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Posted on Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 11 a.m.

Ann Arbor will need commuter trains and the Fuller Road train station

By Stephen Lange Ranzini

Related: Are higher-speed trains between Chicago and Detroit economically feasible?

With the rapid increase of jobs in the Ann Arbor area being filled by out of town commuters, the freeways leading into and out of Ann Arbor are being more congested at a rapidly increasing rate. I estimate that the 70,000 daily commuters into and out of Ann Arbor* might be increasing currently at as much as a 5% rate per year! This trend is expected to continue and will create real problems and material delays with a negative impact on economic development in the not too distant future.

In the short run, consideration should be given to encouraging our major employers, all of which are government entities, to stagger their shifts, so there is not a large surge in commuters at a specific time each morning and evening.


Ryan J. Stanton |

To deal with the rapid increase in commuters into and out of Ann Arbor, as an additional long term plan, we should give consideration to how we can afford to build necessary infrastructure to enable mass transit into and out of the downtown core. In the long run, the most efficient option is to run shuttle trains every five to 10 minutes from the freeway ring along the existing train lines to a new train station at the proposed Fuller Road site adjacent to the U-M Hospital Complex, which would also serve the 110 mph higher speed Amtrak trains fully funded and coming in 2015 or 2016. Feeding this train network would be "park and ride" facilities at US-23/M-14 where Pontiac Trail crosses the Ann Arbor Railroad and on the East side of town on the large parcel of vacant land just east of US-23 just south of the Huron River and just North of E. Huron River Drive along the Amtrak railroad line. In these locations, a "park and ride" lot with extensive parking and a train shuttle could be sited. If either site ever were available for sale, it should be acquired for this future use. I have no idea how this would be funded but if we have a "shovel ready" plan when the next recession hits, perhaps we can get lucky and secure federal funding.

Unfortunately there are no adequate sites still available on the South side of town or the West side of town for similar "park and ride" facilities, due to past poor planning decisions which allowed all the available sites near railroads to be developed.

Selling the air rights to build a tall building over the new train station’s parking structure would yield a very large amount of money (up to $20 million), create a large ratable asset to enhance city tax base (the ultimate project could easily be $100 million in value) and more than pay for the city’s share of a federal match to build the new train station. The closest property near a high speed rail train station is by far the most valuable. The current plan contemplates using 100% of that extremely valuable real estate only for - parking cars (ouch)!

The $100 million tall building above the high speed rail station could have medical offices and residential condos. You could then add location focused retail on the ground floor (for example, convenience store and coffee shop). With the planned skywalk directly into the hospital from the train station, it would be a quick walk to the main hospital and this would become the premium space for medical office research space in the area because of its convenience for the docs (wasting time commuting between the hospital and their medical research office is very expensive to them since they can't bill sitting in a car). That means the building could charge premium rates per ft2 (which increases the value of the tall building). Locating the train station closer to the hospital complex would drive ridership on the train for the many people who visit their doctor for follow-up visits to the hospital because of its convenience (just park, ride the train and take an elevator up).

I ran this idea by Al Berriz, the CEO of McKinley, the largest property management firm in the city. His thoughts: “I think it's a very credible concept. As to the economics and demand, it would be there for sure. You have premium medical office in conjunction with high end for rent and maybe some high end “For Sale” housing. If the parcel is given enough density, you may see retail as well. I think the math works. The demand is there. I am hopeful that we advance the dialogue as a community, both on the train station and this idea of a potential development site. We need the train mode in my view, it will add jobs.”

(Stephen Lange Ranzini is president of University Bank and resident of downtown AnnArbor. He's also an occasional columnist on



Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 10:39 p.m.

I recently worked in DC for several years and seem to recall reading many Washington Post articles on the financial problems with their extensive commuter rail system. For those that have used the DC system, they can attest that it is very good. Yet, they do not have a model that allows them to be profitable. We should not fall into this same trap.

Tom Whitaker

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 4:33 p.m.

What drives me crazy about these commuter rail schemes is the complete speculation on ridership potential by proponents. Hard data would not be difficult to obtain. Just ask UM and UMHS, and other major employers to anonymously plot their employees' home locations (maybe at the nearest cross street for additional privacy) on a map of SE Michigan. Then circles could be drawn at various distances from proposed station locations to see what potential pools of commuters would fall within those areas. I'm sure there are studies that provide a way to estimate the number of potential riders based on distance from a station, and other variables. Why are they spending millions on an environmental study for a new train station when a study of potential ridership could be done for far, far less? The other thing that drives me crazy is the way proponents constantly shift the playing field from East-West commuter rail to WALLY (North-South), to high speed rail, to multi-modal hub, and back around again depending on which way the winds are blowing. How about deciding which is most feasible (see above study) and concentrating on that instead of constantly muddying the waters with all these different schemes? Throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks really destroys any credibility proponents may have and makes it much harder for any community consensus to be reached.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

Commuter rail systems are not profitable.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 2:51 a.m.

This is too funny. No one...NO ONE would do this. Would Mr. Ranzini's bank fund this train? Would he put his money where his mouth is?


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 10:33 p.m.

Commuter rail systems are not profitable. There is no such thing. Even the DC Metro system is bleeding cash. I do not believe any projection stating profitability. Show me the numbers, please!

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

@Dave: Perhaps you missed the earlier column, which was the first half of this two part column on trains? The Chicago-Ann Arbor-Detroit Amtrak branded higher speed train service owned by MDOT will be very profitable. The profits from this service might be used to offset the start-up and ongoing losses (if any) from the short range frequent shuttle commuter rail services I propose. See:


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

Nope! Rail will need to be subsidized by the federal government in order to work. No private company can make the numbers work (generate long term profits), thus DC will need to cover for the cost and financial bleeding. This is typical for federal programs like this.

Andrew Smith

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 1:04 a.m.

