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Op/Ed: Regional Transportation is Worth the Investment

R-PATH group stresses the need for a regional transit authority.

As a group dedicated to transforming and improving the mass transit landscape of the metro-Detroit area, Regional Partners Advocating Transit Here (R-PATH) applauds Governor Rick Snyder’s willingness to champion the need for a viable mass transit system in metro-Detroit.

It is R-PATH’s goal to focus on the broader discussion and continue engaging public officials in useful dialogue that moves forward in favor of a comprehensive regional transit plan for our area.

We, as a group of city and county legislators working with day-to-day issues affecting southeast Michigan, recognize that the need for access to reliable transportation affects us all. The issue crosses generational, socio-economic and racial boundaries, as well as city and county lines.

In 2012, we no longer both live and work in the same community, and a growing segment of the population that uses the available public transit options relies on these options daily. For instance, studies have shown that approximately 65 percent of SMART users utilize the service to get to and from work, and nearly one million people use SMART to travel to work, school, doctor’s offices and shopping centers annually.

Not only does a comprehensive mass transit system transform the way we live, it produces a cleaner, healthier environment and quality of life. Numerous U.S. cities, such as Denver, Salt Lake City, and Portland have tested and proven its impact as an effective economic growth tool, and it has been shown that for every one dollar invested in public transportation, communities experience a $6-8 increase in local economic activity. Clearly, the need to reap the benefits of a world-class mass transit system exists in metro-Detroit, and so does the opportunity. Regional transportation is worth the investment.

The first step in making this vision a reality is the creation of a Regional Transit Authority that will allow us to capture crucial federal dollars which will otherwise be funneled to other regions. We are urging our legislators to realize the impact and importance of this urgent step.

It is imperative that not only R-PATH continues to work together across political and geographic lines to push this common goal forward, but that all state and local leaders lend support on this transformative issue which has the ability to revitalize the region.

R-PATH (Macomb County Commissioners David Flynn, Bob Smith, Toni Moceri, Jim Carabelli, and Board Chair Kathy D. Vosburg; Wayne County Vice Chair Alisha Bell and Commissioner Tim Killeen; Oakland County Commissioners David W. Potts, Jim Nash, Beth Nuccio and Craig Covey; Washtenaw County Commissioners Yousef Rabhi and Barbara Bergman; St. Clair County Board Chair Jeff Bohm and County Administrator Bill Kauffman, Commissioner Terry London; and Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh and President Pro-Tem Gary Brown) 

