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Great Lakes Article:

Michigan fails mass transit study


Article courtesy of the Associated Press
November 12, 2001


   LANSING -- Major metropolitan areas in Michigan received a failing grade for not turning to mass transit to help cut down on air pollution, the Sierra Club said.
   The Sierra Club report of America's 50 largest metropolitan areas said it found a clear connection between state and local investment in public transportation and success in reducing smog from cars and trucks.
   "If cities in Michigan invest in public transportation, clean air will come," said Anne Woiwode, director of the Michigan branch of the Sierra Club. The club said most large cites failed, but said those which spent more on public transportation suffered from less auto pollution.
   "Although cars are polluting less per mile, smog isn't getting better because suburban sprawl forces Americans to drive farther just to pick up a gallon of milk or take the kids to soccer," she said during a news conference.
   "If we give Americans more transportation choices, we drive less and breathe cleaner air."
   In the Sierra Club report, the metropolitan area of Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint, along with the Grand Rapids metropolitan area, received a D-minus for the amount of smog produced and an F for the amount spent on public transportation.
   The Sierra Club said the Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint area produces 94 pounds of smog from cars and trucks per person each year, while the Grand Rapids area produces 96 pounds.
   Meanwhile, it said, only $18.90 is spent per person in Michigan on public transportation for every $100 spent on highways.
   Spokesmen for the state and local governments both said the other was to blame for the lack of transit spending.
   Ari Adler, a spokesman for the state Transportation Department, said it is largely up to local government to devote more money to public transportation. He added, however, that there isn't much public demand for mass transit in many Michigan cities.
   Don Stypula, manager of environmental affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, would like to see more money spent on public transportation, but said the shortfall is largely the fault of the state and federal governments.
   "Many transportation systems believe they have reached their maximum ability to raise local funds. Public transit is quite stressed," he said. "There isn't enough funding provided by the state for public transportation systems."
   The Sierra Club report, "Clearing the Air," gave New York State the highest grade for spending on public transit, and said New York is the only state that spent more money on transportation alternatives than on new roads.
   At the same time, New York City had the least amount of smog per person from cars and trucks.
   "When cities build more roads instead of cleaner public transportation, it become obvious why smog and air pollution have gotten worse," Woiwode said.
   "It's possible to reverse the trend."
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