Jan 21, 2010

Attractive MagLev mass transit system is years away

The Interstate Traveler Task Force issued its report at the Capitol in Lansing on Tuesday after some 10 months, and state lawmakers on the task force recommended fast-tracking of the mass transit system from Detroit to Lansing, if they can find the money.

According to the Interstate Traveler Company from Whitmore Lake, this high tech system called a “Maglev“ system travels using high speed magnetic levitation. The “on-demand public transit network will be built along the right of way of the US Interstate Highway Systems, and any other permissible right of way.” It will be fueled by solar power and hydrogen.

According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Task Force chair Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Genoa Township, said "This proposal could single-handedly change Michigan's future by providing thousands of jobs, additional revenue for state and local governments, and a massive expansion of our electrical grid." He also said “the MagLev could create a "watershed moment" for Michigan, creating thousands of jobs, and should immediately be discussed in state House and Senate transportation committees.”

I agree, and that’s one reason I have always been a big supporter of mass transit. However, I’m still amazed at the Rogers flip flop. You will recall that when Rogers was the chair of the all-Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners, they voted in September of 2008 to not only not provide any money to the Washtenaw Livingston Line (WALLY) commuter rail line, but also to not be part of the coalition that wants to form a taxing authority. Rogers was quoted as saying the county cannot afford to finance the project that aims to create a Howell-to-Ann Arbor rail link.

This is a project that has public backing and exiting infrastructure. Now, I support the Maglev system and hope it becomes a reality, but part of the problem is there is not even a prototype demonstrating how the line works. That’s in sharp contrast to WALLY that has a federal funding commitment and existing infrastructure.

Now, critics will say Rogers supports MagLev system because they are only using private investment. The fact is there is no mass transit system that does not have some form of public subsidy, and I would have no problem with using it for MagLev. In fact, the public land the system will be built on can be considered a public subsidy.

But the MagLev may not have private funding. The task force report said, “the Interstate Traveler Co. refused to or did not have answers to many of the financial questions the members asked .”

I sure hope both systems go forward, but the one thing we know for sure is that the MagLev system is a log way off in the future.

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