Michael Goldman Brown, Jr.

Meet Groundwork’s New Transportation Specialist, Michael Goldman Brown, Jr.

January 10, 2024 |

Michael Goldman Brown, Jr., has joined the Groundwork family as our new Transportation Specialist. Michael will work to build community connections and support for the proposed passenger rail line connecting south-east Michigan to mid- and lower Northern Michigan.

In case his name sounds familiar, Michael isn’t entirely new to the project. He worked with us over the summer in 2021 developing media content and presentations, and spent time connecting with community and elected officials. With the second phase of planning for the rail line starting up in the new year, we are excited to have Michael with us yet again!

Michael, can you recall how your interest in trains started?
It all began with one of the first picture books I ever read. It was Freight Train, by Donald Crews, which had some great illustrations of trestles and some of the car types you might find. I just loved that book as a kid. Beyond that, I’d say the media that I consumed influenced my love of trains. I was a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan and the Polar Express, of course, which is probably my favorite holiday movie to this day.

In the real world, I was definitely awestruck every time we saw a train passing over a bridge or when we’d end up stopped at a railroad crossing waiting for a train to pass. I eventually convinced my parents to take us on a short Amtrak train ride. We went from the old now-closed Birmingham station to Royal Oak, spent the day in Royal Oak and then we rode the train back. That was quite a great deal of fun, and it affirmed my love for passenger rail. 

You have traveled quite a bit. What has been your best train ride experience and what made it great from the user perspective?
I’d say my experience with the subway and commuter rail network in New York as a whole. Living there in 2019 for a job, the subway was how I got everywhere. The breadth of destinations that are accessible by the subway was truly astonishing to me. And it was very reliable, getting me to work every day on time. There’s almost a sense of community to being on the subway in New York, which I really felt and became part of over time. When I needed to go further there was the commuter rail network with frequencies that I’d say compete with some of the best systems they have in Europe.

Did you use public transportation often when you lived in Toronto for school?
I did. That was my primary way of getting around. It was pretty great, though I’d say New York outshined it. I would take the subway a lot to campus and I also got to use the commuter rail network out there (Via Rail, which is pretty much the Canadian equivalent to Amtrak), which I would use to travel between Toronto and home. It was about a four hour ride every time but it was typically quite reliable and there are some fantastic vistas from the Via Rail train as it crossed some historic railroad trestles, particularly in the Paris, Ontario, area and as you pass through the highlands of Hamilton.

What does the position of transportation specialist for the rail project entail?
I’d say essentially, communicating about the nature and potential of the rail project to all impacted stakeholders. And by that I mean community organizations, citizens groups, economic development organizations, municipal officials, tribes, legislators, really residents along the line and the surrounding areas as a whole. Further, understanding their desires, concerns, questions, comments and general sentiments in relation to what we’re trying to accomplish with the reestablishment of passenger rail in these areas.

Really aligning  all the stakeholders and acting as a sort of liaison between involved communities and the project management side of things. Making sure the stakeholders understand the steps necessary to reestablish this service while also making sure we understand their wants, needs and concerns as we collaborate to make it a reality.

Michael, welcome aboard! Groundwork logo for story end

Carolyn Ulstad

Carolyn Ulstad, Groundwork Transportation Program Manager carolyn.ulstad;@groundworkcenter.org