Every once in a while you’ll hear a personal story that drives home the absolute need for something that will move Detroit forward. A few days ago I heard just that story.
I was chatting with a friend of mine about regional transit and she told me this story from her childhood.
Every weeknight her dad would come home from work and shortly after the family would sit down at the table for dinner. As they were close to finishing her dad would jump up and disappear. About 15 minutes later he would come back and sit down.
As she grew older she finally asked him what in the world he was doing. They answer – helping.
On his drive home he’d noticed the same man walking every day. Finally he stopped to ask him where he was going. The man had to walk from his job to the bus stop … two miles in rain, snow, sleet and heat. From that day on her dad left the dinner table, picked up the man, gave him a ride to the bus stop and then returned to his family.
Yes, Detroit needs a rapid transit system.
To drive that home the Coalition for Transit (ACT) launched the #Act2Connect Transit Challenge. ACT is challenging Southeast Michigan residents to try commuting to work via public transit in May to see if it can be done in 90 minutes or less.
My guess is most of us can’t. ACT says 78 percent of jobs in Southeast Michigan cannot currently be reached within 90 minutes on public transit.
W. Kim Herron took the challenge. His normal 25-minute morning commute from his home in Elwood Park, which is close to Lafayette Park, to his job as senior communications officer with the Kresge Foundation in Troy took an hour and 45 minutes.
It was a 10-minute walk from his home to the bus stop. The bus came at 6:28 a.m. He had one transfer on Lafayette. That bus was on time and left at 6:37 a.m. The rest of time was spent riding.
“I am lucky to live and work within 10 minutes of stops – that’s not the case for many residences and workplaces,” he says. “I was lucky to need only one transfer, when many riders need more and more difficult transfers.”
Many people in Southeast Michigan, like my friend’s dad’s walking man, are forced to face these challenges everyday just to get to their job. The issue becomes more complicated when public transit simply does not reach their neighborhood or job.
While some progress has been made … more buses are running on time … there much more to do. More cities in the region need to opt in and more buses are needed. The QLine and its hoped for regional expansion can only do so much.
ACT says our current system is severely underfunded compared to other major urban centers around the country. For example, Seattle invests 638 percent more than Southeast Michigan and Chicago invests 406 percent more. These cities are very attractive to young people and others, who want to leave their cars behind when they go to work or play in the city or the suburbs.
Come this November there will likely be a mileage from the Regional Transit Authority aimed at getting the dollars needed to create a regional system. Give the challenge a try and see if you agree that it’s needed.
Tweet about it, post your experience on Facebook or put a picture or video on Instagram using the hashtag #ACT2Connect and you’ll be entered into the challenge.
Here’s what you should share. How long was your overall trip? How much time did you spend waiting? How many transfers did you need to take? Were you on time to work?
You can also take some additional challenges beyond #ACT2Connect Transit Challenge in May including the Detroit Commuter Challenge, the Ann Arbor Commuter Challenge and the National Transportation Week.
To learn more, visit acoalitionfortransit.com/act2connect.