Thursday, January 14, 2010

Newspaper supports Michigan commuter line

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(This editorial appeared January 14 in The Michigan Daily.) Any new infrastructure that will help the environment, students or the economy is an opportunity that should be taken advantage of. And a new construction plan funded by the federal government encompasses all three of these categories. The new public transportation - a railroad that will run between Ann Arbor and Detroit with stops in the neighboring areas - will benefit students and residents as they move between Ann Arbor and Detroit, for business and pleasure, without excessive cost. This new route of transportation is easy, cheap and environmentally-friendly and officials from both cities should do everything possible to ensure that the plans come to fruition.

In December, the federal budget allocated $3.5 million dollars for the construction of a rail system that will be built between Ann Arbor and Detroit. The rail line plans would stop along the way in Dearborn - the site of a University satellite campus - Ypsilanti and Detroit Metro Airport. The cost of a round-trip ticket is projected at about $6 or $7. Though some progress is expected to be made by October, the budget for the train has not yet been finalized.

The train would be good news for the economies of Ann Arbor and Detroit. With people able to move easily and cheaply between the two cities, there is the potential for an increase of new consumers in both markets. Students and area residents would be able to go to Detroit more frequently, increasing patronage to city businesses and entertainment like sporting events and concerts. In turn, residents from the Detroit area would be able to travel to Ann Arbor for the extensive art and dining scenes.

And the new rail line should decrease the amount of highway commuter traffic between the cities. According to Ann Arbor City Councilman Carsten Hohnke (D-Ward 5), roughly 60 to 70 thousand commuters travel to Ann Arbor by car every year. The planned rail system would drastically cut that number. And fewer cars on the road would mean lower carbon emissions. The proposed railway would offer a cheaper, more environmentally-friendly option for commuters who work in both cities.

The train will also help University students to make the trip to Detroit. Detroit offers many learning experiences for students. The many University-run outreach courses and student volunteer programs offered each semester would flourish under this expansion, which would make travel between the cities cheaper and hassle-free. And, with greater access to new forms of transportation, additional outreach classes with greater student involvement could be added and explored in each department.

And the University's large out-of-state student population would have another affordable transportation option to reach Detroit Metro Airport. Out-of-state students can't always be accommodated by the Michigan Student Assembly-sponsored AirBus, which only runs a limited number of days surrounding University breaks. The train would offer students another option for about the same price. And though the stops for Ann Arbor haven't yet been determined, the University and MSA should work with city officials to ensure students have easy access to the train.

The construction of a rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit should help encourage travel between the cities in an environmentally-friendly way. The train would also encourage economic ventures in both cities, and Ann Arbor and Detroit officials should make sure it happens for the benefit of both cities.

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