PONTIAC, Mich. – Community outrage brought about change in Pontiac when SMART suddenly decided to end bus service to the Phoenix Center.
The change left many riders scrambling to figure out how to get around the city’s downtown.
But late Tuesday, SMART reversed course and scrapped its original plan to cut service.
“Based on strong response from the community, we’ve decided to postpone the closure until at least September to give more time to analyze and discuss the issues and impacts in a public forum,” said Robert Cramer, Deputy General Manager at SMART.
“Trying to get out to work,” said Mark SMART bus rider.
Mark was waiting for a SMART bus at downtown Pontiac’s only covered bus stop. He says a proposal to close the Phoenix Center would have been devastating for riders.
“It affects people’s lives on an everyday basis, getting to the grocery store, getting to work,” Mark said.
Riders say they were caught off guard when they saw the sign saying the transportation hub would be closing next week.
“Why,” Scott said. “It’s the busiest spot in Pontiac for buses; why would they close it?”
City leaders in Pontiac say SMART blindsided them as well.
“We expect and deserve quality, reliable services, and communication,” said City Council President Mike McGuinness. “No Pontiac resident or SMART driver should have been kept in the dark, and that’s for damn sure.”
Council members say there had been concerns about crime in the area, which is why the previous administration considered shutting it down.
“We are potentially ruining a lot of things for a lot of people out of again something perceived or fixed,” said City Council Member Mikal Goodman.
If the proposal had gone through, riders would have had to rely on five uncovered bus stops across downtown Pontiac.
“I might have to walk a little bit before I get there,” McGuinness said. “It’s a little frustrating.”
“Don’t do what they’re doing because it doesn’t help the people around here,” Scott said. “It’s harming, not helping.”
Pontiac City Council has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday (June 21) night.