Every day when I came to work at the League this summer, I had to take two buses. I would walk just a few blocks from my house to Grand River Ave. in downtown East Lansing. I took a bus at 7:20 a.m. to the Capitol in Lansing, and then I would get off just in time to hop on a bus going to our offices in Old Town. I timed my commute pretty well and door-to-door it took me about 40 minutes to get to work. My commute home was slightly more difficult, mainly because there’s more traffic and more people using the bus system. I planned for about an hour to get home.
While my commute time was well above state averages, I’m extremely lucky to have a public transit system at all. Without these buses, I, a college student without a car, would have no viable commuting option.
But it could be a lot better. Sure, it may only take me about 40 minutes to get to work, but if I drove, it would take 10 minutes. And this is in Lansing, a city with one of the better public transit systems in our state. In Detroit, where buses are unreliable and limited in range, you end up with people like James Robertson, who walked 21 miles to commute to and from his job in Royal Oak.
I grew up in metro Detroit and remain committed to working in the communities that I call home. But we’ve really shorted ourselves by not investing in public transportation the way that other states with large metropolitan areas have. Policymakers have not kept up with economic and cultural shifts that require regional economies to be connected and accessible. While most other comparable metropolitan areas spend at least $175 per capita on public transit, we spend less than half of that in metro Detroit.
The good news? Southeast Michigan voters now have the power to change that. On Tuesday, November 8th, voters in Wayne, Washtenaw, Macomb and Oakland counties will vote on a proposal that would bring regional transit to Southeast Michigan. The plan would bolster existing transit systems while adding new bus and rail that further connect our communities.
A robust and efficient public transportation system helps young people like me who rely on trains and buses to get to school and work. It helps seniors who are no longer able to drive. It helps families who can spend less time commuting and more time with each other. It helps businesses by bringing communities together, increasing the pool of qualified employees with reliable transportation. And while individuals will benefit from public transit, the real dividends will be paid to the region as a whole. That deserves a yes vote from everyone.
— Mario Gruszczynski