DDOT rider, defender: service cuts send economic mobility “in the wrong direction”

The Detroit Department of Transportation is a highly visible but easily overlooked aspect of life in the city of Detroit.

In Motor City, the public bus has the ability to reliably connect Detroiters to employment opportunities, provide reliable access to educational institutions, provide transportation to health services, and populate the sidewalks of Detroit with more pedestrians and potential buyers.

In a time of economic uncertainty and disruption for many independent retailers in Detroit, improving our transit infrastructure and services must be part of all future economic development strategies.

Over the past four years, Public Streetscape Projects in the City of Detroit have done a great job of widening sidewalks and making roads more welcoming to pedestrians, cyclists and people with walking disabilities. .

However, when one takes a closer look at the completed streetscapes on roads like Grand River, Livernois, Kercheval, and West McNichols, foot traffic is greatest near important connection points for buses, where adults and the schoolchildren change their route and wait to complete their trip.

While waiting for their bus, riders often run inside a store for a snack or a drink, fast enough not to miss the next bus.

Unlike motorists, these pedestrians and bus riders are a captive audience for the retail businesses in front of them.

As motorists drive past retail spaces with a destination in mind, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians have the opportunity to visually explore their surroundings and immediately use the products and services marketed in front of them. them.

More frequent and faster bus rides will allow new and existing riders to spend more time navigating Detroit’s various corridors and spending money.

The importance of public transport for economic activity is confirmed by national data. According to the American Public Transportation Association, for every dollar spent on public transportation, total economic output earns $ 2.90 and $ 1.80 in GDP.

In addition to the commercial activity that pedestrians, bus riders and cyclists provide to neighborhood brick and mortar retailers, they also serve as a public safety tool.

The increased activity on sidewalks and the side of the road is a natural deterrent for people seeking to cause property damage or personal injury. Assuming that most criminal activity is committed by a relatively small percentage of people and with the intention of not being seen, an increase in bus ridership would help Detroit residents, through the physical presence of riders on sidewalks. , to make criminal activity less attractive. There is strength in numbers.

At the same time, as the streets and sidewalks of Detroit become less welcoming to dangerous and criminal behavior, they become more welcoming to positive and productive community activities.

According to data from the 2019 American Community Survey, 22% of registered households in Detroit have no vehicles available.

So while 68.4 percent of Detroit residents drive to work on their own, nearly 30 percent of Detroit residents carpool, walk, cycle, taxi, or use public transportation.

About 7.5% of Detroit residents use public transportation to get to work. Imagine the economic and public safety benefits of that percentage reaching 20 percent.

To give an idea of ​​the use of public transportation, Portland and Las Vegas are two cities with 600,000 to 700,000 residents and 100 to 200 square miles of land, like Detroit.

Las Vegas has only 2.46% of residents who use public transportation to get to work, while Portland has 13.4%. Detroit has almost twice as many employed residents without a vehicle as Las Vegas.

However, the reluctance of many Detroiters to take the bus is justified. Over the past year, the rate of DDOT evening buses showing up for their route (pickup rate), on time or late, has increased from 96.9% to 57%.

For people to leave work and show up at their bus stop on time, but the bus never showing up, is more than unacceptable.

DDOT began September with an announcement of service cuts that will create longer gaps between bus arrivals on many routes while suspending service to others.

The reduced frequency will not encourage more Detroiters to use the bus for their transportation needs; instead, they will drive, with or without valid auto insurance or license.

Others will be less likely to venture outside their neighborhood to take advantage of important economic or health opportunities. It is a trend in the wrong direction.

As Detroit struggles to retain existing residents while attracting new ones, the provision of world-class public services will be essential to its social, economic and political well-being.

Along with attractive public schools, parks and recreation centers, and library branches, excellent public transportation will make Detroit a more vibrant city to work, play and live.

The provision of frequent, fast, reliable and fair public transport is an effective component of our city’s economic rebound.

Let’s get more Detroiters and their city’s economy back in motion with improved public bus service.

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