Ask ELi: Is the BRT a Done Deal?

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Thursday, May 26, 2016, 7:17 am
Alice Dreger

Above: CATA #1 buses passing each other on Grand River Avenue, where the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) would take over the route.

A reader asks: Is CATA’s bus rapid transit (BRT) plan a done deal?

The answer: No. The project is not yet fully engineered—meaning the details have not all been worked out—and is not yet funded.

As Eric Lacy reported at the Lansing State Journal, CATA has been unsuccessful at some of its funding attempts for the BRT plan, and it still has to raise significant amounts of funds for the planned $133,000,000 project.

Because the project involves a state-owned road running through the City of East Lansing and Meridian Township—namely Grand River Avenue—and not locally-owned roads, those two municipalities cannot simply elect to stop the project.

That said, CATA needs buy-in from local partners to make the project function. We recently reported that some people in Meridian Township have raised objections to the project. MSU also has concerns about the project, and this is significant because the project as planned requires a degree of cooperation from MSU.

According to Jason Cody of MSU’s Media Communications, “MSU officials have been involved in discussions with CATA regarding the BRT project. We have expressed significant concerns regarding pedestrian safety.”

Cody explains, “With our large population of students and employees routinely crossing from campus to East Lansing, our main concern is of pedestrians being to safely cross Grand River and have enough space in the median to stand if need be.”

According to Lolo Robison, Director of Marketing & Public Information for CATA, “While CATA considers the comments and interests of community stakeholders – the majority of whom do not use public transportation – it is clear that our service must represent the transportation needs of our customers, who are largely comprised of the region’s underserved.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the City of Lansing do hold some degree of decision-making power in this situation. According to Robison, “MDOT is a key partner in this project as is the City of Lansing, because they own and are responsible for the roadway.”

So the project’s success will depend at least in part on partners supporting the project and on the planners obtaining adequate funding for it.

Robison suggests that CATA’s Board is more concerned with the region than with individual entities along the BRT path, like MSU, Meridian Township, or the City of East Lansing. In response to questions from me, she explained, “CATA’s Board of Directors governs regional public transportation and look at the decisions before them from a regional perspective. This is critically important, because the customers using public transportation travel regionally, and their trips are not governed by jurisdictional boundaries.”


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