In a press conference hosted by Detroit mayor Dave Bing and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the federal government has just this past week authorized a year-long study into the implementation of a light-rail line in the core of urban Detroit. This would be the first major transit development in the city since the mid-1980's unveiling of Detroit's People Mover downtown elevated rail service.

I think that it's about darned time that this project got going. No, it's not what it really needs to be, which is a fully comprehensive transit system for the entire metro area.

I feel that since the US taxpayers are majority owners in General Motors and minority stakeholders in Chrysler, both these companies should be forced to get on board with manufacturing for the transit industry- rail cars, hybrid/electric buses, train tracks, etc. Re-open those factories that were shut down. Open new factories, especially in previously abandoned locales like urban Detroit and elsewhere. I have written letters to officials, appointees and activists from the President on down, but so far this angle has only barely reached public discourse. The whole "quick-wash get-in-get-out" hands-off managing of the auto bailouts has been maddeningly wrongheaded. But at least the American public will get to drive those neat new Chevy Volts, at only $41,000 a pop. Save your pennies.

Progressive tax reform is needed to help keep a more expanded transit system alive. Unfortunately, there are folks in various suburbs who adhere to anti-tax absolutism and barely veiled racial animus, who do things like have their cities opt-out of SMART (the privately owned bus line serving most area suburbs), and thus adding more headaches for anyone who wants to travel to or from said cities for work, school, etc.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, long considered in local politics as an iconic foe of urban Detroit interests, wisely supported the SMART millage renewal, but he is still an obstinate crank when it comes to actually forming a southeast Michigan Transit Authority (which would be a coalition of several city/county local governments.) Even parties within the Bing Administration's Transportation Dept. are likely fearful for their jobs "if" a real Transit Authority gets going, and so they are stonewalling, too.

The grudges of the past may end up derailing this project (pun intended) if the ultra-cynics have their way. I suggest that folks go to the 'TRU' website, and keep up on the developments.


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