Passenger traffic on rail is more likely to be profitable when passenger lines "piggyback" on infrastructure (rails and depots) funded by freight traffic. So one important early step is to encourage more freight on rail - which is incidentally "green," because it's more fuel efficient. To stimulate freight on rail, all we have to do is stop subsidizing the long-distance trucking industry; currently such trucking is subsidized by the the fact that we build our freeways (with taxpayer dollars) to truck specifications instead of passenger car specifications. It's relatively easy to make a profit moving freight on rails. It's more difficult to make a profit moving passengers by rail - difficult, but worth doing.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

In order for this to work, there must be double sets of rails. One set of rails creates delays.

Sam S Smith

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 12:44 a.m.

Trains will never be privately owned. No one in their right mind would touch it with a 1 foot pole because there wouldn't be any profit only loss. That's the real reason.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

@Sam S Smith: Perhaps you missed the earlier column, which was the first half of this two part column on trains? This train service will be profitable. The profits from this service might be used to offset the start-up and ongoing losses (if any) from the short range frequent shuttle commuter rail services I propose. See:

Sam S Smith

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

Mr. Ranzini, how often is this train going to run to accomodate people's schedules? 5-6 + times a day? Wow that's going to be pretty noisy. How many buses will run to and from Fuller St? What are people going to do if they miss their train home? How long does anyone expect a sick person who has an appointment to wait for the train going home? Has anyone ever known not to wait to see a doctor? Has anyone taken a poll as to how many people will actually use the choo choo on a daily basis? How many UMMC employees? Got to rush patient care to catch the train. Patients? People from Detroit? People going to Detroit?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

@Sam S Smith: I wrote in the column: "...the most efficient option is to run *shuttle* trains *every five to 10 minutes* from the freeway ring along the existing train lines to a new train station at the proposed Fuller Road site adjacent to the U-M Hospital Complex, which would also serve the 110 mph higher speed Amtrak trains fully funded and coming in 2015 or 2016. Feeding this train network would be "park and ride" facilities at US-23/M-14 where Pontiac Trail crosses the Ann Arbor Railroad and on the East side of town on the large parcel of vacant land just east of US-23 just south of the Huron River and just North of E. Huron River Drive along the Amtrak railroad line. In these locations, a "park and ride" lot with extensive parking and a train shuttle could be sited." I am proposing in this column a completely different model for commuter rail from the Mayor's. His plan will cost $15 million a year in subsidies (losses) according to the WATS long range transportation plan. My plan, short shuttles back and forth every 5-10 minutes throughout the day, could later be expanded if the demand was there for longer range commuter trains. As I noted in the earlier column on the higher speed Amtrak line, the profits from that service could be used to pay for the entire operating and capital cost of my lower cost commuter rail plan.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

Mr. Ranzini is right about this. There are no "private enterprise" commuter trains. Government builds roads and now has to get with it and build and run public transit. The "park land" that so many seem to value is actually "parking land" right now and there is a huge public park right across the street. Those who oppose the train station can sit across the street in the park, chomp on stalks of grass, and peacefully watch the trains go by.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

Hey, I'm all for building new and expanding. The tight little bubble that was 1980's Ann Arbor is over. New leaders have been voted in (by all of you), and the direction that those leaders have opted to go is to build, improve and grow. In line with that is mass transit to and from outside city limits. Plus, I no longer have worry about footing the bill for this. So spend spend spend.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 5:04 a.m.

One problem, StraightTalk, is that the federal government may pay for building the railway track system but will not pay for a new railroad station on Fuller Road. Ann Arbor tax payers will have to fund construction of the railroad station which could cost as much as $66 million. And after the station is built and the commuter service begins, Ann Arbor tax payers will have to pay millions of dollars yearly for maintenance and operation.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:36 p.m.

Why is the Mayor and the Ann Arbor City Council not letting the Ann Arbor Public vote on whether or not we want a new rail station on Fuller Road? They could hold a public vote where the plan was rejected and then in their greater wisdom ignore it like they did with public City Art spending.

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

No liberal special interests need and want Commuter trains and the Fuller Road Station. These people want to live and get rich off the government.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

It is odd. AA wants to be a green city, however mayor and council spend money, raise taxes and drive people out farther and farther out. This requires use of a car. The proposed commuter line to Howell will never pay for itself. High speed rail to Detroit and Chicago same. Cut out pork for friends, lower taxes and watch AA grow.

Sam S Smith

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

Keep dreaming. The high taxes in Ann Arbor have pushed people out to other communities. And businesses and medical clinics will go to these other communities because the taxes and rent are so high here. And businesses and medical clinics in other communities will thrive because there will be no need to go to Ann Arbor. I seriously doubt that masses of people will find the choo choo train schedule and travel time well spent to come here. But keep dreaming Ann Arbor.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

I totally agree. I recently relocated north, out of Ann Arbor and out of Washtenaw county. It's outrageous that almost 30 % of my taxes went to Washtenaw, which used a huge portion of those funds to cover health facilities. Check it out, do a comparison of where the tax money goes. Wayne/Washtenaw/Oakland are way out of their league compared the other 80 counties in MI. And just as you mention, I now use other doctors and dentist as a result, which so far are a tad bit cheaper.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

I fully support and have advocated for some years a straight up or down vote as to whether or not to build a train station at Fuller Road and repurpose the parkland there. I do NOT support building a train station there if the general fund or other city funds has to pay ANY of the federal match to build the station. City council has promised us such a vote and I look forward to the public debate when the vote is scheduled. One point of this column is to offer an idea that would cost the city taxpayers nothing to build the new train station. The other is to offer a better idea that would cost a lot less than the flawed current plans for commuter rail, which will cost over $15 million a year in taxpayer subsidies. Inexpensive rail shuttles running every 5-10 minutes from the park and ride lots would be a good start to get commuter rail up and running at what I believe would be a much lower cost and perhaps require no subsidies. I apologize that my replies to your questions above were so slow in coming. I am on holiday this week at my wife's grandfather's cottage on a beach in Canada with my family without email or Internet access and won't be able to weigh in on this column or the comments again for awhile (and was only able to access it via wifi courtesy of Tim Hortons). I hope you all have a safe, happy and fun week and enjoy the celebration of our country's birth later in the week!

