The Talking Michigan Transportation podcast features conversations with transportation experts inside and outside MDOT and will touch on anything and everything related to mobility, including rail, transit and the development of connected and automated vehicles.
Report recommends policies to enhance Michigan’s position as a mobility leader
On this week’s edition of the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer, talks about recommendations in a report from the Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification.
Among the highlights, or pillars, Pawl outlines:
Transition and grow our mobility industry and workforce.
Invest in bus rapid transit and spend $10 million to revive the state’s mobility challenges to solve employment and equity barriers. Fund a public relations campaign to enhance Michigan’s sustainability leadership. Scale the Michigan Electric Vehicle (EV) Jobs Academy. Create a global center of excellence for responsible artificial intelligence. Provide safer, greener and more accessible transportation infrastructure
Expand Michigan’s Alternative Fuel Corridor opportunities for clean hydrogen and commission a study on hydrogen applications in commercial traffic. Develop accessibility standards for EV chargers. Create a state EV consumer incentive. Fund a $45 million bus electrification program. Expand use of sinking funds to support electric school bus deployments. Support Phase Two of the MDOT work zone safety pilot program. Design a clean fuels standard that works for Michigan. Lead the world in mobility and electrification policy and innovation
Invest $30 million in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) technology development. Pass legislation to preserve Michigan’s uniform, statewide automated vehicle policy. Keep up the annual support for state mobility agencies’ capacity. Pass legislation to create a mobility research and development talent tax credit. Continue advocating to federal policymakers on important connected vehicle issues.
The use of humor on highway signs and the future of DOT Twitter feeds
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation, a conversation on two timely topics with long-time friend of the podcast, Lloyd Brown, of HDR.
First, a reaction to recent news that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) advised the New Jersey Department of Transportation to discontinue the use of humorous messages on changeable message signs.
Brown has done some research on the use of humor in communications and offers insights he’s gathered.
As reported on NJ.com, FHWA officials said in an e-mail, “The Federal Highway Administration is aware of the changeable message signs and has reached out to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT).”
The story said the FHWA did not answer questions asking for more details, including why it asked NJDOT to discontinue use of the messages or how it has handled other states that use humor to get attention to safety issues.
The answer to why the signs were disallowed might be in the 31-paragraph ruling about “Uses of, and Nonstandard Syntax on Changeable Message Signs” issued on Jan. 4, 2021, by the U.S. DOT and FHWA.
In a second segment, Brown talks about what the rapid changes at Twitter and slashing of the work force by new owner Elon Musk could mean to DOTs that have used the platform as a vital and interactive tool to communicate in real time with travelers.
As reported in the New York Times, spoof messages and parody accounts have proliferated in recent days, including some that impersonate state DOTs.
This raises questions about whether government agencies will eventually abandon the platform in search of others with some degree of content monitoring and regulation.
What’s in MDOT’s Five Year Transportation Program?
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a conversation about the 2023-2027 Five-Year Transportation Program, approved by the State Transportation Commission Nov. 10.
Michael Case, a planning specialist at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) who oversees development of the program, talks about the history of the process. He also discusses the challenges of trying to forecast the future with ongoing uncertainty over transportation funding, inflation and climate change.
Case also breaks down project highlight focus areas as outlined in the report:
Equity and inclusion,Transportation resilience, andComplete Streets/multimodal. This is the second time the program has included those areas. Case explains how these inform the plan, as well as the plan's emphasis on each focus area across MDOT’s seven regions and its support of various mobility modes.
Case explains how he and his colleagues endeavor to engage even difficult-to-reach audiences to be sure they are included in the public involvement process and weigh in on their unique transportation needs.
Tim Hoeffner, unplugged: What’s the future for passenger rail service in Michigan?
On this week’s edition of the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a conversation about passenger rail service in the state. Tim Hoeffner, a former director of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail and now a consultant with Quandel Consultants, is the guest.
Hoeffner talks about the history of passenger rail service in Michigan and offers his perspective about developments in recent years, including ongoing work to establish dependable 110 mph Amtrak service between Detroit and Chicago.
Among the challenges Hoeffner discusses:
Purchasing equipment to enhance riders’ experience and ensure dependable service;Resolving congestion with freight lines on the Indiana portion of the Detroit-Chicago corridor; andWorking with communities along passenger lines to establish stations where it makes sense but balance that need with travel time.Hoeffner also talks about the state Legislature and federal government pitching in funding for a study of a passenger line between Ann Arbor and Traverse City.
Traverse City-based Groundwork for Resilient Communities has been a leading advocate of A2TC project. The Cadillac/Wexford Transit Authority will work in partnership with Groundwork and a team of partners to complete the planning study.
Equity in infrastructure: Taking the pledge
This week’s edition of the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast focuses on the Equity in Infrastructure Project (EIP).
On Oct. 11, chief executive officers from six state departments of transportation signed a pledge, saying they are committed to streamline processes for obtaining necessary disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) certifications, improve payment time and expand access to financing to help underserved businesses.
Michigan Department of Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba was among the leaders signing the pledge. He talks about the importance of the event and what it means to him.
Saying it was high honor to be included in the event, Ajegba talks about both the symbolic and tangible benefits of signing the pledge. He says this demonstrates a commitment to make sure federal dollars are distributed in an equitable way to shore up DBE and other programs.
Ajegba also explains that it involves a bigger-picture view and looking at barriers holding back DBEs.
In the second segment, Phil Washington, CEO of the Denver International Airport and President Biden’s nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), discusses his role in co-founding EIP.
"You can see the urgency behind our cause in how quickly this coalition is expanding with the participation of some of the largest public contracting entities in the nation," Washington said in the news release about the event. "As we improve America's transit systems, airports and other infrastructure, we must be focused on improving people's lives, too."
Washington also discusses the support and shared commitment of the White House.
The property acquisition process for transportation projects explained
On this week’s edition of the Talking Michigan Transportation, conversations about the negotiations and efforts to honor the rights of landowners while developing transportation projects.
First, Teresa Vanis, manager of the real estate services section at MDOT, talks about her vast experience helping property owners with the acquisition process.
She explains the laws and policies governing government land acquisition and myriad protections built in for property owners in federal law and the State of Michigan’s Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act of 1980.
Later, Mohammed Alghurabi, MDOT’s senior project manager on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, makes a return visit to the podcast and shares what he’s learned in several years of communicating with landowners and others affected when roads and bridges are built.