Federal Transit Administration Announces Panel to Help Advance Transit in Southeastern Michigan

Contact: David Longo
(202) 366-0608

  Panel will Share Expertise and Best Practices to Develop Planned Woodward Avenue Light Rail and Map a Bright Future for Regional Transit Solutions

DETROIT, Mich. – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration today convened a panel of highly experienced transit experts from around the country to advise Southeastern Michigan leaders on ways to create a 21st-Century public transit system.  While much of the two-day meeting’s focus will be on Detroit’s planned Woodward Avenue light rail system, the panel will also share insights on how area leaders can work together to develop a larger vision for future public transportation development.

“President Obama promised to help build strong cities and strong communities so we are bringing together some of the best transit minds in the nation to tackle Southeast Michigan’s transportation challenges,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This is a practical way to provide the support local governments need to succeed.”

Each of the five members of the Detroit Area Transit Panel has an industry-renowned record of achievement in creating or expanding rail transit in their own cities.  The panel members were selected by the Federal Transit Administration.

“These proven experts have volunteered to share their experience and know-how to help bring smart, sensible transit solutions to the people of Detroit,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. “They share Detroit’s vision of bringing renewed economic opportunity and job growth to this iconic American city with a modern public transit system at its core.”

The panel will host workshops for regional transportation stakeholders and meet one-on-one with several key statewide, city, and local officials to learn firsthand the unique challenges and opportunities of implementing rail transit in the Detroit metropolitan area. Specifically, the panel will meet with City of Detroit officials, senior staff of the office of Governor Rick Snyder, State of Michigan Department of Transportation officials, the County Executives of the greater-Detroit region, M1 Rail and the Southeast Michigan Area Regional Transportation. 

In February 2010, Detroit was awarded $25 million from the Department’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program for the first phase of the proposed Woodward Avenue light rail line—a 3.4-mile rail system connecting Downtown Detroit to the New Center district along the region's main artery on Woodward Avenue.

The creation of the Detroit Area Transit Panel aligns with the Obama Administration’s July announcement of a new and customized pilot initiative, “Strong Cities, Strong Communities,” which is a new interagency pilot initiative that aims to strengthen neighborhoods, towns, cities and regions around the country by strengthening the capacity of local governments to develop and execute their economic vision and strategies.

Members of the Detroit Area Transit Panel include:

John Inglish is the Chief Executive Officer of the Utah Transit Authority, which provides public transportation service to Salt Lake City and surrounding counties.  Mr. Inglish has overseen the funding and construction of more than $4 billion in rail infrastructure of which 70 miles of light rail and commuter rail are in place and operating and another 70 miles are under construction and scheduled to open in the next three years.

Cal Marsella retired in 2009 as the General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Denver Regional Transit District.  Mr. Marsella developed the region’s successful FasTracks rail plan and secured a dedicated sales tax revenue to support its implementation and operation.  Mr. Marsella is also a nationally-recognized leader in facilitating innovative public-private partnerships for transit capital projects and service delivery.

Neil McFarlane is General Manager of Portland TriMet.  Before that, he served for 12 years as TriMet’s Executive Director for Capital Projects, advancing the expansion of the region’s rail system and overseeing extensive capital investments for bus systems.  McFarlane helped establish TriMet’s MAX light rail transit as an internationally known and respected system for planning, design, and construction innovation, delivering three light rail lines on-time and on-budget.

Dr. Beverly Scott is the Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), the ninth largest public transportation system in the United States.  Prior to her appointment at MARTA, she served as the General Manager/CEO of the Sacramento Regional Transit District, where she oversaw the expansion of its light rail transit system.  Dr. Scott has also held senior leadership positions with the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, the New Jersey Transit Corporation, the Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and is a past Chair of the American Public Transportation Association.

Gary Thomas is the President and Executive Director of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART).  Thomas is responsible for a 13-city transit system over a 700-square mile area with bus, light rail, commuter rail, paratransit and high occupancy vehicle lane services. He administers the goals and policies of the DART Board of Directors, including the largest public transit expansion in North America. He has overseen the design and construction of all of DART's major capital projects, including DART's light rail system.