TRU leads 30 groups in demanding a better long-range transportation plan

To the Honorable Governor Gretchen Whitmer:

CC: MDOT Director, EGLE Director, Transportation Commission, and Climate Council:

Thank you, Governor Whitmer, for recognizing the severity of the climate crisis and committing to make Michigan “a leader in this fight.” We applaud the creation and inclusive efforts of the Council on Climate Solutions to develop the MI Healthy Climate Plan to “achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality no later than 2050,” “with a focus on near-term objectives that Michigan can achieve within five years.”

With this letter, the undersigned organizations, representing …, urge you to make expansion of public transit and safe walking and biking a centerpiece of your Climate Plan and of MDOT’s Michigan Mobility 2045 long-range transportation plan.


Widespread renewable energy and electrification of vehicles may be vital components of Michigan’s climate solution, but on their own they are not equitable and will not be sufficient to the crisis at hand. Michiganders who cannot afford a car today are unlikely to benefit from electrification. And Michiganders who are physically unable to drive cannot wait for fully autonomous vehicles to be widespread, safe, and affordable in ten or more years.

Providing safe, accessible, convenient public transit and walking and biking facilities will enable Michiganders to drive less often. Enabling people to make that choice to decrease driving is a powerful and equitable way to decrease climate pollution.

Yet for decades the Michigan Department of Transportation has largely served as a highway department, with more than 90% of its funding and focus directed to highways, bridges, and other roadways. Despite important investments in running rail and buying buses, this highway-centered investment encouraged more sprawling development that requires people drive further and further to reach their destinations. That is part of why transportation is the biggest source of climate pollution.


To achieve your commitments, the MI Healthy Climate Plan must:

  • Take bold steps improve the safety, availability, and convenience of non-driving options for all Michiganders by shifting transportation funding priorities and policies.

To guide these investments, the Council on Climate Solutions must:

  • Develop targets for reducing the amount of Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) that align with your climate commitments and the MI Healthy Climate Plan.

Transportation projects, plans, and investments by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and regional Municipal Planning Organizations (MPOs) must then align with those VMT reduction targets. This expansion of choices and decreasing of miles driven can be accomplished if MDOT and MPOs:

  • Prioritize investments that improve transit, walking, and biking and decrease VMT, including no longer funding projects that add automotive capacity;
  • Increase investment in public transit and rail, including providing municipalities more options for funding transit locally;
  • Make walking and biking safer and more accessible, including adjusting engineering standards to prioritize safety over car speed and ensure all state investments provide safe, convenient access for people walking, riding, or rolling; and
  • Increase non-driving options and create plans to every ten years double the number of people who commute in ways other than driving alone.


While the Council on Climate Solutions works to develop the MI Healthy Climate Plan, MDOT is working to complete their Michigan Mobility 2045 long-range transportation plan. While MM2045 lays out a beautifully multimodal vision and values, it fails to address transportation’s leading role in the climate crisis and lacks any plan that would substantively decrease how much Michiganders must drive.

We urge you to direct MDOT to modify the draft MM 2045 long-range plan to more explicitly address transportation’s leading role in the climate crisis with a detailed plan to track and project the impact of projects on how much people drive (VMT), as well as to shift priorities and funding to substantially improve the safety, accessibility, and convenience of public transit, passenger rail, walking, rolling, and biking.

Many of our fellow Michiganders are still struggling to dry out basements and recover family treasures flooded in the third “100-year-flood” Michigan has faced in the past decade. They and future generations deserve no less a commitment that for Michigan to “be a leader in the fight” against climate change. Even here in the Motor City, that requires bold investments in alternatives to driving.

We look forward to working with your team to develop these ideas into policies and law. Thank you again for your leadership on this critical issue.

Signed by:

● Transportation Riders United
● Sierra Club Michigan Chapter
● West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
● Ecology Center
● Michigan Public Transit Association
● Michigan League of Conservation Voters
● Detroit Disability Power
● Michigan Environmental Council
● Detroit Greenways Coalition
● Michigan Climate Action Network
● Michigan Interfaith Power & Light
● Osborn Neighborhood Alliance
● Michigan Clinicians for Climate Action
● Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities
● Grand Rapids Climate Action
● Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Detroit Metro North Chapter
● MI Air MI Health
● Michigan Citizens’ Climate Lobby
● Mt. Pleasant Citizens’ Climate Lobby
● IHM Sisters Justice, Peace & Sustainability Office
● Oakland County Climate Campaign
● Liz in Detroit Realty
● Campus Alliance for Sustainability and the Environment – Oakland University
● Native Justice Coalition
● Rochester Riders
● Grand Rapids Climate Resolution Coalition
● Cinema Detroit
● Environmental Action Team at Birmingham Unitarian Church
● Motor City Freedom Riders
● Peace Education Center