Improved connectivity and reliability in the region's public transit could stimulate growth and help build a more vibrant local economy.
In a piece in Michigan Advance lamenting the "sorry state of public transportation in metro Detroit," Rick Haglund argues that the lack of regional connectivity in southeast Michigan is causing major economic damage to the area. "Amazon, for example, cited the lack of a regional transit system as one reason why it rejected Detroit in 2018 as a site for its $5 billion second headquarters, which might have brought thousands of six-figure salaried jobs to the area."
Widely regarded as one of the nation's worst public transit systems, Detroit relies on "two unconnected and inadequate bus systems" that serve more than 4 million residents. "Local metro Detroit leaders have been trying for more than 50 years to build a comprehensive transit system," but efforts have been stymied by opposition to new taxes.
But "[d]espite a lack of funding, there have been a variety of improvements to public transit in southeast Michigan," and the region "is expected to receive about $300 million from various COVID relief programs" that will backfill lost revenue. Ned Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University in Detroit and Washtenaw County representative on the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) board of directors, "said the RTA will begin an extensive public engagement process this summer as part of an effort to create a new transit master plan." The agency has "hired GUD Marketing in Lansing to conduct a community engagement process, which will include involvement of a variety of business, citizen, nonprofit, political, faith-based and senior groups."
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