Expecting an influx of 60 million new passengers in the next 20 years, leaders at Detroit Metropolitan Airport are finalizing a plan to expand terminals, add a new runway, and construct a potentially $1 billion monorail system that links commuters to car rental lots and - perhaps eventually - a light rail system that conveniently whisks riders off to downtown Detroit or Ann Arbor.
Put simply, the airport authority apparently is anticipating the trends and planning a 21st century transportation hub in a region and state that historically has rejected public transit.
But, in the process, they've also flushed out the latest opponent to new ways of funding modern mass transit in Michigan. Ironically, it's Northwest Airlines from Minnesota! The carrier opposes a special passenger fee to fund the improvements.
“The big deal to us is to add a tax to pay for a train to nowhere,” Andrea Fischer Newman, Northwest’s senior vice president for government affairs, recently told Crain's Detroit Business. “There’s no need for it because all the rental car companies use buses.”
There's alternative ways to pay for this thing. But the idea that a transportation company is fighting the expansion of a hyper-connected, multi-modal transportation network is puzzling.
Most major airports have some sort of tram that move people around from terminal to terminal. Detroit Metro has the beginning of something similiar, as pictured above.
The really smart cities - San Francisco, Portland, Washington D.C. to name a few - provide permanent rail as an easy option for folks to get from the air field to the downtown and other regional amenities.
Had Detroit made a similiar investment 20 years ago, there's strong indications that the population loss, unemployment, housing slump, and other troubling trends would be much less acute today. And Northwest, by extension, likely would be shuffling even more planes and passengers outta southeast Michigan.