Mass public transit in Metro Detroit: What are the biggest benefits?

Will Metro Detroit finally get its long sought regional transit system?

Morning Dive 🏊

This week, for the third time in five years, local leaders announced a push to establish a regional transit system in Metro Detroit.

In 2016, the Regional Transit Authority released a plan to connect Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties with a transit system. The $4.6 billion master plan was struck down by voters, but only by a slim margin.

It passed in Wayne and Washtenaw counties, failed by 1-point in Oakland County, and was defeated easily by 20 points in Macomb County.

Another effort was made in 2018, led by Wayne County, but it never made it to the ballot after Macomb and Oakland County leaders voted it down. The plan was being called "Connect Southeast Michigan," and it called for a 1.5 mill property tax levy on Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Fast forward to 2019: On Monday, leaders from Wayne, Oakland and Washtenaw counties, along with state and city lawmakers, announced a new four-stage plan to get another regional transit plan on the ballot for 2020. (Read more about that here)

So, why does Metro Detroit need mass transit? Here's a look at some of the biggest benefits and facts about regional transit in the U.S.:

Economic impact:

Every $1 invested in public transportation generates $4 in economic returns, according to the American Public Transportation Association, a nonprofit international association of more than 1,500 public and private sector member organizations. Some other finds on impact:

  • Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates more than 50,000 jobs.

  • Every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales.

  • Home values in areas located near high-frequency public transit performed 42% better than other areas.

  • Hotels in cities with direct rail access to airports raise 11% more revenue per room than hotels in those cities without.

It's safer than cars:

A person can reduce his or her chance of being in an accident by more than 90% simply by taking public transit as opposed to commuting by car, according to APTA. Traveling by public transportation is 10 times safer per mile than traveling by automobile.

Better for the environment:

Public transportation's overall effects save the United States 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually, according to APTA. Communities that invest in public transit reduce the nation's carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually.

Enhances opportunity, especially for lower income communities:

Imagine not being able to attend a job interview because you don't have a car -- and there are no transit options near you. That's a real-life scenario for many, especially in the City of Detroit. 45% of Americans have no access to public transportation.

  • Public transportation provides personal mobility and freedom for people from every walk of life.

  • Access to public transportation gives people transportation​ options to get to work, go to school, visit friends, or go to a doctor's office.

  • A total of 87% of trips on public transit have a direct impact on the local economy.

  • Of all riders, 71% are employed and 7% are students.

Read more about the 2020 plan for regional transit here.


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- Ken Haddad (Have something to say or a topic idea? Contact me: Email | Twitter)

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About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content manager for WDIV / He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter.