An Alternatives Analysis (AA) is a transportation planning process for evaluating modal and general alignment options for identified transportation needs in a corridor. An alternatives analysis is viewed as a good planning practice that assists communities with objectively selecting transit options that address a community's transportation needs.
The Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) that results from an AA moves onto the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) mandated environmental review process. During NEPA, the LPA's impacts on both the natural and human environments are assessed. An alternative must be approved through both the AA and NEPA processes before it can proceed to the Preliminary Engineering phase.
At its core, an AA is about providing the public, local officials, and potential funding partners with sufficient information for the decision-at-hand: that is, ―What is the best solution for addressing our problems? What are its benefits? How much is it going to cost? And how are we going to pay for it?
The Woodward AA builds upon past work, and the study explores multiple modal alternatives including Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along with operational characteristics.
Unlike traditional bus service, BRT utilizes vehicles with increased capacity, fewer bus stops, exclusive right-of-way and/or bus priority at signalized intersections to move large volumes of riders throughout a transit network. This rapid transit option can also be easily integrated into mixed traffic when necessary.
LRT utilizes high capacity electric rail cars and mostly operates within exclusive right-of-way. Operation in mixed traffic may occur when necessary. LRT is typically a more expensive rapid transit option than BRT although sometimes their operational performance characteristics are marginally different.
No. These two are independent projects. The 3.3 mile streetcar project led by M1-Rail is a separate effort from the Woodward Avenue Rapid Transit AA. The Woodward Streetcar project represents a small study area, from downtown Detroit to Midtown.
The LRT project previously studied a 9.3 mile corridor from downtown Detroit to Eight Mile Road but did not progress to the implementation phase due to a lack of operational funding. The City of Detroit was the project sponsor.
The AA was commissioned by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. Its purpose is to develop a rapid transit system that will significantly enhance public transit service as well as regional mobility along the 27-mile long corridor of Woodward Avenue from downtown Detroit to downtown Pontiac. Though the AA does encompass the area being studied in the ongoing Woodward Streetcar project and the past Woodward Light Rail project, the goal of the AA is to evaluate transit options for the broader corridor.
*It should be noted that there is little possibility of either the Woodward Streetcar project or the Woodward Avenue Rapid Transit AA study moving forward to implementation without the approval of a regional transit authority (RTA) by the state legislature.
A Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is enabled through state legislation. It is a regional transit coordinating body that operates and disburses funding for different transit systems within a jurisdiction. An RTA possesses both funding and jurisdictional authority. The State Senate in Michigan is expected to vote on Senate Bills 909 and 911, which would create an effective RTA for southeast Michigan.
See links for more information on the RTA development process.
There are various ways to learn more about the Woodward Avenue Rapid Transit study.