Larry Baird

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

"I do NOT support building a train station there if the general fund or other city funds has to pay ANY of the federal match to build the station. " The mayor said the same thing and then helped council approve $550K general fund dollars last fall as the local match for the federal environmental review to start this project. Including traffic studies, utilities work, etc., the city has already spent or earmarked around $2 million from its various buckets of funds for this project.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

I'm always amazed how disconnected some of this thinking is. In the article there are two items that I believe are inaccurate. The thought that the downtown core needs anything new is one of them, please explain to me where all the new jobs are coming in the "core" area. I see several new buildings, but they are all housing developments, with a new pizza place or 7-11, etc. Very low actual new jobs created downtown. If a new commuter line is constructed, lets use it where the people are actually working, on the South side(business complexes), east side(St Joe's hospital area) or West side(Jackson ave corridor, stadium to Zeeb area). Building new infrastructure downtown will lengthen the commute for most moving from train to train, and then walking on top of that. It'd be a waste to put millions into a new facility that gets limited use, only by those that work/play with in 4-5 blocks of the stations. Also, if I am a business owner, I am going to look for the most economical building option, and downtown is not that. Remove UM employees and UM hospital employees and fill me in on the locations of the other large employers. The increase of 5% per year is not people driving into the Ann Arbor core. The second is this line "our major employers, all of which are government entities". Really? I work at Thomson Reuters, and my building is one of 3 located on the south side of Ann Arbor by the airport. There are well over 1,000 employees at these buildings. Shifts are not an option as we deal with businesses during business hours, and our location is not an easy route for mass transit, so everyone drives. I am 100% backing commuter rail or other option to alleviate traffic as long as it is a viable time option and actually will lessen the highway traffic. If the commuter train is going to add 20-30 minutes to my commute, I'll have to pass. The savings of gas each day riding the trains compared to loosing an additional hour of time isn't worth

Roger Kuhlman

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:45 p.m.

That virtually all the top employers in Ann Arbor are government agencies explains why a significant number of people in Ann Arbor do not understand the costs of doing things and the importance of fiscal responsibility. You like something have it created by government with it huge pots of free money.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

@Steve: All top 9 employers in Ann Arbor are government agencies. Last time I checked Thomson Reuters is #10. Borders used to be #7.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

I'd rather see the streets and roads fixed first, more park and ride, and let private companies take care of the rail system. It worked better in the old days when they were privately owned.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

The transportation needs of the thousands of "shift" workers at the university of michigan hospital should be paid for by umich. And that infrastructure should not be built on our park land in sweet-heart deals.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:27 p.m.

Ridiculous. Let them take buses.

Arno B

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

Mr. Lanzini had an article in the June 30 lauding the "hi speed rail" fantasy too. Regarding the ease of getting to medical appointments from a new station: Many of these appointments are with UM facilities in their East AA complex (Plymouth Rd.), Domino's Farms, etc. A new station does nothing for these folks. I have been visiting the downtown area every Monday around noon for many months. Traffic is reasonable and quite manageable. In fact, I walk by the "Black Hole" (Library underground lot) and there are most always over 200 empty spaces there. I suppose that's not enough revenue to pay off the bonds. Across the street (at what used to be the old YMCA) there are always spots available. What parking problems? Mostly UM employees jamming in from 7-9 and 3-6. More Park and Ride lots would be a much better choice.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

You lost me at "Fuller Road Station".


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 11:34 a.m.

The only major 'downtown' employer form whom this makes sense is the UM Medical complex, and they already have frequent bus service from a number of peripheral park and ride lots, and this has cost Ann Arbor taxpayers approximately...nothing. Why on earth do we want to spend huge sums to replace an existing University-funded park-and-ride/commuter bus system with a far more costly, far less flexible rail system for that local taxpayers have to help fund? " I estimate that the 70,000 daily commuters into and out of Ann Arbor* might be increasing currently at as much as a 5% rate per year!" That's not even close to reality. Between 2000 and 2010 Washtenaw county grew from 322K to 344K. That's a growth rate of well under 1% per year -- nowhere close to 5%. And outside Washtenaw county the Detroit metro region has actually shrunk slightly in that time (Ypsi has LOST about 20% of its population since 1990!) 5% growth per year would mean that we'd have about 50% more commuters in just 8 years. That's a complete fantasy.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

@Veracity: I am referring to the Ann Arbor MSA, which encompasses Washtenaw County. I should have been clearer. Our freeway highway system and ring road around Ann Arbor is directly impacted by this traffic increase. There is no other route for out of county commuters to take into and around the county to those suburban jobs you highlight, except via more direct city surface streets which are also congested and being "road dieted" (the road diets on major arteries are unwise).


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

Stephen - What is your source for the "5,000 to 6,000" increase in jobs per year IN ANN ARBOR and 60,000 commuters per day traveling to and from Ann Arbor (and not other areas in Washtenaw County)? Even if the figure is accurate for all of Washtenaw County, the number will greatly exaggerate the number of commuters actually traveling into Ann Arbor who may use a railroad commuter system. The single rail commuter service will attract users who live close by a railroad station, perhaps within ten minutes travel time. The vast majority of other commuters will continue to use personal vehicles at least until a broader area is covered by public transportation, more likely serviced by buses.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

The number of commuters is accurate according to WATS, though the Mayor asserted in a speech recently that it was 60,000 commuters a day. Jobs are rising an average of 5,000-6,000 per year and residents are rising just 3,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The difference is new commuters from outside the county.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

Oh please, folks, get real. We voted away our ability to oppose this kinda stuff back in the 90s and we are now stuck with whatever the Inner Elite of the Ann Arbor Democratic Party™ decides to do and that's the end of it. (N.B. The Voting in November is Easy ballot proposal) Have your say of course, but keep in mind that it's out of your hands. This train station thing is going to happen. The decision has already has been made by the people that matter, (and which ain't us) so get ready for it all, or start interviewing realtors. Those are the choices you have.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

Not really all the choices, Huron74. You may not recognize a change in City Council since the last two elections. New City Council members have expressed skepticism about building a new railroad station on Fuller Road. If City Council were to vote today on a funding millage for constructing the railroad station and even split in voting results would likely result. A new railroad station could cost Ann Arbor tax payers up to $66 million. If you view this expense as unjustified, as I do, then you should become familiar with the candidates for City Council who will be on the ballot in November. Jack Eaton, Jane Lumm, and Steven Kunselman can be expected to oppose the new railroad station at Fuller Road. If you agree with them then you should vote for them.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:58 a.m.

