By Megan Owens
Transit Failure − or Success − is a Policy ChoiceNovember 16, 2023
According to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Resident Voices Survey, “One in two – or 51% – city job seekers cite access to a car as an employment barrier. Forty-four percent of city residents cite access to convenient public transportation as an additional barrier.”
It is a shock to no one that the lack of reliable transit is a barrier to nearly half of Detroit residents, given that some 30% of Detroit households lack access to a car, and many more struggle with unaffordable car maintenance and insurance. And we’ve all heard about people waiting hours for no-show buses or walking for miles to get to jobs where buses don’t run.
It does not have to be this way.
We can provide residents with affordable, reliable options – and we must – so employees can work even when their car cannot, so Michigan can attract and retain top talent, so students can access their choice of schools.
It is possible, especially now, with billions in federal infrastructure investment, city-friendly state leadership, and broad support for transit investment from Oakland and Macomb voters.
Transit success or failure is a policy choice. Great transit requires serious investment, yet metro Detroit continues to invest one-third of what most major cities invest per capita on transit.
It’s time for leaders to make bold investments in transit.
If bus agencies were to provide competitive wages to bus drivers to ensure reliable service, if regional leaders were to rally around a new regional transit ballot initiative, if state leaders were to double investment in transit and rail, and if business champions for transit were to work with transit advocates to build broad regional support – the result could be transformative.
Imagine rapid transit enabling vibrant, walkable communities, express buses seamlessly moving workers across counties, micro-mobility keeping everyone connected, and trains linking Detroit with Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City.
It’s possible. And it’s time for transit to help Detroit thrive.
Megan Owens is Executive Director of Transportation Riders United (TRU), Detroit’s leading transit advocacy nonprofit, with over 20 years of experience educating, advocating, and mobilizing for more and better transit and other affordable, sustainable mobility options. www.DetroitTransit.org.
The Detroit Resident Voices Survey Report highlights Detroiters’ daily experiences and perceptions and elevates issues that are central to their quality of life. Released by the Detroit Regional Chamber and Gallup Center on Black Voices, the survey report provides insights that can be used in the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to develop new programs and initiatives to identify and close racial equity gaps. It is part of the Chamber’s Racial Justice and Economic Equity Initiative.