Transit hub

By Neal McNamara

A transportation study by CATA hints at a more modern region


Though it might be a longshot, the possibility of the Lansing area getting a light rail transit line connecting the Capitol building to Michigan State University and the Meridian Mall is at least being considered.

The Capitol Area Transportation Authority is in the midst of a study of the transit needs of the corridor that stretches between the Capitol along Michigan and Grand River avenues all the way out to the Meridian Mall. The study is looking at whether new transit options — like light rail or streetcars — and upgrading infrastructure for pedestrians, bikers and cars would be of benefit to the corridor.

The study, called an “alternatives analysis,” is required by the Federal Transit Administration if federal money is to be used for any potential upgrades. CATA will host forums next week in Lansing, East Lansing and Okemos at which members of the public can give their views on preferences for the corridor.

“We’ll ask (the public) where the bikes should be, where the pedestrians should be and what are the options for public transportation,” Debbie Alexander, CATA assistant executive director, said.

The study is being funded by federal funds that CATA receives every year for capital improvements. URS Corp., a San Francisco-based engineering firm, is administering the study. Many local officials from the municipalities that the corridor reaches are involved in the study, as well as the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.

The study and its final recommendations — called a Locally Preferred Alternative — for the corridor is expected to be completed by August. However, the study itself does not mean that the Michigan/Grand River corridor will definitely change. Transit options like light rail — or more far-flung Michigan/Grand River Avenue transportation study public meetings ideas like a subway or monorail — will be evaluated on cost and potential use and might not make it as a final recommendation.

Dan Meyers, the study project manager from URS, said that the study could arrive at three different conclusions: “do nothing,” which means that the corridor should stay as it is; a “baseline” alternative, which could upgrade transit by improving sidewalks, possibly adding bike lanes, fixing roads or improving transit infrastructure like bus shelters; or “build,” which could include everything in the baseline alternative, plus a new system of transit like light rail or dedicated bus lines.

A “transit technology inventory” was recently made available on the study Web site, www.MiGRtrans. org, that details all the “build” transit options from commuter rail to monorail to light rail.

“By August we might say at this point, what you need to do is continue to build great ridership, make land use supportive of transit, and look at it again in a couple of years,” Meyers said.

Once a plan is produced in August, CATA could get up to 80 percent federal support for any improvements. Meyers said that most transit entities in the country are getting more like 55-to-60 percent support from the government. Either way, a local match would be involved. Alexander said that the match could come from the state, but CATA would still have to fund the operation of any new transit operations.

“Ultimately, the community would have to pay for it — there are many ways of doing that,” she said.

Michigan/Grand River Avenue transportation study public meetings

Jan. 12 : Hannah Community Center, East Lansing, 5 - 7

Jan. 13: Foster Community Center, Lansing, 5 - 7 p.m.

Jan. 14:
Meridian Township Hall, Meridian Township, 5 - 7 p.m.