@Stephen: Kudos for actually acknowledging the problem and putting forward a plan. It's a start. And it's a problem that we must start planning for now. I like the idea of peripheral park and rides or park and shuttle. I also agree that rail is going to be an important part of Ann Arbor's future. The devil is in the details but it has to start somewhere. Thanks for making the effort.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:08 a.m.

"...we should give consideration to how we can afford to build necessary infrastructure to enable mass transit into and out of the downtown core....I have no idea how this would be funded but if we have a "shovel ready" plan when the next recession hits, perhaps we can get lucky and secure federal funding." If funding isn't a constraint, I have a whole list of great ideas for the world. Where should I begin?


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

You should begin by drafting a legitmate proposal for all of your ideas, then lobby your congresspersons to appropriate funds directed at projects such as yours. Did you not notice all the stimulus dollars that went to transportation projects around the country recently?

Steve Bean

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:34 p.m.

Stephen, you needn't worry about transportation limitations creating negative impacts on economic development. The falling stock market reflecting increasing investor pessimism will far overshadow those factors. The trend is at an end. The reversal is underway.

Bob Zuruncol

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 12:03 p.m.

The sky is falling. The sky is falling.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 11:18 a.m.



Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

Commuter Rail Rationale Faulty As much as I respect Stephen Lange Ranzini, and usually agree with his positions and arguments, I believe that his confidence regarding the need and potential success of commuter rail in Ann Arbor is mis-placed. Here is an incomplete list of problems facing a commuter railway system as proposed: -- though population and jobs are EXPECTED to increase over the next 27 years, the number of Washtenaw County citizens of working age , that is those between the ages of 18 and 59, who would be commuters will actually decline by 5,289 according to SEMCOG. Growth will occur most prominently among the elderly who will not be commuting daily ( ); -- the single railroad line from Detroit to Ann Arbor will attract commuters limited to a 5-mile radius or less from the few train stations along the way. Commuters will not want to spend more than ten minutes traveling to a train station. Unfortunately, the Southeast Michigan commuter rail will not have the expansive wheel-spoke design extending into many communities that are so successful in Chicago, New York City and Boston. Other supportive public transportation such as buses that can take commuters from home to train station and back will add to travel time and cost which will discourage many potential commuters; -- The local cost for constructing a new railroad station could be as much as $66 million which will be paid for by tax payers, along with operating costs. -- In the unlikelihood that commuter rail will attract larger numbers of riders between Detroit and Ann Arbor, vehicular traffic along Fuller Road will increase road congestion since not everyone will work at UMHS. -- A commuter rail system will have to operate many more than three trains each day in both directions; every additional train adds cost to operating the system. Tax payers should reject paying for a commuter rail plan having more drawbacks than advantages.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

Bear - You can not win arguments with shear volume of words as you have been trying to do. Just look at all the negative votes that you are attracting. Mass transportation using buses provides flexibility and cost savings when compared to the single track with limited access points that would be offered by commuter rail. Whether SEMCOG's projected decline in workforce population proves accurate or not, investing in commuter rail will prove to be wasteful and expensive. Thanks for sharing your perspective.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:37 a.m.

hopefully I have been able to address some of the concerns that you voiced and made myself a little clearer. I try to do my best. I am not always successful, but then I am human, as are you; prone to mistakes.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:36 a.m.

You appear to mix opinion with fact here. "Commuters will not want to spend more than ten minutes traveling to a train station" this appears to be an unsubstantiated opinion, not a fact. That is just one example of this type of 'fact' being used. I also am of a mind that whatever SEMCOG wrote in their studies probably had the term, "if trends continue" as a qualifier. So forgive me if I seem suspicious of your facts. Sometimes, IMO, you have to have a sense of the history of a place, be able to not only look at where your city is at, but where it has been, historically, in order to have a clearer outlook on where it can go. I don't believe that you have that perspective at all.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:26 a.m.

If you had read my previous comment a little more closely, you would have found thaat I did address and refute some of you so-called 'facts'. "-- In the unlikelihood that commuter rail will attract larger numbers of riders between Detroit and Ann Arbor, vehicular traffic along Fuller Road will increase road congestion since not everyone will work at UMHS." to which I replied: "veracity, you seem to have missed the part about the station also being a major hub for bus service downtown and for biking facilities." I also pointed out that people take the bus to come to Ann Arbor to work at the hospital. The #4 bus that I spoke of is standing room only. Additionally, if people are using mass transit to get to work in Ann Arbor, just where does thiis mysterious increased road congestion come from? I mean, more congested than it already is during commuting hours? You spoke of declines in young people working here that would use the rail. I countered that reliable mass transit is crucial to encouraging young professionals to stay here and to raise families in the area. you said that the system will have to operate some mysterious "many"" more than three trains each day (which, btw, is what AMTRAK already does have... 3 trains a day, totally inadequate) and I responded that with more reliable commuting options, the region becomes more attractive to attracting instead of losing population. These are the options, get with mass transit, including reliable commuter rail, or get left behind, which is what Michigan has been doing for way too long; getting left behiind. U of M already subsidizes bus fares for employees and students. They pay nothing to ride the bus. U of M pays it. That has helped raise ridership on AATA and given the transit authority more money to continue to help improve services. That is a fact. You appear to mix opinion with fact here. "Commuters will not want to spend more than ten minutes traveling to a train station"


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:10 a.m.

