Transit transition 

The daily news outlets may reach you first, but when News Hits went to press Monday this was an exclusive: Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is pushing a plan to build a state-of-the-art $45 million public transit center at Times Square in downtown Detroit. The center would connect the city’s buses, trolleys and People Mover. More importantly — and here’s the real news — the center will be designed to house something News Hits has long advocated: a light-rail train system.

The mayor explained his plans during a real estate forum last week at Ford Field. Telling the crowd that existing rail lines and switches work just fine, the mayor explained that “all we need to do is buy a big shiny new train.”

“It’s time to move the discussion out of buses,” declared the mayor.

But getting from there to here won’t be cheap. Just doing a feasibility study and preliminary engineering for a loop around the core of Detroit (from downtown as far north as Hamtramack) will cost an estimated $20 million, with another $10 million to do the same for a line stretching down Woodward to the New Cener.

But, as we all know, the Kwamster has some tight connections with people in high places. His mother, Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, is said to be onboard, so federal funding could be on the horizon. Also fueling hope that the plan can get on track is the fact that the city already owns most of the property needed to build the two-tier transit center and surrounding city rail loop.

This week, the administration will ask City Council to approve the plan. Transit activists are cautiously optimistic. Karen Kendrick-Hands, president of Transportation Riders United, says she’s concerned the effort is “top down,” generating from Kilpatrick, his mother and the Department of Transportation, without much community input. She warns the train segment, the part that got us all excited, is “hypothetical pie in the sky right now” and “totally Mayor Kilpatrick’s idea.”

Of course, that’s far better than the alternative: a mayor who’s myopic or unwilling to get on board. Moreover, Kilpatrick is apparently willing to locomote with or without suburban cooperation.

John Lydick, executive coordinator for TRU, says the Kilpatrick administration is “tired of having to depend on agreements with the outlying community.”

“Right now, if they can do something in the city, I think they’re going to go ahead and do that,” says Lydick.

That’s one beauty of trains. The suburbs can always connect to our system at any point down the line. Considering that waiting on Oakland and Macomb counties for money or cooperation could take another century, News Hits is glad to hear it. Check out more transit info at

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