Ward 2 covers a large area of the city, with north-of-the-river and south-of-the-river sectors, bounded roughly by M-14, US-23, Washtenaw, and Nixon. Traffic is a big issue in the ward, but you would never know that from the general disdain given mass transit issues by Ward 2 Councilmember Jane Lumm. Lumm has voted to turn down federal money to study how to reduce traffic along what is called the “Connector,” that is, from US-23 along Plymouth Road, down Huron Parkway and eventually to State Street. Despite the fact that the city, the AATA, and the University of Michigan had already contributed to more than $600,000 spent on the first phase of the study, Lumm was the sole dissenting vote for a $30,000 expenditure to go to the next phase and look at what kind of transit makes sense for the Connector.
The need for transit is especially urgent because of the University of Michigan’s expansion into the former Pfizer property. More and more of its research faculty are moving out to the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) and retail development along Plymouth Rd. is following. As is usual for federal grants, a local funding match is required and the University is paying the lion’s share of this.
Lumm has also voted to turn down federal money to study an improved Amtrak station, although she joined the rest of the council recently in finally voting for money to complete the study. The existing station is completely inadequate and the federally-funded study is determining the best place for a new one. There is little question that the best location would be on city-owned land in front of the University hospital, land that is leased to the University for surface parking. Lumm has joined with anti-growth advocates who claim that land is a “park” and requires a referendum vote to change its use. Of course, there was no referendum vote for the long-term lease for its use as surface parking, and the huge Fuller Park lies just across the street.
Traffic is not only an issue for Plymouth Road and Huron Parkway but also along Geddes and Fuller Roads. Second Ward residents who are tired of seeing long lines of vehicles, with one person per car, would be better served by a representative who understands transit. Planning Commission chair Kirk Westphal is running against Lumm in November and his understanding of and support for transit is one factor that distinguishes him from the ineffective incumbent.