Transit takes center stage in Detroit mayoral debate

By thauckthauck (1228733434|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

As Detroit searches for a new mayor, it seems that one issue that all three candidates agree upon is that regional transit in Southeast Michigan must be consolidated. This opinion piece details why it only make sense that political leaders in the area try to find some common ground and develop transit that everyone could benefit from. You can read the original here.

It’s a good sign for Detroit and the entire region that three of the leading candidates for mayor of Detroit agreed Tuesday night that it makes sense for the city-owned Detroit Department of Transportation and the suburban SMART system to merge. Dave Bing, Freman Hendrix and Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said during a debate on WADL-TV that it doesn’t make sense in the current economy to administer two systems and maintain separate garage facilities for SMART and DDOT.

They suggested that the long-discussed merger could become part of an emerging regional mass transit plan that includes a light rail system on Woodward Ave. between downtown Detroit and the New Center area. That stretch will be financed mostly with private money.

But good luck. Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer tried for years to merge the city bus system with SMART, but in the end failed to merge even one route. There’s mucho mistrust on both sides of 8 Mile, mainly over who pays for — and controls — what. A seamless regional transportation system would benefit everyone in metro Detroit, but getting people to think regionally is tough.

As one Macomb County commissioner put it: “One I hear regional cooperation, I grab my wallet.’’ Other metro areas, including Grand Rapids, cooperate on mass transit and move ahead. In Denver, 8 counties approved a sales tax increase to pay for a regional rapid transit bus and rail system, and the entire region is booming.

Here’s the deal: Now, city residents like me pay — on a per-capita basis — about five times as much as people in the suburbs for bus service. Detroit spends about $90 million a year on the Detroit Department of Transportation — money that comes straight out of the general fund. The suburbs, which altogether pay about $50 million a year through a property tax millage, don’t want to pay more so Detroit can pay less. We still don’t think as a region, and look where it’s got us.

In the long run, both city and suburban leaders will have to think differently, or southeast Michigan will fall further behind other regions. Detroit leaders must understand that, with a shrinking city in financial crisis, they must stop big-timing it and treat the suburbs as full partners. Suburban leaders must stop screaming every time they think one of their dollars might help someone in Detroit. Transportation is a good first step, and three of the candidates for Detroit mayor appear ready to take it.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License