By Mario Gruszczynski, Intern
In November, voters in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties will decide whether to approve a plan that would finally bring regional transit to Southeast Michigan. The plan would include Bus Rapid Transit, a Regional Rail connecting Ann Arbor and Detroit, and Cross-County Connector Buses. For a house with a taxable value of $100,000, a homeowner would pay a millage of about $120 per year. The plan is the most significant attempt at regional cooperation in the last 40 years. This effort recognizes that communities in Southeast Michigan are bound by a shared fate, even as division has characterized area politics for generations. It is a way forward, addressing both the practical challenges the region currently faces as well as the historical inequities that have divided it. Voters must capitalize on this opportunity for regionalism and approve the ballot initiative to move toward a more connected Southeast Michigan.
The Problems with the Region’s Current Transit System:
- Southeast Michigan’s current regional transit system, the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), is underfunded compared to other U.S. metropolitan areas.
- SMART does not reach much of metro Detroit, as many communities have opted out of service.
- A lack of regional transit perpetuates economic inequality. According to the national Economic Policy Institute, the region ranks third worst in terms of economic inequality in Michigan. For workers with low incomes who cannot afford a car, a lack of reliable transportation can hinder upward mobility.
Regional Transit Will Help:
Young People: 73% of Detroit millennials want better public transportation. If the region wants to retain young talent, public officials must understand the kinds of communities in which young people want to live. Graduating with significant debt burdens, many college graduates rely on public transportation in the absence of a car.
Senior Citizens: Some seniors may be less able to drive as they age. 83% of older Americans say public transit provides easy access to things in everyday life.
Workers: Southeast Michigan is a regional economy. Michiganians travel across the region every day to work. Currently, 92% of jobs in the region are inaccessible by public transportation. That means that without a car, workers have very few options when it comes to work.
Employers: A connected region will create a new group of potential employees and customers who were previously unable to access these businesses. A well-funded regional transit system will be more reliable in getting workers to their jobs in a predictable and timely manner.
The Region and State: Southeast Michigan continues to lag behind the nation’s other metropolitan areas in terms of investment in public transit. This makes the region less competitive for new businesses and young professionals. In order to compete in the fast-changing economy of today, the region needs a competitive infrastructure. As the largest metropolitan area in the state, Michigan’s people and economy as a whole will benefit from a better connected Southeast Michigan.
This November, vote for a better regional transit system that will bring Southeast Michigan and its communities together. To learn more about the Regional Master Transit Plan, check out the Regional Transit Authority’s website. To learn more about the ballot initiative, check out Citizens for Connecting our Communities.
Regional Transit Authority’s Master Plan: http://www.rtamichigan.org/masterplan/
Citizens for Connecting our Communities: http://voteyesforregionaltransit.com