Sven Gustafson – Daily Detroit http://www.dailydetroit.com What To Know And Where To Go In Metro Detroit Fri, 16 Feb 2018 12:04:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 LISTEN: How Indianapolis Funded Mass Transit, Stayed Alive In Amazon HQ2 Sweepstakes http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/02/16/listen-indianapolis-pulled-together-fund-bus-rapid-transit-stay-alive-amazon-hq2-sweepstakes/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/02/16/listen-indianapolis-pulled-together-fund-bus-rapid-transit-stay-alive-amazon-hq2-sweepstakes/#respond Fri, 16 Feb 2018 11:48:36 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=40876

If you listened to our recent episode on Amazon’s snub of Detroit (and you totally should), you’ll recall that the inclusion of Indianapolis among the 20 finalists for its HQ2 project was the topic of some surprise. Well, one of the reasons they made it was their efforts to develop 50 miles of Bus Rapid Transit and other improvements.

So we sent our correspondent Shianne Nocerini down to Indiana’s capital city to talk with Brian Luellen, vice president of public relations for IndyGo, the city’s transit agency, to find out what that city is doing right and compare and contrast our own (mostly failed) efforts here in Detroit.

“There’s been conversation about the need for enhanced transit for central Indiana for decades,” he said. “There was finally some private sector support, which helped catapult the conversation forward.” That might sound familiar to those of you who followed the story of our own mighty QLine.

Have a listen above. Here’s a rundown of the conversation:

7:25 — Luellen discusses how Indianapolis got its transit talks going about 10 years ago, including the Central Indiana Task Force

8:50 — We break down the support from the private sector

9:30 — Luellen discusses the Indy Connect initiative and private sector funding, plus the legislative history, and the 2016 ballot initiative that helped (mostly) fund IndyGo

11:30 — We break down some of the funding specifics, and compare it to local opposition to our own stalled Regional Transit Authority plan

12:47 — Luellen discusses Marion County service improvements, its hub-and-spoke system and how funding agreements in neighboring counties will change things

15:00 — On the public’s response and feedback to IndyGo’s scaled-back plan and how Indianapolis is the fastest-growing city for number of households without vehicles

18:00 — Jer points out that a quarter of Detroit households also don’t own cars and how our policies “institutionalize poverty”

19:40 — How transit “was a big selling point for Amazon in the site selling process”

20:25 — Will Indy’s transit plan actually help its citiizens and deliver on promises to deliver an economic boost? Luellen says Indianapolis is struggling with the “suburbanization of poverty” and the movement of jobs to the exurbs, though its downtown — like Detroit’s — is a vibrant employment cluster.

22:45 — We talk about not letting perfect be the enemy of the good, and the hub-and-spoke system that Indy is using

24:20 — Luellen discusses the long-range vision and $400 million price tag to build out the BRT system, plus the $54 million in annual income tax revenues to help cover operating costs

26:55 — Luellen on the projected economic impact of IndyGo’s transit plans, including plans for a before-and-after survey on the economic impact of the Red Line

29:15 — We bring it back home to talk about transit updates here in Detroit. Jer points out how our QLine — “the streetcar that leaves much to be desired” — pales in comparison to IndyGo’s BRT plans. Shianne discusses how BRT has helped economic development in Cleveland.

Here’s where to find us in Apple Podcasts, and please consider leaving us a review. It’d be so helpful! We’re also on Spotify, Stitcher Radio, and thanks to Podcast Detroit.

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A Look In The Mirror: 5 Smart People On Detroit’s Amazon HQ2 Disappointment http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/19/look-mirror-5-smart-people-detroits-amazon-hq2-disappointment/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/19/look-mirror-5-smart-people-detroits-amazon-hq2-disappointment/#respond Sat, 20 Jan 2018 00:39:59 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=40563

Detroit’s failure to make the list of 20 finalists for Amazon’s $5 billion HQ2 project and its 50,000 jobs has been the talk of the town. Especially after the all-hands-on-deck effort to produce a joint Detroit-Windsor bid that had many people believing the Motor City, once considered strictly a longshot, had a serious chance.

