(C. Proxmire, Aug. 2, 2013)
Advocating for better public transit and keeping the public informed has been the task of Transportation Riders United for the past 15 years. And with all the changes and discussions taking place, the nonprofit transportation advocacy group has been keeping very busy.
Megan Owens, Executive Director for TRU, says now is the time for people get involved, whether they use public transit or not. “Public transit is essential for a lot of reasons,” she said. “Not only to make sure that everyone in our community can get to the places that they need to go, so they can live, work, shop, play, dine and all of their daily activities. We want to make sure everyone can be an essential part of our society regardless of whether they can – they are physically or financially able to – drive.” Owens lives in Hazel Park and often takes the SMART and DDOT buses to stay in touch with how the systems are serving the public.
In Metro Detroit, transit has often been looked at as a basic tool for only the most poor and the disabled, but in most other cities transit is a way of life people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
“We are among the very bottom of major metropolitan areas in terms of what we invest in public transportation,” Owens said. “We spend roughly 1/3 per capita of what every other major metropolitan area spends, and we get back what we pay for. That’s the reason we have two relatively lackluster systems that aren’t getting people where they need to go in an attractive, reliable way.”
The most exciting news in area transit is the formation of the Regional Transit Authority. This committee was formed by officials in Lansing to serve as a way for Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw Counties to work together on a plan for SE Michigan. The RTA is working through The South East Michigan Council of Governments, and is made up of a board with representatives from each county, plus Detroit, and a citizens’ advisory committee. Some of the systems they are tasked with overseeing include SMART Bus, DDOT, and Ann Arbor Transit Authority. Other possibilities include light rail along major corridors and better transportation connecting people regionally to Metro Detroit Airport.
RTA is also on the brink of hiring their CEO to oversee all of the RTA’s operations. The RTA has already sought candidates for this position, and is expected to hear from applicants at their next meeting, which is August 7 at the SEMCOG office, 1001 Woodward Avenue, Suite 1400, Detroit, MI 48226 beginning at 10am. The public is welcome to attend.
TRU is a separate advocacy group whose regular email blasts keep people in the know about transit activities and opportunities to get involved. They also go to events to let the public know about the value of public transportation. On Aug. 10 they will be in Downtown Ferndale for the annual Green Cruise, a fair that celebrates non-motorized transportation. The TRU Board of Directors meets quarterly, with their next meeting on Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 6:30pm, with the location yet to be announced. Much of their work is done through subcommittees, and there is plenty of opportunity to get involved.
“Pay attention to what is going on, there are a lot of opportunities to weigh in and have your say of what you thing ought to happen on public transit,” Owens said.
To learn more about RTA visit http://www.semcog.org/RTA.aspx.
To learn more about TRU and to sign up for their email blast visit http://detroittransit.org/index.php.