Roads or transit? SEMCOG wants to know

SOUTHEAST Mich. — The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is seeking public input in developing its 2040 Regional Transportation Plan. The document, based on demographic and economic forecasts that were developed last year, will generate a long-term strategy to apply increasingly scarce funding to address the region's transportation needs. A completed plan will be released this summer.

“Engaging the public is a key component to plan development” states SEMCOG in a video posted to the agency's website. “Should we deal with congestion by paying more to expand our public transportation, or by paying more to expand existing roads?”

Officials have described a transition away from “old thinking” in which “connectivity is determined by auto access” and towards “new thinking” wherein “transit benefits all by attracting people and jobs, thus facilitating economic prosperity.”

SEMCOG acknowledges that automobile use has decreased in in the region in recent years. Most of this change, according to SEMCOG, is a result of a weaker economy combined with a slight decrease in the region's population. But our transportation needs are expected to increase in the coming years, SEMCOG says, as a slow but gradual economic rebound brings demand back to pre-2000 levels.

Funding for transportation, however, is expected to grow more scarce. “More fuel-efficient vehicles will lower gas tax [revenues]” SEMCOG predicts in the video, “and that funding will need to come from somewhere else.” Public input may play an important role in determining which projects do or do not get funded.

SEMCOG represents a total of 157 municipalities in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. It does not own, build or maintain infrastructure. The organization works with its member communities to create policy recommendations which are passed on to the Michigan Department of Transportation and to federal authorities.

The agency's recommendations are certain to be timely, as recently-passed Regional Transit Authority legislation has given several of SEMCOG's counties increased abilities to organize and fund a regional transit network.

In a series of discussions on SEMCOG's 2040 plan, officials have described a transition away from “old thinking” in which “connectivity is determined by auto access” and towards “new thinking” wherein “transit benefits all by attracting people and jobs, thus facilitating economic prosperity.”

Which type of thinking will prevail in the 2040 plan, however, remains to be seen.

Comments welcome at public meetings

All SEMCOG meetings are open to the public and include an opportunity for comment. Its Transportation Advisory Council will meet on at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 20 in the SEMCOG offices at 535 Griswold, Suite 300, in Detroit. Future events will be posted on the agency's website.

SEMCOG receives written comments by email at infocenter@semcog.org. The SEMCOG website also provides several short surveys which question area residents about transportation preferences.

According to its website, SEMCOG is seeking to schedule additional meetings with “business, civic, faith-based, or governmental group[s],” according to an announcement. Interested parties are directed to contact the organization's communications director, Sue Stetler, at stetler@semcog.org.

 

Learn more and comment on the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan by checking out the SEMCOG website. Check back for updates as the process continues to move forward.

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