woodward instead of directly across it, was discussed, as well.

Mukherjee said a plan is still being discussed about incorporating Eight Mile, but nothing has been decided on.

“SEMCOG takes into account all major corridors,” Mukherjee said. “This is the first step, with one corridor that is one step in a larger system.”

BRT also allows SEMCOG to provide bus stations farther apart than traditional bus routes, with stops every half mile or mile being discussed. Because the system would mainly be along Woodward, Binkowski said SEMCOG would like to work with DDOT and SMART buses in getting patrons to BRT stations to make the process as simple as possible.

With the bus stops farther apart, Binkowski said he feels the BRT system would run smoother with Woodward traffic and cause less congestion during peak periods.

“Our goal is not to penalize automobile drivers,” she said. “With the rapid transit on Woodward, we hope to get people to use rapid transit instead of automobiles, which would also help with congestion on I-75 and M-10.”

Another community meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. April 25 at the Berkley Community Center, 2400 Robina Ave.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.