In our latest episode, we talk to five local experts from a variety of backgrounds for their perspectives on what the failure says about our region and where we go from here.

  • Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction with the Detroit Regional Chamber, who was part of the team that helped put together the HQ2 proposal
  • John Mogk, a law professor at Wayne State University and expert on urban policy and economic development
  • Kurt Metzger, a longtime population demographer who is currently mayor of Pleasant Ridge
  • Tom Lawrence, founder and CEO of Lawrence Technology Systems and host of a popular tech vlog and YouTube channel
  • And Nuri Gocay, a co-host of the IT in the D podcast and technology veteran who has worked for companies including Google and Expedia in cities around the world.

Our experts differ on their reactions — Robinson and Mogk were surprised we were left off the list, while Gocay and Lawrence, less so. But they all raised interesting points about Detroit’s image and quality of life, our technology scene, and shortcomings around transit and education.

Find on Apple Podcasts: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-daily-detroit-happy-hour/id1168444594?mt=2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/m/Iwc3prrpluduhfvsclhcl4inhtu?t=The_Daily_Detroit_Happy_Hour

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/5TC5Qr2vIfY3Bx9ZFpLCuN?si=mXXaxrT0SBWcu5ESbMpIsQ

And thanks to Podcast Detroit: http://www.podcastdetroit.com

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Survey In Royal Oak Will Gauge Interest In City-Operated Buses http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/18/survey-royal-oak-will-gauge-interest-city-operated-buses/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/18/survey-royal-oak-will-gauge-interest-city-operated-buses/#respond Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:36:58 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=40526 Royal Oak plans to survey residents and organizations to gauge interest in funding a city-operated transit system to connect residents who aren’t served by SMART buses to downtown and other attractions.

Proponents also hope such a system would ease chronic parking shortages.

Talks are in an early stage to design a system that would complement but not eliminate SMART, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation that operates buses outside of the city. A seven-member transit task force met to discuss the draft survey and other issues Wednesday. Marie Donigan, the chair of the task force, said SMART is designed for regional transportation but leaves some areas of the city underserved by buses and makes many connections difficult.

“I think of this whole project as being like SMART-plus, like an addition to SMART service,” she said. “We already have SMART service, how can we add to SMART service to make it more usable for the residents of Royal Oak?”

The panel met twice in December and has heard from officials from SMART, Royal Oak Schools and Beaumont. The Detroit Zoo told panel members it has worsening parking problems, has begun renting shuttle busses for attendees who park off-site and has worked with the state to alleviate traffic congestion coming off of I-696.

The proposal, unofficially dubbed ROGO, for Royal Oak Go, could be modeled after the senior shuttle buses already operated by SMART. Or it could go the way of so-called microtransit, which doesn’t necessarily follow fixed routes and can adjust to demand. The price tag would likely run in the millions of dollars but would depend on the number of routes, vehicles needed and technology involved.

If the idea gains traction, supporters could put it on the ballot as soon as August, when a tax supporting SMART comes up for renewal, though supporters acknowledge that might be ambitious, since the Royal Oak City Commission would also have to approve ballot language months in advance.

The ROGO idea comes as the Regional Transit Authority members are reportedly close to hatching a new proposal to place before voters. The RTA’s 20-year, $4.6 billion plan was narrowly defeated by voters in November 2016. It also comes as a plan hatched by neighboring Ferndale to operate a trolley with Royal Oak and Detroit reportedly fizzled.

Separately, Royal Oak is among several suburban communities — including Ferndale, Berkley and Birmingham — that have been talking with MoGo about expanding the Detroit bike sharing program, said James Krizan, assistant to the Royal Oak city manager.

