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The Regional Benefits of Transit, and Realizing What We’re Missing

By Brad Williams

Reliable, connected regional transit is a proven engine for economic growth. Unfortunately, Southeast Michigan is missing out on economic benefits and letting its residents down with the current disconnected regional transit network.

According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), every $1 invested in regional transit provides $4 in economic returns. The $4 average looks modest compared to the economic benefit in Cleveland following the development of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit Line. Cleveland received more than $114 dollars back for every $1 spent on developing and launching the service.

One of the challenges in establishing a robust regional transit system here is the fact that it can be tough for a region that doesn’t have a cohesive one to realize what it is missing. Whether it is connecting people to jobs, seniors and people with disabilities to the independence and vital services they need, or attracting and retaining talent, connected regional transit will bring a wealth of economic benefits to all four counties: Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne.

Peer regions around the country are capitalizing on the opportunities that arise due to investment in high-quality regional transit. The RTA of Southeast Michigan’s Regional Master Transit Plan is the opportunity to reliably connect our communities. The plan will connect people to existing jobs, support and incent the creation of new jobs, increase the regional domestic product and support an increase in personal income.

The Detroit Regional Chamber supports this initiative because that greater investment in connected regional transit is necessary for Southeast Michigan to grow and compete with peer regions across the country. It is essential to attracting and retaining the talent needed to compete globally.

While the master plan is critical to future economic success, at its core it is about the residents of Southeast Michigan. It connects people to jobs – rather than turn them away because they do not have reliable transportation. It increases independence for seniors and people with disabilities, connects students to schools and connects people to entertainment opportunities throughout the region – in all four counties.

Disjointed regional public transit has plagued Southeast Michigan for too long. The RTA of Southeast Michigan’s plan will unify Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties with a reliable regional transit network that will improve the quality of life in Southeast Michigan.

Learn more about the plan at RTAMichigan.org and stay up to date with the efforts to connect our communities by signing up at acoalitionfortransit.com. Learn more about the RTA’s Master Plan.

Brad Williams is the vice president of government relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber.