Thursday, May 22, 2008

Michigan High Speed Authority by Akindele Akinyemi


Detroit is originally called the Motor City. However, that term is long gone as leaders should be transforming our city into a financial market similar to the Four Asian Tigers of the East. This can only be done by reducing the illiteracy rate in Detroit and bringing competition to education in our city. We know that Detroit Public Schools have fallen and parents and community investors need to look elsewhere to help rebuild our city such as charters and tax credits.
One thing we have been talking about is regional rail transportation. For quite some time we have been talking about a rail system here in Metro Detroit. We have to take it further. It is time that we created the Michigan High Speed Authority.
This state needs to develop a high speed rail system that is based on maglev technology. Maglev is short for magnetically levitating. This is a form of transportation that suspends, guides and propels vehicles (predominantly trains) using electromagnetic force. This method has the potential to be fast and quiet when compared to wheeled mass transit systems, potentially reaching velocities comparable to turboprop and jet aircraft.
To make this economically feasible in Michigan we would have to create what is known as a Mach 1 train. Mach 1 travels at 770 mph (the speed of sound). A train that is connected intrastate here in Michigan travelling at Mach 1 would be incredible. It would generate jobs and open a brand new form of competition globally, making the bullet train in Japan look ancient. Even developing a high speed train that moves at 600 mph would be significant and economically correct.
Michigan can build a high-speed rail network that runs across the state connecting both upper and lower peninsulas. Can you imagine going to work at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste Marie, MI from Detroit in 40 minutes or less? It takes 5 hours to drive from Detroit to Sault Saint Marie.
Building a high speed rail network from Detroit to Muskegon or Mackinac City may run somewhere between $15-20 billion dollars. It may be $50-60 billion to build a statewide network. Once built, the system will not require operating subsidies and will generate $1 billion in annual profits to pump into a sagging economy.
Building a Michigan High Speed Rail will help relieve traffic congestion along the heavily traveled Southeast corridor, while having the advantages of greater safety, high transit volume, low land occupancy, energy economy and low pollution. Passengers who travel on a fully loaded train will use only a sixth of the energy they would use if they drove alone in a car and will release only one-ninth as much carbon dioxide.
High speed trains are more energy efficient than aircraft on a same load factor basis, as trains consume less energy per passenger. This may result in less carbon dioxide emissions, however this depends on each implementation's actual usage patterns and their indirect effects. Short-haul energy requirements for transporting people are generally more competitive on trains than long haul.
Think about the number of jobs that would be created. Over 200,000 construction related jobs and 500,000 permanent jobs here in Michigan where unemployment leads the nation at 6.9%. Building a high speed train network would improve the movement of people, goods and services throughout the state. Again, Michigan can generate over $1 billion annually. It would reduce travel times for those of us who commute to Lansing and back as well as reducing air pollution. Michigan would STOP losing population and Detroit would regain population over a 10 year period.
The high speed rail network will help revitalize downtown districts Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Jackson, Ann Arbor, and Benton Harbor/St. Joseph by promoting and supporting sustainable transit-oriented multi-nodal development at downtown stations. 10 million passengers or more would be removed from roads to a high speed rail network, significantly improving air quality in Southeastern Michigan.
I cannot understand why anyone who represents our people in Congress have not introduced a study for a high speed rail in Michigan. Our state lawmakers in Michigan are so divided that they would put something important like this on the backburner. What legislators, transportation experts and stakeholders should do is the following:
Amend Title 23 SEc 104 of the US Code, which designates 11 nationally recognized high speed rail corridors, to include a Southeastern Michigan Express Corridor route and eventually a statewide network.
Receive demonstration project funding through one of several legislative vehicles at the federal and state level.
Educate the Michigan Congressional and State Legislative delegation about the prospects of high speed rail development in our state.
Increase the grassroots support amongst regional, local and municipal entities throughout Michigan.
Gov. Granholm is not thinking on this level. If she was she would have included this as a part of her platform years ago. Instead, she is interested in nothing as usual.
Charter schools can lead the way in developing a high speed rail system. Instead of trying to become millionaires on the backs of students we need innovation and preparation in developing new technology by developing additional science and technology charters as well as financial engineering charter institutions.
Finally, I cannot even ask if our Michigan Legislative Black Caucus even discussed this. I KNOW for a fact that none of the candidates running for state representative or county commissioner is talking about this. Perhaps if they would sit down and talk with the grassroots urban conservatives would help in the long run.

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