Donigan, a former state representative and Royal Oak city commissioner who has a long involvement in transit issues, said the idea for ROGO came to her last year, when she filled in for a vacant seat on the City Commission. She was struck by the fact that, 20 years after she left the Commission, officials were still talking about parking problems in the city. It got her thinking about the benefits of transit.

Panel members plan to finalize the survey next week, then hold an open house at the end of February to discuss findings.

“If we find out nobody wants it, then nobody wants it,” Donigan said. “If we find out there’s some demand for certain things… we have to just go out and talk to the community.”

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New Ferndale Radio Station Hits The Airwaves From Inside The Rust Belt Market http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/11/new-ferndale-radio-station-hits-airwaves-inside-rust-belt-market/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/11/new-ferndale-radio-station-hits-airwaves-inside-rust-belt-market/#respond Thu, 11 Jan 2018 16:10:27 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=40400 If you’ve been surfing the airwaves (remember those?) around downtown Ferndale lately, you may have noticed a new non-commercial college-style radio station operating at the FM frequency 100.7. It’s Ferndale Radio, WFCB, short for Ferndale Community Broadcasting, with a signal that goes about 3 or 4 miles.

It’s the same folks who launched a crowdfunding effort back in 2016 to launch a low-power FM station under a rare, special construction permit they’d obtained from the Federal Communications Commission (the Metro Times wrote about the complicated federal broadcasting regulations if you’re interested). Despite falling short of their initial effort to raise $15,000, the organizers were determined enough to scrape together the money to buy an antenna, tower, transmitter and studio, and are now broadcasting from a small, makeshift studio inside the Rust Belt Market.

While visiting the market over the holidays, I caught up with Dave Kim, Ferndale Radio’s program and marketing director, as he spun some tunes.

8-Wood: How long have you guys been on the air now?

Kim: We went on the air back in August. We launched with fun stuff, just playing 1920s music, and we were also in the process of securing royalty fees to play modern music. So then we started that. And then the studio, we launched live with the studio on Black Friday.

I understand you guys are doing a deal with the Rust Belt, like free rent in exchange for helping to promote their events.

So Chris and Tiffany Best, the co-owners of the Rust Belt, they wanted to have a radio station from the very beginning when they started this, but they didn’t realize actually how much goes into it, so then once they found out what we were trying to do, they welcomed us with open arms, and we’re promoting obviously the city of Ferndale, the great vendors here, and what Rust Belt does, and what we do aligns pretty well.

You came up short on your original Indiegogo crowdfunding drive, right?

So Indiegogo, we were a little short, and we had —

Is that an all-or-nothing deal?

Yeah, because if we had the money and then didn’t actually have the station, it would have been a lot harder to refund everyone’s money, so I think it all-or-nothing was better. So we went back on the drawing board.

What was tough was that we were just an idea instead of an actual product or something that’s actually tangible. So it was easier to go to businesses and give them a concept of what we were trying to do. Also, Stephanie Loveless from Ferndale Friends, she was so instrumental as well with helping us make contacts and go to businesses and work with the city to finally get all of this up and running.

But then we did another crowdfunding campaign through Chuffed and that helped us cross that finish line.

How much was that one?

Off the top of my head, I’m not sure of the exact numbers, I think it was close to 2 grand?

And that was just from individual contributors?

Yes.

So tell me a little about the station now. You’ve got, what, a couple months fully running, one month plus here at the Rust Belt. How’s it operating and how are you running this?

It’s been great. The great thing about being at the Rust Belt, you see it for yourself, is just the foot traffic here — especially during Black Friday weekend, people were very curious about what we were doing. We have about six to eight consistent DJs, volunteer DJs right now, we’re hoping to grow to about 15 to 20 once the new year starts and probably by the spring.

Ideally we are live as long as the rust Belt is open, and I believe they have Monday nights open as well for board game night, so that’s another opportunity to have live DJs. And everything on social media, people have been saying how it’s nice to have a station that focuses on Ferndale and the surrounding areas.