And as far as the red herring of taxation without representation, I vote, every time. I vote for who is going to represent me and the city's best interests not only now, but in the future. If you think everybody's gotta be happy with the results, that just isn't going to be humanly possible. But to call that taxation without representation is ridiculous. I also pointed out that i feel that the citizens of the past have always worked to improve the city for the future generations. Your complaints seem to be based upon what you perceive your own narrow, short term benefits may be. Some nefarious tax savings that is going to come along. Correct me if I am wrong, but that is what I see in what you write. I love this city, I call it home. I don't agree with everything that is going on with the pell mell downtown density building going on, I think it's too ruxhed; but there are advantages involved. There is no "kool-aid" (I hate that term, I think it is disingenuous, rude and intellectually dishonest and lazy to use that term, besides it being very derogatory.) I am a taxpayer, I support the addition to reliable commuter rail for all citizens to use as an inexpensive way to get to work, play or otherwise travel. I think it will help to alleviate problems that are already beginning to show themselves in rush hour commutes, not only on our freeways, but on our secondary roads. I am not here to convince you otherwise. You have your mind made up. But I would be remiss in not pointing out the obvious benefits and combined usage such a station would have and it's impact, economically, on Ann Arbor and the surrounding region. And finally, I would rather take some of the council of two highly successful, motivated, positive, forward-thinking men like Stephen Ranzini and Al Berriz, than yours. While they are positive and upbeat, all I hear from you is carping and complaining.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 12:58 a.m.

veracity, "if" I pay taxes? what do you mean by if? I will share with you some facts. Facts are that any place without reliable mass transit options in place faces economic stagnation. Detroit is an example. They are the only city of their size without a mass transit that is reliable. It is imperative to economic growth, in my opinion; A little history here, most every bus station in Ann Arbor has gone bankrupt in the past. That is a fact. Another fact is that there used to be a series of railway commuters between here and ypsilanti and further on to Detroit. The Ann Arbor railroad, in it's day, had commuter trains running north so that wealthy familes could get to their summer homes without having to go to the additional expense and time of taking the rail to Detroit and then north from there. Buses aren't the answer, by themselves. Bus routes in conjunction with commuter rail will help resolve a lot of the problems that are beginning to creep up. What would your answer be? To expand US 23 to four lanes in each direction? To further expand I94? To add to the roadways that we already don't seem to have the money to maintain? Commuter rail is a viable option and makes clear economic sense. I chose not to refute your opinion (not really facts, per se) as I found it to be a fairly useless enterprise. Instead, I merely pointed out that the scope of your complaints were picking and choosing what you thought this rail station was all about, focusing merely on the rail portion and forgetting the other important aspects to it. University of Michigan, U of M hospital & the VA hospital are in the top ten employers in Ann Arbor, with the University and the University Hospital being the top 2. It makes total economic sense to me to provide commuter options like rail & bus to the location of the cities' top employers. Even the VA Hospital has seen a lot of growth in the past decade. The opportunity to foster that growth makes total sense.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 12:28 a.m.

Bear - While you condemn my overall statement you fail to refute even one fact that is presented. Actually, if you have followed my comments to many other articles concerning mass transportation then you will know that I favor bus transportation and recommend its expansion to meet community demands rather than spending many millions of dollars establishing a financially wasteful and less practical railroad commuter system. By the way, I believe that tax payers should have input in how their money is being spent. After all our country came to be because we did not want taxation without representation. We elect our city council members, our state government and our federal government partly on how our money is being spent. If you pay taxes yourself, like I do, then I would hope that you will not want those deciding how to spend your money wasting it on risky and impractical investments, like a Southeast Michigan commuter train.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 9:53 p.m.

veracity, you seem to have missed the part about the station also being a major hub for bus service downtown and for biking facilities. Do you know how many people ride into town on the #4 bus early in the morning to their jobs at U of M medical center, that live in Ypsi? The bus is totally jammed with them, and they know one another and talk amongst themselves and it's totally different than the bus experience at other times. Your imagination runs wild with these percieved problems that you foist as facts. BTW, every additional train also gives flexibility to riders that encourages ridership of the trains because they actually meet the needs they were intended to fill. And if we do nothing to improve mass transit, then yes, the percentage of young professionals who choose to stay here and settle will continue to decline. THAT is part of the problem. naysayers have always been an impediment to progress. It's a wonder this state is having issues. Every time you try to do something to improve things, you have selfish people crying "not with MY tax dollars!" HINT: once you pay it to the government, it isn't YOURS anymore. Bigger hint.... if you aren't willing to invest in your community, soon you will have no community at all. I am thankful to the previous generations of citizens of Ann Arbor, who made decisions that would improve Ann Arbor for future generations and didn't just selfishly think of themselves and the short term. Without them, we wouldn't ever have been known as 'tree town'. That is a fact!

Tom Joad

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 5:48 p.m.

I doubt UM Hospital would concede their commanding presence on the hill to a tall building obstructing its magnificence. Commuting by rail will be of necessity not that there are more jobs and more commuters driving but because fuel prices will escalate sharply as the world's oil reserves are depleted to levels that the world demand far outstrips supply. That is referred to as the OIL CRUNCH. The model of individual drivers commuting in private vehicles is a legacy of cheap oil days. It's a colossal myth that the USA will be energy-independent with oil from fracking and ND. Those wells deplete very quickly and the total reserves in those fields is not significant to offset world demand and depletion of current fields in OPEC nations. We burn a billion barrels of oil every 50 days in the USA and a billion every 12 days world wide.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 12:02 a.m.