Bob Cowen February 10, 2012 at 06:28 PM
How many millions of dollars and years of committee studies, task forces, presentations and promises will it take to learn our lesson? SMART isn’t smart. And if you thought that SMART was unresponsive, expensive and steeped in politics, wait until you see a Regional Transit Authority. A better solution is to allow entrepreneurs to offer unrestricted transportation services (shuttle, van, taxi, jitney). Social media will very quickly spread the word about who is good and who is not. Low income & seniors can be given vouchers or a BRIDGE type of card. It’s worked elsewhere and well worth a two year test. Put the brakes on a Regional Transit Authority before entwining three or four counties with their layers of politicians into an even bigger SMART type of mess. Tell Lansing and local government to unshackle the free market; you’ll be surprised at how quickly two good things happen: much better service for customers and much lower cost for taxpayers! Bob Cowen Farmington Hills
Boe Seph February 10, 2012 at 06:48 PM
This was attempted 10 years ago when DARTA was formed and died. Joni was in the process of obtaining valuable information regarding the actual riders that use SMART. Mr. Nash, I would think that this study would be important before you authorize our hard money we tax-payers have to contribute to SMART! Where is the study that SMART said it had obtained through a federal grant??? You obviously are not interested in providing this information to your constituents and are in a hurry to beg Farmington Hills Council to not opt out of SMART without it. 10 years ago SMART illegally formed DARTA and paid John Hertel to run it. Since then, Hertel has obtained a GM position with SMART along with the former Lincoln Park Mayor/SMART Board Member Steve Brown. Is this why so many politicians come to SMART’s rescue? Provide the public the study that we all have paid for and deserve!!!
Miriam Breslauer February 11, 2012 at 12:21 AM
I would use SMART if there was a realistic way to get from Grand River Avenue in Farmington to Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi. Better timing for the bus system and more access to all of South East Michigan would really help to make SMART a system people would use. I find it annoying that there is no possible way to get to several of the South East Michigan suburbs. Most of those suburbs are the same ones where jobs in my Engineering specialty lie. I am disabled with a disability that makes driving a bad idea. However, the costs of trying to get anywhere in Michigan are unreasonable if I want to hire someone to drive me. So I end up dependant on others to get me places causing them to lose work time.
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) February 11, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Miriam, SMART is set to launch a dial-a-ride service that will go from your door to Twelve Oaks, sometime in March. Their proposal was that residents can call and the bus will arrive within an hour.
Boe Seph February 11, 2012 at 04:23 PM
SMART will take you where and who will bring you back?? How will this new service work and how much will it cost? Don't you think it deserves a detail explanation as to how and when this service will be applied? This is another example of how much bull comes from SMART! So many questions without any explanations!!! Joni Hubred-Golden, where is the so called SMARTstudy we all have been waiting for, I promise I will not hold my nose because SMART will not provide it to you! The council and Mr. Nash need to be voted out asap for not demanding it!!!
Boe Seph February 11, 2012 at 04:26 PM
The Farmington Hills City Council members that voted to opt out of SMART were being truthful and responsible!
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) February 11, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Boe Seph, I included information about the door-to-door service in the Jan. 30 article about Farmington rescinding the opt out vote. The cost will be $2, $1 for seniors and people with disabilities. Destinations included are Secretary of State office, University of Phoenix, Madonna College, Schoolcraft College and St. Mary's Hospital in Livonia, and Walsh College, Twelve Oaks, Novi Town Center and Providence in Novi, any destination in Farmington and Farmington Hills, and regular SMART routes. People will make a phone call requesting a ride, and SMART will send a bus within an hour. SMART has offered to provide me with the study. However, the file for the entire study is too large for SMART to send electronically, and I haven't had time to travel there to see it. That's certainly not their fault, and SMART's representative was very cooperative and helpful.
Boe Seph February 11, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Joni, SMART has a website and should be able to provide specifically how and when these services will be available. I still don't know how a person will be returned from their destination if let’s say it was Schoolcraft College in Livonia? As far as the study is concerned, why has SMART not made this available on their website, isn't this the reason why they own and operate smartbus.org? Making you travel to their downtown office to "see it” is being "real cooperative" as you continue to believe, because it may also be too big for the US Mail. Farmington and Farmington Hills study was on one piece of paper and there are another 22 cities which are a lot smaller? I still won't hold my breath and will wait to see what if anything they voluntarily will finally produce. Good Luck
Miriam Breslauer February 12, 2012 at 05:21 AM
Joni, I am definitely interested in learning more about this new program. Who do I call to get on that program? Are there forms I have to fill out to qualify as a Disabled person? Do you mind providing a link to the article you referenced above? As far as pickup goes, how does that get arranged? How many days in advance notice are needed for times to and from? What if it is a return from a hospital after an emergency (ambulance took me to one of the hospitals for an example)?
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) February 13, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Miriam, my understanding is that SMART is working on this program and will send out information with more details when it is finalized. They have said they will post information at www.smartbus.org and the cities will post information on their websites as well (fhgov.com and ci.farmington.mi.us). Here's a link to the article I referenced above: http://farmington-mi.patch.com/articles/farmington-officials-reverse-smart-vote
Joni Hubred-Golden (Editor) February 13, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Boe Seph, I will ask why the full study isn't uploaded on their website, that's a good question. In looking at the full system map, I'm not skeptical at all about the size of the report, which includes not only the summaries but all the numbers used to arrive at that one page summary.
Bob Cowen February 14, 2012 at 07:03 PM
If you want to know the whole story and REAL costs of public transportation and (most importantly) much better alternatives, read some articles by Randal O'Toole http://www.cato.org/people/randal-otoole. I hope he will testify at committee meeting hearings.

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