Sustainable Mobility in Metro-Detroit: A BRT Proposal

Thumbnail Image
Official URL
Full text at PDC
Publication Date
Advisors (or tutors)
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Google Scholar
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
City infrastructure and mobility culture in the U.S. have been heavily influenced by the invention of the automobile, a clear case in the city of Detroit. Once considered the ‘Motor City Capital’, its own paradoxical rise and demise can both be attributed to the stronghold the automobile industry had on government, the economy, and U.S. culture, and whose interests spurred the decentralization of cities, a deeply rooted and lasting car culture, and the elimination of public transportation in Detroit and across the U.S. As such, the following study introduces a contextually relevant review of mobility in the U.S., mobility in Detroit, and current public transit in Detroit, serving to make a case for, as well as inform and guide, its objectives and methodology. Elaborating on the consequential lack of public transit infrastructure, the analysis suggests the introduction of transit oriented development (TOD) and smart mobility strategies for public transportation in the form of a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Metro Detroit. Using a GIS-based approach with ArcGIS Pro, the methodology includes: building a network dataset from which to simulate mobility in Metro Detroit, determining and weighing various influences of demand for public transit to inform placement of BRT routes and stops, and running Location-Allocation and Service Area modeling across various proposed BRT scenarios. Then, comparing resulting scenarios via metrics of weighted demand, weighted distance, and accessibility, an optimal BRT scenario is suggested. The study then concludes by commenting on the broader implications of BRT implementation, the matrixed approach to BRT decision-making, the role of transit-oriented development in satisfying BRT criteria, as well as additional limitations and areas for further analysis.
I would like to start by expressing deep gratitude for the opportunity to study smart cities and sustainability at such a holistic matrix of environmental, social, political, and economic influences. To me, this program packaged the emotional energy reasonably surging from a generation thrown into an alarming tipping point of anthropogenic climate change, transforming it into a tactical skill set of strategic GIS modeling, creative orchestration of smart city drivers, and deepened curiosity for pushing new boundaries, all aimed to bolster resilience, inclusivity, and sustainability. The concept of sustainability always has and always will occupy my time, space, and energy; yet, only now, am I armed and equipped with these actionable, measurable, and scalable tools to serve this space. As always, it takes a village. A very special thanks to everyone who has invigorated and shared a passion for sustainability, who has expressed curiosity in this project, who has checked in to motivate and recenter me, who has helped and understood my spanglish, and who has encouraged and infused an environment of creativity, abundance, inclusivity, vulnerability, connection, and balance, along the way. To the Universidad de Complutense Madrid, to all faculty members of the Masters in Ciudades Inteligentes y Sostenibles, to my respective classmates, and to my patient thesis tutor Javier Gutiérrez Puebla, for collaborating to create this learning and launching experience. To Bama, Earl, Julie, Sue, Claire, Alex, and Lily, for planting roots grounded by love, openness, and connection, making it easy and fun to grow. To my husband Alexander Saavedra for turning a year of uncertainty and chaos into an opportunity to evolve into an even more powerful team, perfectly balancing a light-hearted and deeply evolved space. And a special shoutout to my hypewoman classmate friend Anahi Marcela González Ferreira, my urban-planning-minded Detroiter friend Gabe Gedda-Shaheen, my public-transit-enthusiast friend Liz Kashouris, my everything-in-between bestie Gauree, for all the inspiration. May we all find joy, purpose, strength, and community in playing an authentic role to serve and align with our environment. I’m thankful, excited, and committed in a journey to realize mine.
