Newly-appointed Regional Transit Authority CEO Michael Ford gave an overview of his goals for transit in Metro Detroit Monday night, making it clear that there was plenty of work to be done.
He wants people to have choices in how they get to where they need to go, he said.
Southeast Michigan nonprofit transit advocate Transportation Riders United held their fall meeting at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn Monday night to discuss what can be expected in terms of transit in Southeastern Michigan.
Kelly Logan, Transportation Riders United board president, provided updates on the organization, and Megan Owens, TRU executive director, presented an overview of some of the monumental steps taken for transit in the region.
Owens highlighted the M-1 Rail progress, approved bus millages in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, and efforts made in the Detroit Department of Transportation for better bus systems.
Though 40 percent of buses in Detroit are late, and 20 percent of the buses don’t run at all, Owens said Mayor Mike Duggan seems committed to improving the system by bringing in 81 new buses and operators to the city.
Woodward Avenue is also under investigation for rapid transit lanes along its full 27 miles, Owens said.
Currently, it isn’t clear where the lanes would begin and end or if the entirety of Woodward will be used for rapid transit lanes.
“It’s still a work in progress,” she said. “Over the next year, we’ll plan to hear more of this.”
The recent staffing of the Regional Transit Authority, created by Michigan legislature in 2012, is one of the biggest steps for transit in the area.
“Good things are happening,” Owens said. “We’re definitely seeing a lot of progress in the region.”
Ford was the keynote speaker Monday. He is three weeks into the new job after spending the past five years working for the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
Ford and Owens answered a series of questions from those in attendance, which lasted about an hour.
Knowing the community, where the community is heading and what the exact needs of each community in each of the counties represented, is essential to his job, he said.
“We cannot move forward without hearing from people,” Ford said.
Macomb, Washtenaw, Oakland and Wayne counties are covered by the Southeastern Michigan Regional Transit Authority.
“I believe that we can uncover and find solutions,” he said.
Though Detroit is the Motor City, Ford said he sees a chance for all people to benefit from better transit services.
“Unlike other places where maybe it’s embedded, I think that it’s changing (here),” Ford said.
In the future, Ford hopes citizens have “options, mobility … (and) choices about how you want to get somewhere,” he said. “That only comes with infrastructure, with meeting with people, with understanding what those needs are.”
Ford also addressed questions from audience members, which covered concerns for disabled public transit riders.
Two people in the crowd asked Ford to focus on handicap access to any new projects.
Ford assured them that the new projects, specifically the M-1 Rail, will have functional, effective accommodations for handicap riders.
“It’s inherently part of what you need to do,” Ford said.
Overcrowding on Detroit busses will be addressed with the additions of new buses and drivers too, he said.
Ford and Owens were asked to expand the rapid transit ideas, but neither could give concrete answers, as the plans for rapid transit lanes are only in the formative stages.
“Over the next year and beyond, there will be studies along Woodward … deciding just how rapid of rapid transit we want,” Owens said.
Ford closed in asking again for the community’s help through ideas and input.
“This is about the livelihood … of this community,” he said. “I’m going to be looking for your support.”