Tom Joad - You are correct about oil well depletion but North American oil reserves have been climbing with the expansion of fracking. Even more impressive, though, is the size of our natural gas reserves which some say could last a century. Natural gas is an excellent bridge fuel until electric cars, including solar-powered, are practical and economical. The U-M will compete again in the Australian World Solar Challenge 3000 km car race this year as it has for the past 13 years. ( ) In 2012 America imported 3.1 billion barrels of oil ( ). Imported oil has declined from a maximum of 3.3 billion barrels in 2010 or about 45% of our annual oil usage. If imported oil were replaced by domestic natural gas, the United States would no longer be sending $297 billion dollars out of the country to places like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Instead, the nearly $300 billion would remain within our borders as a major stimulus to our economy and GDP. The cost of outfitting vehicles with natural gas engines and building a national natural gas refueling grid is being done through private financing now, on a limited basis. Federal encouragement, perhaps with tax incentives, will speed the conversion to gas engines and the needed supportive infrastructure. By comparison building out a national commuter railway system will cost tax payers billions of dollars and the result will be an inflexible system that is expensive to operate.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

I've been hearing the chicken littles cries that we will run out of oil any day now since the 1970s. Keep singing that song.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

@Ranzini: How are we going to connect the two rail lines, as the lot you imagine on the north side of town isn't on the rail line that goes by the Medical Center? It's a genuine question, but looking at a map it looks like it'd require another bridge over the river somewhere near the old MichCon site across from the rapids along with some switches. I much prefer the use of rail and commuter lots to building a set of monstrous five-lane roads cutting through the city to the Medical Center's doors.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

@Peregrine: An excellent question! The best answer is as follows: -In the short term, at little cost, we can use the rail siding that crosses N. Main St. and connects the North-South Ann Arbor Rail Road with the East-West MDOT owned Amtrak line. The only cost would be in some new signaling to allow the trains to safely back up a few hundred yards and reconstruction of this siding. -In the long term, a more expensive rail bridge with a direct connection could be constructed, if the inconvenience of the process of backing up the train to switch tracks was deemed too much of a time loss or hassle. Since the cost would be very high, it may never be cost efficient to construct.

Larry Baird

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

Like the UM-centric Connector study, the city is again being asked to donate parkland, then build and operate a train station for the UM. Meanwhile, you propose the UM medical complex essentially expands across the tracks into the Huron River Valley. With this new foothold, the UM can then continue its forward march west down Wall Street and east towards North Campus with more parking structures for all the new patients arriving at the new medical offices. Eventually, there will be no clear delineation between north and central campus. Not to be outdone, if this proposal is as successful as you claim, whose to stop UM from building a high rise medical campus on Mitchell Field? Luckily, the voters will have a final say on which future they prefer - one that protects city parkland and the air rights above a beautiful string of river valley parks or the continued expansion of the UM footprint in every direction possible.


Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

If the UM builds it, Ann Arbor would get no taxes from it.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:50 p.m.

Mr. Ranzini had a column on June 23 that was also all about promoting train investment in the area. Is this now a regular weekly feature? I see that you are giving it the title "Common Cents".

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

"Common Cents" is a play on words regarding the famous "Common Sense" pamplets by Tom Paine, a founder of our country, see: This article is the final of two on issues related to trains. The earlier one is here: I was originally asked by Steve Pepple to write a column for because (he said) my comments on issues of local importance frequently receive many up votes & because my comments frequently add in a positive way to the content & context of's articles. I try hard not to write anything about a problem without also offering a potential solution to that problem. My columns 0focus on issues related to the spending of local tax dollars, hence the use of "Common Cents". Tony Dearing & now Paula Gardner have supported my occasional columns (I write them when I have time; they publish them as they have room) because they have been generally well received. For example, last week Rep. Jeff Irwin informed me that large extracts of my last column on the economic feasibility of the Chicago-Ann Arbor-Detroit Amtrak train service were read aloud in a committee meeting about mass transit in Lansing by Senator Kowall, since he liked what I wrote and wanted the assembled Senators & Representatives to hear it. I suppose that anyone (including you, @Vivienne Armentrout) could become an occasional columnist if they could contribute positively to the discussion of matters of local interest in our community. Many of you often have excellent observations on your own blogs & here too usually (including you, @Vivienne Armentrout), and although some of us will have to agree to disagree about some issues related to trains, an issue on which there is not yet concensus because the plans on the table are awful, we agree on much else about A2!


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

I do not agree with Mr. Ranzini, but what is this question about? Are we trying to pressure to refrain from printing his writing? Not everyone is entitled to have their opinions published, not even politicians. I trust to make its own decisions as to the value of submissions and decide for itself what to publish. I don't like the Rich Kinsey columns, but can see their value to and its readership.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

Stephen Ranzini, president and CEO of University Bancorp in Ann Arbor, and is an engaged citizen in Ann Arbor's present and future fortunes. I both respect and share many of his beliefs and ideas. You should talk to him sometime. I think you might find his point of view engaging, at the least.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 9:40 p.m.

Thanks, Kyle.

Kyle Mattson

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

Veracity- He is no longer a member of the editorial staff.

Kyle Mattson

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:18 p.m.

Hi Vivienne- The guest columns from Steven Ranzini have always used the 'Common Cents' title since he started submitting them a couple years ago. He is only an occasional columnist, not regular contributor similar to Rich Kinsey.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 5:52 p.m.

Could be, Vivienne. I believe that Mr. Ranzini is a member of the editorial staff.

Dog Guy

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:44 p.m.

Although "it's a very credible concept," this city hall could mess up a soup sandwich.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.

Wow! Another great idea for a downtown niche restaurant.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:22 p.m.

I wouldn't really hold that against them though. I know that I have never really managed to mzke a soup sandwich without making a rather huge mess...


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:31 p.m.

In the short run, consideration should be given to encouraging our major employers, all of which are government entities..............if we didn't have so many government employees there would be more disposable income available to power the economy, pay more taxes, and pay for things like this. Steven, you seem like a real smart man; I have a question that would be work studying. How many taxpayers does it take in the form of taxes, fees, and fines to pay for one government employee, their beneifits, and retirement plans that most in the private sector do not receive?


