Wednesday’s meeting on the Ypsi rail stop

Last week, I posted something about the local debate over where we place our train stop here in Ypsi. We kicked the idea around for a while, and people on both sides of the issue weighed in. City Councilperson Pete Murdock explained why he thought that it would be best to locate the platform in front of the old Freighthouse, and Depot Town business owner Bill French explained why he thought putting the stop there would ultimately be bad for merchants.

Then, in hopes keeping the project on track, I suggested a compromise wherein the platform would be located at the Freighthouse, contingent upon City officials doing the following:

• Identifying a funding source for the construction of a pedestrian crossing which would connecting the Maple Ave parking lot to the east of the tracks with the platform on the west.

• Making a sincere and believable pledge to the merchants of Depot Town to see parking codes enforced going forward, thereby eliminating the concern that commuters’ cars would occupy prime parking spots near the Freighthouse all day.

• Changing a majority of parking spaces west of the tracks to 2 or 3-hour parking, and making sure that ticketed vehicles are promptly towed.

• Pledging new signage that would point commuters to the longer-term lot east of Depot Town.

• Assuring the community that some entity other than either the City of Ypsilanti or the Depot Town DDA would cover the costs of altering the track configuration, if that is required.

Well, we’ve yet to hear from the City, but it looks as though Bill French would be willing to consider such an arrangement, if it were offered. Here’s Bill’s most recent comment:

Reality needs to trump Passion and Hope

Pete’s proposed compromise makes sense but only if Mark’s concerns are addressed. We must secure written commitments, not possibilities; otherwise Depot Town merchants and the City will quickly learn that ‘In the scheme of things, the parking issue is a minor one’ is a dangerous assumption because it is not based on business facts. If the guarantees are secured then the compromised proposal would be the best option.

If the proponents of the Westside platform can not secure all of the guarantees and money commitments, then we need and should make the safe bet of recommending, for the time being, that the train stops on the eastside. Depot Town and the City can not afford another ‘all in bet’ without the facts, guarantees, and professional input.

So, I guess that’s where things stand as of right now, as we prepare for the meeting tomorrow evening with SEMCOG… Following is a note from City Planner Richard Murphy concerning that meeting, its new location, and what’s likely to be covered.

The 4pm-7pm segment will be an informal drop-in session. This will not be a formal presentation or program, but we will have displays, materials, and City and SEMCOG staff on hand to discuss the Ann Arbor to Detroit rail project and Ypsilanti’s part in it, and to answer questions and take comments. Attend when you are able, for as long or short as you wish.

The Planning Commission meeting, beginning at 7pm, will be more formal. There will be a presentation from SEMCOG staff on the rail project, a discussion by City staff of some of the local issues identified so far, an opportunity for formal public comment to the Commission, and discussion by the Planning Commission.

I would like to further stress that the purpose of the Planning Commission meeting is NOT to make a decision on the specific location of the platform. I will be bringing a number of topics to the Commission for discussion, including zoning and site plan needs for the project; traffic and parking management; coordination with transit; providing for pedestrian and bicycle traffic; and planning for future development demand created by the rail service. The intent is to gather comments, questions, and concerns to help the City and SEMCOG plan for these things, not to finalize a particular plan.

Any and all comments on the commuter rail service are therefore welcome – please do not feel you have to limit your input to one aspect of it! We are at the beginning of a process that will last throughout the rail service’s pilot period, not at the end of the process.

Richard Murphy
Planner II, City of Ypsilanti
rmurphy@cityofypsilanti.com

See you at City Hall.

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6 Comments

  1. Andy C
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    Regardless of what side of the tracks the platform is on, I think a pedestrian crossing would be a good thing. A short cut to that east side parking lot would really open it up and benefit Depot Town.

  2. Meta
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    It looks as though the Detroit light rail project is moving forward as well.

    Bids for Woodward rail line being reviewed

    BY JOHN GALLAGHER
    FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

    The proposed privately funded light-rail system on Woodward Avenue has a new name and an aggressive timetable as planners take the first practical steps to turn the idea into reality.

    Formerly known as TRAIL for the Regional Area Initial Link, the system is now called M1-RAIL after the state designation for Woodward Avenue — M1.

    Paul Childs, a staffer at the nonprofit Downtown Detroit Partnership, now serves as project manager for M1-RAIL. He said Monday that bids for engineering design and pre-construction oversight were issued in late February and project staffers are now reviewing submissions from various firms.

    Contracts could be awarded for those tasks as early as late March. Planners hope to break ground by fall and have the rail system running by late 2010 if all goes well.

    “That’s pretty ambitious,” Childs admitted. “Everything has to align to make that happen.” But he added, “We have a goal, and we think the goal is doable.”

    Ann Lang, president of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, said progress on the M1-RAIL system proved that good things can happen, even in a depressed economy.

    “It’s wonderful at this time to have something so big and so positive to rally around,” she said.

    Civic leader John Hertel led the Woodward Avenue rail effort until state lawmakers recently passed legislation allowing for the creation of the privately funded system. Hertel now has moved on to planning a region-wide transit system.

    Businessman and civic leader Roger Penske, chair of the downtown partnership, serves as chair of M1-RAIL. Matthew Cullen, a former General Motors executive, serves as CEO of the rail venture. He is also president and chief operating officer of Rock Enterprises, a holding company for entrepreneurial firms controlled by Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans.

    The $100 million needed to build the system is being raised by selling sponsorships of individual stations to prominent business leaders and institutions. Wayne State University has agreed to sponsor one station, while other sponsors include Penske, Peter Karmanos Jr. of Compuware Corp., Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, and the Ilitch family of pizza and sports fame.

    Penske, Cullen, and project manager Childs are not being paid for their work with M1-RAIL.

    The M1-RAIL system would feature streetcars running up both sides of Woodward Avenue in the second lane out from the curb between Jefferson Avenue and New Center. Childs said that the system probably would order either six or seven large passenger cars or 10 to 12 smaller ones.

    Each of the 13 stops would involve two stations, one on either side of the street, to accommodate both north and south traffic.

    The system still needs to obtain a City of Detroit operating license.

  3. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I think we should follow the M1 project’s lead and sell naming rights for the new platform… “Next stop: The Ypsipanties Station…”

  4. Posted March 18, 2009 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m at the meeting now… Hopefully, if I can stay awake long enough to type my notes up.

    More later.

  5. Posted March 18, 2009 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    I posted some sketches, couldn’t make the meeting.

  6. Ol' E Cross
    Posted March 18, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I stopped by early but couldn’t stay for the meeting. I have to say, I thought all the semi-trailers, luxury buses, police protection, cameras, lights and whole entourage that SEMCOG brought was a little over the top.

One Trackback

  1. […] And, here at home, volunteers worked to get our Freighthouse reopened, as discussions began about where we should build the platform. And, for whatever good it did, I kept blogging about it. Here, for those of you who wold like to […]

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