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Private Investors Make Ultimatum to Dictate Detroit Rail Design

9:51 AM PDT on June 17, 2011

The city of Detroit has made rail transit a centerpiece of its revitalization strategy, and with stakes so high, the city needs to get it right.

But a dispute has surfaced about how the light rail line should be positioned. Private investors have been relatively insistent that rail should be aligned by the curb, which they believe will provide the most effective impetus for development. Meanwhile, transit advocates have been pushing for center-running rail, which will provide greater travel speeds, preserve curbside space for cycling, and make pedestrian crossings safer.

Joel Batterman of Network blog Transport Michigan even produced this awesome Lego-man rap video(above) to support the center-running option.

But the investors are holding a lot of cards. The city of Detroit can’t afford to provide the local match needed to secure federal funds. And recently, the private group laid their trump card on the table, saying they would withdraw their support if the trains don’t run curbside.

Batterman had this to say:

So what if that design doesn’t make sense from a safety, speed, equity, livability, economic or most any other perspective, as this siteTransportation Riders United, and other local commentatorshave observed? The M1 Rail investors may not know how to run a railroad (their areas of expertise run more in the direction of truck rentals and carry-out pizza, as well as automobiles), but they do have copious amounts of cash, which is providing part of the local money for the line.

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