Events, Mass Transit, News

Woodward Rapid Transit: Bus or rail? Southeast Michigan governments want your opinion


When the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) holds public meetings in the next week and a half it wants your opinion on alternative transit options for the Woodward Corridor.

Detroit Unspun would like to know, too. Let us know in the poll on the right side of the page.

The three different options on the table include light rail and two plans for a rapid bus system for the 27-mile corridor along Woodward Avenue from downtown Detroit to downtown Pontiac. Metro Detroiters can expect to hear SEMCOG’s decision in the next seven to eight weeks.

The first busing option is an upgrade to rapid transit.

“It has a lot of the same characteristics as light rail does. In fact, you can think of it as light rail service, but on vehicles with rubber tires,” says Carmine Palombo, director of Transportation Programs for SEMOG.

The alternative bus plan would be more like an express bus with multiple stops, but really isn’t a significant upgrade investment-wise over current transit options.

The proposed light rail project would cover 3.4 miles of Woodward, stretching from Downtown Detroit to New Center.

SEMCOG has already held three meetings, which have had an overwhelming response from the public. Often with standing-room only, residents from Detroit, Berkley, Huntington Woods and the Detroit business community and their Downtown employees listened to presentations on the three options and gave feedback on what they find most important in Detroit’s new transit system.

Reliability and on-time performance are among top concerns.

“What we’ve been hearing from people by and large is… that a lot of people seem to like it,” Palombo says. “A lot of people have ridden light rail and like it, but there are others who are concerned about the cost. A lot more people are riding bus rapid transit and like the flexibility, lower costs and the fact that we might be able to build more miles with this plan.”

Support so far has been equal between the rapid bus and light rail plans. Fewer, however, were interested in the lower service bus option, believing the current transit system needs much more of an investment upgrade.

After SEMCOG finishes its analysis in the next few months, it will likely drop two of the three transit alternatives, stick with one, and start developing specific scenarios: where the stops would be, how often the bus or rails would come, etc.

Central to revitalized mass transit on Woodward is creating a Regional Transit Authority.

“It’s the most important step for a couple reasons. One, it puts somebody in charge … a face to public transit,” says Palombo. “Second, the legislation provides a way of getting additional funding to improve the transit systems that we already have. Without an RTA, there are very few options for getting additional revenue. We have transit operators that are cutting back service because of the lack of funding.”

The proposed RTA legislation has already passed in the Michigan House and Senate. Governor Synder, who has come out in support of the bill, is expected to sign soon.

The Woodward Corridor is the first of four corridors that were mentioned in Governor Snyder’s recent proposal for a new regional authority and bus rapid transit system for a 113-mile regional transit network. The project will be completed in early 2014.

For more on the Woodward Avenue Rapid Transit Analysis, visit

The upcoming public meetings are December 11 in Detroit, December 12 in Ferndale, and December 15 in Pontiac. You can find a full list of locations, dates and times here.

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6 comments on “Woodward Rapid Transit: Bus or rail? Southeast Michigan governments want your opinion

  1. Limousines made for on top of the bus bottoms having the bus tops put on train tracks with roller coaster grips is possible. Speeding busses do not sound like a good idea compared to light rail to safeguard lanes in traffic. for the train cars, international extra cars needing paint would add to the flair and save on the budget otherwise instead of wasting funding on brand new compartments if some balk at using the bus tops.

  2. There is a genuine undeniable need to have around the clock transportation throughout Detroit and the metro area. A large number of people have lost the ability to be employed due to lack of transportation. I've watched the narrowing of service and concentration to core business hours. This does NOT address the NEED of people seeking basic jobs. Many of these jobs exist outside core hours. They are jobs such as restaurant & nightclub work, hospital work, grocery & retail clerk, janitorial services, and more. When the system commits to removing service it wages a War On The Poor.


  3. Trains running downtown along Gratiot, Woodward and Grand River could do a lot of the heavy lifting. Take some of the pressure off buses which could focus on moving East/West.

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