Key to Regional Transit is Eliminating Excuses, RTA CEO Says

GallowayCollensTOPsunsetREVISEDKey to Regional Transit is Eliminating Excuses, RTA CEO Saysnew way 01 ping pong

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 4, 2015)

“I should take every excuse away from you for why you don’t use the service.” That’s the plan coming from the Regional Transit Authority’s CEO Michael Ford as he and his team explore transit options that will connect communities through SE Michigan.

Ford understands the reasons that transit is not a popular choice currently. “It’s not timely enough. It doesn’t get you where you need to go. It’s not convenient. I don’t want to wait in a cold place,” are among those Ford listed at the RTA Community Listening Session on April 2 at CFSEM-123-OaklandCounty115-digital-ad_v2the Detroit Zoo.

The session was co-hosted by the cities of Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge, with The Harriet Tubman Center also taking part, along with the RTA. About a dozen people attended, mainly local officials, but the opportunities for comment will continue. The RTA is coming up with a plan for transit and for funding, which is going to include asking the public for funding on the Nov. 2016 ballot.

“We need transit that is reliable, safe, goes where you need it to and can get you back home,” Ford said.

The amount of the proposal is not yet known, and the plan is still in the works. But Ford said that people should be able to travel anywhere in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties using public transit.  steele lindbloom ad

Ford said that corridors under specific study have been Woodward Avenue, Michigan Avenue and Gratiot.  There will also be no opt-out communities in any proposal that is put forward.

As the RTA figures out the big dreams, they’re also looking at the current systems and finding ways to make them better. Even before the 2016 vote, Ford expects to unveil a regional fare system, a low-cost way for people to get to the airport, and an arrangement between DDOT and SMART to improve seamlessness between the two systems.

“We have the responsibility to have coordination between the systems. Whether you’re riding sidebar016growone bus or another it’s about what we can do to make the experience best for the user,” he said.

The airport system is a “low-hanging fruit” that “voters should appreciate,” he said. Ford spent five years in Ann Arbor working on their transit system, and service grew by 40% there. One thing he implemented was an airport shuttle system that is self-sustaining and affordable.

“In Ann Arbor in 2012 we created an air ride service. This is not just some re-purposed school bus, this is a luxury bus, with overhead lights, wifi, comfortable seats, a place under the bus to put your luggage. Its $12 per trip with 13 trips a day. This service has grown by 75% from its first year and is paying for itself.” He said RTA will soon be putting out an RFP to see if a service like this is feasible in Metro Detroit.Print

Huntington Woods Mayor Ron Gilham spoke of a time when streetcars ran up and down Woodward Avenue, and said he hoped that the RTA’s plans would consider the needs of people going to see sporting events in Downtown Detroit. “There should be a row of buses waiting outside for people to come out of the stadium,” he said. “with dedicated lanes so while everyone else is stuck in that traffic people taking the bus can just go right by.”

After listening sessions in 13 different communities, the RTA will be ready to officially begin the Transit Master Plan process, which Brown said will be completed by the end of the year so that Candlewickshop_May2014the campaign for funding can begin.

To learn more about community meetings and other aspects of the RTA visit

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