What Happened When a Detroit Politician Rode the Bus to Work

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans at the end of a 2.5 hour bus commute. Photo: Warren Evans
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans at the end of a 2.5 hour bus commute. Photo: Warren Evans

Detroit transit is famous for all the wrong reasons. To get to the sprawled-out suburbs where the jobs are, people without access to a car have to make multiple transfers on routes operated by different agencies, often with long, long walks in between.

Despite recent campaigns to create a unified regional transit system, bus riders still face crushing obstacles to job access. A 2016 ballot measure to fund a cohesive bus network serving five counties failed by a razor thin margin of less than 1 percent. A similar referendum later this year could start to turn things around, but suburban officials are resisting plans to improve service and expand access to good transit.

To highlight the issue, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans (whose turf includes Detroit) recently rode the bus to a suburban job center 25 miles from the center city. Here’s a recap of his journey, which included two painfully slow bus rides and a hike through knee-deep grass:

Evans wrote on Facebook:

I took a bus trip from Detroit to a jobs center in Novi that requires two bus rides and a two-mile walk to my final destination. For me, this was an excercise but for too many of our fellow residents this is an everyday reality. The status quo isn’t working. We have to do better, for workers and to drive investment and grow our regional economy. We need a real regional transit solution. #ConnectSEMichigan

While Detroit media and business leaders have mostly come around to the idea of investing in better bus service, old guard suburban politicians have not.

Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson, who built his political career out of white suburban racial animosity, has refused to put the transit measure back on the ballot in his county. He characterizes transit as a handout, while he openly cheers for billions in state and federal aid to gouge wider highways through Detroit’s inner suburbs.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Fight for Better Access to Jobs in Detroit and Milwaukee, Using Buses

|
Low-income residents of Detroit and Milwaukee face formidable obstacles to job access. These two Rust Belt regions are consistently ranked among the most segregated in the country, and neither has a good transit system. In both regions, the places that have been growing and adding jobs fastest have been been overwhelmingly sprawling, suburban areas inaccessible to people without cars. A 2013 Brookings study […]

Transit Vote 2016: With Historic Decision, Detroit Could Heal Old Divides

|
We continue our overview of what’s at stake in the big transit ballot initiatives this November with a look at Detroit. Previous installments in this series examined Indianapolis and Seattle The four-county transit ballot measure before voters in Southeast Michigan this November is truly historic. It took 40 years and 23 failed attempts for Detroit and its suburbs to establish a […]