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

Let's see. Police are government employees. Do you really want private police forces? Private prisons have already increased the number of people incarcerated (people are the "raw materials" necessary to cause a need for prisons). People in the military are government employees. A number of private militaries? People working in the private sector do not receive benefits because the unions have been destroyed and because private corporations are so powerful. I guess we could have fire departments run by Walmart. Hmmm.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 11:29 a.m.

How many of those job creating private employers are deriving their income directly or indirectly from government. For the purity you seek, all of those "taker" private employers have to go in addition to the government workers. Of course you could be hopping on the Privatize Express, which has shown itself over and over to be less efficient and more beneficial to owner and provide such quality services such as the granting of top secret clearance to Mr. Snowden.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

Scotticus, you raise some good points. But I think you may be missing the essence of Mike's argument. That is, the private sector creates wealth and wealth provides for an Expansion in economic growth. Government merely shifts money from one pocket to the other. So while government employees may have a lot to spend a private economy would have a multiplier effect in excess of what government can do. Don't get me wrong, I am not a proponent of no government; essential services are needed but don't you agree most of us are a little tired of the waste and in some cases abuses of government spending and power?


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:41 p.m.

Uh, Mike... your self-defeating argument here is illustrative of the ignorance displayed by so many "small government" conservatives. If we didn't have as many government employees in Ann Arbor... and we know government-owned organizations are our major employers... the result would be fewer jobs. What's more, if these government jobs are so well-paying with such unparalleled benefits compared to private-sector jobs, as you say, then contrary to what you state, Ann Arbor-ites have MORE disposable income in their pockets to spend at local businesses and invest in their community. Heck, if these government jobs are so amazing, Ann Arbor would continue to be a very attractive place for job-seekers... able to attract the very best candidates, entering a perpetual cycle of improving the quality and economy of our community.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

Stephen, can you elaborate on why a completely new station is needed instead of using/enhancing the one that exists 200 yards away from the medcial complex? One obvious one, I suppose, is that a majority of riders would probably be working at or visiting the medical complex. Not the best or ONLY reason for such a massive expenditure, I would think. Someone posted that U of M is considering moving or adding, or something, medical facilities to Plymouth. Do you know of any details on that?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

The optimal location for a train station, bus station or any mass transit facility is where the largest number of commuters are. In Washtenaw County this would be immediately adjacent to: -U-M Hospital Complex -St. Joe's Hospital @ Washtenaw Community College -Eastern Michigan University Each location has some 10,000 daily commuters and can then serve as transportation hubs for local bus service. A new walking path/bicycle path should also be built between the existing station and the new station and that would enable the existing station parking infrastructure to be able to be used for long term parking for those taking the Amtrak train, who do not wish to pay premium parking rates.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:23 a.m.

Bear, I am addressing your post: "It only makes sense. It cannot be achieved at the present train station site" What are the details that make that true? I'm not being sarcastic, I really want to know. A big hub at the U of M medical center would have a huge bottleneck up there on Glen/Huron. That interesection, as well as several before it, are already VERY difficult to get through, especially between the rushhours of 6 - 9 AM, 4 - 7 PM. How does everyone going from the big proposed hub get to downtown Ann Arbor, and what about the current setup makes it easier than if this "hub" was where the current station exists?


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

the new station isn't just for railway station. it is also a hub for buses running downtown and east, west and south along the main corridors in ann arbor and between ann arbor and ypsilanti. The corridors and bus routes already exist along that track, this would only enhance them and work hand in hand with railway transportation. It only makes sense. It cannot be achieved at the present train station site.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.

Peregrine, I'll haveto double check the distance. I don't think my car's odometer passed .5 miles when I drove from the emergency room entrance to the Amtrak station, but I'm certainly willin gto keep a closer eye on it and try again. Regardless, though, I think the 75 million dollars or however much we're talking about for a NEW station when a fully functional one exists, let's say your distance, away from the proposed site leaves me with the same question.

Barb's Mom

Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

@ Peregrine, If our children as young as 5 years old are expected to walk 1 mile (5280 ft) to school then why can't adults walk that far from a train station to work?


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

@RUKiddingMe: The distance between the the existing Amtrak station and the proposed station is about 3500 feet (1167 yards) as the crow flies and about 3700 feet (1233 yards) along existing roadways. You're off by a factor of six!?!?


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

No thanks. There is no room for a park and ride in the residential neighborhood and parkland near the 23/14 Pontiac Trail area, and those present at the North Main Task Force presentations voiced overwhelming opposition to that idea. The Fuller Road site is parkland, despite the city councils attempts to long term lease it out of the collective memory of the taxpayers. Why, just this week I received my tax bill, and I see I am paying 1.5 mils for parks acquisition and maintainence, I paid to buy that parkland and to maintain it, not park UM cars and build $100 million speculative offices on it. In fact, most of the conversation around mass transit in this town seem designed to benefit the UM and the downtown developers, at the expense of the parks and neighborhoods. The downtown density Koolaid must be pretty tasty for those in real estate and banking; for the rest of us, it tastes like higher taxes, crumbling streets, and gridlock.

E Claire

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

I'm with DJ here. Even if the lots are built, how many people want to add 1. a 5 minute walk to a shuttle stop 2. a 5-10 minute wait for the shuttle bus 3. a 10 minute ride on shuttle to car to an already 30 minute commute home after a long day of work? Then add this time to the morning commute?


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 5 p.m.