Are you broadcasting from this studio 100 percent of the time?

So when we are not live ,we still have music playing 24-seven.

Like from a playlist or something?

Yes.

We’re coming up on a new year. So far it’s been pretty much just music. I know you guys have ambitions, you want to do more. What’s coming in the new year?

We definitely want to expand to maybe talk programming. Ideally we’d like to partner with the city of Ferndale more, and maybe Ferndale public schools. I don’t know if maybe they have any programming in mind, that would be a nice partnership just to get maybe students involved and things like that. There’s all different kinds of content that we would love to do. In my head I think someone could do like a geek culture show, maybe high school sports, especially around this area. I don’t know what else people have in mind, but we’re definitely open to people pitching us ideas.

If people want to pitch ideas, how could they do that?

They can just go to ferndaleradio.com, we have a Contact Us link, or they can just email ferndaleradio@gmail.com.

So I’d imagine when you’re not in here, you’re pretty busy making playlists.

Yeah, we’re always trying to expand our music library. One thing that really want to focus on in the new year is to get more local music on the air. A few bands have reached out to us and we definitely want to partner with them. I would love to see us, and this is something we’d have to work out with the Rust Belt themselves, but we have this beautiful event space, and I know they’ve had performances there before, maybe we could do a local music showcase, or a birthday bash, something along those lines.

You guys raised about $15,000 to get this off the ground, with the antenna up on the roof—

Yep, the antenna, the tower, the electrical work.

Given that you’re doing this on a limited budget and everything, is it hard — you’re talking about building out a bigger library, and royalties and everything — is that pretty challenging to do all that?

At the moment it’s a little challenging, just because record labels and music management still aren’t aware that we exist, but we’re working on getting more music from these labels and from management. And also, hopefully, I’d love to have a local band on every hour, their song playing.

So you have to work with ASCAP and all that?

Yes, and BMI, SESAC, one of the newer ones. They’re all out of Nashville.

Anything else you guys are working on in the new year?

My big goal, for me personally, I want us to be streaming, hopefully by the end of the year. The royalties, they bump up significantly when you talk about online streaming, and also with getting the hardware and the networking and all that. I would love to do that, especially with the way the digital age is now. A lot of people just stream their music on their phones.

I saw you guys said that you think you can run this on $5,000 a year.

For yearly operating costs? Yeah.

So that’s still the goal?

Yup.

And that’ll be wherever you can get the money, essentially? Are you guys specifically pitching businesses for underwriting?

Specifically pitching underwriting. We are pretty close to being a federal nonprofit. There are potential grants that we want to apply for that focus on the arts and community.

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Semi-Protected Bike lanes Appear On Pinecrest In Ferndale, Oak Park To Get “Road Diet” http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/10/02/semi-protected-bike-lanes-appear-pinecrest-ferndale-oak-park-get-road-diet/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/10/02/semi-protected-bike-lanes-appear-pinecrest-ferndale-oak-park-get-road-diet/#respond Tue, 03 Oct 2017 00:56:15 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38688 The repaving of Pinecrest, which closed the north-south connector street between Nine Mile Road and Pleasant Ridge for most of the summer, has brought an additional benefit besides smoother pavement: semi-protected bike lanes.

The bike lanes run curbside on both sides of the street between Nine Mile and West Oakridge Street. They’re separated from traffic lanes by double lines painted on the pavement, with cluster of three posts near every intersection.

They add to a growing network of bike lanes and sharrows in the city, including on Livernois Avenue and Hilton Road.

A rendering of a proposed linear park concept on West Nine Mile in Oak Park.

In other news, plans are in the works to add buffered bike lanes, surface paint, medians and protected cross-walks on West Nine Mile Road as part of a “road diet” between Pinecrest and Coolidge in Oak Park. The project is essentially a joint project with Oak Park, which is expected to take the lead, and made possible via a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant. Ferndale’s City Council approved its $127,717 local-match portion in July.

