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What News Hits wants to know is: When it comes to transit issues, where exactly does Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson get his information?

The question is sparked by a guest commentary LBP penned for the June 6 issue of the Detroit Free Press. Excerpted from a speech he gave recently at the big Detroit Regional Chamber Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island, the piece maintained that commuter rail is not the answer to the region’s transit troubles. Oakland County’s very powerful and very Republican head honcho cited “several studies” that he said show commuter trains drain money from bus lines, are too slow, and often reduce “total transit ridership.”

We hate to be skeptical, but there is a revered journalism maxim that goes, “If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.”

So we started calling Ma Brooks last week, trying to nail down his sources. We told his office that it’d be nice to know exactly what studies he’s referring to, so that we — and the public — could read them ourselves.

Not that we are questioning LBP’s honesty or anything, but for all we know those studies could have been funded by an association of bus manufacturers.

The nice folks in Patterson’s office initially told us that Brooks found his facts somewhere “on the Internet.” When we pressed for just a bit more detail, they promised to get back to us, but as we went to press Monday they were still trying to lay their hands on the info.

As it turns out, we’re not the only ones curious. Karen Kendrick-Hands, president of the grassroots group Transportation Riders United, also wonders where LBP got his information.

“I would love to look at the reports he’s citing,” says Kendrick-Hands, who cringed as she listened to Patterson deliver his spiel at the Chamber’s annual conference.

Maybe Mr. P should crank up his Web browser one more time. He could find out, for example, that since 1992 more than 30 metro areas, including Memphis, Minneapolis, Denver and Dallas, have built or plan to build commuter rail lines. That’s according to Michigan Land Use Institute transportation coordinator Kelly Thayer. And do you want to know why they’re all laying track, Brooks? Because trains are fast, decrease sprawl, revive urban areas — and citizens are using them more than many cities anticipated. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Read Thayer’s report for yourself at www.mlui.org.

Just think of this as our way of putting a new spin on another old phrase: Consider the source.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or cguyette@metrotimes.com

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