Progress on Detroit’s Effort to Fix Its Badly Broken Transit System

Detroit’s transit system has been in crisis now for years. Among the horror stories chronicled by riders: Buses that never come, two-hour commutes, jobs lost to unreliable service.

Ann Arbor transit alum Michael Ford was tapped to help Detroit achive its vision for a better connected regional transit system. Image: We Are Mode Shift
Michael Ford is in charge of creating a better-connected regional transit system for Detroit. Image: We Are Mode Shift

But there’s hope in an effort to integrate the region’s disjointed urban and suburban transit systems into a unified regional network. David Sands at Network blog Mode Shift gives an update on what the new Regional Transit Authority is doing:

In May of last year, the agency kicked off an effort to develop a unified multi-modal transit vision for the region, which it’s calling the BEST (Building Equitable Sustainable Transit) plan.

Its goal is to figure out the best mix of services for the region. This will likely include creating new rapid transit services along major corridors and establishing better coordination between existing providers. The plan also involves coming up with a viable funding strategy to realize its vision.

In September and October, the RTA held a series of regional community meetings to collect input from residents and other stakeholders to help them draw up the BEST plan. The authority is currently using that data to refine their plan and hopes to issue a draft this spring. After that there will be a second round of outreach to get further public feedback. From there, it will be revised and submitted to the agency’s board for approval. Ultimately citizens will decide what happens with the BEST plan, as the agency is expected put a transit funding proposal, which would pay for the RTA and its bus rapid transit efforts, before voters this fall.

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority certainly had a rough time getting off the ground over the past few years. After a prospective chief executive reneged on plans to head up the agency in 2014, it almost looked as though the RTA might sputter out before it ever got going. The organization’s board eventually chose Michael Ford, a former Ann Arbor Area Transit Authority (AAATA) CEO, to lead up things, however, and under his watchful eye the RTA now appears to be moving ahead at a good clip.

Elsewhere on the Network today: TransitCenter raises questions about New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal for a Brooklyn-Queens waterfront streetcar. Bike PGH reports that Pittsburgh has revised its laws to ensure cycling is legal in all city parks. And Urban Cincy says a new development highlights the issues Cincinnati faces at it tries to become a more walkable city.

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