Ann Arbor transit: Thinking regionally

October 3, 2015

AAATA. DDOT. SMART. Metro Detroit has a regular alphabet soup of public transit authorities, and until recently we were the biggest American metro area without a regional transit authority to link them together.

That wasn’t for lack of trying, however. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in 2012 establishing the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) after several decades of numerous failed attempts to create such an agency. Area transit advocates say that lag is due in large part to metro Detroiters’ allegiance to the area’s signature industry.Website Insert Start Here copy

“Transit has not been a priority for the Detroit region for a long time,” says Alexis Blizman, legislative and policy director for Ann Arbor’s Ecology Center. “We’re an auto town. But things are changing. Millennials are demanding transit, people don’t want to drive cars as much and we have an aging population who at some point may not be able to drive. They need to be able to have ways to get where they need to go.”

The RTA is tasked with coordinating existing transit services and establishing new forms of rapid transit between major destinations in Washtenaw, Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. As far as the Ann Arbor area is concerned, the main priority is developing some form of continuous service along what’s been dubbed the “Michigan Avenue corridor,” running from Ann Arbor through Ypsilanti, Romulus and Dearborn to ultimately reach Detroit.

“Right now you literally can’t take a bus from Ann Arbor to Detroit,” says Elisabeth Gerber, a public policy professor at the University of Michigan and one of Washtenaw County’s representatives on the RTA board. “I think both helping people who live here get to Detroit, and then helping open some of the career opportunities within Washtenaw County to folks who live in the rest of the region, is what it’s all about.”

Read the full story from writer Patrick Dunn in Southeast Michigan by clicking here.


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