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June 07, 2010 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2010-06-07

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Monday, June 7, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

15

Postcards from NJ

BRUNO STORTINI

E-MAIL BRUNOAT BRUNORS@UMICH.EDU.

I'm beginning to feel home-
sick already. Not homesick
for Ann Arbor, where I spent
the past year making some of the
best friends I've
ever made, but
homesick for
New Jersey, my
home state and
current place of
residence. Even
though sum-
mer has only ANNA
just begun, I'm PAONE
already dread-
ing going back to
school in September. Sure, it'll be
nice to see my friends again and
be a pro-life scourge to the mass-
es. But, for now, I'm really enjoy-
ing blending into the crowd of my
small suburb, spending lazy hours
writing my novel and hanging out
with my family, who are an excel-
lent example of how people can
love each other even when they
have wildly divergent viewpoints.
(Imagine living in "Family Ties.")
My homesickness has con-
tributed more than once to the
thought of transferring. You can
imagine the "Catholic indecision"
that contributes to such impor-
tant undertakings. First, you have
to do the regular, secular thing:
make your list of pros and cons,
ponder it and talk to people. Then
you have to do the Catholic thing:
pray about it and bring it to Jesus.
Then you think about it some
more.
The next day, you say, "Jesus, I
really don't want to rush you, but
realistically these schools have
transfer deadlines." Finally, you
pretend that you've already made
your decision and see if that helps
you envision what the right choice
is. Then, if you make the wrong
choice, you say, "God wanted me
to make this mistake so I would
have a life experience."
I'm not even being that sar-
castic. This is pretty much the
thought process driving my recent
decision to switch from a Biblical
Studies concentration to a double
major in English and Screen Arts
and Cultures and stay at the Uni-
versity, at least for now.
The recent influx of New Jer-
sey-themed television shows and
seeing my Garden State friends
have made me think about my
home state in a new way. If you
saw my last column, you know
that I'm too busy obsessing over
"24" to find time to watch "Jersey
Shore" or any of its silly-looking
relatives. But a gap-year trip to
Belgium and my subsequent life

in Ann Arbor have given me a new
appreciation for my own inner
-New Jerseyan. After all, stereo-
typically speaking, the New York
metropolitan area is the center of
the world, especially in the eyes of
its denizens.
But at the same time, to those of
us who grew up in this area, it can
also justbe home, and the only rea-
son it's more enjoyable than Ann
Arbor or even Michigan in general
is because our pizza is infinitely
more delicious. I've learned not
to fall into the same stereotyping
that says the Midwest is one end-
less prairie of uncultured towns
- and, in a much more important
way, I've learned so much about
other ways of thinking and modes
of life, Protestantism in particu-
lar. Coming from a solidly secu-
lar Catholic and Jewish area, it's
both enlightening and necessary
to meet people who worship in a
similar vein but with a different
doctrine than my recently Catho-
lic self.
I'm already
dreading going
back in the fall.
For a long time, I was dogged
by the specter of not having a cul-
ture or background. Of course,
my discovery of religion helped a
lot with that, but going to school
out-of-state has made me realize,
as folk singer Dar Williams put
it, "I finally think I come from
someplace." As a not-very-Italian,
Italian-American who never had a
sense of her heritage, I'm finding
myself by both living in a place
much different from Jersey (to the
tune of $40,000 a year) and learn-
ing about people in a way that will
come in handy when I write nov-
els or make philosophical argu-
ments. And when I come home to
the Northeast and re-assimilate in
all ways but my politics, I remem-
ber my friends - Catholic, pro-
life, and those who are neither
- in Ann Arbor and I carry them
like a talisman on my New "Yawk"
heart.
As for transferring, that's look-
ing out of the question for next
year. But we'll see where God
wants me. For now, I think He
likes Ann Arbor.
- Anna Paone can be reached
at apaone@umich.edu.