Oak Park appears to be weighing several different options for the project, including various configurations for angled parking, off-street pedestrian trails and a linear park concept for the south side of Nine Mile, where homes are set back from road and separated by wide grassy areas. It would also decrease traffic lanes from four to three.

When completed, likely in 2018, bicyclists would be able to travel from Coolidge in Oak Park all the way to the Hazel Park border using designated bike lanes or sharrows.

Editor’s Note: Daily Detroit and the 8 Wood Blog have a content sharing agreement, and this is reproduced with the permission of the author. Sven is also the host of our Daily Detroit Happy Hour Podcast. Check it out on Apple Podcasts.

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Allow Me To Freak Out About $400K Homes In My Old Detroit Neighborhood http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/17/allow-freak-400k-homes-old-detroit-neighborhood/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/17/allow-freak-400k-homes-old-detroit-neighborhood/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 00:15:35 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38443 I last spent time in Woodbridge Farms, my old neighborhood, last fall, when I joined some coworkers to plant trees with crews from the Greening of Detroit. And I wrote about what I saw and how it illustrated the dramatic and jarring ways that Detroit is changing.

But nothing quite prepared me for this.

A developer team is working with the city to invest around $6 million to build up to 27 houses in the historic neighborhood, which began in the early 1870s. All good. But here’s the kicker, via Crain’s Detroit Business:

The single-family homes would be market value, with prices to be determined, but likely in the $350,000-$400,000 range, (one of the developers, Douglass) Diggs said. They would be 1,800-square-foot three-bedroom homes with a private backyard, deck and two-car garage. (Emphases mine.)

This is frankly astounding.

The issue

Some of the commenters on the Crain’s piece raise the valid point that these are homes that will be marketed presumably to families in a city whose public and charter schools are in crisis, and that’s true. But I’m thinking about what it does to the neighborhood as a whole.

An old mansion on Lincoln Street in Woodbridge Farms. | Creative Commons via Girl.in.the.D

I lived in Woodbridge Farms from 2002 to 2005, during the Kwame Kilpatrick era. There were flickers of revitalization sprinkled around pockets of the city, but nothing like what we’re seeing now.

Woodbridge Farms (I didn’t know anyone who referred to it that way; we mostly just called it Woodbridge) was populated by eccentrics — reclusive Cass Corridor artists and hippies, gay couples living in perennial fixer-uppers, an anarchist collective that hosted performance art and punk bands, business owners and low-income folks who lived in apartment buildings or old homes subdivided into apartments. There was a church across the street where I remember listening to the pastor shouting out his sermon each Sunday. That describes pretty much the whole street. Yes, it was sparsely populated, with plenty of vacant lots. There was crime, and it occasionally got bad, but people looked out for each other.

It was decidedly not upscale back then, and I loved it. I loved the weirdness and the characters, the sense of possibility. The old houses and the community feel. I could wander down the block, gather wood dumped on a vacant lot and burn it in our backyard chiminea fireplace. The people down the street had a pet peacock and hosted giant Academy Awards night celebrations each year. I grew enormous sunflowers and vegetables in our backyard and made many a summer dinner from them.

The houses were beautiful, full of period architectural details and character, but often in serious need of TLC. None of them back then would have come anywhere close to fetching $350,000 on the market. Blight was always somewhere just down the street or around the corner.

These new homes, planned for the corner of Lincoln and Selden and between Selden and Brainard off Trumbull, look perfectly nice, judging from the renderings. They’ll certainly help boost property values for the existing residents. But at that price point, they’ll frankly usher in a different class of people to what has been a relatively stable but still rough-around-the-edges neighborhood.

I’m sure a list of recent home sales in the neighborhood would make these prices feel less shocking, and I know the neighborhood has seen a lot of changes since I left, many of them good. But it won’t be the same.

