Michigan examines transportation future

Michigan is taking new steps to understand how transportation issues impact the state. Yesterday, the Michigan Municipal League held its first ever twitter event with local officials and researchers to examine the reality of transportation statewide and how to plan for the future. The event was held in advance of Governor Rick Snyder’s planned transportation announcement in October.

The talk featured state officials intimately familiar with the state’s transportation history and its unique needs. The event also featured Robert Puentes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and infrastructure researcher. Puentes is the recent author of a Brookings study which examined transportation infrastructure issues nationwide. He kicked off the Michigan event by providing this perspective. Puentes also noted that over 20,000 Michigan residents live without a vehicle and without access to public transportation.

Chris Kolb, president and CEO of the Michigan Environmental Council, followed Puentes and provided insights on the environmental impact of transportation as well as generational shifts that states should begin to prepare for when considering transportation allocations. Specifically, he noted that younger generations are more interested in owning new technology then getting their own car on the day they turn 16, this shift is also leading young people into cities with greater access to public transportation. Shifts like this in generational attitudes will require greater access to public transportation or ridesharing programs in order to continue to attract young people to municipalities.

Shortly after the talk, news broke that Governor Rick Snyder will also be working ahead of his October announcement to ensure that state light rail projects continue to move forward. Michigan is up for millions in federal funds the Department of Transportation is giving to states to fund projects like light rail but the state has been plagued by turf battles over cost and control of such transit systems in the past leaving new funding and programs vulnerable to the same stalemate.

Those interested in following the Michigan conversation can watch hashtag #mitransvision on Twitter.