This was posted on 4/21/09 on DQW’s Facebook:

Today, I was given the opportunity to speak at a press conference in the Capitol regarding the need for Michigan to increase it’s support for public transit today. Here’s what I said:

As we talk about the need for public transit in our state, I think one of the things we should include in that discussion is what kind of Michigan do we want? This is the question that will dare us to dream of a better future and a better Michigan. I can not imagine that there is anyone here who works in this building who does not want a prosperous Michigan.

So where does prosperity happen? It’s happening in communities and places where there are high concentrations of college-educated, talented, and creative people live. These folks are fairly mobile – meaning that they can choose to live, work, and play pretty much wherever they want. Today, these folks are choosing places like Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Charlotte, Dallas, and other communities that – because of a set of public policies that they have embraced – offer the lifestyle that they seek.

If Michigan is going to create these types of places, both in large and small scales, then we need to also embrace these policies. These policies create:

  • Significant public transit systems of all modes (commuter rail, light rail, bus, etc) and other alternatives to driving.
  • Vibrant downtown’s and neighborhoods where people live, work, play, and shop in close proximity. This “walkable urbanism” makes driving a car simply unnecessary.
  • Thriving entertainment and cultural attractions – and various ways to get people to these places.

We know that providing public transit will help restore prosperity in Michigan, because not only will it help keep entrepreneurial people here, but it will create thousands of new jobs as it has done in other states.

  • Our unemployment rate continues to rank as the nation’s worst, but according to studies done by the American Public Transit Association – for every $100 million invested in public transit there will be 4,000 that are created and support by the system and the development that occurs around the system.
  • We know from observing Minneapolis transit system that developers will bring billions of dollars in development in the form of grocery stores, retails shops, apartment buildings, restaurants and other services that transit riders want.

So how do we get the transit system that we need and the overall transportation system that will support the development of these prosperous places in Michigan? Quite simply, it is time for the Legislature and the Governor to begin their work to implement the Transportation Funding Task Force (TF2) recommendations.

Those recommendations include:

  • Increase Transportation/Funding/Transit Funding.
  • Decrease use of Interdepartmental Grants (IDG’s) from the transportation budget. Afterall, the most efficient use of transportation dollars is to actually use them on transportation projects and not non-transportation functions.
  • Allow Local road agencies the option of levying local transportation taxes to support local transportation projects.
  • Protect those portions of the Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF) that support local projects (Categories C & D).
  • Protect that portion of the Comprehensive Transportation Fund (CTF) that is not constitutionally protected from being used for the General Fund (i.e. auto related sales taxes).

That report says what we all know to be true: we must significantly increase our investment in transportation. Road user fees (motor fuel taxes and vehicle registrations) are stagnant. And quite frankly, Michigan is becoming less of a state that just under-invests in its transportation system to one that just completely disinvesting in it.

If we want to have a good system, that level of investment must double … and the only way for that to happen is to have the Legislature act before they leave for the summer … otherwise this will get lost in the battle cries of the 2010 elections. The Michigan Municipal League, the members of the Get Michigan Moving coalition, and the other folks who are up here with me today are urging all of us to send the message to the Legislature that the time to act is now.

We can have a prosperous Michigan. We can have the place where people choose to live, work, and play once again, and where communities can meet their expectations. Together with you, we can create it. Thank you very much.