And so it begins, one neighborhood at a time.

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the 8-Wood Blog. Sven is also the host of the Daily Detroit Happy Hour Podcast that you can find here on Apple Podcasts/iTunes.

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Plans For Monroe Block Suggest Density, Modernism Coming To Detroit http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/08/28/plans-monroe-block-suggest-density-modernism-coming-detroit/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/08/28/plans-monroe-block-suggest-density-modernism-coming-detroit/#respond Mon, 28 Aug 2017 21:19:39 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38032 There’s big downtown Detroit development news — and to no one’s surprise, Dan Gilbert is involved — as Bedrock Detroit plans an $800 million new mixed-use development anchored by a 35-story tower overlooking Campus Martius.

So far as I can tell from the renderings, plans for the Monroe Block project call for building two towers and other buildings on two irregularly shaped blocks bordered by Monroe Avenue, Bates and Randolph streets, and Cadillac Square.

The blocks today are mostly either surface parking lots or vacant sites of recent building demolitions.

Bedrock did not respond to messages seeking comment. The new plans update its earlier vision for the site and add 15 stories to the stepped glass office tower.

The company’s design renderings suggest that downtown Detroit is due for a significant infusion of eclectic, modern architecture that’s not out of line with what we’ve seen before from Gilbert and Bedrock.

That’s especially true when you consider Bedrock’s plans for the former J.L. Hudson’s site a few blocks away, where Bedrock wants to begin work later this year on Detroit’s tallest building along with a stunning mixed-use building fronting Woodward Avenue.

Today, downtown is dominated by grand prewar architecture, exemplified by buildings like the Penobscot and the Guardian.

Crain’s reports that floor sizes in the new office tower will range from 10,000 square feet to 45,000 near the ground floor in order to attract national tenants.

“The design, and I think this speaks to the strategy of the project, competes with Chicago and some of these larger-tier cities in that we are trying to provide a diversity of floor-plate sizes,” Jamie Witherspoon, Bedrock’s director of architecture, told Crain’s.

Here’s more, from John Gallagher at the Freep:

If the Hudson’s site tower will rank as Detroit’s tallest building, the new details available for the Monroe Block remain equally impressive: It will feature 810,000 square feet of new office space, 170,000 square feet of new retail space, 482 new residential apartments, at least 900 parking spaces — many of which will be built underground, and some 48,000 square feet of public plazas and “green” space. (…)

“What we’re doing from a public space standpoint within the development is going to be special,” said Dan Mullen, president of Gilbert’s Bedrock real estate arm. “It’s not just a big, tall building. It’s a big, tall building that interacts with street level and public spaces throughout.

“There’s going to be different pods and nods of great spaces to hang out and for people to get together.”

Renderings also suggest there’s a second flatiron-shaped tower devoted to residential use at 25 stories at the corner of Randolph and Monroe.

Construction on the Monroe Block would start early next year and be completed in early 2022. Architects on the project are Neumann-Smith of Detroit and Schmidt Hammer Lassen of Copenhagen, Denmark.

It’s believed that Gilbert may try to lump the Monroe Block project with his Hudson’s Site proposal for a $1.5 billion megaproject eligible for tax incentives under the MiThrive program passed recently in Lansing. The project still needs various city approvals before it can go forward.

It’s a good sign for a variety of reasons to see Detroit finally attracting plans to build up.

At a former job, I remember my boss looking out a 21st-floor window overlooking downtown and remarking that, absent a few buildings, the view is largely the same as it was in the 1920s.

Seems that won’t be true for much longer.

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New Protected Bike Lanes Taking Shape on Cass Avenue http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/08/25/new-protected-bike-lanes-taking-shape-cass-ave/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/08/25/new-protected-bike-lanes-taking-shape-cass-ave/#respond Fri, 25 Aug 2017 18:29:38 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38027 If you’ve been on Cass Avenue lately, you might’ve seen some kiosks being installed along the sidewalks in a few places. Or the smooth new blacktop road surface.

