Lansing to EL light rail - is it viable?



  • JManzella,

    I looked over some of the online documents you linked, and the reports/study look very promising! Correct me if I am wrong, but it looks like the options for improvement (as opposed to keeping things the way they are with bus service only) have been narrowed down to BRT, LRT and Modern Streetcar. It also seems that from the data and public input that the most desired/feasible upgrade would be towards a center-aligned modern streetcar with a minimum of 4 auto lanes to maintain an acceptable LOS. Is this what CATA/Lansing will likely be pursuing?

    Also, there is a section of Grand River between Bogue and River Street that has a very narrow ROW. How will the plan work in that stretch, or can some additional ROW be acquired?
  • edited May 2010
    in terms of likelihood, we're still workin on that! this portion of the study is to guage which of those options - the conventional bus, brt, lrt, and streetcar - are the most viable for federal funding and thus viable for implementation. Thus far (and his may change) the analysis has shown a need for 2 auto lanes in either direction throughout the corridor. We've also decided that center-running is probably going to work best through the corridor. We've just wrapped up a preliminary stage of creating service plans - once those are finished up, we'll move forward with comparing them and analyzing the results.

    All of the remaining alternatives are run through a computer model which is scrutinized by the FTA. This is the same model Tri-County uses for transportation planning, but it will be fine-tuned for transit.

    In terms of the actual engineering, there are plenty of hurdles to overcome but none of them are large enough to eliminate any of these options at this early point. This phase of the study will only bring us to a "2%" engineering level. In addition to ROW issues, there's other complications associated with the railroad downtown and the rail bridge in Meridian. Merciless pun: we'll cross those bridges when we come to them.

    I'm not yet sure of how the ROW issue will be dealt with, or whether it will be an issue at all - It's so preliminary that we haven't gotten there yet. I've been telling people that we are "in the clouds" still. In the next few months, this portion of the study will end with a decision of whether to descend to the "trees" or not. The ROW and bridge issues will get vetted as we go through "the weeds" in the next few years.

    It's going to be a long, deliberative process but one that holds great potential for our region!
  • Full disclosure - I've recently accepted a new position at LEAP as the Regional Business Program Manager... Helluva job opportunity just opened up at CATA!

    Sorry to kill your inside source! I hope it was good while it lasted...
  • What exactly does LEAP do?
  • From their website:
    Leap is an innovative private/public partnership that's been working since 2007 to position the Greater Lansing region to win new jobs and new investment in this competitive global market. We're a one-stop shop offering direct access to mid-Michigan's myriad resources.
  • The Michigan/Grand River Transportation Study is now giving presentations on the bus rapid transit system that they have decided to pursue. You can look through their vision for new stations and corridor improvements here:
  • The Steering Committee hasn't chosen what option to go with yet. That doesn't happen until after public scrutiny of our findings. The last public open houses are the following: EL Hannah Center, 11/10/10, 11:30a-1:30p and 5:00p-7:00p; and Meridian Twp Municipal Building, 11/11/10, 5:00p-7:00p.

    The options still include the Baseline Alternative, LRT, Modern Streetcar, BRT, and a Modified BRT. Both of the BRT options are being called "BRT Heavy" by the project team to distinguish them from the "light" option that Grand Rapids had proposed. We nicknamed them "heavy" because they essentially do everything that an LRT car would do - substantial stations, ~100% dedicated lane throughout, off-vehicle fare payment, look awesome, various fuel options, etc. - but all done on rubber tires. You'll see why we had to flesh this option out and do a little refining:

    If you can't make it to the public meetings, check out the boards that'll be there.

    CATA folks are always happy to talk about this stuff, and now that they have a planner who knows what he's doing, you'll probably get better answers! ('s%20a%20Rap&utm_medium=Email&utm_source=VerticalResponse&utm_term=Jason%20Ballcampaign)
  • These seem to be pro forma procedures before an official decision. Only one alternative (the modified brt) has been deemed cost effective and competitive for federal funding. Am I missing something?
  • And to @Hood - Leap is indeed a public private non-profit, but our website barely scratches the surface. This organization currently fills three voids in our region:

    1.) Regional Economic Development - before Leap there were several loose initiatives to tie local economic development efforts together, but this brings it to a new scale. All (or most...) site selection requests for Greater Lansing get sent to the region through Leap, and Leap Staff follow up with the ensuing process. As an example, when IBM came to town, this interrelated, cooperative, regional approach of which leap played a role - but not THE role - in finding a good space within the region that didn't require tons of incentives and spark an incentive war between neighboring municipalities.

    Leap also coordinates with other regional organizations around entrepreneurship and small business assistance. Essentially, Leap (and the many partners) help bring business to Greater Lansing, help people start businesses, help small businesses become bigger businesses, and help big businesses stay in business.

    2.) Regional Marketing - we don't have a single entity that markets the entire region... so now we do. Leap works closely w/ the Lansing CVB in this regard, but because the CVB is funded by the City of Lansing, they (and rightfully so) are less inclined to build their marketing around the entire region. That being said, we've got some forward thinkers there who understand that tiny Lansing competes not with Delta Twp, but with Guangdong Province in China... and they've taken a real leader's role in representing the entire region well.

    3.) Engaging Progressive Business Leaders and Electeds to make local governments work better together - This is where my work comes in. We are working to facilitate better working relationships, more collaboration and coordination of services, and all of that good governmental stuff people say we need to be more competitive as a region. I'm trying to push Leap to a more supporting role of existing efforts - Tri-Co's scenario planning efforts ARE a national best practice and more local advocacy is needed to bring them to implementation at a local level. I'm working to bring our region's CEO/advocates up to speed on the importance of supporting infill and brownfield development, figuring out why some things things turn out the way they do (Accident Fund vs. MSUFCU as an example), and other heady/long-term planning concepts such as urban services boundaries, metro councils for regional land use planning, and whatever else we can pull out of the hat.

    Leap is a non-profit funded primarily through private contributions, but municipal members are asked to contribute a much smaller amount as well so that they have a stake in the game... Their contributions don't quite pay for the traditional E/D role we play, but budgets on the public end really don't permit much planning for the future so it's good to have a public-private org like this to temporarily fill a few of those voids. If you want to get involved in some of the stuff, check out, specifically w/ Strategy 3 and 7 - those are mine, they're the fun ones anyway!

    I hope that answers your question!
  • Matt - you looked behind the green curtain!

    It's not 100%, I don't have the full details in front of me, and i'm purposely backtracking and equivocating, but it looks the modified BRT is probably the only option that will meet the federal funding criteria. I don't know if they've had communication w/ FTA to that effect, but that's my impression as well.

    It's a tight line we walk here - we can't let any of our assumptions of anything exogenous to 'the locally preferred alternative' and the goals we set out with at the beginning affect the outcome. As as I understand, even the funding mechanisms shouldn't factor into that decision directly - this portion of the study is to only select a Mode that will be suitable for the outcomes we need.

    It seems like a goofy process, I was really skeptical initially, but after reading Eugene Bardach's "A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis", the heavily prescriptive and purposive 'tunnel vision' will likely end up with a better outcome in the end. (Shameless plug, read that book.)

    This way we're not value engineering at the conceptual stage, and then rethinking the big-picture stuff a week before shovels start digging...
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