Bliss, L. (2018, November 2). The Joys of Detroit’s Ridiculous People Mover. Bloomberg: Europe Edition. Center for Sustainable Systems. (2021). U.S. Cities Factsheet. University of Michigan, Pub. No. CSS09-06. Cervero, R. (2004). Transit Oriented Development in America: Contemporary Practices, Impacts, and Policy Directions. International Planning Symposium on Incentives, Regulations, and Plans – the Role of States and Nation-States in Smart Growth Planning. University of Maryland. Cervero, R. (2007). Transit-oriented development’s ridership bonus: a product of self-selection and public policies. Environment and Planning A, 39(9), 2068–2085. Cervero, R., & Kockelman, K. (1997). Travel demand and the 3Ds: Density, diversity, and design. Transportation Research, Part D 2, 199 - 219. Chernoff, A. (2022, June 17). Soaring US car prices compel buyers to travel thousands of miles for deals. The Guardian. City of Detroit Open Data Portal. (2019, September 6). DDOT GTFS. City of Detroit. Environmental Insights Explorer. (2021). Detroit Transportation Emissions. Google. Ewing, R., & Cervero, R. (2010). Travel and the built environment: a meta-analysis. Journal of the American Planning Association, 76(3), 265–294. Filion, P. (2001). Suburban mixed-use centres and urban dispersion: what difference do they make? Environment and Planning, A 33, 141–160. HN Transit. (2004). Hidden In Plain Sight: Capturing The Demand For Housing Near Transit; Reconnecting America’s Center For Transit-Oriented Development. Hsiao, S. L., Sterling, J. J., & Weatherford, M. (1997). Use of Geographic Information Systems for analysis of transit pedestrian access. Transportation Research Record, 1604. ITDP. (2022). The Bus Rapid Transit Standard. Institute for Transportation & Development Policy. Jacobs, J. (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Jamalul Shamsudin, N. L., Abdul Khanan, M. F., Umar, H. A., Atan, S. N., & Din, A. H. M. (2019). INTEGRATING NETWORK CONCEPT into MULTI CRITERIA ANALYSIS for SUGGESTING BUS RAPID TRANSIT ROUTES. International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences - ISPRS Archives, 42(4/W16), 309–317. Kimpel, T., Dueker, K., & El-Geneidy, A. (2007). Using GIS to measure the effect of overlapping service areas on passenger boardings at bus stops. Urban and Regional Information Systems Association Journal, 19(1). Kusumawardani, D. M., Saintika, Y., & Romadlon, F. (2021, August 2). The Smart Mobility Insight of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Trans Jateng Purwokerto-Purbalingga Ridership. 8th International Conference on ICT for Smart Society: Digital Twin for Smart Society, ICISS 2021 - Proceeding. Larsen, J., El-Geneidy, A., & Yasmin, F. (2010). «Beyond the quarter mile: Re-examining travel distances by active transportation. Canadian Journal of Urban Research, 19(1). Lawrence, E. D. (2022, May 18). SMART bus system leader pledges new direction. Detroit Free Press. Litman, T. (2022). Land Use Impacts on Transport: How Land Use Factors Affect Travel Behavior. Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Miralles, C., & Marquet, O. (2012). Ciudad compacta, la otra cara de la movilidad sostenible. Ambienta, 100. Murray, A. T., Davis, R., Stimson, R. J., & Ferreira, L. (1998). Public transport access. Transportation Research, Part D 3(5), 319–328. Nivola, P. S. (1999). Are Europe’s Cities Better? Brookings. Phan-Hien, V., Pham-Thuy, L., & Nguyen-Tuan, A. (2016). Locating Bus Rapid Transit Stops Using GIS And AHP: The Vo Van Kiet-Mai Chi Tho Route In Ho Chi Minh City. Polzin, S. (2018). Future of U.S. Public Transportation. Journal of Public Transportation, Vol. 21(No. 1). Resnick, N. (2017). The Derailment of Detroit: Public Transit as a Threat to the Brand of Capitalism. ACSA, 30–32. SEMCOG_GIS. (2020a). 2020 Census. Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. SEMCOG_GIS. (2020b). Land Use 2020. Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. SEMCOG_GIS. (2020c). Roads. Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. SEMCOG_GIS. (2020d). Traffic Volume. Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. Seskin, S., & Cervero, R. ,. (1996). Transit and Urban Form. Federal Transit Administration, Washington DC. Smith, C. (2017). Detroiters’ Views on Transportation and Mobility. Soergel, A. (2016, March 15). Is U.S. Infrastructure Destined to Crumble? U.S. News. The White House. (2021, December 13). ICYMI: President Biden Signs Executive Order Catalyzing America’s Clean Energy Economy Through Federal Sustainability. Tobin, S. (2022). DETROIT’S M-1 RAIL SERVES CORPORATIONS, NOT PEOPLE. Progress Michigan. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022, August 5). Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Zhao, F., Chow, L. F., Li, M. T., Ubaka, I., & Gan, A. (2003). Forecasting transit walk accessibility: regression model alternative to buffer method. Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1835, 34–41. ZICLA. (2017, November 22). Park & Ride : out-of-town parking to reduce cars in the city center. ZICLA.