Michigan/Grand River Avenue BRT



  • edited July 2015
    It's a process. So, the project secured the funds for the "project development" phase a few years ago. This phase starts with developing alternatives along the corridor and then selecting the Locally Preferred Alternative with input from the public; they also had to give a basic outline of how they'd pay for operations. This section of the phase was completed back in September 2011 and is kind of the preliminary step before you even get into the program.

    This then allowed CATA to formally submit an application to be included in the Federal Transit Administration's "Small Starts" program, which it takes the FTA time to review. They formally accepted us into program back in April 2013. Then, we had to do the form Environmental Assessment (EA) which seems to have taken a bit longer than expected, but it's this phase that puts a project into the running for funding in each fiscal year, but they only do this once a year, I believe, so we've missed a year or two. Also a part of this step is for the region to adpot the project into it's long-term transportation plan, which I believed the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission did late last year.

    I think the next and last step before we get shovels in the ground is actually finishing up the engineering phase, which CATA has been doing almost concurrently with the environmental assessment. In fact, CATA was able to get the cost down from $194 million to $155 million according to this powerpoint. Once that's fully completed, then all that's left to do is apply for the FTA Small Starts construction grants. All of this is actually only two phases (project development and construction grant agreement), but there are many steps in the first phase.

    Anyway, also from that presentation put out earlier this year by Tri-County Planning are the remaining steps:
    Next Steps

    •Complete modeling
    •Select alignment
    •Complete Environment Assessment Document
    •Submit to FTA – mid-May
    •FTA/FHWA/MDOT review
    •Public hearing on EA document - Fall
    •FONSI – end of 2015

    I know that sense then we've selected the alignment and completed the environmental assessment. I believe we finished the modeling and it was sent off to the FTA, too, though that article didn't confirm that. It seems we're probably in the FTA review phase of the environmental assessment, as the article did talk about the results of the assessment being made public in the fall. After that, the last step in the review process is the "FONSI" (Finding of No Significant Impact) by the FTA, and then it'd be on to simply applying for the construction grant(s) from them.

    So, it looks like we're actually near the end, and with as much studying and engineering that has been done on this project, I'd certainly hope we'd be one of the leading candidates for construction grants.
  • edited August 2015
    CATA put out their summer newsletter on the BRT project this summer. Basically the gist is that they are still working on the EA. Some highlights and new information, though:

    - Downtown the loop will run clockwise against one-way traffic. They say that this is to ensure that if these streets ever wanted to go two-way, then the BRT wouldn't have to be changed to the other side of the street. So, for example, the BRT line will travel north along the furtherst right-hand lane of Capitol.

    Untitled by NewCityOne, on Flickr

    - A fifth capitol loop station has been added on Grand Avenue south of Michigan. The Ionia Station on Capitol would be located in front of the old AT&T Building. The westbound Sparrow Hospital station will be located directly across from the main entrance with a special pedestrian signal allowing folks to cross mid-block to more easily reach the station from the other side of the street. Stations between Frandor and Harrison are said to have been moved and consolidated.

    stations by NewCityOne, on Flickr

    Anyway, the next step is that a Notice of Availability for the public to view the EA will be issued 15 days ahead of the public hearing on the EA to allow the public two weeks to look over it to be ready for the public hearing. This will be happening in the fall. December is when the FTA will be making its final decision on the EA. After this point, everything is back in our court in terms of specific designs and such.
  • I'm assuming the southern end of the Capitol Loop is Kalamazoo, but is the north end Ionia or Shiawassee?
  • The southern end is actually Lenawee and the north end if Ionia. I imagine each of these were chosen instead of Kalamazoo and Shiawassee to keep it off the high-trafficked "side" streets. Shiawassee in particular would present a potential hazards with the lane traveling right in front of the fire station. I also imagine Lenawee is chosen as the southern boundary because the line will travel the lane closest to the CATA station along Grand, so you get a station right in front of the transit center. Using Kalamazoo, they'd have to have a station on the northside of Kalamazoo or force a left turn into the transit center which poses problems, and particularly since it'd be added to existing bus routes that already use the bays in the station.
  • edited August 2015
    What do the numbers correspond to in your station map? Are they planning on doing zone-based charging, where trips from zone 1 to zone 5 will cost more than zone 1 to zone 3?
  • No, CATA divides them by the kind of alignment and/or design features each zone will share. So 1 is the downtown loop with dedicated lane side-running buses. Zone 2 is "downtown Lansing" which is dedicated lane center-running. Zone 3 is called the "Center" zone with buses running in the dedicated lanes in south travel lanes (median shaved down in the west-bound service to give more room to the buses). Zone 4 is kind of the choke point in this whole plan. It's the short section between Borgue and Hagadorn where for whatever reason, they have it running in mixed traffic. This is a natural choke point, anyway, and I figure they did this because they don't want to hamper regular vehicular left turns along this stretch more than they already are. Zone 5 is called "East End" and matches up with Zone 2's alignment save for the bridge over the CSX tracks.
  • edited October 2015
    Well, after the August update things either changed or they weren't really candid with us during that update. I say this because I'm reading their most recent Board of Directors meeting notes from September 16. Of the items they chose to take action on, one was the withdrawal of CATA's BRT Small Starts application with the FTA and then giving the CEO to refile the application with the FTA at a later date. This seems like a big deal that they probably should have mentioned. At the very least it means a delay. I really hope this doesn't mean that CATA has to restart from zero. I'll guess I'll have to see exactly what this means. The next item they took action on also related to the BRT line and it was to authorize a supplemental with AECOM, the firm doing the planning and design for the line, I guess, that is to cost $861,023 for further engineering, modeling, etc...

    I'll try to email CATA about this, but if someone else wants to inquire about this before I do please feel free. They need to know that the public is watching and expects this to move faster than it has been. We didn't come this far with the project for it to sit on the backburner for years. It sounds like in the best-case scenario, they simply weren't ready to have the project include in the next fiscal years federal budget and are doing a bit more design work before resumbitting the application to make the project appear stronger to the feds. In that case, this is just a temporary delay. But, it could be something worse.
  • That certainly doesn't sound good but it could be some sort of formality, I'd be curious to hear what's really going on.
  • edited October 2015
    Yeah, I wonder if the FTA asked them to do this? Because I've been told that they basically work hand-in-glove with them in an attempt to get the best proposal possible to put before the FTA so that they have the best possible chance at winning the grants for that year. Hopefully, it's just a formality. Still, this is a BRT line; it feels like it shouldn't have taken this long, but maybe it's just CATA's small size and unfamiliarity with the process. It seems it takes a lot of smaller towns or towns in general without advanced forms of mass transit more time, and I guess that makes sense. I can't even imagine the learning curve had some kind of rail been the locally preferred alternative. lol
  • I guess I'm on the other end of the spectrum, I'm a bit surprised this BRT proposal is really moving forward. The Lansing area has always underwhelmed when it comes to vision, when initially proposed I figured this would be another idea that would come and go. I'm very glad it has become a serious proposal and I'm now at the point where I'd be a bit surprised to see the project derailed.
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