High-speed rail came a step closer to properly connecting Metro Detroit and Chicago today, as well as a did regional mass transit, with the groundbreaking of a new $6.2 million dollar multi-modal transit facility in Troy.
The center, located behind the shops at Coolidge and Maple roads near the Troy/Birmingham border, utilizes the existing rail line and is part of a comprehensive plan to bring “the fastest high speed rail outside of the northeast corridor” (in the words of Congressman Gary Peters) to a line that runs from Pontiac through Troy, Royal Oak, Detroit and all the way to Chicago. It also will connect with SMART (suburban bus) lines as well as taxis and automobiles.
This project, however, almost didn’t happen. There’s been a lot of controversy in Troy around this with the transit center issue coming into play in the successful recall of their former mayor, Janice Daniels.
The current elected officials on hand, however, were much more upbeat and positive about the project.
“What a great day for Troy,” said Mayor Dane Slater.
However, it’s not just a great day for Troy. It’s a great day for the region. Why? Because mass transit is consistently cited as necessary for Metro Detroit to retain and attract talent.
The reality is that functioning regions have transit that connects all areas together benefits everyone. Some critics believe projects like this will encourage an exodus of the city. Some believe we should put a development restriction in Oakland County and other places to stop further sprawl.
Those ideas, practically, have no shot of ever happening. What should happen is Detroit must improve its services so that it’s more attractive to people who more and more want to live in urban, dense, areas. Detroit has opportunity and character and would really take off if we got our act together around the basics like education and city services. This is the real reason why so many of those living in the neighborhoods (particularly middle-class people with children) have left or are considering leaving.
History throughout the ages has shown the more transit connections a place has, the better off a metropolis is. It will be a boon.
Congressman Gary Peters understands the importance of transit. “Wherever there has been transit investment there’s been economic development,” he said at the groundbreaking.
Transit will connect Detroit, and all of the region’s workers, to opportunity. To me, this isn’t about so-called hipsters riding trains. Mass transit is about a hand up, not a handout, that will help people get to jobs located all over the region. More jobs and more opportunities mean more money for all.
We’re the only major region in the country that doesn’t have a regional transit system, and no train, for instance, to the airport. High-speed rail to Chicago is but a part of what should be a comprehensive regional plan.
What we’ve been doing … decades of provincial attitudes focused on stealing pieces of the pie from one another has resulted in dysfunction, waste and people, especially our best and brightest, leaving. It’s time to focus on baking more pie, not taking it from our neighbors.
“All aboard to the future,” said Troy Chamber President Michele Hodges.
All aboard, indeed, and see you at the new transit center next year.