Vote Yes On Transit For A United Detroit Region

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There have been many attempts at reliable, comprehensive mass transit in our region for years. It’s time to end this long journey by voting “yes” on the millage for the Regional Transit Authority (RTA). It simply makes sense if you want the region to grow and have a shot at being competitive in the future.

Do you want your kid to think about moving home from Chicago or another major city? You should vote yes for transit. There’s a good chance they’re taking the “L” as well as a network of buses to get around.

Do you want more companies to move here and invest in the region, not just the musical chairs of shifting companies around from city to the suburbs or suburbs to the city? Help guarantee that people can get to work and vote yes for transit. Every dollar invested in mass transit yields $4 in economic return.

Do you want property values to go up? In general, property values increase after high frequency mass transit service comes through. As much as 150%, but on average 42% for those nearby.

We often hear “we pay too much in taxes.” However, compared to the rest of the country, we pay among the least per capita for public transit.

Many in Metro Detroit tell people to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps!” and then promptly remove their boots and burn them in a fire made up of divisiveness, insults and finger pointing.

Mass transit is a form of bootstraps. Working, reliable, and connected mass transit is one of the bare bones services that modern civilization should provide for it’s citizens.

Transit is a lifeline to people stuck in poverty and a backup option for those just making it. If your car is broken down for a couple weeks, transit means you don’t lose your job while you earn the money to fix it. Mass transit is a connection for a senior citizen to see their family or get to the doctor with a sense of independence. It’s a new door of opportunity opened for someone with disabilities.

For some, living carless is preferred. Offering a carless lifestyle incentivizes our talent to stay and new talent to join us.

Almost every other region in the country has grown in population over the last half century while Metro Detroit has stayed basically stagnant. Also, almost every other region in the country has workable, connected mass transit.

Bus Rapid Transit in action in Brazil. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) via Creative Commons.
Bus Rapid Transit in action in Brazil. Photo by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) via Creative Commons.

Regardless of the future of transit, we still need resources to fund it

What about ride-sharing, some ask. When it comes to the present day, using Lyft and Uber to replace a mass transit system is absurd. They’re much more expensive and often inaccessible to lower income populations who may not have a credit card or smart phone. Ride share services, in our region, currently functions best for airport trips and late night partiers, not everyday usage.

Let’s say you live in central Detroit and want to go to Pontiac. Requesting a fare in the phone app for Uber ranges from $24-$40 depending on the service option. One way.

Comparatively with the new mass transit Reflex line, that’s $1.50. Or $3.00 round trip.

Consider adding the percentage increase here The ride-sharing option at their cheapest would be about $50 a day to get to get to and from work.

Even if ride sharing becomes a better option financially in the years to come, there’s nothing saying that future RTA plans can’t be changed to account for that. There are some innovative things happening in other cities – regardless, we need a pool of real dollars dedicated to transit today.

The current 20 year, 1.2 mil plan proposed by the Regional Transit Authority is not perfect, but it’s a real start. Not only does it create a series of Bus Rapid Transit lines, it will fund many cross-county connectors, commuter express routes, an airport line, and more.

Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is a poor way to make policy. Even though it is in short supply in today’s political climate, compromise is a cornerstone of effective leadership.

The RTA is already making minor wins by coordinating service between the city and the suburbs with their new Reflex line. They were able to broker a compromise where the Detroit Department of Transportation operated one line, and it’s suburban counterpart, SMART, operated the other, finally bringing coordinated bus service down Woodward and Gratiot avenues.

Imagine what more could be done if given the support and resources they need to succeed.

Our region needs and deserves better transit. Metro Detroit needs to work together with an eye to the future. It is time to another step forward in healing the wounds of our past that were created by tearing each other apart, and work together toward a united region. We, in a globally connected world, sink or swim as a region. We choose swimming.

Our endorsement is to vote YES on November 8 to “A Proposal Authorizing the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) to Levy an Assessment.”

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