Building Transportation Connections
Capital area residents are looking for more public transportation. More specifically, they’re looking for stronger connections between the location of their daily destinations—jobs, recreation, schools and home—and the services provided by the Capital Area Transportation Authority
To make those connections, they're asking employers, service-providers and developers to be more intentional and thoughtful about locating near transit lines.
For example, when Lansing resident Shaye Ramont worked for a telephone solicitor in the area’s northern outskirts, he left his Dover’s Crossing
apartment on Jolly Road three hours before work to get there on time. His journey involved three buses and a half-mile walk. By car, his trek would've taken about 15-minutes.
“It’s a blessing to have it,” says Ramont, 23, about the bus system.
But his experience also highlights the need to better connect destinations and services from both sides of the urban planning equation. If we want transit service to meet more daily needs of more riders, we need more of our destinations to be located near those service lines.Destination DevelopmentGene Townsend
, owner of Townsend Builders, sees the benefit of a bus line serving his proposed development near Downtown Lansing
. He has worked with CATA on possibly re-activating a route near the parcel on Ottawa and Butler streets where condominiums, row houses and a mixed-use structure and park space are planned.
Being a LEED-certified
builder, Townsend is acutely aware of public transportation's vital role in going green. LEED gives credits for the number of bus stops within a half-mile radius of a project—more if it's closer.
“This is more a marketing thing, where we'd be able to tell people ‘There is a bus stop right out front,'” Townsend says.
Pat Gillespie, president of The Gillespie Group
, built the Stadium District
project on Michigan Avenue—CATA's busiest route
—and worked with CATA to better connect residents at his firm's Prudden Place
project on Saginaw and Larch.
"You just see that the future generations seem to be more cognizant that public transportation is more acceptable and more—I don't want to call it hip—but more mainstream to use,” says Gillespie.
“If you are on [a transit route], that is a segment of the industry that you can capture in your building, whether it’s office, retail or housing. If you are not on it, it's something your competitor can get one up on you."
Developers like Townsend and Gillespie who include CATA and its services
in their project planning are so far rare in the Lansing market, but their approach makes sense.
“They are already building on an existing route and there is no real need except to potentially ask for a stop,” says Debbie Alexander, CATA assistant executive director. “And, of course, in those cases we would accommodate them unless it was a duplicate stop.”Peckham Power
At Lansing's Peckham Industries
, the bus is the only means of transportation for nearly 1,500 employees, says Jo Sinha, corporate vice-president.
The non-profit provides vocational training and jobs for people with disabilities. Peckham Industries has 1,100 employees at its Greenhouse location
on 3510 Capital City Boulevard and 350 more at its Riverside facility at 2511 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Both facilities are located on major transportation corridors for CATA.
"I know what [a bus line] means for our clients," says Sinha. "It's their ability to get to work or not. It's our ability to make sure we accommodate the needs of the folks we are working with."
Peckham worked with CATA to put a new bus stop in front of its new headquarters on Capital City Boulevard, near the Capital Region International Airport
Peckham is one of the major CATA service users among the area's many health and human service agencies, says Pat Gilbert, CATA marketing director.
The transit authority has been "a wonderful partner," Sinha says. "Sometimes I think I have CATA on speed dial," she adds.
Connection to bus lines can also serve as crucial tool for bringing a struggling home or neighborhood back to life, says Ingham County Treasurer Eric Shertzing
, who drills that mantra into his staff at the Ingham County Land Bank
"If we can buy two houses and one is two blocks from a bus stop and the other one is a mile from the bus stop, we buy the house two blocks from the bus stop," says Shertzing, whose organization sold 13 single-family homes and one commercial property last year.
"If you're doing affordable housing—which is a lot of what we do—a family unit that is in an $80,000 house, that family unit cannot afford two cars. Hopefully they can afford at least one car. That second car is not so dependable and that second person who needs to get to a job. If they can do it on a bus, how wonderful is that?"The North Tier
Many developers and businesses decide not to locate near existing public transportation routes for a variety of reasons.Greenstone Farm Credit Services
has its East Lansing headquarters at 1760 Abbey St. and is building a new facility
just up the street, on West Road. It's an area that is slated to see growth and development in the future, but is currently very sparsely developed and lies beyond the reach of existing bus services.
Travis Jones, senior vice-president and chief financial officer says very few "if any” employees use public transportation.
“I’m a member of senior management, and we’ve never had this discussion about problems or no problems," he says. "It hasn’t come up. We’re building a new facility just down the road from us and we didn’t talk about it then either.”
Public transportation wasn’t an overwhelming factor when MSU Federal Credit Union
opened its new headquarters
in the same general vicinity in 2009, says Joyce M. Banish, vice-president for university and community public relations.
“It was a consideration, and certainly as the area develops we expect to see transport to the building," says Banish in an email. “The convenience of all members traveling to an office is always a consideration, but the other considerations (space, parking and proximity to members) play an important role in making our decision to locate a branch.”To receive Capital Gains free every week, click here.
Larry O’Connor is a mid-Michigan freelance writer who has ridden on a fair number of buses in his lifetime.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
CATA stop across from Stadium District
Gene Townsend at one of his projects
Peckham Industries' covered transportation waiting area
A Land Bank property for sale with CATA stop in front
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie