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Livable Communities through Sustainable Transportation: Integrated Assessment of Infrastructure Greening within Detroit for Improved Sustainable Transportation, Water Quality and Health


The City of Detroit has approximately 40 square miles of vacant residential, commercial, and industrial property and has ambitious plans to demolish some of these properties and shrink the city by concentrating stabilization efforts in key target neighborhoods. This presents a unique and timely opportunity to carefully consider the state of green infrastructure. The benefits of a healthy and extensive green infrastructure are many, but so far efforts to quantify these benefits have been limited in scope, usually focused on the ecosystem services associated with reducing combined sewer overflows or the carbon mitigation benefits of tree planting.

Objectives: This project will identify the potential options for utilizing available land parcels for the development of a green infrastructure network that will facilitate multi-modal transportation methods (dedicated bike- and walk-ways, and dedicated bus transit), provide ecosystem services by reducing combined sewer overflows within the Detroit region, and improve human health through increased access to green space through reforestation. The feasibility of this project will be identified by determining land availability, community acceptance of green infrastructure, external funding to support the project, and the city or region’s capacity to execute such a project. The project will plan an integrated assessment that engages stakeholders from the city of Detroit and surrounding region including: Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), which has recognized the potential of green infrastructure for creating jobs, increasing property
value, promoting human health, and reducing energy and GHG emissions; residents of the project’s subregion, to identify barriers to use of the proposed multi-modal transit system, which may include concerns over safety, cost, reliability, and weather; Detroit transportation authorities (Detroit Department of Transportation, and Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART)), to understand barriers from the transit services.

Rationale: The project focuses on the Detroit subregion identified by DWSD for green infrastructure expansion. This 40 square-mile polygon-shaped study area—bounded by Telegraph Road (US-24), Eight Mile Road, Warren Avenue, and Wyoming Street—includes three low-income neighborhoods (Brightmoor, Herman Gardens, Grand River/Greenfield) targeted by the City’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program and private foundations. This targets residential communities and industrial centers bordering the River Rouge, recognized as one of state’s most polluted waterways by the US EPA largely due to combined sewer overflow problems during storm events. Within this subregion, a network of dedicated bus routes and bikeways would serve to improve local mobility, air quality and human health, as well as promote new economic centers for commerce.

Greening of Detroit
Wayne State University - College of Engineering
University of Michigan - Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute
Research Areas
Mobility Systems