The North Main Corridor Task Force had indicated Park & Ride lots for the area near and including Bandemer Park and the Barton/M14 interchange, with conversations at the planning meetings about placing them in or near the neighborhood rail sidings by Argo, Traver Creek, etc. Furthermore there is no freeway exit to the area you suggest, so how would commuters get to these lots? If you are talking about the recently improved rail siding nearest Gleaner Hall and Warren, again, there is no exit, south-bound commuters would have to exit at N. Territorial and drive south or exit Barton and return north 1.5 miles to Warren Rd. East of Pontiac Trail and North of M14/23 is a mix of commercial, protected farmland, the Ann Arbor Township offices, and large-lot residential. Even if the Braun family could be convinced to sell part of their family x-mas tree farm for a park and ride, there is no freeway exit to support it. Get MDOT to put in an exit by Nixon, where there have been recent requests for re-zoning and annexation to he city, and I would suggest that would be a better place for park and ride, although again, it is residential up that way, and very close to the existing lot at Plymouth/23.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

@DJBudSonic: East of Pontiac Trail and North of M-14/US-23 is farmland. Not sure why you are referring to it as a residential neighborhood or parkland. It is neither. The point of the tall building above the Fuller Road train station is for it to be private sector led and financed and not a speculative venture of the city or taxpayers.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 3:43 p.m.

I'm not against a new rail station. I am against having the taxpayers (local, state & federal) pay for it. If the rail system is such a clear need (not so sure about that myself) then it should be able to pay for itself. To be specific, private enterprise should be able to pay for it in its entirety and profit from taking that risk. It's the same to me for bus service. If there is an economic need for bus service then private enterprise could fill that need with no cost to taxpayers. Yes, I drive a car but I also pay substantial taxes to pay for the roads I use (federal & state income taxes, gas taxes, license fees & sales taxes). I also pay for the purchase of my vehicle, pay to maintain it, pay to insure it and pay to operate it. I even pay for police to enforce laws on the use of the roads. It's time for people that want buses & trains to stop asking for a "free lunch" by asking "someone else" to pay for it.


Wed, Jul 3, 2013 : 3:55 a.m.

@Gramma: The idea that the interstates were built primarily for the military is an old yarn, but not really true. There is a bit of truth in it in that a highway system was seen as a potential benefit to the military to move supplies and troops in case of a national emergency. But that was never its primary purpose.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:56 p.m.

Don Bee, The interstate highway system was originally built to allow fast movement of the military throughout the country. The fact that it allowed quick trips for motorists was only a side effect.


Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

annarboral, you are certainly not being for the roads, etc by yourself. You also make use of other people's tax money, including mine. Since the Bus and train riders help subsidize your roads, it seems fair that you help subsidize the buses and trains. Airplanes and airports receive significant tax money and there are many people who never fly. Taxes go into the pot to pay for all the services needed to support the needs of a community, not an individual.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

@annarborall: My proposal requires no city taxes, only federal tax dollars to fund the new Fuller Road train station. Money will be spent on rail stations and rail transit by the federal government whether we ask for any or not. Lastly, if we charged to the cost of the gasoline we put in our cars the total cost of the global standing army required to protect and source that oil, you wouldn't be driving cars. The cost of the oil wars alone is $4-6 trillion and the annual cost of the regular military standing army is over $600 billion a year. Gasoline is heavily subsidized.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 7:28 p.m.

Bear - Most of these taxes were passed with the idea that they would be used to maintain the roads. That many of them do not now is similar to the verbage that the county used for their taxes years ago, where a big piece was for sheriff's road patrol, only now it funds the jails and a second round of taxes ended up being needed for the road patrols. Both the Federal and State gas taxes (not the state sales tax on gasoline) were setup to maintain roads. The tax on tires, the same way, initially it was only for trucks, then came to cars, along the way, the argument was it should be used instead to fund tire disposal, but the initial reason was for road maintenance. While they may not now be used for road maintenance, most of these were passed originally for road construction and maintenance. But then lets not let history get in the way of modern revisionism.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:41 p.m.

DonBee, Let's first look at which taxes go to maintain roads. The principal source of funding , is the Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF), which is made up primarily of the state fuel tax and license plate fees. These are also the main sources of road funds for Michigan's cities and villages. So your list, for the most part, has NOTHING to do with funding roads and transportation infrastructure. Your bait & switch doesn't work either. But don't facts like this get in the way of your diatribe.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

Scotticus326 & Peregrine - Take the taxes off: - Motor fuels (state and federal) -Tires -Batteries -Remove license fees for cars -Remove all but the sales tax on vehicles -Drivers licenses, save the cost of administration -Insurance (save any sales tax) -Motor oils -Other parts for vehicles And I would be happy to have all roads privatized and pay per mile driven. So long as almost every part of driving is taxed to provide ROADS (that was the original intent of these taxes) then I want my roads. The fact that taxes aimed at roads have been used to subsize buses, trains, bicycle paths, and other alternate forms of transportation over the last 30 years, does not mean that now those alternatives can have all that money and the drivers have to pay additional funds to drive. Sorry, that bait and switch does not work.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

@annarboral: And those who ride (or some day might ride) busses or trains don't pay federal and state income taxes, sales taxes, or for police to enforce laws on roads, rails, and elsewhere? I don't see how your costs for buying, maintaining, and insuring your vehicle come into the equation. Others don't really benefit from it, as they might w/ public transportation. If anything your vehicle (and my vehicle) gives you (and me) benefits while imposing many costs on others -- wear and tear on the roads, pollution, the need for a military to maintain access to far off oil.


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 4:47 p.m.

By your logic, why aren't you furious that roadways aren't private? The corollary to your argument, which I think makes more sense, is that so long as the public builds and maintains roads (and collects tax revenue to fund it), what's so evil about the public funding and maintaining other modes of transit? In fact, I think we'd all be better-off if the public viewed transportation as a system across all modes. Those taxes we pay would be more effectively utilized to build and maintain higher-density, more efficient transit options (like BRT and rail). Let those who insist upon the convenience of a personal vehicle (to which we are all absolutely entitled) pay for it. In other words, it would actually be a SMARTER use of our tax dollars to fund busses and trains and privatize less-efficient, more expensive (overall) systems like private vehicle transportation infrastructure (i.e., highways).