They’re part of larger plans to bring protected bike lanes to the street, from West Grand Boulevard in the New Center all the way to Lafayette near the riverfront downtown.

Two kiosks have been installed — one in front of Old Main, on the Wayne State campus, and the other near the Rosa Parks Transit Center downtown.

One of the new Cass Avenue bike kiosks.

“It’s gonna count bikes riding in the bike lane and then it’s going to count warm bodies going on the sidewalk. And it’ll keep them both separate,” said Todd Scott, executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition, which advocated for the project.

Data from the kiosks will be uploaded to a server for analysis — and hopefully used to justify more of the same kind of projects around the city, Scott said.

Also included in the project are bike boxes — green-painted areas for bikes at the head of traffic lanes at traffic signals. They’re meant to provide bicyclists with a designated safe space and a chance to get ahead of vehicles at a red light.

The project is intertwined with $63 million in road improvement projects planned this year in the city. The Cass Avenue improvements stemmed from a $1 million federal grant allocated through the Michigan Department of Transportation to offset the lack of safe bike access along Woodward Avenue because of the QLINE tracks.

We’re not sure when the project will be completed. An MDOT spokeswoman forwarded me to Richard Doherty, an engineer with the Detroit Department of Public Works, who did not respond to phone and email messages. But the resurfacing portion of the project appears to be mostly done, along with some of the green-painted bike boxes.

You can see the original bid and scope of work for the work here. It calls for extending the bike lanes from West Grand Boulevard south to Congress. From there, they would go east to Washington Boulevard, then south to Jefferson, east to Bates and south to Atwater Street to connect with existing bike lanes near the RiverWalk at the Port Authority.

Back in May, we had Scott on as a guest on the Daily Detroit Happy Hour podcast. The whole episode is worth a listen, but here’s how he explained the Cass Ave. project:

“Initially the plan was to build buffered bike lanes as an alternative safe route to Woodward due to the QLINE, and we got some funding from MDOT to make that happen. But when the new (Detroit) planning director came online, he believes the minimum design standard is the protected bike lane, so they changed the design for Cass to be protected, which is why it’s taking longer than expected. We were hoping to get this done before the QLINE started. But it’s gonna be a great project. It is going to be a tight squeeze to get everything in there. They’re pushing some of the limits on some stuff. We’ve done some traffic counts of bikes on Cass. A couple of years ago we measured over 500 people in a 24-hour period, which is pretty significant. So we expect once the bike lanes go in we’re going to see even more people using Cass.”

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New Report Shows QLINE Service Improvements, Ridership On The Rise http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/07/28/new-report-says-qline-service-improvements-ridership-rise/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/07/28/new-report-says-qline-service-improvements-ridership-rise/#respond Fri, 28 Jul 2017 18:13:32 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=37603 A new report from the parent organization of Detroit’s streetcar says that the new QLINE streetcar service is making improvements following several opening glitches, expected growing pains and complaints from riders.

M-1 Rail, the QLINE’s operating organization, has been working with the streetcar’s operator, Transdev North America, on service improvements for about a month now. Those have resulted in more riders, shorter waits and better coordination with traffic signals.

Ridership on the QLINE, which launched May 12, has increased from an average of 4,000 daily trips during the week of June 12 to 6,300 the week of July 17, the report says. That’s higher than the 5,000 daily trips officials have established as their target, though the streetcar has yet to begin charging for rides.

Thanks to a commitment from the Kresge Foundation announced last month, riders can continue to ride for free until Tuesday, Sept. 4.

Opening day crowds on the QLINE. Daily Detroit photo.