i_ )m
e L O- u s!1 G ) K_
Progress at last

have a friend who lives on the
Wayne State campus in midtown
Detroit, and his 21st birthday
party was last
Friday. I really -
wanted to go, but,
lacking a car, I had
to sit down andG
consider my pub-
lic transit options.4
This is what II
came up with:
I could take the CAROLYN
Ann Arbor Tran- LUSCH
sit Authority bus-
to Ypsilanti, stand
on the shoulder of I-94 for a couple
hours and eventually hitchhike to
Romulus. From there, I could hop on
the SMART bus to Detroit, where I'd
need to switch to the Detroit Depart-
ment of Transportation system,
which, if I time it right, should take
me to midtown.
There are places where it wouldn't
be a problem to travel fifty miles
across a metropolitan area without a
personal vehicle, places where such
a trip requires no more than a simple
subway ride. There's something miss-
ing in Metro Detroit, something that
state and local officials overlooked
during decades of highway construc-
tion and maintenance. According to
the American Public Transporta-
tion Association, Detroit is the only
large metro area in the U.S. without a
regional transit network.
Hopefully, that's about to change.
In December 2009, two bills were
introduced to the state legislature -
House Bill No. 5731 and No. 5732 -
which provide for the creation and
funding of a regional transit author-
ity. According to the Michigan leg-
islature's summary of the bills, the
transit authority would replace the
existing SMART system that serves
Detroit suburbs and the DDOT sys-
tem that serves the city of Detroit
(as well as the entity that oversees
them, the Regional Transit Coordi-
nating Council). This regional transit

authority would have the power to
take all steps necessary to implement
and manage a regionaltransit system.
The benefits of such a move are
clear. A unified transit authority
would be able to create a public trans-
portation system that conveniently
links the city and thesuburbs, instead
of the current situation in which one
system (SMART) serves the suburbs
and another (DDOT) serves the city.
For some people, it will make visits
and outings more convenient. For
others, it will make the difference
between employment and unemploy-
ment. With many businesses follow-
ing the trend of urban sprawl to the
suburbs, city residents who cannot
afford a car or are unable to drive
face a huge disadvantage in the job
market. Currently, the bills only
affect Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb
counties. However, a provision in the
bills allows for adjoining counties
to become members of the transit
authority, meaning that Washtenaw
County could easily benefit from the
regional system.
Despite the advantages, both the
Detroit government and Oakland
County executive L. Brooks Pat-
terson oppose the bills. Each party
is nervous about having adequate
representation on the author-
ity's board, and the city of Detroit
voiced concern that the creation off
a regional transit authority would
stall current plans for a light rail
system on Woodward Avenue. Now,
the fact that the city of Detroit and
Oakland County agree on some-
thing is surprising in itself. But they
agree on closely guarding their own
interests out of a fear that, if they
compromise with other stakehold-
ers, they will lose. This is why, a
decade into the twenty-first cen-
tury, Southeast Michigan still lacks
decent public transit. For decades,
every city, county, township, orga-
nization and company has looked
out for its own citizens, its own
members and its own profit, all the

while ignoring the greater good of
the region.
The nonprofit organization Trans-
portation Riders United has been
fighting against this fragmentation
and supporting public transporta-
tion in Metro Detroit since 2001. Last
week, I spoke to the executive direc-
tor, Megan Owens, and asked her
whether the two stakeholders had
valid concerns. She asserted that the
RTA would not significantly alter the
plan for light rail on Woodward, and
she expressed support for the method
of representation on the board of the
RTA. Despite the difficulty of satis-
fying every party's desires, Metro
Detroit "can't let regional squabbles
destroy progress yet again."
Detroit needs a
unified public
transit authority.
The bills have come up for a vote
in the State House of Representa-
tives, after which they will have to
pass through the State Senate and
be signed by the governor. Their pas-
sage would be the first step toward
catchingup with the restof the coun-
try on convenient, equitable mass
transit. There's certainly a lot more
work to be done. Ms. Owens iden-
tified a couple further steps in the
near future, including establishing
a dedicated public transit funding
source, such as a percentage of fuel
or motor vehicle-related sales taxes,
rather than beiny .directly funded
via the Compreh tsive Transporta-
tion Fund. Still, these bills will mean
that after decades of mistrust and
selfishness, Southeast Michigan is
finally making progress.
- Carolyn Lusch can be reached
at Icarolyn@umich.edu.

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