“Over the past month, we have improved QLINE service, putting more streetcars on the road, reducing wait times between vehicles and integrated rider feedback into our operational enhancement plan,” said M-1 RAIL CEO Matt Cullen. “Many more people have had the opportunity to experience the QLINE for the first time and Detroiters are beginning to integrate the streetcar system into their daily travel.”

Here’s how the improvements are shaking out:

  • Round-trip rides have been reduced by 6 minutes due to operational improvements.
  • Average wait times between streetcars fell from more than 19 minutes to an average of 16:49 Monday to Saturday. They’re down 20 percent since the start of operations on May 12, and officials have said they’re targeting long-term wait times of 12 minutes during weekdays.
  • M-1 Rail increased streetcar operator staff from 17 to 21. M-1 says it plans to have 27 certified operators on staff when the QLINE begins charging riders in earnest, after Labor Day.
  • QLINE worked with city and state traffic engineers to improve traffic-signal timing at the intersections of Burroughs, Montcalm and at Campus Martius. At Congress, approaching streetcars now trigger a signal change.
  • Streetcars no longer stop at stations if no one is waiting and if no passengers have signaled for a stop.
  • Since launching in May, transit police have issued 30 tickets and towed seven cars that were obstructing the tracks.

Estimated wait times remain inconsistent, though M-1 officials insist the digital kiosk technology is improving. M-1 is working with technology partner Nextbus to make the arrival and streetcar location data more accurate and says the system is showing incremental improvements over six weeks of work.

“Improving the arrival prediction system is one of our top priorities as we prepare for revenue service,” said Paul Childs, M-1 Rail’s COO. “We appreciate the patience of our riders as we refine this technology and we expect to see a significant improvement in the data over the next six weeks.”

The QLINE begins charging for rides in Sept. 5. Rides will start at $1.50 for three hours of unlimited rides and $3 for a day pass.

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PODCAST: What’s Next For Downtown Detroit? We Talk With Eric Larson Of The DDP http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/07/25/podcast-whats-next-downtown-detroit-talk-eric-larson-ddp/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/07/25/podcast-whats-next-downtown-detroit-talk-eric-larson-ddp/#respond Tue, 25 Jul 2017 23:19:42 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=37558

Downtown Detroit continues its remarkable transformation, with more and more foot traffic, construction sites sprouting like weeds and new businesses opening up on the reg.

On this episode of the Daily Detroit Happy Hour, we caught up with Eric Larson, CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, for an update on what’s happening in downtown Detroit, how it’s evolved over time and what the future could look like for the rapidly growing central business district.

“We really have tried to use the downtown quite frankly as that case study,” Larson said. “If it works downtown, we really try and make sure it’s replicable in other areas. Not only in other areas of the city, but quite frankly a lot of the public space activation and placemaking activities that we’ve been doing now for over 20 years are being done all over the country and have become sort of the buzz approaches for continuing to turn around urban centers.”

Among the topics Larson touches on:

  • The DDP’s involvement in the Super Bowl XL in 2006 (around 5:30)
  • How the DDP works with agencies outside the downtown core (just after 8 minutes)
  • The 2016 Downtown Detroit Perceptions Report (around 12 minutes)
  • How downtown is whiter and more affluent than the city overall (around 17:30)
  • Transportation options, including MoGo, the low marks given to the bus systems and last year’s failed RTA transit millage (19:45)
  • The present and possible future of the QLINE (26 minutes)
  • How the new Spirit of Detroit Plaza represents a “civic space where people can congregate” (31:30)
  • How bike lanes will transform downtown (37 minutes)
  • Early results — and future plans — for the “mighty MoGo” bike share (41:45)
  • The future of downtown, vis a vis real estate and autonomous vehicles (46:00)

Friends, this is our longest podcast episode BY FAR, but frankly there was a lot to chew over. Give it a listen and you won’t be disappointed. As always, we welcome your feedback.

Listen to the episode above, or subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, via Podcast Detroit or wherever fine podcasts are downloaded. There are also more on our website here.

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